Revenge is Up!


Well, I knocked at least one thing off of my to do list: Revenge is now available for $0.99 for Kindle and on Smashwords! Right now it’s in pending review limbo land for premium status on Smashwords, but once it’s approved there it will become available through Apple, Kobo, and the other e-book distributors.

I’m also running a giveaway on my Facebook page and here through 11:59 pm tonight (Sunday). If you’d like a free review copy of Revenge, either message my Facebook page (because I don’t think Facebook will let me contact individual people through the page) or email urge2write@gmail.com. If you’ve read Revenge (even the previous version that was up on this blog) and have a moment or two, I’d appreciate an honest review. You can leave it on Amazon or Goodreads.

Besides the novella, Revenge also contains a previously unreleased excerpt about Anna and Eric and a sneak peek of Reclaim.

Check out the cover art (by the awesome H.N. Sieverding) and synopsis below!

*****

revenge_sl_stacy_cover_fullSynopsis:

Genie Cho was ambitious, a dedicated student, and–as president of her sorority, Alpha Rho–a promising leader. Until she made some new, otherworldly–and dangerous–friends. They opened her up to a world of magic, a world where everyone had special powers. They promised her eternal life. But something went wrong, and Genie wound up dead.

Her untimely death has shaken all of her sorority sisters, but hits Rebecca Grey especially hard. Ever since her roommate’s passing, Rebecca’s sleepless nights have been filled with nightmares. Rebecca even thinks she hears Genie’s voice sometimes, calling out for help. Although some of her sisters remain skeptical, Rebecca is convinced that Genie’s ghost is still out there somewhere and needs their help to move on.

Join Rebecca and the Alpha Rhos on their journey to lay Genie’s spirit to rest, a quest that takes them beyond the safety and comfort of their sorority house to the gates of the Underworld.

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.

Book Review: Lady Midnight


I’ll have a real update post for you tomorrow, but I’m also trying to get caught up on book reviews. Here is one for Lady Midnight, the first book in Cassandra Clare’s newest trilogy, The Dark Artifices.

Back Cover Book Summary:

lady-midnight“In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?”

*****

So, I am typically a huge Cassandra Clare fan. I loved The Mortal Instruments series. I loved The Infernal Devices trilogy even more. But Lady Midnight was a 3-star read for me and a kind of shaky start to this newest trilogy.

Part of the problem is that LM takes about one hundred pages for the plot to really get moving and interesting. The beginning of the book is A LOT of set up, which is somewhat needed but seemed to take too long and wasn’t as organically incorporated into the developing plot as it could have been. The Mortal Instruments series has a memorable opening with Clary encountering the shadowhunters for the first time in a club called Pandemonium. The opening of this book does not live up to that. Plus, I found myself not really invested in the main plot point–Emma’s search for the person who killed her parents–at least initially. This did get better.

A few other aspects that bothered me: First, there were too many kids. Haha. I get that Clare has developed this character, Julian, who had to grow up quickly, taking care of the household and his brothers and sisters–and I liked that about him. I did. He was one of my favorite characters in the book. But I think she could have gotten this point across without quite so many younger siblings. Plus, when their names are Ty, Livvy, Tavvy, and Drusilla, I got them mixed up, lol. At least at first. Maybe part of it was I didn’t care to keep track of who was who. I liked that she includes Ty as an autistic character, but the other ones seemed pointless. (Or maybe I’m terrible.)

The other major drawback for me was the incorporation of characters from previous books. Look, I get that she has created this world now and it’s all connected and that’s fun, but I could have done without the cameos from Clary, Jace, Alec, Magnus, Jem, and Tessa (Jem’s is the only one that should have been there because it made sense). I would love to know what’s happened to these characters since the ends of their respective series, but maybe in a short story or something. In LM, I just wanted to get a feel for the new characters, and these throwbacks to past books kept taking me out of the story.

I love getting lost in long books, but only if there’s a point to it being that long. I think this book could have been tighter for the reasons mentioned above, and, consequently, about 100 pages shorter than it was.

That being said, I didn’t actually hate this book. Mark Blackthorn’s plot thread saved this book for me. As far as I’m concerned, the entire book could have been about that conflict. Maybe she could just write a series about Mark and Kieran in the Wild Hunt.

There are also some cool surprises in Lady Midnight. (This might be a tiny bit spoiler-y, so stop reading now if you don’t want any sort of spoiler, even a small, vague one.) At first, I thought the rule about parabatai not being allowed to have a romantic relationship was as dumb and senseless as Emma and Julian seemed to think it was, but that got better, too.

Despite the issues I had with this book, I still intend to read book 2, Lord of Shadows, to see where all of this is going.

Book Review: Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh


Back cover summary: “Varen Nethers is trapped in a perilous dreamworld—a treacherous and desolate realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life. Isobel Lanley, plagued by strange visions and haunted by the nightmares of Varen’s creation, is the only one who can save him. Isobel knows that her only hope lies within a Baltimore cemetery. There, in the early morning of Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, a mysterious stranger known as the “Poe Toaster” will make his annual homage at the legendary poet’s grave. Only the Poe Toaster holds the key to the way between worlds. But great dangers lie ahead for Isobel. An ancient evil, draped in veils of white, is watching, challenging her for Varen’s affections. When Isobel finally finds Varen, he is no longer the quiet and brooding boy who once captivated her, but a dark force, powerful and malevolent. Could Isobel’s greatest love also be her greatest adversary?”

*****

For the most part, I liked this sequel to Creagh’s debut novel, Nevermore (read my review here)–maybe not as much, but I still liked it and enjoy the author’s writing style.

I think what might disappoint readers somewhat is the lack of Varen in this follow-up. Although the trilogy certainly covers other themes, the relationship between Isobel and Varen is the main focus of the first book, so I’m not sure if it was daring or misguided on Creagh’s part to lessen Varen’s presence in Enshadowed. It’s carried through in a different (and unexpected) way…I don’t want to say too much about it because it would likely spoil the book, but just wanted to warn readers that it might not be what they expect. (I think the official book summary is misleading in this way.)

Because of this, it felt like one of those books that, while well written, is very much a transitional installment and doesn’t stand very well on its own. I’m glad all three books are out because now I don’t have to wait to read the third one, haha, and hopefully the third book will wrap things up nicely since the author does leave you hanging and wanting more.

However, Enshadowed still has a lot going for it, which is why I’m giving it four stars. As a YA paranormal/horror book, it definitely has some creepy parts, particularly in the delightfully sinister character of Pinfeathers. Creagh also reverses a few popular tropes. By the end of Nevermore, we know that Varen is trapped in a dangerous dreamworld of his own creation, held captive there by the alluring but evil Lilith. In the sequel, it’s up to Isobel to find a way back to the dreamworld to rescue Varen, although the end result of this probably isn’t what you’d expect, either. Creagh addresses some of the unanswered questions left at the end of the first book, but leaves plenty of mysteries still waiting to be solved in book three. I enjoyed her paranormal spins on the Poe Toaster and Poe’s own murky past and demise.

All in all, I thought it was a good, if not an amazing, sequel, and I’m definitely interested to see where Kelly Creagh is going with all of this in the third and final book.

Book Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh


Back cover summary: “Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.”

***

I’ve been bad about writing reviews lately (well, bad about reading outside of work, period), but I absolutely have to tell fellow YA paranormal, horror, and romance fans about this book by Kelly Creagh. It’s the first in a trilogy, and, although it seems like she’s been enjoying some success, I don’t think nearly enough people know about this book. So I want to spread the word.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I got this book from the library last weekend. (As an aside, I checked out a new library–I LOVE libraries–but didn’t know where anything was yet so had to ask someone where the YA section was. The librarian started prattling on about the summer YA reading list, and I got the feeling they thought I was looking for some books for a kid or something. Nope, I’m just in my late 20s and still read young adult books…and if you’re one of the people playing Pokemon Go right now, you have no room to judge…)

Anyway, I recognized this book from Goodreads and decided to give it a go. I mean, the book summary sounded intriguing if a little predictable, and I wasn’t sure how the Edgar Allan Poe spin would play out, even though it seems like a unique twist for a YA book. Plus, Varen Nethers has to be the bestest character name ever. So, excited but not sure what to expect, I checked it out of the library.

And Ms. Creagh completely sucked me in.

I guess I’m so pleasantly surprised because Nevermore did not have to be this good. The cheerleader/goth “forbidden” high school romance that forms the premise is probably overdone, but Kelly Creagh writes it in such a way that feels fresh and not corny, for lack of a better word. (At least in my opinion). Nevermore opens with the main character, unlikely heroine Isobel Lanley, getting partnered with king of the goths Varen for an English class project. (They decide to do theirs on Poe, of course, Varen’s favorite writer.) Varen and Isobel butt heads for much of the first third of the book or so. She’s still hanging with the popular crowd and dating one of the football players (Brad), but when her “crew” starts to turn on Varen and Brad becomes disturbingly jealous of the fact she has to do this project with Varen, Isobel starts to see that maybe her so-called “friends” really aren’t that great. Throughout the course of the project, she finds herself more intrigued by Varen and drawn into his world, which turns out to be stranger and more twisted than she ever expected.

I thought the tension between Isobel and Varen was great, although it took them a little long to start discovering their feelings for each other for my taste. And, although Varen is your typical dark-and-broody anti-hero (as find out, he kind of has a good reason to be), he’s not mean to Isobel or so forgone that leaves you wondering why she would be interested in him in the first place. He’s somewhat sarcastic in the beginning, and at one point he tells her she’s “not his type,” but it’s more of a mutual dislike (Isobel’s not great to him in the beginning, either). Brad is the real creep. In general I just really liked the characters in this book. Isobel starts off as being the stereotypical, bubbly cheerleader but changes a lot throughout Nevermore. No matter what’s thrown her way, she never stops fighting. One of my other favorite characters was her locker neighbor/new best friend Gwen, who really pops off the page and is just hilarious.

All in all, I would say this is the perfect book for high school readers who enjoy paranormal, horror, and romance. And also for old people like me who also enjoy YA books. 😉 Seriously, though, it’s a pretty balanced mix of horror, humor, and romance. Not so scary as to make you leave a light on at night, but it definitely as some creepy parts. And I just really liked Creagh’s writing style. It’s a dark but beautiful debut novel.

Nevermore isn’t totally without some problems. It’s 500+ pages and, even though it’s still an easy read, I felt like it could have been a little shorter. Like I said, the romantic tension between Isobel and Varen takes a little too long to build up, and is pretty understated (there’s a desperate kiss at one point, but that’s pretty much it). Then again, it is a YA book, so that’s age-appropriate. (I’ll admit, I used to write more YA-oriented stories, but then transitioned to New Adult so that I could write sexier scenes, teehee). Also toward the beginning there’s a chapter broken up with some long passages from The Red Masque of Death as Isobel is reading through The Complete Works of EAP that really pulled me out of the story. I mean, gotta love Poe, but it was a little much. Luckily, it didn’t become a “thing” throughout the book. Otherwise, I really liked the Poe-inspired world she created in this book.

But, at the end of it all, I loved Nevermore and can’t wait to read the next two (Creagh leaves you hanging at the end of book 1). A well-deserved 5 stars!

Reclaim Cover Reveal


reclaimcoverI’m very excited to share the cover art for Reclaim (Reborn #3) with all of you today! It’s designed by the fabulous H.N. Sieverding, who also created the covers for Reborn and Relapse. Make sure to visit her on her author and designer pages to check out some more awesome artwork from her. Reclaim is releasing October 25, 2016, so get excited! And in the meantime, you can check back here or on my Facebook page for updates. 🙂

***

Book Summary:

Carly just lost the last week of her life trapped in Pandora, the space between universes. Most of it was spent navigating an illusion created by her only companion, Dolos, the god of trickery. Even so, the time Carly spent there changed her. She fell in love. She’s more fearless and more determined than ever to leave the darkest parts of her past behind. And she’s learned that, sometimes, family is the one you make for yourself, like the one she’s found at Gamma Lambda Phi.

But a lot can happen in one week, and Carly returns to a sorority in jeopardy. A curse has been placed on her sisters, and it’s up to her to break it. With the Gammas out of commission, Eric’s halfling army is plotting something big, and Carly and her sisters are the only ones who can stop them. To make matters worse, Dolos is working for the bad guys and up to his old tricks.

Time is running out, but the antidote for the curse is proving impossible to find. To save her sisters and stop Eric’s army, Carly has some tough choices to make. But will she choose duty and sisterhood, or the kind of passion that comes around only once in a lifetime?

***

And here’s the full cover:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00023]

Add Reclaim on Goodreads.

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.

Excerpt: Toga Party


Felt like sharing a little excerpt from what I’ve been editing today. Probably not great to share something that’s not really finished, but it’s happening anyway. This is a scene from Chapter 5 of Reclaim, in which Carly and Victoria pay a visit to an old friend who might be able to help them find the antidote for the curse Hera placed on Carly’s sorority sisters. He’s one of the few brand new characters I introduce in Reclaim (most of the others have already appeared in prior books) and the president of a fraternity at a different university. It’s supposed to be a rather silly scene, a bit of comic relief.

***

“Is it this one?” I ask Victoria as we cruise slowly down Applewood Lane, known to Shadesburg University students as Greek Row. I have to admit I’m a little jealous their fraternities and sororities live off-campus in spacious, colonial-style homes. They line either side of the road, uniform and perfect, each with the same white siding, dark blue shutters, and wrap-around porch surrounded by columns. The lawns are also large and well-maintained, the gardens orange and gold with fall-blooming flowers. In comparison, the Gamma Lambda Phi house looks like a shack. The neighborhood is quiet for the most part, the thump of dance music in the distance the only sign of life.

I see Victoria shake her head out of the corner of my eye. “Keep going.”

“What about that one?” I say hopefully as we pass a house with colorful, stained glass Greek letters in the window and a porch filled with autumn-themed decorations. There’s even a pie cooling on the porch table.

“Nope,” Victoria says, sighing as though she wished it were. She points a few houses down. “It’s the house on the end.”

“The one where the music’s coming from?”

She nods. “There’s a space. Pull up over here.” I park in front of a house with a few broken windows, peeling paint, and wicker porch furniture that has definitely seen better days. The Greek letters “ΔΙΚ” are scrawled in magic marker on a piece of paper taped to one of the windows.

“Delta Iota Kappa,” I read out loud as we get out of the car. I give their initials some further thought. “Wait a minute. So they’re…”

“DIK,” Victoria finishes for me, rolling her eyes.

“But they don’t actually call themselves that. Right?” Victoria doesn’t answer me as we walk up to the house.

The music is coming from their second story balcony, where some of the fraternity brothers are stretched out on lawn chairs, having beers. More people are congregated on the front lawn, wearing white sheets like togas and drinking out of red Solo cups. Some of them are simply standing around, talking, others are dancing, still others are engaged in extreme public displays of affection. Someone has even set up a lopsided net for a drunken game of volleyball.

“Talk about playing hard,” I mutter, feeling out of place as we make our way to the house. “It’s Monday night.”

Victoria shrugs. “It’s a party school.” We take our time ascending the crumbling porch stairs, which creak ominously with every step. Almost as soon as we’ve cleared them, a tall, wiry young man jumps in front of us, barring our way to the door.

“Halt!” he says, thrusting his hand, palm out, toward us. “Who seeks entry into the sacred house of Delta Iota Kappa?”

My roommate crosses her arms, an amused lift to her eyebrows. “Victoria and Carly,” she says, humoring him, “of the esteemed house of Gamma Lambda Phi.” At the mention of our sorority’s name, his eyes grow wide, face as white as the bed sheet draped over his slender frame. “Now, let us in.”

He flattens himself against the door, shaking his head vigorously. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that.”

“Oh, come on,” Victoria groans. “You’re having a party. What’s a few more guests?”

“I can’t let you in without the…” He trails off, racking his brain for a reasonable excuse. “Proper attire?” he finishes, voice going up slightly at the end almost like it’s a question.

“Too bad I left my toga at home,” Victoria says with a rueful snap of her fingers. Thinking he’s successfully turned us away, the guard relaxes a bit, crying out a moment later when Victoria picks him up by the shoulders. Setting him aside, she pulls open the door, gesturing for me to go in first.

“Hey! You can’t just go in there,” he says, panic in his voice. He runs past us, shouting into the house, “Dion! Dion! We have trespassers!” A couple devouring each other on the couch look up at the commotion, regarding us curiously before returning to their make out session.

“We’re not trespassing,” my roommate insists, sounding fed up. “Your president and I go way back. Now, where is your fearless leader?” she asks no one in particular, eyes scanning the living room. She walks up to a second couple making out on a recliner, trying to see the guy’s face. “Dionysus?”

“Nike?” A man’s deep voice calls her Olympian name from the next room. “Is that your sweet, lilting voice I hear? Pledges. Up!” The order is followed by the sounds of furniture scraping against the hardwood floor and a chorus of male grunts. Four skinny freshmen come hobbling through the doorway, lugging a gold-framed chair with scarlet cushions. Lounging in it is a mass of long, well-muscled limbs attached to a man with curly blonde hair and a complexion like a bronze statue.

“Pledges, down!” he bellows, and the four boys gladly drop the chair directly in front of us before crawling away, trying to catch their breath. The man I presume is Dionysus stands up, opening his arms to give Victoria a hug.

“Nike! It’s so good to see you. You look…pissed off,” he realizes, taking a step back, arms falling. Like his brothers, he’s wearing a makeshift toga, only his is pulled tightly across a broad chest, exposing the corded muscle of his abdomen.

She gives him an exasperated look. “Of course I am. You’re hazing your pledges!”

“You call it ‘hazing,’” he says, making air quotes, “I call it building character. Besides, they like helping out around the house.”

“If that were true, there are a lot of other things they could be helping out with.” As she says it, Victoria stoops to pick up an empty beer can from the floor and sets it on the table next to a takeout container that looks like it’s been sitting out for a few days. “This place is a mess. But in any case, they’re not supposed to be catering to your every whim. They’re your new members, not your servants.”

“Hey, you don’t get to come over here, uninvited, and insult our way of doing things,” Dionysus tells her, crossing his arms. He doesn’t sound truly angry, just mildly annoyed. “Sure, we could clean up a bit, but the house is fine.”

Victoria’s eyebrows go up. “It’s literally falling apart. But I suppose you’ve been too busy partying to notice.”

“We’re fine,” he insists. “Everything’s fine! And the pledges couldn’t be happier.” A quick glance at the four who carried him in here, still panting and glaring at their president, tells me this probably isn’t the case. “They live to serve me—I mean, the house,” he corrects himself when Victoria’s jaw twitches angrily. He gives a nervous chuckle before turning to me instead. “I see you have a new toy.”

“What? No,” Victoria says quickly, realizing he’s talking about me. “This is Carly. She’s one of the Gamma Lambda Phi sisters.”

“Ohhhh.” Eyes the color of gold rum look me up and down as he nods his approval. “Can I play with her, then?” After a moment’s pause, he bursts out laughing, slapping his leg. “I’m just kidding! You should see the looks on your faces. Priceless! It’s nice to meet you, Carly,” he adds, sticking out a hand. “Welcome to Delta Iota Kappa.”

I hesitate, then give his hand a brief shake. “Thanks.”

“So,” he continues, re-crossing his arms, “tell me a little bit about yourself, Carly.”

“Well, I…go to Thurston. I’m a math major. I’m in Gamma Lambda Phi…but Victoria just told you that,” I recall, feeling myself blush. “That’s pretty much it.”

His face spasms like he’s trying to hold back a yawn. “Fascinating. Anyone want a drink?” he asks abruptly, picking up a bottle of vodka from the table. He notices it’s empty and frowns. “I think I need a drink.”

“We didn’t come here to party,” Victoria says, taking the bottle from him and putting it back. “We need some information. Is there somewhere we can go that’s more private?”

He forces a smile. “Of course. Follow me.”

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.