Friday, February 28, 2014

UCF Book Festival Poster Revealed

Wow! Check out the beautiful poster for the UCF Book Festival! Don't you just LOVE it? It's called "Reader's Shelf".

For those of you who may not be aware, I'll be at the festival this year, participating in a panel discussion on "Wanderers, Creatures, and More". I'll also be signing books, of course, AND it's the first time you can get your hands on the black ink bookmarks.

It's all happening April 5, 2014. More information can be found at this link.

Can't wait to see you there!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Case You Wondered: A Conversation between Vivian and Meaghan

A final published work is rarely more than similar to its first draft. Throughout the editing process, words get trimmed, conversations change, entire scenes are deleted---all for the sake of smoother prose and a better storytelling experience. 

One such scene that met the edge of my axe came from the beginning of The Child Returns. Although many of my earliest beta readers enjoyed it (it didn't make the official beta round), the decision to cut it came out of a lengthy discussion with my editor regarding improving flow. Ultimately, we felt it slowed the pace down enough that the conversation became a footnote mention by Meaghan when she visits Nick's apartment after their fight. 
Meaghan cleared her throat. “Mom and I had a long discussion. It, um,” she dropped her eyes to the plate in her hands. “It seems I was being childish.”
Very little I delete from the final version is lost forever. I admit it. I'm a virtual pack rat. And because of that, I'm happy to share the first draft of Vivian's deleted conversation with you below. Enjoy!


p.s. please keep in mind, this is a rough draft, as evidenced by the POV shifts; it hasn't been edited in any way, so tell your inner proofreader "hush"


HE’S A jackass.”

Vivian finished sliding her muffin tins into the oven and set the timer before she turned around. Anger filled Meaghan’s face, but pain filled her eyes. Rather than respond, Vivian went to her and held her. After a few minutes, she picked up a dish towel and handed it to her daughter to dry her eyes.

“I wanted this to work out between the two of you, but I think Nick has a lot of things to sort out. I promise you, he’s not doing this because he doesn’t care about you.” Taking Meaghan’s chin in her hand, she tilted it up so that she could look directly into her daughter’s eyes. So beautiful and so headstrong, she thought. “He’s been a good friend, hasn’t he?” Meaghan nodded. “Hold onto that then. Don’t lose your friendship because you’re hurt. And know that this is as hard on him as it is on you.”

“I don’t see how it could be,” Meaghan scoffed. “If he really wanted –”

“Sometimes people have to give up what they want to do what they feel is right,” Vivian interrupted. “Think, Meg. Think about your conversation in the living room. You have a gift for reading emotions. Are you going to stand here and tell me you didn’t sense his pain too?”

“I wasn’t paying attention,” Meaghan lied, then reconsidered when her mother raised an eyebrow in reproach. “He didn’t seem to want to leave,” she confessed. “But this is his choice, Mom. If he didn’t want to go, then he wouldn’t.”

“Do you really believe that?” Vivian asked. “Or are you taking that stance because it makes it easier for you to stay angry, and to let him go?” Meaghan’s eyes filled with tears and she looked away. Vivian took her back into an embrace. “I know this isn’t easy, and it’s harder on you because he won’t tell you why he’s leaving. But don’t let that ruin your relationship with him. I promise that you’ll see him again someday and when you do, you’ll regret not having him as a friend. Do you want that?”

“No.” Meaghan stepped back. “I just wish he trusted me enough to tell me what’s going on with him. I might be able to help him.”

“Maybe and maybe not,” Vivian responded. “It’s impossible for you to know. But Meg, this isn’t about trust. He just doesn’t feel he can talk about what’s going on. Let that be and do what you can by being there for him while he’s still here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean let him know that you’re still his friend and that you’re available to him when he’s ready to talk.”
Meaghan nodded. “I will. I guess I owe him an apology.”

Vivian smiled and chucked her daughter’s chin. “That’s a good start. Wait a bit, though. The muffins will be out of the oven and you can bring them over to him.”

“A peace token?” Meaghan quipped.

“It wouldn’t be the first time muffins were used in that way,” Vivian chuckled. “I’ve certainly used them to bribe your father’s forgiveness in the past.” She turned toward the oven to check the timer. “Twenty minutes left, then they have to cool for a few minutes.” Turning back around, she kissed her daughter on the cheek then laid her palm there. “I’m proud of you, Meg. You’re a wonderful woman. I love you. Always remember that.”

“Of course, Mom. I love you too.” Meaghan returned her kiss. “Besides, I don’t know how I could ever forget. You’re always so wonderful to me.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ærenden: The Board Game (Coming soon to a Target near you!)

Pre-race: 5:00am and smiling somehow!
Dressed as my favorite Disney Princess, Belle
What a weekend! I just returned home from running the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World. GREAT experience! There's no better way to see Epcot and Magic Kingdom than on foot as you're blazing (okay, run-walking) through it. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know (and some who really could care less, but are within earshot).

One of my favorite parts, though, was the Expo. For anyone who hasn't run a race before, that's usually the location where you pick up your race packet (shirt, bib, etc) and visit various run-related vendors. Like everything else Disney does, it's no small event. My co-runners and I spent several hours in the Expo over the course of two days, enjoying samples, stocking up on tech tees, and drooling over Princess Half Marathon-themed merchandise. Which, of course, got me wondering: What would Ærenden merchandise look like?

The Creeper Vine 5K: A race you don't want to lose
I know, I know. I'm a long way off from ever getting any merchandise for my books, but a writer can dream, can't she? Of course, I love the shirt my editor made me for my birthday a couple of years ago (pictured); some day I'd love to offer those as giveaways or for sale. And Meaghan and Nick dolls (like Divergent's Tris and Four) might be fun, but what else? I'd love to know what you think! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Off to the Race: My Year of Bravery

I can fit in this one, Mommy
Three suitcases stare at me from the living room floor. My flight takes off in a few hours, bound for Orlando and a half-marathon race that already has my stomach pitching from fear and uncertainty. My daughter crawls among them, oblivious to their symbolism.

I'm off to accomplish something I've never done before.

And I'm scared witless. Seriously, if I didn't have so much money invested into plane tickets, nonrefundable hotel fees, and race entrance costs, I'd probably cancel the trip right now.

I hate stepping out of my comfort zone. Hate it. I like the familiar, the steady rhythm of a schedule, the predictability of knowing what will happen and when. And that's why I'm going. It's time I learned to be brave.
bravery - noun - the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening : the quality or state of being brave 
You'll notice there isn't a picture of me next to Merriam-Webster's definition. Though some people would consider me brave--in part because of a few years of truly bad luck I've had to weather--I'm a long way off from being close. I went Indie not because I'm brave, but because I didn't want to deal with the repeated rejection of agents. I haven't spent much time on marketing my books because I'm not good at it. It's unfamiliar, so I've avoided it under the guise of being too busy (I am crazy-busy, mind you, but there's always time when something matters). And I've never run a half-marathon before because...well, because I didn't know if I could.

I'm about to find out.

Just as I'm about to find out how brave I can be. 2014 is my year. I'm tired of turning into a wallflower to avoid the anxiety of meeting new people. I'm tired of bypassing my dreams and goals because the tasks associated with them aren't comfortable. And I'm tired of wondering. Wondering what I could be if I were brave.

So here goes. I'm scared, but I will move forward.

I will market. I've lined up several Read to Reviews for The Child Returns and hired a company to help me do blog tours: one tour for three weeks and one for twelve, in conjunction with The Zeiihbu Master's release. And I've agreed to talk to a room full of strangers at the UCF Book Festival. Yikes!

I will race. I've signed up not only for the Disney Princess half-marathon this weekend, but another half in the fall, as well as a handful of 5K and 10K races and a 10 miler in April. I'm collecting medals to hang above my desk, to remind me how brave I can be.

I will not give up. Not when a marketing technique doesn't work, or when a review comes in bad. Not when I injure myself or struggle through a long run. And particularly, not when I feel like a coward. Because bravery isn't about the end result, but the act of trying, of fighting through my fears. 

And because 2014 is my year. No matter what comes of this adventure, my bags are packed and I'm ready to race.

Monday, February 17, 2014

One Sentence Challenge: Water

It's Monday! You know what that means...


Thank you to everyone who stopped by last week. The winning sentence for the challenge word Tornado was submitted by Megan Robinson:
Debris is flying in the sky: shingles, doors, even a car or two, twisting and whirling violently, until it suddenly subsides and all is silent.
Well done, Megan! You've won a Limited Edition, signed and hand-numbered red-ink Ærenden bookmark. These can only be won and you'll soon have the first one!

Readers, think you can do better at crafting a story in a single sentence? Have at it. You could also win an LE bookmark.

This week's challenge word is WATER.

I look forward to reading your submissions :).

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Limited Edition Bookmarks! Because, Why Not? :)

As those of you following me on Facebook may have seen, I now have Limited Edition, hand-numbered bookmarks available! Each one of the bookmarks is autographed and available free as a thank you to my readers. How do you get them? A variety of ways! There are four batches:

1. Black-ink Bookmarks (pictured) can be obtained only by coming to one of my in-person events. My debut event for these bookmarks will be the UCF Book Festival in April. After which, watch my schedule or contact me to plan your own event. I love doing book signings, classroom visits, book club name it :). 

2. Red-ink Bookmarks can only be won, like through my weekly One Sentence Challenge or through giveaways (Bloggers, feel free to email me if you'd like some of these LE bookmarks for your site). 

3. Blue-ink Bookmarks are for promos, so if you'd like to become an Ærenden advocate by handing out these special bookmarks to family, friends, your book club, school or at other events, or heck, you own a bookstore and just want a stack for your counter.... email me

4. Green-ink Bookmarks...well, let's just say I've reserved my favorite color for random and special moments. I may give one out to someone who's done something super nice. I may leave a stack of them behind on the Metro or put a few in a random book somewhere. You never know when these will show up, so just pay attention.

Each batch will be limited to no more than 250. When they're gone, then that's The End :). What's amazing about this is some day they'll be worth....probably nothing, since I'm just a small Indie Author. But the point is to have fun with them!

So who wants one? The first and tenth comments on this blog post will get a green-ink bookmark for their collection :D.

Friday, February 14, 2014

In Case You Wondered: The Ice Queen

I spend about 50% of my days living in a fantasy world, although I don't necessarily mean Ærenden. When I'm in the middle of writing a book, characters visit me---they sit shotgun in the car, they run alongside me on the treadmill, they prattle on while I'm sweeping the floor. But they don't hang around to fracture my already fragile sanity. They disrupt my life to tell me their stories in the hope I'll deem them worthy enough to include in a book.

Sometimes those characters become an integral part of my writing, like Cal. Others fade from memory as soon as they're done talking. And a third set falls in between. I want to include them, but for one reason or another, they wind up edited from print. One such character is the Ice Queen. She haunted me enough that I wrote a brief description of her, just to get her out of my head. 
Ice shapes her fingernails. Snowflakes form her lashes. And though her cheeks hint of frozen blood beneath frost-white skin, her eyes glimmer the truth of her life. They brighten with the glow of a thousand night stars while she crooks her finger, beckoning winter to become slave to her magic.
The initial outline of The Zeiihbu Master included her, instead of Anissa (the character depicted on my cover), but when it came time to write the scene, it morphed into something entirely different and Anissa sidled in from the corners of my mind. She's a sneaky one, a woman I would not want to try outmaneuvering.

So the Ice Queen lost, but she still visits sometimes. Maybe she'll appear in one of the last two books. Or maybe she'll have a short story of her own, like the original Spellmaster will soon. Who knows, but I do know she won't go away until her story is told. I think it'll be an interesting one. Don't you?

(p.s. this is one of those moments when I wish I could draw; I have such a clear image of her in my mind, but my stick figures just aren't doing her justice! If anyone can draw, feel free to give her a face :)) 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What defines a true heroine?

I recently joined a great group on Goodreads that focuses on YA Heroines. Although I don't think strong women in literature are necessarily new, I love to see readers seeking out more women and girls who kick butt, particularly in genres where women are classically shown as subservient or unable to rescue themselves (such as Fantasy and Sci-fi). And in YA and middle grade books, in particular, this is such an important topic, since what young women read will often influence how they perceive their roles in society.

But with this change from damsel in distress to action heroine comes new discussions among the heroine-seeking community about what makes a true heroine. Is it a woman who learns to defend herself, to become the strong person we all strive to be? Or is it someone who starts out strong, with fighting skills and an "I can do anything attitude"?

Although the main heroine in the Ærenden series is strong, she is not able to fully rescue herself in the beginning of her adventure. She lands on a new world without combat training and gets into trouble at times. Of course, readers have questioned why I didn't just have her parents train her to fight from birth, since they knew what she would be up against when the time came for her to leave Earth. It's a valid question and one I considered carefully before I wrote the books.

My reason for creating Meaghan the way I did is twofold: First, it would not be true to her parents' personalities; they wanted to raise her in an environment where she did not have to focus on fighting (though they did teach her the skills she needed, even if she didn't realize it right away). And second, I wanted to create a character more real to the world we live in today. I wanted to show her struggling in the beginning so that she could be an example to the young women following her journey. She might not be able to fight from the start, but she CAN learn, as anyone can, to be her own savior.

But is she a heroine if she gets rescued at times? That's the question I'd like to put up for discussion. What defines a strong woman in your reading experience? What are your favorite literary heroines and why?

Comment away; I'd love to know!

Monday, February 3, 2014

One Sentence Challenge: A Tornado

Starting this week, I'll be offering a one sentence challenge to anyone who wants to try their hand at telling a story in as little space as possible. I'll provide the topic; you comment with your sentence. It's as simple as that. For now, there are no prizes and no winners, though I will highlight the three sentences I like best at the end of the week (and link to those people's websites, if they're provided). Now that I have the LE bookmarks, there actually will be ONE winner every week who will receive a red-ink bookmark. :)

Don't consider yourself a writer? Don't worry. It's just for fun. So have at it. 

This Week's Topic: A tornado.

Example (just a throw-together; I'm sure you can do better!): Nature stirs the air with a negligent finger, pulling water from the sky, dirt from the earth, and releasing both within the wrath of her violent howl.