Starth

Sometimes A Monster will be out in late August/early September. The actual date is TBA. In anticipation, I’d like to start doing regular posts on Grape’s latest adventure.

Books one and two took place mostly on Earth with little glimpses of Starth, the magical land on the other side of the rift. But what is Starth?

First, if you think I named the land Starth because it rhymes with Darth (as in Vader), then you’re absolutely right. I am nothing if not a fan of Darth Vader. He’s evil but still capable of doing good at great sacrifice to himself.

Starth has a complicated history. It’s home to vampires, gnomes, witches, wizards, shape-shifters, were-animals, and humans. Wizards are the most powerful beings in Starth. Their desire for more knowledge and control led to wars. There are huge swaths of land that are still unusable due to spells that went wrong, or right, during The Wizard Wars. Every race was involved in the fighting but humans had it the worst. They have no particular strength or magical capability.

There are only four wizards left in Starth and they’ve agreed not to train anymore people in the ways of magic. They’ve sworn fealty to one man, Abaddon Nukpana, who rules Starth with an iron fist. He is the savior of the humans but he’s the scourge of the other races. The were-animals are trapped in the Valley of the Weres, hunted and killed if they leave their lands. The shifters are killed on sight and forced to hide in the deep recesses of Starth’s forests. The Vampires have been banished to the swamps of Gaspear. The witches and gnomes fared better, mostly because they’re seen as a non-threat.

Starth is a powder keg. All but the humans are ready to revolt and all they’re looking for is a reason. Grape and her friends are caught in a full scale revolution. Starth is headed for war, and so is Grape.

 

Sometimes A Monster – A Delay

No writer wants to delay the release of a novel, least of all me. I spent a year writing Sometimes A Monster and I’m so excited to share the end of Grape’s story, but life sometimes gets in the way. What’s kept me from performing the edits necessary to get the book into the world? It’s called New York.

My husband got an amazing job offer in Manhattan. We’ve spent the past six weeks packing, moving, finding a place to live, putting our house on the market, and taking all the steps necessary to start a new life in a new state. During that time, I also strained my back, had a tendonitis flare up and hurt my calf muscle. So, it’s been pretty exciting.

But, there’s good news. We’re in our new apartment, we’re almost fully unpacked, I’m 70% healed from my injuries and Sometimes A Monster has been edited! The release will happen in August, once we finalize the cover and set up a few more details. Exact date to come soon.

I’m so excited to be almost completely done with the move and back to writing. Besides the book release, I have a new novel in process, a few short stories I’m working on, a new screenplay, a new play and tons of research to do for future projects.  We’re settling into NYC which means that you can expect more stories soon!

Third Book World Building

Sometimes a Monster, the third and final book in the Grape Merriweather series, is set to release in May. That’s exciting! Yay! I’m in edits with my publisher and I currently have my husband reading it over in case my eyes, so used to the words, miss any crucial errors.

Editing forced me to reflect on the writing process I went through with this novel. It took a full year of my life to write Sometimes A Monster, several months longer than I’d anticipated. Why? There were external reasons of course. If you’ve followed my twitter feed then you know that I’m more than little obsessed with the Trump administration and the Russia investigation. I feel like we’re living through a dramatic moment in history and I don’t want to miss a bit of it.

The bigger reason, however, is that I gave myself a unique challenge with this series. I chose to introduce a whole new world with a new set of problems in the final book. Books one and two take place almost exclusively in Sortilege Falls, Missouri. Nearly the entire third book takes place in Starth – a world reached through an inter-dimensional portal.

The themes in Sometimes A Monster are also the most difficult I’ve dealt with so far. Though this book is nearly pure fantasy, it is also the most human in many ways. Book one dealt mainly with beauty worship and celebrity. In book two, the characters had to make impossible choices and deal with their inner demons. The third book examines how we maintain our values and sense of self when we’re caught in situations beyond our control and how we move forward through trauma. War is the backdrop for this novel. Starth is a fractured land where different races of fantastical beings battle for survival and everyone is at the mercy of the most powerful race: The Wizards. As you can see, the themes have become progressively more complicated as have the characters and methods of storytelling.

The title alone of the third book implies what we’re about to see: a world in which everyone is sometimes forced to do something terrible, often times for the “greater good.” It’s dark but hope and the power of the human (and non-human) spirit are alive and well in Starth.

Creating a whole new land with fantastical creatures and a rich history as well as delving deep into the darker parts of human nature, meant that taking my time was absolutely necessary. 2017 was definitely a year well spent.

I’m off to new projects but I’m also not quite done with Starth. Over the next few months, I’ll be writing posts about individual characters, the different races and the history of Starth as well as revisiting the characters that have been with us since the beginning.

This is Grape’s last big stand. I hope you’re ready to join her.

YA – My Wild Ride

I didn’t start my career as a YA author. I began by writing plays. I styled myself after Eugene O’Neill and Edward Albee, both risk takers and excellent craftsmen. I spent many frustrating years writing plays and collecting rejection letters. I made some progress, there was interest from the Public Theater and Steppenwolf, but no productions.

I’d always wanted to write novels but the skill jump, though it might seem small, was actually quite large. To begin with, I had no idea how to write action or description. Basically, if it wasn’t dialogue, I was clueless. In a play, you can write, “Bob crosses the stage and grabs a glass of water.” Given the tone of the scene and the dialogue, the actor/director will know how to portray that movement. Unfortunately, there are no actors or directors in novels. The writer has to do all the heavy lifting.

I found writing novels intimidating. I still find writing novels intimidating. In order to learn fiction, I began, like so many writers before me, with short stories. The writing group I joined tore apart my work but also helped me improve. At the same time, I began to read at a rate I’d never managed before. Twenty-four books a year was my old average. I cranked that up to seventy. Armed with lots of practice and new knowledge, I went on to write my first novel, Tough Girl, a contemporary novel with an eleven-year-old protagonist. It’s an incredibly depressing book, so much so that my husband thought I was suffering a depressive episode. In order to cheer him up, I decided to write something happy. Thus began my career writing fun YA novels (where multiple characters die and everyone’s always in danger–turns out, you can’t change who you are).

Confession time: I really hadn’t read much YA before starting Welcome to Sortilege Falls. Sure, I’d read Christopher Pike and RL Stine in my teenage years, but keep in mind that my teenage years ended before the aughts began. I went to Goodreads in search of books and what I found disturbed me. So many readers I encountered felt that YA was filled with weak female characters. I grew curious and began investigating (aka, reading YA novels).

I loved much of what I read, but I had to agree with other readers – too many female characters were berated or led by their male counterparts. I made a decision. I was going to write a YA fantasy novel and I was going to make damn sure my main character was strong, even if she floundered here and there.

I began writing Welcome to Sortilege Falls in 2012. You read that right. Six years ago. It’s been an absolutely wild ride. I’ve watched Grape Merriweather go from worrying about making friends at a new school to fighting in an army alongside mystical creatures. As Grape has grown, so have I. We’ve both found ourselves making major decisions, scared that we’re all alone, and feeling stuck in impossible situations. Grape had to rescue her brother from forces truly evil while I’ve only had to get a mortgage, learn the joys of itemizing a tax return, and decide between an HSA or standard insurance (being an adult rocks!). She’s faced down a dictator but I’ve lowered my cholesterol so it’s pretty much the same thing.

Kidding aside, I’m proud of every word I’ve written in the series. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned as a writer and as a person. During the course of three novels, I’ve questioned how I feel about beauty worship, celebrity, war, freedom, government rule, torture and tribalism. Again, this was supposed to be a fun YA adventure.

But all good things must end. I’m excited to announce that I sent book three, Sometimes A Monster, to my publisher yesterday. This is the final book in the Grape Merriweather series. I’m sad to say goodbye to Grape and her friends, but I’m excited to move on to new stories and new adventures.

Thank you for joining me on this wild ride!

It’s a Book Party!

Wrong Side of the Rift is available for pre-order!

22290596_10100339757821341_1630258690_o

Synopsis:

Grape can’t unlearn what living in Sortilege Falls has taught her. Magic is real. Vampires live among us. And there’s a portal in her back yard that leads to another world.

A few weeks ago, Grape lived a quiet life with her family in Watts Landing. Now, she’s stuck in Sortilege Falls, searching for a way to rescue her brother from the other side of the rift. She’s connected to Brad through dreams and what she sees terrifies her. Brad is being tortured into performing magic and, even worse, he’s being forced to torture others.

Grape hounds the magic folk in town, seeking a way through the rift. Her mother’s memory’s been stolen. Her new vampire friend refuses to help. Grape must do it all alone. What she uncovers is a whole host of secrets about the town and her own family. And she’s not the only one hunting for answers.

Time is running out for Brad, but it might be running out for Grape as well.

 

Where to pre-order:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

ibooks

 

And to celebrate, I’m taking over the internet!!!! Feel free to visit me at the blogs below. 😉

October 31st: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading

November 1st: Book Excerpt and Giveaway @ I’m an Eclectic Reader

November 2nd: Book Excerpt and Giveaway @ Indy Book Fairy

November 3rd: Book Excerpt @ Author C.A. Milson’s Blog

November 5th: Book Review @ Books are Forever

November 6th: Book Excerpt @ The Resistance

November 7th: Book Excerpt and Giveaway @ Mythical Books

November 9th: Character Interview @ The Book Daily

November 10th: Book Excerpt @ Books, Dreams, Life

November 11th: Book Excerpt @ Bedazzled Reading

November 13th: Book Review and Giveaway @ I Heart Reading

November 15th: Book Excerpt @ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog

November 17th: Book Excerpt @ Nesie’s Place

November 19th: Book Excerpt and Giveaway @ Bookish Madness

November 21st: Character Interview @ Pop’s Blog

November 22nd: Book Excerpt and Giveaway @ Just Books

November 23rd: Author Interview @ The Single Librarian

November 24th:  Book Excerpt and Giveaway @ Silver Dagger Scriptorium

November 25th: Book Review @ Renaissance Writer

November 27th: Book Excerpt @  Lisa Queen of Random

November 29th: Author Interview and Giveaway @ Majanka’s Blog

November 30th: Book Review @ Editor Charlene’s Blog

Cover Reveal

I’m so excited to share the cover of Wrong Side of the Rift, the second book in the Grape Merriweather series! It’s been months in the making. A special thanks to the Fire and Ice staff as well as Caroline Andrus, my FandI cover artist.

Book one, Welcome to Sortilege Falls, is a fantasy novel where the fantastical elements don’t really appear until the end. We really wanted to highlight the magical flavor of book two with the cover. The focus of book one was on Grape and her quest to save the Models. Now, Grape is trying to find her brother who is being forced to learn magic in a far a way land.

22290596_10100339757821341_1630258690_o

Wrong Side of the Rift tagline:

Grape’s brother was stolen. She’s going to get him back or die trying.

Blurb:

Grape can’t unlearn what living in Sortilege Falls has taught her. Magic is real. Vampires live among us. And there’s a portal in her back yard that leads to another world.

A few weeks ago, Grape lived a quiet life with her family in Watts Landing. Now, she’s stuck in Sortilege Falls, searching for a way to rescue her brother from the other side of the rift. She’s connected to Brad through dreams and what she sees terrifies her. Brad is being tortured into performing magic and, even worse, he’s being forced to torture others.

Grape hounds the magic folk in town, seeking a way through the rift. Her mother’s memory’s been stolen. Her new vampire friend refuses to help. Grape must do it all alone. What she uncovers is a whole host of secrets about the town and her own family. And she’s not the only one hunting for answers.

Time is running out for Brad, but it might be running out for Grape as well.

 

I consider all blurbs a work in progress, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Feel free to share your latest exciting news as well!

Halloween Just Got Better

So happy to announce that the second book in the Grape Merriweather series will be available for pre-order on October 31st! The official release date is November 14th. Yay!!!

To celebrate, I’ll be blogging about topics I explore in Wrong Side of the Rift. This will be a challenge since I don’t want to include any spoilers. But hey, what’s life without a little challenge?

I’ll be doing a blog tour so I’ll release that information when I have the details finalized. Also, expect a cover reveal. I’ve seen the early versions and so far, I love the colors! I’ll have a few more fun activities planned as well. Stay tuned!

 

 

Site Updates

The second book in the Grape Merriweather series will be out in mid-November. Yay!!! To celebrate, I’ll be cleaning up my website and trying to make it more appealing. That means new photos, new text, and regular updates on events.

I’ve been wrestling with the third and final book in the GM series. It nearly pinned me to the mat a few times, but I’ve managed to stage a WWE level comeback. I’m close to finishing. It’s too early to do a victory lap, but soon! That means I’ll have time to blog again. So double yay!!

In other news, I’ve been slowly but surely making my way through the 217 books on my bookshelf. I’m determined to read them all before buying more. Of the seven I’ve read so far, few have gripped me. The lone exception is Point Omega by Don DeLillo. The middle of the book was perfectly fine and worth reading, but it was really the first and last chapters that got me. They’re all about one man’s experience watching Psycho in slow motion. Every line is interesting and intricate. Please, for the love of all you hold dear, read those two chapters.

What about you interwebs? Anything exciting going on? Read anything good lately?

 

 

217

I have a book-buying problem. I spend very little on clothes, shoes or other goods. I don’t consider myself a shopper or someone who goes in for “retail therapy.” But god dammit, do I love buying books. Used books. New books. Non-fiction, classics, plays, biographies. It really doesn’t matter. If the subject/writing is interesting then I want that book. Carrying them out of the store makes me happy. I look lovingly at my bookshelves more frequently than is healthy. My husband buys me an armload of novels every anniversary (so much cheaper than jewelry). He bought me books a few months into our courtship and that’s when I knew he was a keeper. Books are kind of my thing.

I am also a slow reader. I average about 30-40 print books a year but that’s more from sheer force of will than anything else. I love to read, I just never learned how to do it quickly.

My shopping habit and my inability to speed read has left me with 217 unread print books on my shelves. 217. That’s 5.5 years of reading material. I can’t handle it.

Here’s my plan: I’m going to try to read all of these books in the next 2.5 years. I cannot allow myself to buy another book until I finish all 217. I’ll be cheating and I want you to know that. War and Peace is on my shelf and I’m going to do at least a good half of it in audio from the library. If I hate a book, I’m not going to force my way through it. I’ll put it in the finished pile and move on to the next one. But, for the most part, I plan to read like hell for the next 2.5 years.

One – please wish me luck.

Two – I’ll try to post about the books I really like.

Three – If you see me IRL and I’m gazing longingly at a bookstore, just tell me to walk away.

What about you interwebs? Are you a bookhoarder, or a one-in-one-out type of reader?

Love Not Given Lightly and They Psychopath Test

I’ve been reading up a storm in 2017 and it feels great. I’ve read/listened to 20+ books so far. Some of the books have been short, which helps boost the numbers. Also, I’ve been training for an 8k and I listen to audiobooks while I run and since I’m incredibly slow right now, that means a lot of extra listening time.

There are two books I’ve devoured recently that I wanted to share. Both are non-fiction and each is part memoir: Love Not Given Lightly and The Psychopath Test.

Love Not Given Lightly is part essay, part memoir penned by writer, filmmaker, and former sex-worker Tina Horn. I read this book in one sitting. While it is salacious, of course, there are also a lot of nuts and bolts pragmatic retellings of life in the sex trade.

The stories were very personal and several came from largely ignored voices (ie – Female to Male Trans porn star and hairy female kink sex-worker). The book didn’t stray from giving an account of when sex-work goes bad and the need for self-care and emotional protection in what is, ultimately, a vulnerable profession. The stories were deeply human and allowed a boring writer like me into a world I usually only visit in transgressive novels (which usually only show the worst parts of sex-work). Definitely a good read for anyone interested in the topic or doing research in the field for a future novel.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson is another good read. I don’t know what I was expecting from this book. I thought it would either be a dry retelling of psychopaths throughout history or it would be an over-hyped, everyone-is-evil tabloid type read. What I got was the story of Jon Ronson learning about the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, meeting probable psychopaths and probable mis-diagnosed psychopaths, and trying to make sense of the world through a different lens.

If you’ve ever spent some time on Web MD and discovered that you have ALL the diseases, then you will completely understand Ronson’s journey once he starts to use the Checklist. Now, Ronson does meet a good bit of actual psychopaths including a former leader of a Haitian death-squad, but he also tries to use the Checklist on himself and those around him.

Throughout the book, we meet an interesting cast of characters, view life in a mental institution, revisit a murder investigation, and spend time with Scientology. It’s all fascinating and the book really does touch on many areas of life. I found it more an interesting retelling of a journey than an in-depth learning about psychopathy.

Any good non-fiction reads you’ve been burning through?