NEW SERIES, NEW YEAR, NEW PLANS

If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you know I just had my wisdom teeth carved out. (MUCH better now, but still sore.)

As I was coming out of anesthesia, I kept saying 2018 is going to be just so great.

I must really believe it.

2017 was difficult for me as it was for many others. I lost my grandfather, lost a few friends, had a break up, and more than a few breakdowns.

But you know what? 2017 wasn’t all bad.

This year saw me publish three books, read 52+, and go through so much healing it’s hard to believe. I have faith and hope that 2018 will be even better.

Speaking of 2018, I have a new series coming in January! Loosely inspired by Robert E. Howard’s original Conan stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, I can’t wait to introduce you all to the Sandsea.

Check out the cover and blurb to the first book below and sign up to be an early reviewer!*

1st

In the endless dunes of the Sandsea, strength is the only virtue and weakness is the only sin.

Ensaadi Talitha of Ilios is the warlord’s heir who dreams of peace. Finally, she has the chance to broker a marriage between two feuding tribes, but her efforts are shattered when her besotted sister claims the bridegroom.

The treachery forces Talitha and her warriors to flee back to Ilios. Only through an uneasy alliance with a band of mercenary Dunedrifters and their enigmatic leader can her people hope to make it home.

With the lives of her warriors and the safety of her city at stake, Talitha will be forced to make the hardest decisions of her life. As an ensaadi, no matter what Talitha may want, a heart is a luxury and a conscience is a curse.

Ensaadi is a 30,000 word story and first in the all-new Warlords of the Sandsea series.

Sign up to receive a FREE early review copy once it’s ready!

*This is an unedited blurb. Subject to change.

New Year Resolutions: 2018 Edition

Guys. GUYS.

I was just looking at my resolutions post for 2017 and as far as reading/writing goals, I TOTALLY KILLED IT.

(No, I didn’t meet the drawing or socializing goals, but we don’t talk about those. At all. Shut up.)

So proud of myself and it makes me all the more excited going into 2018. I had a lot of big achievements and you know what that means?

I now get to chase BIGGER achievements! HELL YES!

So here we go…

Release 5 books

I am coming out with a new series on January 18. The newsletter subscribers have gotten a sneak peak, but look for the reveal post Wednesday! It is a 100% new, six novella fantasy series. I plan to release one every 49 days until all six are out.

Exciting? Yes. Insane? Absolutely.

On top of that, I mean to get out the last Fanged novella in time for next October. And I will hopefully be releasing the last two Argetallam Saga books for next Christmas. Hopefully.

You can now sign up to be an early reader for any/all my series here!

Read 52 Books

I had only expected to read 35 last year, if you look at my 2017 goals. But I exceeded that with 55 books, so I have faith I can average a book a week for 2018.

Some of my favorite reads were from W.R. GingellT.L. Shreffler, Jennifer Anne Davis, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Tenaya Jayne.

Check them all out if you haven’t already!

And Intisar Khanani got herself a BOOK DEAL with Harper Teen! How badass is that? Couldn’t have happened to a better person and I’m so happy for her!

Meet up with other bookish folks once a month

I WILL meet people every month. Yes, nerds tend to be solitary creatures. But no man is an island and no bookworm is, either.

Basically, I just need to go “peopling.”

I am making it my goal to DO STUFF besides drink tea and write stuff. Even if that is sort of my whole life.

Anyway. Moving on.

Let’s do this 2018 thing!

What are some of your 2018 goals? Anything you’re proud of from 2017? Let me know in the comments!

 

Kylo Ren: My Favorite Star Wars Villain

I consider Kylo Ren the most original, well-written villain in the Star Wars universe.*

Kylo Ren had no one traumatic event that turned him dark. He didn’t set out to save some woman. He’s not on a quest for power. He isn’t trying to get rich or collect a bounty. He didn’t become evil because he was genetically programmed on Camino.

He became evil because, despite every advantage, he was broken inside.

He was attacked in his mind and it’s his mind that is wounded.

Kylo Ren/Ben Solo has no independent identity. He sought one in carrying on Vader’s legacy and when that was taken away, lost his sense of self with it.

His motivation is self-actualization, self-discovery. He’s trying to find his place in the world at any cost. There’s a vulnerability to him that no Star Wars villain has ever had.

He’s not “badass,” he’s broken. He’s raw. He’s real.

In reality, the true war between good and evil is fought in the human mind, the human heart. Kylo Ren is the perfect example of this.

It was his heart and mind that were corrupted.

Inside was where the battle was fought and lost. 

He was tortured internally by Snoke despite everything he had going for him: a family, a supportive mentor, a stable society. It’s something thousands of people experience every day.

That’s is what it’s like to have a mental illness.

Kylo Ren is the Star Wars character I relate to most.

In Ben Solo’s character, I see my own struggles with mental illness. There’s that question of why there’s something wrong with you when other people who have been through worse seem alright.

Lots of people are saying Kylo Ren is obviously weak if he turned Dark Side while Rey turned out good with the much more standard “difficult life.” Perhaps that’s true.

But the thing is, some of us get attacked inside our own heads.

The writers of this new era have chosen to make a lead villain that is cracked and frayed at the edges. His explosive anger covers up the agony inside.

Many people are disappointed Kylo Ren isn’t a supernaturally evil antagonist like Palpatine or Darth Maul.

But that’s exactly what makes him such a good character. 

We have here a villain that shows how much a person’s mind can torment them even when the outside world is peachy.

There are no expiration dates on the hurts from childhood.

And there is no way to know what a person is going through. 

*I’m keeping this debate limited to the movies. Though I mean my statement to apply regardless, decades of video games, comic books, TV series, and novelizations by hundreds of authors, plus the recent ownership shift have resulted in too much conflicting material and debates over what is now canon and what is not.

TEASER: Ensaak (Warlords of the Sandsea, #1)

“Ensaadi?” The Dunedrifter, Ashek, held his sword loose at his side. The light caught the scuffs and gashes in his armor, worn from years of hard use. “Are you the ensaadi, woman?”

Talitha adjusted her grip on her own weapon. “I am Talitha of Ilios, eldest heir of the Ensaak of Ilios.”

“How…inconvenient.” The Dunedrifter let off a slow exhale, glancing to where the sand still writhed and roiled in the doomworm burrow.

“My lord?”

“She saved my life.” Ashek said the words almost like a curse. “Me and Eudoras.”

“You sound disappointed.”

Coming January 16, 2018

*Pre-edited excerpt. Subject to change.

Shouting at the Sky

I think most people feel unheard.

Writers certainly do, I think that’s one of the big things that drives us to write in the first place.

If you’re feeling unheard, I want you to know that you still matter.

Loneliness makes it worse. You can get to the point you think you could step off the edge of the earth and no one would bat an eye.

It’s easy to feel stuffed between the cracks, like no one is looking, no one cares.

Books were and are my escape. I still need people, though.

As much as I would love to substitute my paper friends for my flesh and blood ones, that’s neither practical nor possible.

Besides, it’s not always about me. Sometimes, it’s about letting the people who care about you know you care about them, too.

If you have the chance to help someone feel heard, do it, please. 

I realized how easy it is to give someone a fabulous time at parties just by listening. Hearing their stories, genuinely caring about them.

It’s so simple, yet so powerful.

Making someone just a little happier is only one question away: How was your day?

Since I started doing this, people have told me I was a good friend, that I helped them figure things out, all just by listening.

There’s no easy solution to feeling unheard. But for me, helping other people feel heard has been the best cure yet.

 

Fantasy Books Change the World, Too

It’s true most Fantasy readers read Fantasy for escapism.

I did and still do. That doesn’t mean Fantasy or other speculative fiction books don’t teach us lessons.

We can learn about human nature in any genre. 

Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet made me question and eventually come to realize all people have intrinsic worth.

The Chronicles of Narnia has helped me and thousands of others explore our faith on a deeper level by pondering the nature of God (with talking horses and badass archer-queens for seasoning).

Ursula K. Le Guin’s complex and highly moral writing has lately led me to question the nature of old age. Is it truly a bad thing? As a Christian, I believe death is just a transformation into another existence, but old age?

The best time to change people’s minds is when they aren’t expecting it.

Books that directly address issues are needed, no doubt. But there are other times when the people who really need to hear a message won’t hear it unless it’s piggybacking on something else.

As a kid, I would never have read a book about racism. But I did read a book about magic ninjas, and the characters who had to struggle with racism got me thinking. Nor would I have read about the effects of imperialism, but the Tyrants and Kings trilogy wrapped the whole topic in the shiny bow of a sorcerous adventure.

Fantasy books have led me to more realizations than “real world” books ever did.

Escapism doesn’t mean it’s mindless. That’s something even Fantasy writers don’t seem to understand.

Fantasy and other speculative fiction books have the power to change hearts and minds while being entertaining and exciting as (I believe) no other genre can.

That’s their true magic.

 

It was JUST make-believe

When I was little, there was a “friend” who pretended to shoot my puppy with a toy gun.

When I got upset, I was told it was “just make-believe.” But it turns out that “friend” and the other children like him grew up to be adults who thought killing puppies was alright in reality.

The things we excuse in “make-believe,” we will excuse in real-life.

Maybe not immediately, but given enough time, it will happen. A kettle on low heat still boils if nothing changes. It’s not just with children playing, either.

This rule applies to books, movies, songs, TV, and other forms of entertainment, too. What we can justify happening in a story, we can justify in the real world.

Life reflects art and art reflects life.

When we find ourselves sympathizing with or wanting to emulate a story’s villains, when the line between protagonist and antagonist is blurred…we know there’s a problem.

We can’t ever let ourselves forget the difference between right and wrong. Not even in make-believe.

Genre Mislabeling: A Tale of Woe

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I have a request for the people of academia, the book bloggersphere, and the author community:

LEARN THE BASICS OF GENRE LABELING pretty please?

It would mean ever so much.

Namely, could people kindly learn the differences between “containing elements” of a genre and being part of that genre?

A part of me dies every time I see Dracula called a Romance.

It is not a Romance. Pride and Prejudice is a Romance. Romance novels should center around a couple’s individual attraction/love story. (Neither of those is the driving factor in the original Victorian classic.)

Romance novels MUST have a “happily ever after” ending*. That is universally agreed upon by the Romance Writers of America and every single Romance writer’s association out there. GOOGLE IT.

Dracula is a monster story, don’t let the highly derivative erotica fan fiction fool you.

Romance is the hottest genre on the market right now, so it makes sense people would try to leach off its success. But it’s false advertising, even if that happens with every popular genre.

Young Adult is more than having a >18 character. (Look at Game of Thrones.)

YA books are generally concerned with coming-of-age and self-discovery. There are also themes of growth and there should generally be a sense of hopefulness. Romeo and Juliet, for example, is not YA (or Romance).

YA books should also be less graphic than Adult.

As a general rule, if a scene/description is so graphic a kid would need permission from a legal guardian to see it on film, they probably shouldn’t be reading it.

That’s just common decency and logic.

Epic Fantasy is supposed to be EPIC.

It’s right there in the title. Epic Fantasy is, by definition and convention, supposed to take place in a separate world unconnected to ours.

It is also supposed to span years, at least. Some Epic series can span lifetimes or centuries. In the case of Tolkien, it spanned tens of thousands of years.

Fantasy/Paranormal get used interchangeably, but THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.

In Fantasy, the outlandish is the driving factor behind the story, setting, and characters. You are quite obviously not in our world. TWILIGHT IS NOT FANTASY!!!

Paranormal is less in-depth and often centers around ordinary humans interacting with the supernatural. However, there is still an obvious link to our contemporary reality.

Urban Fantasy takes elements of both. It focuses on the supernatural taking place within human cities and tends to have a large focus on romance without actually  being romance.

Fantasy: The Dresden Files, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Dragonriders of Pern
Paranormal: The Black Dagger Brotherhood, Vampire Diaries
Urban Fantasy: Most books by Patricia Briggs and Charlaine Harris.

Genre can be sticky, it’s true. There are other times when it’s glaringly obvious.

For the sake of bestseller charts and “what to read next” lists everywhere, I am begging you all to AT LEAST TRY.

Some books flex genres and may have overlap in several, but there will always be a dominant, most suitable genre.

*People who are not Romance writers: Bram Stoker, Nicholas Sparks, Gaston Leroux, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, John Green, etc.

COVER REVEAL: Fanged Rebel (Fanged, #4)

After barely escaping Arizona with their lives, Haddie, Damian, and Madelyn realize the time has come to fight the Vampire King, but they’ll need more friends—a lot more. The Faulkners call a meeting of Huntsmen to help recruit people who hate the Vampire King more than his wayward children. But Haddie and Damian’s mother shows up with her army-in-a-box, turning a negotiation into a hostage situation.

Now everyone is trapped in a hotel full of jumpy monster-killers and surrounded by hired  guns. When people start to go missing, it’s only a matter of time before the slaughter starts. Worse, they soon learn the Vampire King is getting impatient. He wants the unrest quelled and Damian—his heir—back in New England to put an end to this embarrassment. Either way, Haddie and her brother, their mother, and the Huntsmen will have to band together if they want to survive what’s coming.

Resistance wasn’t enough. It’s time for rebellion.

Coming December 12, 2017

What do you guys think? ARE YOU AS EXCITED AS ME?!?!?!