Monday, 30 November 2015

November goals update & what I've been reading

What I've been reading

Chase the Dark (Steel & Stone #1)

I've been looking for more great urban fantasy this month, and I found this fantastic YA paranormal/urban fantasy series, starting with Chase the Dark. Daemons, action and kick-ass characters -- what's not to love?

Boundary Crossed (Boundary Magic, #1)

Another great urban fantasy find was Boundary Crossed, the first in an action-packed series featuring witches and vampires.

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)

I ended up rereading an old favourite series in preparation to read the final book, Winter. <3 Best book I've read in 2015, and an awesome series end. If you haven't read the Lunar Chronicles yet (starting with Cinder), why not?!

What I've been writing

I finished my urban fantasy draft at 72K words!

I also worked on a side-project. Well, two. My brain had this weird glitch where it wanted to work on three books at once, so that was interesting.

What else I've been up to

I booked my trip to New Zealand next February! ^_^ I'll be flying into Wellington and travelling all over the South Island. I'm beyond excited! And also kind of terrified of the 31-hour flight and leaving my inbox unattended and wandering around a foreign country on my own. But it's been a while since I went adventuring. :D I already have a jet boating trip booked in Queenstown.

I also had a slightly extreme haircut, and impulse-bought awesome T-shirts. ;)

Meanwhile, Collision (Alliance, #3) was published.

Plans for December

I want to write at least 50,000 words.

Send Divided (Alliance, #4) to beta readers.

Send out advance copies of Indestructible.

In my next newsletter: end-of-year giveaway, Sneak peek at cover for Indestructible. :)

Saturday, 28 November 2015

#WIPMarathon November Update

It's time for another #WIPMarathon update, hosted by Ifeoma Dennis!

Last report wordcount:

I was at 54K of my urban fantasy draft.

Current report wordcount: 

I finished my draft at 72K. This one went much better than the last one, luckily! I also checked over my outlines for the second and third books.

I also wrote around 50K total on other projects. (I'm doing that thing again where I write out of order, so I might not end up keeping all the chapter fragments I have.)

Collision was published on the 17th.

WIP issues this month: Juggling. My brain wanted to write three books at once and refused to take no for an answer.

Four things I learned this month in writing:
  • I'm quicker at drafting when I'm not editing another project. Juggling feedback and comments  slows me down like nothing else. (And I'm so glad I quit using Goodreads as an author.)
  • Creative mood cycles are a nuisance. I had one week where the words were flowing, followed by two weeks where writing ten words was like pulling fingernails off. I'm trying to work on saving the difficult parts for days when my brain's actually functioning, to take the pressure off the rest of the time...
  • Sometimes I write out of order, and it can actually end up being faster. I'm more excited to write if I know what's coming next, and whenever I plan in detail, I end up accidentally writing bits of it ahead of time. (I probably can't get away with calling it accidental any more... :P)
  • Insecurity never goes away. >_<
    What distracted me this month when writing:

    Insecurity. Mostly publishing-related. Creative Brain and Business Brain have been fighting again.
    It doesn't really help that it's rained non-stop for a month and I've forgotten what the sun looks like. My lightbox is saving my sanity!

    So... I have eight books scheduled for release next year. They're all written, and most are edited. I'm prepared for the release schedule. But emotionally? Uh, yeahhh. *hides under carpet*

    Publishing is isolating, because you're constantly aware that people are watching. Reading your words. Declaring their opinions on your books for the world to hear. Going through it once is tough. Five times in a year, and I'm burning out spectacularly. Eight times next year? Well, I'm travelling around New Zealand in February and I'm kind of tempted to stay there so I can write in peace...

    So I'm a little distracted with travel plans, anyway! (The last time I went adventuring was when I travelled around Costa Rica in 2012. o.O) Ever since I graduated from university and my first book was published, it's felt like I haven't had a minute to spare. It's been a trying year, and it kind of hit home recently that I was putting off a lot of things for no good reason. Travel being one of them. So I booked the trip, even though I'm sure my inbox will do its best to thwart my plans.

    Goal for next month:

    Write 50-60K total. Two possible projects!

    Last 200 words: *cough spoilers cough*

    Friday, 27 November 2015

    CQ Black Friday Mega-Sale: Darkness Watching is FREE!

    Hey, guys! Just to let you know my publishers are running a HUGE Black Friday sale, and Darkness Watching is FREE to download today!

    Watched by demons no one else can see, eighteen-year-old Ash think she's losing her mind. But the truth is far more frightening: she can see into the Darkworld, the home of spirits, and the darkness is staring back.

    All she wants at university is a second chance at a normal life, but her new home in the small town of Blackstone has secrets of its own. The Venantium, the sorcerers who maintain the barrier keeping demons from crossing from the Darkworld into our own world, have their eyes on Ash. And a group of rogue sorcerers might be the only ones who can offer the answers she's looking for. In a world where darkness lurks beneath the surface, not everyone is what they appear to be...

    Winner of the 2014 Blogger Book Fair Speculative Fiction Reader's Choice Award for paranormal fiction.

    #1 Amazon Best Seller in New Adult and College Fantasy

    Monday, 23 November 2015

    Interview with Sci-Fi author Emma Larkin!

    Today I'm interviewing Emma Larkin, author of Mechalarum!

    Tell me three interesting facts about yourself!

    In college, while playing drums for the LSJUMB band, I piloted a hammock-boat. Through some mysterious channel the picture was discovered years later by Gizmodo and Reddit - woo internet famous!

    I studied ancient handicrafts (aka “earthworks”) during high school, including pottery and blacksmithing. I have a cute penguin/alligator-looking creature on my bookshelf that I forged out of steel.


    I never learned to whistle as a child. It’s one of my chief regrets. Only now am I starting to figure out how it’s done.

    Summarize your book in one line.

    Iron Man meets Fury Road - with aliens.

    Tell me something cool/crazy/quirky about the book – it can be anything!

    I’m obsessed with naming. Almost every name has a convoluted backstory with multiple layers of meaning. Take Kiellen Corr, the heroine of the story, for example. ‘Kiel’ is similar to ‘ciel,’ which means ‘heaven’ or ‘sky’ in French. Kiellen is a pilot obsessed with flying her Mechalarum suit (in the sky). ‘Corr’ is similar to ‘coeur,’ French for ‘heart.’ Kiellen is passionate and headstrong, usually acting on her instincts and emotions. Her last name also evokes the word ‘core’ - after all, Kiellen is the main character, the ‘core’ of the story, central to the the plot and action.

    I’m not even done. I could go on, but that’s probably already more than anyone wants to know :)

    Why did you decide to write this particular book?

    One of my greatest desires is to have the power of personal flight. To be able to rise up into the air unencumbered by gravity at a moment’s notice - wouldn’t that be grand?

    So it’s not strange that the idea of a flying woman fighting aliens came to me in a dream. Corny, I know, but it’s true! That’s all I had to start with: a woman, flight, and a war. I’d read more fantasy books at that point than science fiction, but I knew I wanted this story to be scifi, because I love exploring the reasons things in my story work the way they do. And I love robots.

    I might not have taken this particular idea all the way, but National Novel Writing Month happened and it was the best idea I had. So I went with it!

    Best part of the writing process?

    Coming up with ideas. That limitless feeling that you can write anything - that your book can be anything. Writing is hard - dreaming is easier! I daydream about my stories a lot, picturing my favorite scenes in my head.

    Share one thing you learned writing this book.

    You have to let go and just write for your first draft. The more closely you try to control the words that come out of your fingers in those early stages, the slower it will go, and the more you’ll doubt yourself. When you get into the ‘flow,’ and the words are coming to you faster than you can type, you come up with amazing things that surprise even yourself. Of course, you write a lot of junk too, but that’s easy enough to fix in the editing phases.

    Tell me about one strange experience you’ve had. Again, it can be anything!

    I had a one-in-a-million experience that taught me nothing is impossible. When I lived in Annapolis, I went on a trip to visit San Francisco. I was wandering around, about to go back to the hotel, when I looked down the hill and realized I was right next to the Norwegian Seaman’s Church, where I had been baptized almost three decades before. I went inside and chatted with the greeter for a few minutes, then stepped out onto the balcony for a moment. I was taking pictures of the view, when I just happened to look down… And there, walking down the street, were two people I knew from Maryland! They just happened to be vacationing in the same city in the same state on the opposite coast of where we were from (at the same time), and just happened to walk down the same street. If I’d stayed inside the church for a minute longer, I would never have known they were there.

    I have more stories like that - like my parents’ implausible meeting story. Weird coincidences seem to be my lot in life.

    Name one fictional place you’d love to visit.

    Ooo, that’s a hard one! I’d have to say Tortall, the world where Tamora Pierce sets mosts of her stories. The place itself is interesting enough, but more than that, I love all those characters and I’d give anything for the chance to sit down and chat with them over a drink in the Dancing Dove.

    Name one real place you’d love to visit.

    The northern midwest of the US. It’s on my bucket list to check out every state, and there are still a few up there I haven’t gotten to yet. I hear it’s very beautiful.

    Share one sentence/mini-excerpt from the book!

    I try not to get too flowery with my language, but I did enjoy using some really visceral language to describe Kiellen pairing with the Mechalarum suit.

    “Kiellen forced herself not to brace against the discomfort—her body suffered less when she let the suit twist her limbs to fit its needs. It switched from an exploratory mode to a predatory one, swallowing her exposed skin inch by inch like a virulent case of gangrene.”

    Bio and Blurb

    Emma Larkins is a science fiction author and card game designer who loves puns. She writes accessible stories that tease the edges of your imagination without making you feel like your brain has gone through a blender.

    Her Mechalarum ebook (“Strong heroine Kiellen risks slow death for the power of biomechanical flight; Iron Man meets Fury Road, with aliens.”) will be available for free November 21 through 25 on Amazon - during which time Emma will be raffling five signed paperback copies of the book. And she’s going on a book tour! Join her as she shares stories, excerpts, interviews, and more. Click here for a complete list of tour stops.

    You can also stop by her Twitter or blog to say hi!

    Friday, 20 November 2015

    Some thoughts on tropes, cliches, and originality

    When I was judging the Pitch to Publication contest in July, one topic that continually came up was originality, and how it relates to what agents and publishers are looking for. No story is entirely original, but if you come up with something that's essentially a cut-out of another book, you'll struggle to sell it. On the flip side, something off-the-wall weird and creative might struggle to find an audience. One thing's for certain: it's almost impossible to find a book that's entirely free of tropes, because they're embedded in virtually all the stories we run into -- books, TV, and film. Even story structure itself can be based on tropes -- see the hero's journey, for example.

    What's the difference between a trope and a cliche? Well, tropes are popular for a reason: they're themes and ideas constantly repeated because they resonate with people. Cliches, however, are ideas that have been overused to the point of inducing eye-rolling. But definitions can vary for different people. Love triangles, for example, are a trope, but are often called a cliche because they've been used in so many popular YA novels in the past few years. Personally, I'll never write one, because my books tend to be more mystery-and-plot-focused than romance-centric, but this is just my writing style. Some of my favourite series -- the Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa and The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, for example -- use this trope. It can definitely work. Check out TV Tropes for an extensive list, and you'll find that almost everything in popular fiction is a trope.

    So where does that leave originality?

    Honestly? It's as subjective as anything else. I tend to look for originality in worldbuilding, for example, but there are plenty of successful novels that use really familiar ideas in their worldbuilding --like elemental magic, for example -- and that works for them. As for love triangles, for all the complaints... just look at the Amazon charts.

    With that having been said, when I was judging the Pitch to Publication contest, I was looking for entries strong enough to pitch to agents. Often -- but not always -- the use of a too-familiar idea can indicate inexperience, and the lack of a strong authorial voice. A fresh, unique voice can breathe life into an overdone premise. Look at what Laini Taylor did with the angels/demons trope. Or Susan Ee with Angelfall -- mixing two popular tropes, angels and the apocalypse. And it's done extremely well. You need to hit that perfect mix of familiar and unfamiliar, but even that can vary between agents and publishers, and can be dependent on trends.

    I try not to stress too much about it in my own writing. It's difficult. On the one hand, Darkness Watching had a lot of praise for being a different take on demons... but many readers didn't like it for the same reasons and all but said they'd have preferred a straight-up paranormal romance. Some readers actually prefer it if the tropes are familiar -- like those who want to know upfront if a romance ends happily, for example. I confess I like the element of surprise a little too much, and it was a little jarring to find that I'd actually have more success marketing my books if I focused on the familiar elements rather than the cool, original parts. As a reader, I go actively looking for books that try to do something different, but ultimately, it's the familiar-but-slightly-different that sells. The first line of the Amazon blurb of Darkness Watching says, "Think Buffy Meets Supernatural." Since I added that line just before a Bookbub ad, sales have vastly improved. It's a little difficult to ignore!

    On the other hand, there's infinite scope for twists on familiar ideas, because every writer's voice is unique. Give five people the same writing prompt and you'll get five completely different stories. As I said, voice is key -- and possibly the most important part of winning over your audience.

    Tuesday, 17 November 2015

    Release Day: Collision (Alliance, #3) by Emma L. Adams

    It's release day for Collision, Book 3 in the universe-hopping urban fantasy Alliance series! I had a lot of fun writing this one, even though edits almost finished me off. (I went through eleven drafts before I got the story in the right order. A very good job I love this series!) Anyway, Collision contains angry forces of nature, a rabid unicorn, griffins, and the usual world-hopping magic and monsters. And an ending that changes everything… (*muahahaha*)

    When Earth suddenly gains inexplicably high levels of magic, all fingers point at the Alliance.

    On a distant world, where magic-fuelled forces of nature rule over humans, a disaster is sweeping the land, threatening to knock the Balance across the Multiverse out of sync. When Kay and Ada are sent there with the other Ambassadors, they’re thrown into the centre of chaos. Nature is alive, and angry.

    Ada embraces the magic she still half-fears, but learning to control it proves harder than she can imagine. Kay, meanwhile, becomes more reckless than ever when testing the boundaries of his own abilities. When faced with living magic, no one is safe from its influence. Ada and Kay must choose what they’re willing to risk for the sake of saving a world that might already be doomed. Can mortals overcome the gods?

    Amazon   Add on Goodreads


    “Guys, stay back!” I yelled at two other guards who’d come to stand alongside me. “It’s not stable.”
    I’m not stable.
    But I had no choice. I struck with the stunner, sending a searing bolt of lightning at the nearest beast. Except the lightning didn’t come from the stunner. It came from my hand.
    A nearby guard swore. “I’m out of shots.”
    “Take mine,” I said quickly. “I can fight without it.” Magic seemed to want me to.
    “Thanks,” he said, blinking like he was surprised I’d give away my weapon, and caught the stunner.
    A snarling bundle of red smoke descended on us. How many of these things were there? For every one I knocked down, two more appeared, sparking and trailing smoke. I struck another with a bolt of magic, aiming at the floor to make sure I didn’t hit any of the other guards. The beast dissolved in smoke… and then divided in two. Like some ghastly hydra. Both halves growled at me, sparks flying out from their clawed, smoky red hands.
    Shit. I backed away, thinking hard.
    A rumbling sounded, and the ground trembled under my feet. What the hell? I’d thought the reinforced floor was impervious to any kind of hit. The magic. It’s got to be the magic. Lucky my shoes were magicproof, too.
    “I’m getting outta this corridor!” someone shouted, and the sound of running footsteps clattered on metal.
    A growl sounded, but before I could strike the two smoky creatures down, both dissolved into a formless red haze. Through the fog, guards ran everywhere, shouting, while I struck out with magic, to no effect. The magic-creatures had turned themselves into smoke, and it was like trying to beat up a cloud. At least we all looked equally ridiculous, I thought as I spun on the spot in what probably looked like an undignified ballet manoeuvre. Another guard face-planted, while a second tripped over him and brought the two of them crashing into a heap.
    And the floor shook again, the smoke coalescing in the centre to form one formidable beast, filling the space from floor to ceiling. A shower of purple-red danced off the walls. I jumped back, but not before a spark grazed my forehead. The pain was more sharp than electric. Wincing, I braced myself against the wall, out of range of the magic. I still couldn’t see the creature. It was made of pure magic, and didn’t have a solid form. But I could feel the energy burning, and it was all concentrated in one place. The monster had pulled all the magic in the area into itself. It has to burn out. It can’t keep going like that.
    But the monster didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Stunner shots mingled with the sparks, and inhuman screams told us at least one hit the target. My hands shook too much to risk aiming another magic shot, even as I felt the creature’s magic surging through the air. A bolt of pain shot through my forehead. I reached to touch the skin, and found it blistering hot. I thought magic couldn’t hit me!

    Start the series from the beginning with Adamant (Alliance, #1), only 99 cents this week!

    Ever since a devastating magical war tore apart Ada Fletcher's homeworld, she and her family have lived under cover on the low-magic Earth. Stuck in a dead-end job in London, Ada has spent her life hiding her true identity--and her magic. Until she loses her job, is chased by a rampaging monster, and is arrested as a prime suspect for a murder she had nothing to do with. It really isn't Ada's day.

    Kay Walker, grandson of the Inter-World Alliance's late founder, expects to spend his first week as an Alliance employee hunting rogue monsters, not solving his supervisor's murder or questioning a strange, fierce young woman caught trespassing in the Passages between worlds. Killer or not, her abilities raise questions about the Alliance's history, and the closer he gets to the truth, the higher the body count rises.

    The last thing Ada wants to do is help the infuriating Alliance guard who arrested her, but it soon becomes clear that the Alliance knows too much about Ada's magic. More, in fact, than she knows herself. One thing's certain: she's not the only one keeping secrets, and trusting the wrong person might cost more than her life.

    Amazon   Add on Goodreads   Read the first chapter

    What reviewers are saying

    "Adams delivers high suspense throughout the whole book and manages to get you emotionally attached to the main characters which keeps you worried at every twist and turn. I basically flew through the action-packed story with its monsters and magic." - Goodreads reviewer

    "Adamant is a fantastic start to a fun, adventurous and super cool series... Can't praise it enough!" - Alisha at Reality's A Bore.

    Discovering she's a walking magical weapon is just the beginning of Ada's problems.

    Joining the Alliance might be the key to seeing the worlds she's always dreamed of, but now Ada's in trouble with her family and her boss has put her on goblin-catching duty. With enemies around every corner and a centaur uprising threatening to bring a bloodbath to Earth's doorstep, the Alliance has their work cut out. While investigating the mysterious death of the centaurs' king, Kay and Ada navigate tensions between humans and centaurs and find the real, deadly potential of magic.

    Against an enemy they quite literally can't see, Ada and Kay must face up to the power that almost destroyed their lives...

    Amazon  Add on Goodreads

    The Passages between worlds are out of bounds for a very good reason, but nineteen-year-old Kay Walker sees them as another challenge. Exploring the monster-ridden tunnels offers a thrill nothing on Earth can match. Until a rivalry escalates into a deadly game, and the lure of magic comes with a high price...

    Amazon   Add on Goodreads  

    Tuesday, 10 November 2015

    New release: Hybrid by K. T. Hanna!

    HYBRID (The Domino Project #2) goes out into the world today.

    We're celebrating with an excerpt reading, and a giveaway!

    If you haven't read CHAMELEON - it's on sale until the end of 11/12/15 for $0.99


    K.T. Hanna reads an excerpt
    As Sai recovers from her life-threatening injuries, she struggles to piece together her damaged relationship with Dom. He fights the parasite within, suddenly freed from the interference of the other Dominos in his head.
    Inside Central, Bastian’s Shine dosing has become a dangerous dance. Enhanced security protocols and endless meetings have him on a tightrope, with little room to move without revealing himself.
    When the GNW release the Damascus to begin their systemic hunt of the Exiled, the noose closes around the rebels and their allies. If they can’t disable the threat, the Exiled won’t be the Damascus’ only agenda.


    Praise for Chameleon - The Domino Project #1

    “Wow! A fast-paced, science fiction delight with fabulous action, a seamless world, and the most unique characters I’ve read in a long time.” Elana Johnson, Author of the Possession Series.
    “Nikita-like post-apocolyptic novel with a heroine that would give Katniss a run for her money.” Alina @
    Psionics is wicked cool and I wish a meteor would give me some super-secret powers. The logistics of the abilities are many, and normally would have been a nightmare to follow. Hanna handles it with enough subtle description laced through the opening chapters that you’re able to grasp their powers naturally. Heather @ Aussie Owned and Read
    A seriously great sci-fi. Dark, edgy and complex. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s a gripping read because of the author’s tense voice; the characters are well defined, believable and likeable, despite all of their flaws; the story flows well; and the ending leaves you on edge to read more. If you like sci-fi, you will love this book. Kate Foster – Author of Winell Road
    HYBRID is available at the following retailers


    Celebrate HYBRID's release with us!
    Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

    Friday, 6 November 2015

    Some tips for streamlining the writing process!

    I've been writing long enough that I know the subjective nature of most writing advice. My weird process probably won't work for most people. For example, I draft fast because I need to keep my head in the story consistently from beginning to end, otherwise I lose track and the story ends up a confused, contradictory mess. I haven't always been a fast writer, and I've found that, over time, I've become more efficient at writing cleaner drafts in less time, too. So, here are some of my tips for getting some control over the chaotic process of writing a book...
    • Write everything down. Most of my ideas develop quickly because I have so many notes from old projects and ideas. I can't control when an idea will strike, but I can control the process of developing a concept into a workable outline (I've written about this before, and my process is essentially the same but more character-focused). I've had years of stalled and failed projects to learn from, and this planning process has worked for all the manuscripts I've written in the past year and a half.
    • Related: Scrivener templates. I made a workable template in Scrivener and I reuse it for every new manuscript. I used to plan by hand and still sometimes brainstorm in notebooks before an idea's developed enough to make a project folder for, but Scrivener makes reorganising and cut-and-pasting easy. So I have an "Ideas" folder where I write down my initial inspiration and any ideas that occur to me. Then I have different folders for the main characters and their arcs, synopses for each book, various areas of worldbuilding, etc. And then I have a main manuscript folder divided into chapters with my outline template pasted into them, complete with story beats. It did take a while to actually set up the template (it's a work-in-progress that changes slightly with each book), but now, all I need to do is create a new folder and the tools for writing a book are right there in front of me. I never entirely stick to the actual outline, but I've used this basic template for the last eight books I've written and the chapter/story beat estimator is pretty much spot on. Since setting this up, not only are my ideas much better-organised, but I'm quicker at outlining and actually *gasp* don't mind writing a synopsis. Much.
    • Things I figure out in advance: character arc, main conflict, goals, stakes. An issue with one of these can undermine the entire story, so by figuring these out in the beginning, I'm hoping to avoid major problems in edits. Even if I don't entirely stick to my outline, the one thing that usually doesn't change is the main character's arc. Figuring that out in advance is key to understanding that even if the story takes a new direction, it makes sense for the character(s). Most of my outline diverging happens when my characters take the reins anyway...
    • Plan ahead, especially with a series. I always pre-outline my series and it saves so much time in the long run.
    • Or have multiple projects on the go, especially when waiting for emails. I'd have driven myself crazy during the ten-month gap between edit rounds on the third Darkworld book if I hadn't had other projects. The risk, of course, is that everything will land in your inbox at the same time (as happened to me), but it's better than constant inbox refreshing!
    • Bookmark everything. I have folders of bookmarked pages on writing advice, plotting, research, etc. Again, it took a while to set up, but if I want to check on something, I can do so without falling down an internet black hole. (I also sometimes take notes if I find a particularly useful article, and work them into my Scrivener template so I can find them when I plan a new project.)
    • And... write everything down. I have a list on a post-it note of the steps to develop an idea into an outline, and another of the various editing stages. I keep these on my desk so I can grab them whenever I'm stuck mid-draft or before starting edits. Again, this is subjective, but after working with CPs and editors, I know what my own weaknesses are, so I can be sure to try to address them (see this post on my editing process). I hesitate to say it gets "easier" with each book, but you do tend to become attuned to your own problem areas as a writer after years of feedback! 
    Obviously, this advice is coming from a self-confessed organisation-freak. Sometimes I wish I could just throw myself into a draft with abandon, but I've compared it to jumping out a plane without a parachute before and it never ends well for me. One thing I will say is: experience definitely helps reduce the fear of starting a new project!

    Some excellent resources I've used:

    Rachel Aaron - 2K-10K: Writing Faster, Better, and Writing More of What You Love
    Libbie Hawker - Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing
    Chris Fox - 5000 Words Per Hour