Kingdom of Spirit & Sorrow Release and Update

So, Kingdom of Spirit & Sorrow, book two in the Elemental Kingdoms series releases on Friday June 26th, 2020 (in two days). Which is amazing! And I am definitely stoked about its birth into the world. I am however nervous.

That imposter syndrome I’ve spoken about a few times? Yea…it’s real and it bad and it’s real bad. I had a beta reader from my Valdir Chronicles tell me they didn’t want to beta read these books because they weren’t her style. A beta reader I had begun to rely on. That hurt. I began to wonder if this new series is trash, if it’s even worth it. But at the same time, I don’t have it in me to quit. I want this too badly.

I have to keep reminding myself that not only is this series good, it’s better written, better edited, and better plotted than any of my previous books. It also is a more complicated plot and world that I’ve built. I have to remind myself that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and just because she liked my one series about dragons doesn’t mean she’ll be interested in a darker YA Fantasy about blood magic.

So, here is the stunning cover for Kingdom of Spirit & Sorrow done by the lovely Maria Spada.

Click on the image to snag your copy!

So what is the update?

Covid has really messed me up. I’m still working an essential job, the bills are being paid, and my family is healthy and happy. But I’m struggling with some severe mental health stuff. Frankly, my writing is the only thing that’s keeping me afloat. I’ve written almost 200,000 words this year already and I plan to write at least another 200,000 words.

I’m working on book three, Kingdom of Dust & Bone, in the Elemental Kingdoms Series. It’s going to be awesome, and I’m so excited for where this story is taking me. I love this world and these characters and sometimes I just get so impatient! I want their story to be written and told already!

Born of Air is getting an Audiobook! It should be done by the end of June, then I have to review it and approve it and release it. It is being narrated by Elizabeth DeVault. Here is the sweet cover.

No preorder link yet, but once I have one I’ll post it up on the website.

For now, I’m just doing everything in my power to improve my mental health and my physical health, and I’m focusing all my energy on writing. The plan is two more books out this year, as well as *hopefully* three to four audio books out as well!

Imposter Syndrome and Moving Past it

Why am I constantly plagued by the question of “am I good enough?”

Why does this society, this culture, this world make people doubt themselves, and judge themselves so harshly? How do I know my books are good enough? Is it sales? Is it reviews? Is it praise, or people joining my reader group? How will I know when I have reached success? What does success mean to me?

These are the questions I ask myself daily, multiple times a day even. And the days since this pandemic hit, have been no exception. In fact, some days are worse than before Covid-19. My sales have suffered just a little bit, and so I’ve had to dive into ads pretty heavily. And every day that I make sales, I wonder how many of those people will read my book and then read the next, and the next. I wonder how many people will enjoy it, and whether it truly is good enough. I wonder if I’m just a fraud, and that at some point someone is going to stand up and say “Hey! You aren’t a real author!”

So what is it about this culture that makes us doubt our abilities? This question in particular has bugged me for years. I am currently seeing two different therapists for various traumas, depression, OCD, and anxiety, and one of the major themes we’ve been focusing on is my self-esteem. I struggle to like myself, let alone love myself as I should. The trouble with this, is that I then doubt myself and suffer from a lack of confidence. There are of course, other consequences, but in relation to my art, this is what hurts me the most.

I remember a time when I was a small child, when I wasn’t full of self-hatred. When I was brave and strong and confident. Before the world taught me I wasn’t good enough. And what does that say about our culture that we beat our children down until they no longer believe they can do anything? That, my friends, is a sad revelation. Because when the world is falling down around us, who do we turn to for comfort? The arts.

I’m striving to find that confident and brave child within me again, but it is going to be a long journey. So in the meantime, I worry with every word that I put on the page.

Every time that crippling self doubt happens, I usually go and look at my sales and my reader group and my positive reviews to remind myself that at least some people have found joy in my stories. That usually gives me a small boost.

I also like to think about something I learned from Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle from 20booksto50k about Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have the best book ever written in history. You just need the best book you can write with the resources you have, and as long as it qualifies as a MVP, then you’ve done it. You can always sell a MVP. And being an indie author is a business, so it makes sense to think of my books as a product.

But beyond having a MVP, how will I know I’ve made it? For me, it’s having fans. It’s being engaged with my community. It’s being a full-time writer. And it’s writing the stories in my heart for others, hopefully generations to come, to read and enjoy.

And I’m part-way there. Despite the crippling self doubt and imposter syndrome, I’ll keep striving for my dreams. You should too. Don’t give up, and don’t listen to a world that wants you to fail.

Top 10 TV Shows to watch in Quarantine based on books

Since we are all stuck inside and in desperate need of new shows to binge watch, I thought I’d make a list of the top shows that I have loved binging and are based off books! Now, not all of these shows follow the books to the letter, and some are down right “loosely based” on the books, but all of them have been good for different reasons and are an adventure. So sit down, buckle up, and get ready to find your next favorite show!

P.S. These are in no particular order, just the top ten that I’ve enjoyed!

  1. Call the Midwife
This is my feel-good show. If you want a lovely jaunt through London in the 1950’s/60’s watching babies being born, and some lovely (and surprisingly progressive) story lines, then this is the show for you. Based off the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, this show is just heart warming. Seeing babies being born and growing is always something to be happy about and this show tackles everything motherhood throws at a person.

2. His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials is based on the book series by Phillip Pullman of the same name. So far, this first season includes all of book one (The Golden Compass) and parts of book two (The Subtle Knife) which I wasn’t expecting. If you like portal fantasies, then this would be a great opton. The movie that came out in 2007 was not the best, and this show is infinitely better. Yes, they’ve taken some creative liberties, and given more of a story line to the Gypsies, but over all, I’m enjoying it and am excited for the next season!

3. Game of Thrones

Based on the series of books called A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, this show has been one hell of a ride. If you love epic fantasy with heavy political intrigue, fighting, blood, dragons, and sex, then check this out. The first season and parts of the second and third seasons stuck VERY closely to the books. After that however, it begins to deviate. And since the book series is not finished, the creators of the show had to go off on their own and create their own ending. While Martin has admitted that his endgame is similar to the show’s, the show royally screw up the final season. So if you are easily frustrated, perhaps don’t watch that last season. Up until then, it is WELL worth the binge watch.

4. Walking Dead

This show is another one that has been one hell of a ride. It is based on a series of graphic novels of the same name by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. Both of whom have been involved in the show, which means the majority (but not all) of the story lines are similar. If you love apocalyptic shows, zombies, and plenty of action, then this is the show for you. Heart pounding and full of excitement, this show delivers.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale

I’ll admit, I’ve only watched this show through season two and haven’t started season three yet. But what I have seen, I’ve been absolutely floored by the creativity and the acting. Based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood, it follows the tale of a woman living in a dystopian world. Women are barren, and the government has been overthrown by a religious sect who are intent on rebuilding the population, Eugenics style. The show is now passing the book, but they are staying true to the feeling of the novel and so far, I’m so intrigued. But be prepared to be triggered, and have your heart in your throat at some points, and yell at the screen at others. This show pulls on all your heart strings.

6. Outlander

Another show I have not finished yet! I am in the middle of season three and man, I am loving the portal fantasy vibe. The show is based heavily on a book series by Diana Gabaldon called Outlander and is about a nurse at the end of World War II who finds herself flung back in to 18th century Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion. Full of romance, love, sex, intrigue, and handsome Scotsmen, this is the perfect show to binge. Be aware of some triggering things however. It isn’t for the faint of heart!

7. True Blood

So, I’ll admit, I resisted watching this show for a LONG time. They are based on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, and when I attempted to read the books, I struggled to get into them and therefore, did not watch the show. But a friend recently convinced me of its merits and I caved. I’m about four seasons in, and I am now a fan! Great acting, good story lines, strong characters, and an interesting take on vampires. Definitely worth sinking your teeth into!

8. The 100

The show The 100 is based on a series of the same name by Kass Morgan. It is another apocalyptic show with dystopian vibes. Well told, with varied and interesting characters and an interesting world, this show is worth a try. It’s about 100 young people being sent to earth from The Arc (a space station) to see if it is survivable after a nuclear apocalypse. At first, things reminded me of Lord of the Flies, but as the story progressed, I became more and more invested. And frankly, I’m loving the LGBTQ representation.

9. The Witcher

This show man. This show. There’s only one season, but it was SO good. It is loosely based on a series of novels (and also video games) of the same name by Andrzej Sapkowski. I have not yet read the books (but they are on my TBR), but the show was well done. It’s about Geralt who is a witcher (or a monster hunter) and how he reluctantly keeps saving people. I love high fantasy, and this one has it all: magic, sex, intrigue, sword fighting, sexy dudes and dudettes, and a snarky traveling minstrel you can’t help but love and sing along with. Toss a coin to your witcher!

10. Good Omens

And finally, Good Omens which is based heavily off the book by my personal favorite, Neil Gaiman. First of all, the acting was magnificent. Second, the show was just so well done, and casting Michael Sheen and David Tennant opposite each other was so perfect it’s almost painful. This is a mini series rather than a season of a show, but it is well worth the single day binge. Angels and Demons and working together to save the world and save the son of Satan. Seriously, it’s funny and heart warming in a strange way. So good!

There are many more shows worth watching out there, but none so good at these. Perhaps I’ll do another list at a later date about other great shows, but if you are looking for your next great binge, please give these shows a try.

Behind the scenes

My work space

When I first started writing again as an adult, I often wrote at my kitchen table. But soon I moved to writing all over the place. I am ashamed to admit I used to be a smoker, so I often wrote outside on my balcony, or even in my car. But since being a bit more stable, and finally having a decent office and place to write, I’ve moved to writing at my desk. A month or so ago, my husband gave me his hand-me-down PC and got me dual screens. I am in love with the setup.

What exactly is this behind the scenes look at my writing? Well, frankly, nothing super exciting. But in case you are interested in my routine and how I do what I do, here it is.

My writing routine has changed drastically over the years, especially as I’ve quit smoking and changed jobs. I used to be a social worker, a case worker, and a drug and alcohol counselor. It was the most emotionally draining job I’ve ever had. So for a few years there, I barely wrote. I was usually able to eek out a few thousand words during Nanowrimo, or when I was feeling particularly good. But for the most part, all of my creative energy was sapped taking care of everyone else.

I burned out and that job ended just about 16 months ago. And frankly, it was the best thing to ever happen to me, my creativity, and my mental health. I finally had the energy to be creative. That was the catalyst that propelled me into publishing.

Here is my current routine: Wake up, go to work. I work in an office, and during the down time I am able to get some authoring done. I often write blog posts (like now), add things to my website, update Patreon, write my newsletter, create social media posts and graphics, do my finances, perhaps write on side projects, and do all the little things I need to do (formatting, creating universal links, etc) in order for my business to run. Once I get home, I usually take a few hours to relax, exercise, eat a meal, watch TV/read. My husband works early in the morning so when he goes to bed, I shower, get a cup of tea, and sit at my desk to write. I enjoy writing when the rest of the house is quiet and sleeping. It’s peaceful and I can let my mind wander without and distractions. This is when I get most of my writing in, from about 9pm until 11pm.

I write in sprints of 15-20mins at a time with 5 min breaks. And I use 4thewords to help keep me on track and focused. Sometimes I use focus apps. And sometimes I use a spread sheet, or StoryOrigin, or Nanowrimo to help me track my word count or projects.

I write about 2,000 words an hour if I get into a creative flow. And honestly, creative flow is my favorite thing. It’s hard to describe but it’s almost as though I’m just a conduit and the words just flow through me from someplace else. Sometimes I go into writing a scene with an idea in mind, and when I come out the other side, I realize the scene looks nothing like what I’d planned.

That’s also how I often surprise myself while writing. Things happen that I don’t expect, my characters act in ways I didn’t plan. Oh, the beauties of writing.

One of my other favorite things is when characters introduce themselves to me. It’s as though they step forward and wave, tell me their name, and sometimes tell me their stories. Sometimes I have to discover their stories as I write. That is why some characters seem better formed than others, and I pride myself on very character driven stories. I love discovering new characters, and I always kick myself when I don’t have a chance to take notes! I’ve lost a few that way. It sounds strange, but it’s the way my brain works. Some writers have conversations with their characters, I am more a passive observer as they live their lives and I observe and take notes.

Well, that’s just a snippet of my writing life. I get more ideas for stories than I could ever write over a lifetime, but I promise I will never stop telling stories as it is my passion and my life.

New launch and Covid-19

Frankly, what is there to say? This whole world has gone bonkers, and we’re all just trying to hang on to some scrap of normalcy.

So my launch of Kingdom of Wind & Fire is going forward as planned and will release on March 27th, 2020 (this coming Friday). The ebook is uploaded and awaiting review. The paperback won’t be far behind, but due to the current pandemic, it might take a little longer not only to be approved, but also to be printed. It is print on demand via Amazon but since it is not essential there may be a delay in printing.

So if you want to grab your copy, click here!

I plan to do a few Facebook takeovers coming up, as well as some e-book giveaways. Once I have some author copies of the book, I will also do a few signed paperback giveaways for anyone who wants one!

This Friday I’ll be doing a takeover on Rabid Book Blog’s Readers group from 3pm-5pm PST. There may be another takeover over on some other FB groups, so keep an eye on my social media for those announcements.

Check out this awesome map for the Elemental Kingdoms Series done by my friend Arielle Barels (@life.of.arielle over on Instagram).

I’m not going to stop moving forward even if the world is at a stand still. My books, story telling, and my writing are too important to me. But now more than ever if the time to support small businesses. So go out and support your favorite indie authors!!

In the meantime, I am attempting to write book two amidst all this global chaos. And if I’m being honest, it’s not going well. I am struggling to stay focused, every few minutes my brain decides it needs to have a panic attack and think about the pandemic, making writing every difficult. I’m trying to focus on smaller tasks, like writing this blog post, restructuring my outline, the outline for books three and four, and writing newsletters and making graphics.

I struggle with anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and a panic disorder. I see multiple therapists, and take emergency anxiety meds when needed. I work tirelessly on grounding techniques and overcoming past trauma, but in a situation like this, where I have absolutely no control over my own safety beyond staying home as much as possible, I can’t help but panic.

I work for a garbage company in their office, which means, that even in the case of a lock down I work for an essential service, and my job is considered essential. This means I still have a job which is amazing! But it also means I am constantly at risk, as is my family and my coworkers. And that is frustrating. I don’t have an option to keep myself isolated at home.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t help my anxiety.

So yes, writing has been very hard. But I hope the worst of my anxiety passes soon and I can get back into a routine of writing and get this book written before June.

Stay safe out there. If you are struggling as I am, I see you. I understand and empathize more than you know. We will get through this. Our world has seen so much worse. Focus on the good things coming out of this and try to take a deep breath. I know I am.

Top Favorite Fantasy Reads of 2019

I read so many amazing books in 2019.  My Goodreads reading goal was 30 books (I amended it partway through the year as my original goal was 25) and I ended up reading 36. Here are a few of my favorites!

1. Scythe by Neal Schusterman
-This series has been such a delight and refreshing.  It is a unique take on a dystopian society and has been such a ride. 
2. Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
-Adrienne Young is one of my new favorite authors and in 2020 I fully plan to read The Girl the Sea Gave Back. Well written adventure and I just fell in love.
3. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
-This book. I can’t even describe how much I LOVE this book and am so excited to read the rest of the series. It reminds me of the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, only more grown up with way more sex and blood. 
4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
-Leigh Bardugo is who I strive to be.  Her Shadow and Bone series was good, but the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom surpassed those books by a long shot.  I loved her ability to write an ensemble cast along with keeping things from the reader and keeping us guessing.
5. Tempests & Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
– Loved reading a new book by Tamora Pierce.  This book is a bit slow BUT I adore Numair as a character and loved seeing his origin story.  I also love magic academy books so that is a plus.  Plus, anything Tamora Pierce writes is an adventure.
6. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
-If you haven’t dove into this series yet, then you need to. This series has been one of my favorites so far and I’m only partway through book three.

I really hope you check out some of these books this year if you haven’t already! What were your favorite reads of 2019?

New Year, New Goals

2019 was a douzy.

In 2019 I decided to finally publish a book. It was a gamble, I knew there was a chance it would flop and I’d never make a dime and I’d end up spending way more than I’d make. I had always been told as a child that I was a strong starter and a horrible finisher, and so I knew there was a chance I would botch this whole process from the beginning, but I was determined enough to at least try.

I published my first book in February of this year. It hasn’t done great, but I didn’t know anything about tropes, or the NA category or really what I was doing at all. But I pressed onward after I published, kept learning and learning, polished up my second book and began writing my third. I published my second book in May, my third in August, and my fourth in November. Then I published a novella this month, and finally, I created the box set of my YA Fantasy series, The Valdir Chronicles and published it last week.

I NEVER thought I would get this far. I NEVER thought I would publish four books and a novella in the same year. Before 2019 I barely wrote a book a year, and usually those books never made it past the rough draft stage. But suddenly I’ve written three books this year alone, and most of a fourth. I am writing more and faster than I ever have before. Suddenly, I’m not a poor finisher. Suddenly, I can do anything I put my mind to.

I NEVER thought I would be making a couple hundred a month. I NEVER thought I would do a radio interview. And yet, here we are. I make on average over $100 a month, and this month I broke $200 a month. I hope to keep this momentum going.

My goals for 2020 are lofty, admittedly. BUT if I don’t make them lofty, if I don’t challenge myself, then how will I know I can make it? So while I do have personal goals, like losing at least 80 pounds, and working out 3 days a week, and getting a kayak, etc, it’s my writing/publishing goals that are the most challenging.

I want to publish anywhere from 4-6 books this year. I know I want at least 2-3 in this new series I’m writing (Kingdom of Wind & Fire) but I also know that there’s no way to guarantee an exact number of books in each series that I’m in the middle of writing! And then I may come back to the Valdir Chronicles if the story calls to me, or I may start an entirely new series. The problem is, I can’t dictate the future of my writing in terms of projects. I am an artist after all.

I want to do at least one in-person book signing/selling. I have horrible anxiety and the idea of trying to sell my books to total strangers is TERRIFYING. And the imposter syndrome is strong, and somehow I don’t feel like I deserve to sell books. So that is a fear I plan to conquer.

I plan to go to 20booksto50k Vegas in November of 2020 (if I can get a spot). This is something I’m extremely excited about attending, and could be a game changer for this career. I will be rubbing elbows with other authors who regularly pull in thousands and thousands a month and make over half a million or more a year.

I want to earn more than I ever have before. My first goal is to regularly make $300 a month. But by the end of 2020 I would like to be regularly making $500 a month if I can. That would finally give me some room to play with ads. Which is another goal: LEARN ADS. This is the part I am legitimately scared of. I know next to nothing about marketing and so far I’ve been winging it, so my goal is to really learn how to dial in my audience and ad spend and see if I can boost my sales.

That’s it, at least for now, in terms of my 2020 goals. I plan to write at least five days a week, and I really want to focus on getting you all some great books this year. I hope you all set yourself lofty goals so that you can achieve even more this coming year than you did in 2019. It’s a new decade and a new chance to really make something.

NaNoWriMo is here.

I made a horrible decision.

Not only am I currently editing Born of Blood because it releases on November 29th (during Nano so I must be crazy), but I’m also doing Nano. But in October I had it all planned out. I was going to write a quick YA Urban Fantasy series about witches, but only after I finished the novella for The Valdir Chronicles, Born of Stone. I had a plan. I plotted out books one and two of the YA UF. I had characters. I was prepared.

Then a week before Nano I realized… I didn’t want to write an Urban Fantasy. The story no longer called to me the way it once had. I wanted to keep writing traditional fantasy. I wanted magic and world building.

So I scrapped the YA UF idea and started planning a whole new YA Fantasy series. I dragged out an old idea and began meshing it with a few new ideas. I soon had a basic (read: crappy) plot for book one and some ideas for books two and three. I had the basics of a world with plenty of magic, but some gaping plot holes I needed to fill. Then Nano hit.

I finished Born of Stone in the first three days, writing a whopping 11,000 words, finishing the novella off at 15,500 or so. I was excited. I was accomplished. I was ahead.

Then it hit me, I needed to start on this new YA Fantasy now. I needed to fix plot holes, get to know my characters, and do more world building. The last two days have consisted of me scrambling to world build some more, and honestly I think I have a very cool world filled with science and magic, but as I wrote the first chapter, I realized my plot was pathetic. It no longer lined up with my world building. And I only had the barest outline.

I’m definitely a planner. I need to have a solid plot, chapter by chapter from A to Z before I feel able to get into a real creative flow. I need to have an idea of where I’m going otherwise I get lost. Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t be spontaneous. I definitely deviate from my plot. A lot. I often have a different plot at the end than what I started with, but if I don’t at least have an outline, then I get bogged down with the details.

Honestly, the way I plan my books is not that different than my life. I like to have a plan to start with. If the plan goes awry or I deviate, I don’t mind one bit. But that plan gives me peace of mind, a jumping off point.

So here it is. The working title and cover for my next series. I have no idea what the plot is yet. But I do know it’s going to be full of adventure and intrigue and maybe a bit more romance since my main characters (twins) are over 18.

My main characters are Brianna and Brayden Kirk, red haired twins. They each possess an elemental magic. The rest, you will learn soon!