The End of an Era

Warning: a lengthy post, gif usage, many sappy feelings lie ahead

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The Final Advent has at long last been published. The reality of that still hasn’t quite seeped in for me. Why, you ask?

Turn back the clock to 2005, eleven years ago. For me that meant fourth grade in Mr. Leeland Looper’s class, Girl Scouts, and a crazy amount of playing make-believe.

Mr. Looper always gave us at least thirty minutes each week so we could write whatever came to us. (He was big on childhood literacy. Woohoo!) In those thirty minutes, something came over me and I wrote an eleven page story, the basis of what would become No Angels today. My parents encouraged my writing, and so then I expanded it to thirty pages. Then I wrote a second one, clocking in at 50 pages. You get the idea.

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Actual photo of me after finishing a draft.

Over the course of the next few years, I dreamed up plot ideas and character concepts and so on to flesh out my writings, and in eight grade I completed what would become today’s No Angels. In my sophomore year of high school, I completed Collapsed Cathedrals, and in my freshman year at university, The Final Advent. While all of the aforementioned have undergone a massive amount of editing and reconstruction, still the effort stands and boils down to one truth: working on the No Angels trilogy had been a constant in my life for eleven years, by my side from childhood to adulthood.

Now the last book has been published. I will never again work on No Angels.

It’s immensely satisfying to have seen this project through to the end, yet it’s also bittersweet. Finally I can release this story and continue down my journey’s road, but I would be lying if I said I won’t miss it. These characters have become my friends over the years. My own life story has been threaded into the pages. And now it’s time to move on. The phrase “thanks for the memories” has never been more apparent to me than it is now.

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Yet more actual footage of me.

I want to thank everyone who’s helped me reach this point, who’s helped me achieve my still-startling reality of completing and publishing a complete trilogy by age 20. Never in my wildest dreams could I have done it without the following:

JD Hinze – My dad, the person who introduced me to storytelling and fantasy in the first place. He read over eight (horrific) versions of my first book, but with each of his edits I learned and my skills grew. Without his belief in me and his fostering my abilities and telling me to go and just do it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

John Nagle – I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Nagle about eight years ago, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. He was the first person to introduce me to the idea of independent publishing, and has offered his assistance and feedback in many of my efforts to this day. Without his suggestion and encouragement, never would I have taken the plunge into indie publishing.

Elizabeth Wheatley – Elisabeth Wheatley and I met at the Texas Book Festival a few years back, exchanged contact info, and have been writing buddies from then on out. We’ve beta-read one another’s novels, talked about story ideas, and supported one another since. She’s cheered me on and given me incredibly valuable insight for years, plus gave me the confidence and motivation to continue on my journey.

Intisar Khanani – Much like Elisabeth Wheatley, Intisar has beta-read stories of mine and given me great insights into the craft of writing. (Once she even mailed me a signed copy of her novel Sunbolt, which I LOVED.) Without these writing friends, it would have been near impossible to see this trilogy through to the end.

Matthew Bogard – I met Matthew nearly over a year and a half ago, and from day one I knew he was endowed with a sharp wit. I’ll admit to you (we’re close, right?) that we’ve also been dating for just as long. (Anecdote: I wiped the floor with him during a sparring match and he immediately asked me out to dinner.) One of my beta readers was too busy to go over The Final Advent, so Matthew volunteered in their stead. I was hesitant at first (it took him MONTHS to convince me to let him near it), but he ended up being fantastic.  Not only that, but he’s been an incredible source of support throughout my endeavors.

You – Yes, you, reading this right now, long-time reader or complete newbie who just stumbled across this post. Without the support of those in the background (especially my lovely commenters and like-rs!) I’d feel and be fruitless in my efforts, without support save those I’ve mentioned above. Knowing that my blog followers and readers are here makes everything worth it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

For me the publication of The Final Advent marks the end of an era. And so, here’s to the next one, where ever it may take us!

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Find The Final Advent on Amazon.

TFA-Cover-Reveal Death overshadows everyone at some point, but for Liz Patrona that time comes far too soon. Word comes that Wily, her ruthless enemy, survived being thrown into the Black River and crossed into Geminus to usurp the kingdom’s throne. Now his sights rest firmly on her world. Knowing Liz is the only threat in his path, he curses her to die in one year’s time—unless she can kill him before the clock runs out. In the months she has left, she must travel into Geminus, forge precarious alliances with those who’ve survived Wily’s reign, and battle for her very survival. Yet what lies in Geminus may be more than she bargained for. In these foreign lands looms a sinister secret about her own past. Something that has been guiding her from her first breaths to her final steps.

In the long-awaited conclusion to the No Angels trilogy, Liz is pushed one last time to discover the bounds of how far she’s willing to go to protect those she loves—even if it means losing herself along the way.

THE FINAL ADVENT Release!

After years of drafting, editing, rewriting, and (of course) more editing, THE FINAL ADVENT has officially been published! Go pick up your copy today of the final installment in the NO ANGELS trilogy, where action, adventure, and intrigue abound. (Only available in eBook format for the time being. It should be available in paperback soon!)

Also, for those of you on Goodreads, add it to your list here!

Getting to this point has been such an incredibly long, toiling, and rewarding journey. Without the support of all those I know and love, never in my wildest dreams would this have been possible. Each and every one of you–yes, YOU reading this right now–have been invaluable to me, whether you’re aware of it or not. I’ll cut the sentiments short for now (that’s for a whole different post), but be warned: they’re coming for you!

Thank you so much for following me on my adventures thus far. With the No Angels trilogy wrapped up, it’s time that we take the next steps out into an even bigger, if mysterious, world.

Until next time!

Book Review: These Broken Stars

13138635Title: These Broken Stars

Authors: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: December 10th, 2013

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: “It’s a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.
Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.
Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.” – Goodreads

I have to admit, I initially was interested in These Broken Stars because of the gorgeous cover. I mean, just look at it. *sighs* Thankfully, I was treated to a great read in addition to a beautiful cover!

The first and most prominent thing that stands out to me are the characters. And they are awesome. They have backbone, they’re distinct from one another, and are overall very charming and dimensional. They do become more similar to one another as the story progresses, but they still retain many of their individual qualities while developing new ones. Not to mention, the dual point of view was on point.

Think of the plot as something that starts off as a sci-fi retelling of Titanic, then spirals into a paranormal, wilderness survival story. Awesome, right? One of the most intriguing things about this book from a writer’s standpoint is how the authors made the story progress and have momentum without much of an apparent conflict or manifested issue to overcome. (Such, survival is great and all, but it’s difficult to write conflict if there’s not something tangible you’re fighting against, which is why it’s so neat to find a well executed example.) I’m always amazed when people can pull that off. (See Rainbow Rowell‘s books to get an even better feel for what I mean.)

The writing is lovely, striking a harmonious balance between being rich and clear without getting too flowery.

The only drawback I felt in the story was that it comes across as a little overinflated. What I mean by that is that it takes a bit too long to get from point A to point B. Also, the conclusion regarding Lilac and her father was something I did not see coming, and not in a great way either. Something about it feels a bit off, like it was out of character, but that may have just been me.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this novel to fans of sci-fi, romance, and/or survival tales. Clear writing, developed characters, and a plot with momentum all come together into a literary treat. A solid 4 out of 5 stars!

On Leaving Bad Reviews

Lately I’ve been considering my professional image as an author. In doing this, it’s brought me to decide to delete the poor reviews I’ve left of books (2.5/5 and lower) in the past. I will also avoiding writing poor reviews in the future.

Thing is, I don’t want to be seen as an author that “trashes” other peoples’ work. And yet, I also don’t want to be seen as someone who sugarcoats sucky books because I want favorable treatment in return, (which is not at all what I’m trying to do).

However, one of the huge values of negative book reviews is that people read them and see what does and doesn’t work in stories. Many times, I’ve read a book only to be overwhelmingly disappointed, and had to really think on what it was that didn’t work for me. Nothing seemed wrong, but it just didn’t feel right.

Then, lightbulb.

You figure out that crucial part that ruined what would’ve been a great story, or what was wrong from the outset, or x, y & z. Negative reviews can be valuable for writers to educate themselves with.

However, that doesn’t mean I have to leave bad reviews. At the end of the year, I may just write up a summary post of things I’ve found over the year that worked or didn’t work, leaving the names of the specific books out.

I’m a reader, and I like to have my opinions heard. But on the other hand, I’m a writer. A virtually unknown writer who’s trying to break into the business. Reviewing fellow authors’ works poorly could come back to bite me in bad ways, and as long as I’m reviewing books under my pen name, those reviews will forever be attached to me.

How do you feel about these changes?

Book Review: City of Heavenly Fire

8755785Title: City of Heavenly Fire

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. Elderry

Release Date: May 27th, 2014

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: “In this dazzling and long-awaited conclusion to the acclaimed Mortal Instruments series, Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother.
Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.
The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris – but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?
When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee – even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned…
Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the word in the thrilling final installment of the classic urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments!” – Goodreads

It’s always bittersweet when you finish a series you’ve been reading for years. I began reading The Mortal Instruments series five years ago, and to see it come to a close now is like parting with a piece of my younger teenage years. Better yet, it was a good ending! There’s nothing worse than being disappointed with the conclusion of a series’ that you’ve seen through to the end.

The characters are in full form, complete with dynamic interactions between each other and the world around them. In the past few books, I just wasn’t quite “feeling it” character-wise. They were good, but didn’t get me in the heart. Yet there’s no more of that here, and the story does all that much better because of it.

I’ll admit I initially didn’t care for the Jules, Emma, & co. side story, but by the end I had better feelings towards them. Plus, they’re getting their own series soon! It’ll be interesting to see where that takes us.

Oh boy, the plot!It took some much-enjoyed twists I didn’t see coming. The *big surprise twist* at the end I did predict though. Huh. Funny how that works, but throughout the rest of the book that was probably the only thing I got right. I’d much rather be able to guess one big plot point correctly than the small ones that make up a larger part of the ride.

The scope of the story was rich in depth and imagination, as the previous books had been as well. The one downside of the book is that I felt it was a bit overinflated. I don’t mind reading long books, but it just took a little too long to get from point A to point B sometimes. A bit much fluff for my liking.

Overall, City of Heavenly Fire is great conclusion to a fun series, with wonderful characters, an involved plot, and twist after turn. I’m sad to see it go, but I could think of no better send off than the one it was given.

Writing Update: October 2014

Whew! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so I’m long overdue.

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After many months of work, I have FINALLY completed the final rewrite for No Angels! Currently the only task I have left is formatting, so No Angels should be back on digital shelves shortly! I have a big surprise planned for its release, but you’ll just have to wait and see what that’s all about. ;)

Also, I’m glazing over Collapsed Cathedrals as well. I’d read some of it this past summer and noticed two typos, and am now freaking about there being more in the book. Ack. I’m already 25% of the way through, so I estimate I’ll be done reading it by the end of the week.

I’m over two thirds of the way through editing The Final Advent. To be honest, I’d put it on the back burner since I was trying to get No Angels’ edits done, but now that that’s over The Final Advent will go back to being project number one. I’d hit a few rough patches earlier on with the editing, but with the kinks slowly but surely getting ironed out, I’m optimistic things will continue at this faster pace.

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In regards to The Stolen Sun, I’ve mostly just been querying it. (Plus, I’ve gotten two, two personal rejections! I feel weirdly accomplished to say that, ha ha.) However, due to the fact most places don’t want you to submit simultaneously in addition to taking forever to get back to you, I haven’t been able to query that much. Just five places. Oh well. Such is the game!

Where Gold is Born was picked up for publication in early spring, and the journal it’s being published in will be released in the next few weeks! So exciting! Also, I’m thinking about submitting it to other magazines as well as a reprint. The more credits you can get, the better, right?

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The Cradle has taken a major back seat lately. What with all of the No Angels and The Final Advent edits, I haven’t had much time to do research for it, refine the plot outline, etc. Plus, I just feel like there’s something inherently wrong with the plot outline. (That’s one of the benefits of outlining, kids. You can see if something is broke before you have to spend 500 hours of editing in an attempt to fix it.) Either way, I’m bouncing some ideas around for a more tangible goal to give my protagonist. Something that’ll hopefully give me a more climactic conclusion.

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The Immortal, however? I worked on this one far more than justifiable. (I’ve forced myself to stop right now for the aforementioned edits, but it had to be done.) I’ve done character outlines, fleshed out the plot further, and done mountains of research. Plus I’ve written bits here and there. I know, shame on me, but I just can’t help myself! This is one of my favorite stories I’ve ever dreamed up, and I hope it’ll be one of your favorites too.

This one is definitely going to get written before The Cradle. It’s itching and burning to burst from my fingertips. (Who knows? Maybe I’ll get hit with an Elisabeth-Wheatley-esque all consuming writing frenzy and knock out a 260k book in a day! Haha!)

Things are moving ahead at a scarily fast pace, and I can’t wait to bring y’all the finished products!

What have you been working on/reading lately? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review: Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry #1)

4268157Title: Perfect Chemistry

Author: Simone Elkeles

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers

Release Date: December 23rd, 2008

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary: “When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created ‘perfect’ life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she’s worked so hard for: her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. 
Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.
In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.” – Goodreads

I typically don’t read straight up romance stories. (I find them too cheesy or predictable.) And yet, I tore through this book within a matter of days. It was one of those books where I’d tried pacing myself to make the fun last longer, but . . . we all know how that goes.

Admittedly, some of the dialogue was unrealistic and I could predict where the plot was going, but I more so got my enjoyment from watching the plot unfold.

The book has its fair share of cliches, but the pacing was spot on and it had a wonderfully voiced dual-perspective going on. So, I was able to see past my few issues with it.

Perfect Chemistry is just plain fun. Addicting, even. If you’re looking for a light, entertaining romance read without being nit-picky about improbable things/things you’ve seen before, I’d recommend this to you.