Friday, 12 December 2014

In Defence of Our Dreams: Kristan (Dreamer 2.0)

In Defence Of Our Dreams’ is a project where I interview various people about their pursuit of a creative life. Pursing creativity and wanting to do something different or special with your life can be very challenging and disheartening at times, so I’ve always loved to read how other people are coping with it and how they find the drive to carry on when things are difficult. If you’d like to know more or you’d like to take part, look HERE.

Today I have the absolute honour of welcoming back my dear friend and partner in crime, Kristan Belle, author of THE SONS OF SATRINA: A Sons of Satrina Novel. If you missed Kristan’s first interview about THE SONS OF SATRINA, you can read it here.  Kristan is back today to catch us all up on what she’s been up to since we last spoke, and to give us an insight into what we can expect from her next.

DREEEEAMER! Welcome back! I’m so glad you’re here. What have you been up to since your last visit?

It’s good to be back!
So much! Life has been hectic, but a whole lot of fun! I published my first novel, which was a HUGE step, but one that I was so glad I made. I put it off for so long, and now I’m wondering why!

Yes! You did take the plunge and you decide to self-publish the first SONS OF SATRINA novel. What are three things that you learnt or experienced this past year that you didn’t expect?

1.       Well, the first thing would have to be the good reviews were a welcome surprise. I know that I had to have a lot of faith in The Sons of Satrina to actually put it out there, but to have other people like it also? That’s such a buzz. As a writer (as I’m sure you know yourself!) you are filled with self-doubt the majority of the time, so to have someone tell you how much they love your work, it’s amazing! I’m so grateful to the people that have left reviews, especially the ★★★★★!
2.       I’ve also learnt how easy it is to self-publish! I always found the whole experience to be daunting, but once you get down to it, it’s a piece of cake. The first main issue I had was with the front cover, as that it what usually attracts most readers to a book. I liked the one I did, but that was it – I only liked it. I didn’t love it. So, after much planning, I changed the cover and now I LOVE IT! That was the only part of the process that I felt I wasn’t ready to tackle, but I went away and came back and made the cover into something I was really proud of.
3.       Well, I’ve discovered I’m not much of a promoter! I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but in the world of self-publishing, marketing it key so you kinda gotta do it! Personally, I’m not looking to take over the world and I’m more than happy to wait for word of mouth to spread, but that doesn’t mean I can sit on my bum and do nothing! Of course, I pop up on Twitter a lot with the link to my book on Amazon and if I see someone has a paranormal romance interest, I’ll let them know what I do and what they can check out. I’m constantly checking out other marketing ideas, but for me, the focus is on the writing.

As it should be! What has been the most stressful part of this journey?

I think it was actually deciding to go and ahead and take the plunge that was the most stressful part. I took forever umming and ahhing over whether to do it or not, but when I took that final dive, I realised it was all worth it. Provehito in Altum!*

What has been the most fun?

Realising that people out there actually liked what I did and were looking forward to more!
I’ve always found (when going down the traditional publishing route) that it is recommended that you don’t write a sequel until the first book has been published. So, now that the Sons of Satrina is out there, I had to quickly get my butt in gear and write the next one! It’s been fun to carry on the journey with Ash, Jackson, Kayleigh and Kelton. They’re a fun bunch of people that always have some drama or other to overcome so you never know what’s coming next. Isn’t it great when the imaginary friends in your head come to life?!

It really is just the best thing! Have any fan reactions to SONS OF SATRINA surprised you?

Yes! The fact that they loved it and wanted more was a great surprise to me. As stated, as a writer, we never know how our work is going to be perceived and to have it positively received is HUGE! I’m so stoked that they love it as much as me.
Plus, it’s always a different thing for strangers to like your writing. I have friends that read what I write, but there’s always that thought in the back of your head that wonders if they are only saying that they like it because they’re my friend. There’s that self-doubt rearing its ugly head again!

Yes, I agree completely. I value what my friends have to say, but it somehow carries more weight from a stranger. I guess it’s because the stranger has no investment in me…They don’t care about my feelings. I like to believe my friends would be honest if I wrote something they hated, but there’s always that small voice at the back of my head…
How has the reality from this past year differed from your expectations?

It’s been a journey that’s been a lot easier than I would have ever thought. It’s just made the writing bug worse for me, especially now that I have people that want to read more. I was dreading the prospect of one star reviews, but so far so good!

Not everyone is going to love you, no matter who you are. Don’t fear the one star reviews. Even Harry Potter got a couple of those, which is pure insanity. Seriously. Who doesn’t like Harry Potter?
If you could go back and speak to Kristan from last year, Kristan from before SONS OF SATRINA was published, what would you say to her? What advice would you give her, if any?

Also, get that goddamn cover right from the beginning and save yourself all that stress!

I have to say, Sons of Satrina REALLY blew me away. Can we expect a sequel in the near future? Say maybe…Hashtag soon?

#Soon and definitely not @JaredLeto’s soon! It’s actually with the proof-readers as we speak, the cover is all set and ready to go and should be out #soon!
It was a lot of fun to see how the story unravelled. Of course, I had a set idea where certain things were going to go, but I love the whole flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of writing so I got a couple of surprises myself!

Oh yes. I’m a pantser for life. Outlines are for the weak! [I don’t mean that. Outlines can be totally cool] Have you been working on anything new?

You know me – working on a million different projects at once! I have written several things over the last year, but none that are anywhere near the publishing stage.  But, hey, writing is writing. That’s what pushes us forward and you never know when the right one is going to hit you.
I’m currently working on a stand-alone novel that I hope to have with the proof-readers within the next couple of months. It’s a Djinn New Adult novel, so still sticking with the paranormal which I love, but something a little different.  Hopefully this will be like nothing you’ve read before. I’ll be letting everyone know when that one’s good to go!

Ooo, I can’t wait!! Has your writing process changed since the release of SONS OF SATRINA? If so, how?

Kind of. I tend more to write in the first person now than I did when I wrote SoS. My actually process hasn’t change – I’m quite set in my ways like that. I love to write the first draft out in long hand (not very environmentally friendly, I know!) and then type up the first re-write. Then type the second re-write and see how happy I am with it. Editing is a necessary evil that we all have to endure, but one that is vital. I often find not only grammatical mistakes during the editing, but the reading flow. It has to flow or readers will lose interest. It can be hard to lose focus on that when you’ve been writing the same novel over and over again. As a writer, you have to remember to see it with fresh eyes and see that it makes sense to someone that doesn’t know the plotline backwards, forwards and inside out.
So, yeah, the process is more or less the same but I’m still learning with every project I undertake.

Wow. Long hand! I am impressed. I make notes in long hand, but I type from the get go. Do you remember the moment you came up with the idea for SONS OF SATRINA series? Can you describe it to us?

Don’t ask!
Well, my best friend had a dream that her boyfriend was cheating with a female friend of ours. That’s it! Can you believe it? This simple dream became an entire novel…
Unfortunately/fortunately, I have such a warped mind that the story turned into the female becoming a stalker, wanting to kill my friend with a pink spotty umbrella to get her hands on her boyfriend…
The dark corners of a warped mind is a scary place!
I know, this sounds nothing like the vampire tale it is now, but this was actually the background story to Kayleigh (as you found out in SoS). The whole vampire thing came into it somehow because I’d always wanted to write a badass vampire novel and voila! The Sons of Satrina was born!
Plus, I didn’t want any wimpy vampires. I didn’t want to focus on drinking human blood and stalking the shadows of the night. So, vampire warriors was something that appealed to me, and a whole academy of fit, hunky warriors sounded even better!

Amazing where our inspiration comes from! I get it from the weirdest places. Okay. Mainly one place…Ha!
I know that with every novel or short story I write, I learn something new about myself. What have you learnt about yourself since you published SONS OF SATRINA?

One of the things I realised how big a part music plays in my life. Re-reading the novels that I’ve written so far, there are so many musical references and mentions of bands that I love (Thirty Seconds to Mars & Bring Me The Horizon to name just a couple!)
I love music (Post-hardcore being my main genre) and I often use the #NowPlaying hashtag on my Twitter account. I think it’s important to show the person behind the storytelling as opposed to simply plugging my book in every Tweet. It shows a sense of ‘real’, if you know what I mean.
My main passions are reading, writing and going to concerts. I’ve got quite a few planned for the next six months (Linkin Park, You Me At Six & All Time Low, Sleeping with Sirens & Pierce the Veil), which is going to be a blast! I’m thinking that my next project should veer away from the supernatural and maybe go for a rock star? That could be fun…
Also, that I shouldn’t have so much self-doubt. Even if everyone else thought the novel sucked, I should believe in myself a little more. Dreams are there for the taking, they just need some hard work and faith.

Oh yes. Anyone who has the misfortune of following me on Twitter knows I incessantly spew song lyrics whenever I write. I can’t even help it. Isn’t that why Twitter was invented? For global sing-alongs? No? 

Thank you so much for stopping by, Kristan!
You can find Kristan on Twitter and Facebook, and you can grab a copy of Sons of Satrina HERE!

Update: Since this interview, Kristan has released Dawn of A New Age: A Sons of Satrina Novel. You can pick it up HERE.

*Latin for launch forth into the deep

Monday, 1 December 2014

Apocalyptic and insane; my dreams will never change.

Exactly thirty days ago, I set myself a goal which, at the time, seemed insane.
I decided I was going to write a book in 30 days.
Well, part of a book. Fifty thousand words of a book.
This goal was part of the worldwide NaNoWriMo* Challenge, in which writers and authors (because we all know they’re not the same thing) from around the world set themselves the task of clawing their way through an average of at least 1667 words a day for 30 days straight. There are no prizes or incentives offered; ‘winning’ means the satisfaction of setting yourself a target and meeting it, and, of course, having 50,000 words of your next novel written.
It was brutal.
There were times when I wanted to go fetal.
There were times when I DID go fetal.
There were times when I sat and stared at my laptop from the other side of the room, glaring at it like it may grow teeth and bite off my fingers if I touch it.
There were times when I wanted to give up, and there were times when I almost did give up. The entire month was riddled with doubt, insecurities, fear, failure and pain. Oh, so much pain.
I won.

I’m going to say that again, mainly because it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
I clawed my way through an average of 1774 words a day and reached the 50,000 target two days ago. Today I officially validated my novel (read: proved that I did, in fact, write over 50k in 30 days) and was rewarded with a giant banner that proclaimed me a WINNER. 

I am a winner.
Lately I’ve been feeling really…Desperate. I think that’s the best word to describe it. A quiet desperation’s building higher, right? It seems like the more I work on this crazy dream, the more I want it. It feels like it’s almost close enough to touch, yet every time I reach out for it, it slips away from me. NaNoWriMo is a prime example of this: Yes, I wrote 50,000 words, and yes, against all odds, it’s not all trash (I think. I hope), but all that 50,000 words has done is make me want the other 50,000 or so required to finish the novel. And then all I want to do is unleash Cubbins from his cage – where he has been kicking and screaming all month – and get started on the editing process. I always want more. The curse of the terminally dissatisfied. Honestly, I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I keep thinking back to that scene in Artifact where Jared says to Shannon, “Let’s encourage each other to enjoy it as well, this discovery.” I am definitely enjoying it. L490 is super fun to write, as is my drinking game, #TakeAShotOfAlmondMilk**. Which, by the way, everyone is expected to play if I ever achieve my dream of becoming a literary superstar. But I don’t know if my desire for more takes away from that. Like maybe I’m not fully appreciating the process. I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that this desperation is increasing every day. I feel it, physically. This need. This drive. This passion.

I think it’s really important to find that thing in your that you are wildly, over-the-top insanely passionately about. In some ways I think too much passion is frowned upon, but that’s never made sense to me. How is it possible to love too much?? What’s the point of life if you don’t have something that drives you, something that inspires you, something that you love? What’s the point of living without passion? Is a life without dreams much of a life at all?

I think sometimes we’re afraid to admit what we’re passionate about. Afraid to admit what we dream to be. Who we dream to be. I know I used to be like that. There was a time where I’d rather roll around in barbed wire and salt than admit to anyone that I write and that I hope to one day become an author. That’s crazy, right? How silly to be ashamed to admit that you dream, that you are passionate about something! But I was, and in some ways, I still am. There are still many people in my “real life” (as opposed to my internet life) who don’t know I even know how to string to a sentence together.

Assuming, of course, that I do in fact know how to string a sentence together. That remains to be seen.

It’s an interesting mentality, really. I think most of it stems from fear of failure. I can’t tell people I want this thing, because what if I don’t get it? To use the example of NaNoWriMo, fear of failure was the reason that I hadn’t participated before this year. What if I didn’t get to 50k? Oh, the horror! Surely the world would implode. Surely. But if there’s two things that participating in NaNoWriMo has taught me, it’s that a) actively working on your dream drives you to want it even more, therefore you work harder to get it, and b) Failure is not as scary as you think it is. If I had failed to reach the 50k by today, three things would have happened:

a)      I’d feel sad and disappointed in myself, let’s be honest, but,
b)      The world would keep spinning, and
c)       I’d still be closer to my goal than I was because I’d be actively trying to achieve it.

It’s the trying that matters, you see. The active pursuit of what you want. Chasing a dream so real.

Chasing your dreams doesn’t mean you love every second of it, though. There were definitely days were the last thing I wanted to do was attempt to make something out of nothing, but I showed up anyway. I kept doing the work. I dragged myself through one-word-per hour days and can’t-I-just-drown-instead days. I did this, because I’ve found my passion. The thing I am compelled to do beyond a reasonable doubt. It may never amount to what I want it to be, but that doesn’t matter. Not really. What matters is that you find the thing that you love, and let it consume you. Everybody needs that thing. Everybody has that thing, if you look inside yourself. And I mean really look. Listen. Feel. See what drives you. What gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. One of my favourite quotes (and the first thing I see every time I turn on my laptop) is this: You have to do what you’re passionate about, what inspires you.*** And you do. This doesn’t mean that you have to do it as a career or a job, because let’s be realistic, not all dreams come true. That is the sad reality. But so what? If you told me with absolute certainty that I would never be a published writer, do you think I’d stop writing? Not for a single second. I write for me. Of course I hope to share some of my words with others, and I hope that those words connect with people, but I do this because I’m passionate about it. Yes I am in a permanent state of terminal dissatisfaction, and yes I always want more, but ultimately, I write for me. I would hope that everyone who is reading this right now has that thing you want so badly that you can almost taste it. That thing that makes you feel desperate and insane. That keeps you awake at night. If you don’t have it, I would urge you to find it. As Roald Dahl says…

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

My desperation has been keeping me awake at night. It’s been plaguing me, actually. This desire to create something that lives forever. That touches the core of every person who reads it. In times like this, I turn to my other passion: Music. Because we all know that where words fail, music speaks. It should not be a surprise that the music I turned to was all written by one particular band. In an effort to write these feelings out of me, I stole their lyrics and turned it them into a prayer. Into an outpouring of all the things I feel inside. It helped. Maybe it can help you too, if you are feeling desperate. If you are chasing a dream so real. If you are on the precipice of who you are and who you wish to be. All lyric credits to Jared Leto and Thirty Second To Mars. I don’t own any of these words. I hope one day I write something as powerful as their lyrics.

I lie awake in bed at night. And think about my life.
I want to be different.
I'm desperate and broken. I'm hopeless and taken.
I'm chasing a dream so real.

It is a thousand to one and a million to two, but I will fight to the death in defence of my dreams. My intentions never change. What I want just stays the same. And I know what I should do; it's time to set myself on fire, because there is a fire inside of this heart and a riot about to explode into flames. And I'm about to crash, crash, burn...But don't save me. Let it all burn. Don't save me. 'Cause I don't care.

Can you feel it? Things are changing. A revolution has begun today for me inside. It's automatic: I imagine. I believe. And I won't suffer, be broken, get tired or wasted, surrender to nothing or give up what I started. A new day is coming. A new age, a new face, a new love, a new drug. A new you. A new me. I've been dreaming of things yet to come. Living. Learning. Watching. Burning. Eyes on the sun.

I live. I die. I bleed. For the fantasy. I am a machine. No longer living; just a shell of what I've dreamed. I'm in love with this hell.

Underneath a falling sky, all my dreams are rushing by. But I chase them, because I am a queen of promise. I am a victim of myself. Maybe the child of a lesser God. Between Heaven and Hell.

Apocalyptic and insane; my dreams will never change.

TITLE LYRICS: ‘Edge of the Earth’ by Mars

* National Novel Writing Month

** Every time I drop a Mars reference in L490, you have to take a shot of almond milk. That title alone is worth at least three.


My laptop lock screen. Perfection.

[Song titles by paragraphs]
A Beautiful Lie
Kings and Queens
Up In The Air

Closer To The Edge
Kings and Queens
Was It A Dream?

End of the Beginning
The Fantasy
Bright Lights

The Fantasy

Up In The Air
Kings and Queens

Edge Of The Earth

Saturday, 15 November 2014

#NaNoWriMo: Fifteen days down, fifteen days to go…

Here I am, at the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month, and even though these are illicit words that don’t actually count for anything, I thought I’d take a brief time out to reflect on how the first half of this crazy goal has gone.

First and foremost, let’s take a look at my stats:
Total words: 21, 763
At this point I should be on: 25, 005
That’s a deficit of: 3,242
Keep in mind that I’m yet to write today, so hopefully that deficit will have decreased by tonight (or, alternatively, disappear altogether! Hey, a girl can dream, right??)

I have been writing every day, but I’m yet to meet the 1667 goal dead on. Some days I can barely type a thing (my lowest daily count being 303, oh the shame) and some days my fingers can barely keep up with my brain (my highest daily count being 4,064, woot). It’s been interesting and difficult and rewarding all at the same time, and here are some thing I’ve learnt so far…

Cubbins wants out of his cage like yesterday.
It’s been damn difficult to keep my inner editor – Cubbins, for those of you who are not familiar with him – in a cage, but it is getting easier. I find that if I tell myself that no-one’s going to read it anyway I’m able to get out of my own way, which is really important. I’ve got so many half and quarter novels and shorts sitting on my hard drive because I was scared they’d never be good enough. Most people don’t like to do things halfway: Either it’s great or it’s nothing. That’s how I operate in most aspects of my life, and it’s really stupid mentally to have as a writer (or as a person in general). Checking Cubbins into rehab for a month has let me start to finally believe that it really is okay to give yourself permission to suck. This first draft of L490…Oh, it’s bad. Like I’m-cringing-so-hard-as-I’m-typing-this bad. But it gives me a place to start. It gives me something I can later fix, because the ideas are there. The overall story is there. I know what I want to happen, and right now I’m just doing an appallingly stilted and cringe-worthy job of conveying that to my imaginary readers. But I know I can fix it. In most cases, it’s far easier to fix something than it is to make it from scratch. If I can just get words on the page than I know I can unleash Cubbins on December first to whip them into shape. So right now, no matter how hard he screams and claws at the walls…He’s staying in his cage.

Run like the wind, Bullseye.
I’ve never really given much credit to the effectiveness of ‘writing sprints’ (writing as much as you can in a set time frame) but I have to say, I’ve fallen in love with them over the last two weeks. They are much more manageable than my usual lofty and highly unrealistic goals (“I’m going to write non-stop from 7am to 7pm!!). I find that joining a sprinting group such as @FriNightWrites or @NaNoWordSprints gives me the extra motivation of wanting to report a decent word count. Even just announcing the sprint on my own and then tweeting myself my word count helps to keep me focused. If you’re struggling to get motivated in anything you are doing, I would suggest looking at it like a sprint. Iron as many clothes as you can in 22 minutes. Walk as far as you can in 31 minutes. Write as many words as you can in 37 minutes. Having that clearly defined start and finish really helps (and I like to have weirdly specific time frames because I’m super weird). Even better if you have a reward for yourself if you reach a certain target. I like to reward myself with pain for reaching my daily target, but maybe that’s just me…
Speaking of pain:

If it’s on a playlist called ‘STAB ME IN THE CHEST REPEATEDLY. IT WOULD HURT LESS’, I should probably stay away.
Oh, distractions. Unfortunately I don’t write in a bubble, which means that distractions are everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. I can’t even unlock my phone without getting lost in my lock screen for like 10 minutes.

Ten minutes later…

 I’ve tried to take some preventative measures to decrease the amount of things that pull my focus away from what I should be doing, but at the end of the day, I’m human and I have the attention span of an over-caffeinated squirrel. Which is odd, because I don’t even drink caffeine. Maybe it’s all that sugar…I mean I HAVE been eating a whole watermelon everyday…Plus like four punnets of blueberries…And mangoes…And bananas…So many bananas…

But I digress.

I’ve tried to minimize my distractions by giving myself the rule that I can’t watch TV, DVDs, YouTube or anything Thirty Seconds To Mars related (like ANYTHING) before 7pm. I don’t actually watch real TV very often, but I am currently binge-watching my way through 7 seasons of Buffy, 5 seasons of Angel and 6 seasons of The Vampire Diaries* and it’s all too tempting to think, oh, I’ll just watch one episode while I eat my weight in watermelon and then realize that I haven’t moved in the last six hours. I’ve actually found that by eliminating that kind of mindless and passive activity, I’m a lot more focused in general. I plan to keep this as a rule even after November – though live events are certainly NOT included in that category because if you try to make me miss a VyRT Violet I will end you.

Rather than TV/DVDs/Drowning in Mars, I listen to music. (So really, I still drown in Mars). However, I have found that even that can be problematic because certain songs – such as the ones found on my STAB ME IN THE CHEST REPEATEDLY. IT WOULD HURT LESS. Playlist** – are actually less helpful and more hurtful because they send me to that Feely place, and as we all know, I can’t function in that Feely place. For that reason, I’ve had to stick to either my carefully curated L490 playlist (which can still be painful sometimes because God is coming, save the children) or studio albums ONLY. No acoustic for me. Acoustic songs render me completely useless.

I’ve also had to let other things slide a little, such as the cleanliness of my house or the amount of physical activity I do. This kind of really sucks, but you have to make sacrifices for what you want. Sometimes you have to really focus on one aspect of your life even if the other aspects suffer a little. Focus on your knitting, as someone I know once said. If there was ever a time to have laser focus, it’s when you’re trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days or less.

Some days you feel so strong, then other days you’re just like…What the f**k am I doing?
Some days I really love the direction I’m headed in. I’ve gotten past that horrible beginning of the book where you have to make people actually care about what happens to these characters (can’t you just care from the get go??), which is always the hardest for me to write and always the part that gets the most Cubbinalized during the editing process. But that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and butterflies. Some days I still sit there staring at the blank page in front of me thinking… But what the hell am I doing?? Why do I think I can do this?? I can’t do this. I can’t. Moments like these are all too familiar, and they can derail even the most dedicated of dreamers. 

However, I’ve learnt that if you just power through it, that feeling fades. You start to have confidence in yourself again and continue to make progress. I don’t know if this NaNo novel will ever see the light of day, but I’ve come to realize that’s not the point. At least not right now. The point is just to write it. Just to get this story out of me and onto paper. The point is to set myself a target and reach it. Just this morning my mum was laughing and saying that I’m conceited because I said I always get what I want, but I don’t consider that to be conceited (which may, in fact, prove my conceitedness). I do always (often) get what I want because I believe I can do anything I set my mind to. I believe that my body and my brain are capable of almost everything, if I can just stop my mind from telling me I can’t do it. I believe that sometimes you have to be your own hero, and if you want something in your life or if you want to change something about your life, then you damn well go for it and you don’t stop until you get there. Sure, some days the progress will be slow, some days you’ll take a few steps backwards and some days you’ll slide all the way to beginning, but as long as you never give up, there’s always a chance that the breakthrough is right around the corner. I’ve spoken about this before: We can’t be scared of failure. We can’t be scared of rejection. What we should be afraid of, what should be the thing that keeps us up at night, is the fear of not trying. The fear of giving up before it’s even begun. So many people do that, and I know I do that in so many aspects of my life. I mean hell, this is my first year participating in NaNoWriMo because for the last two years, I gave up before I even started. I let myself talk myself out of it, which is seriously ridiculous when you think about it. What’s the worst thing that could happen if I don’t hit 50,000 words?? Is the world going to implode? Am I going to get tarred and feathered?? Is the worst thing imaginable going to happen – that is to say, is Jared Leto going to cut his hair if I don’t reach that magic 50,000***?? No. The world will keep spinning. Sure, I’ll probably be a little embarrassed that I made a very public goal for myself and failed to achieve it, but no-one is going to care but me. The risk of trying may feel high, but the risk of not trying is even higher. If I’ve only learnt one thing from this experience so far, it’s the truth in these two statements:

Try and fail, but never fail to try.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when doubt, failure and fear all come knocking at your door.

These are the words that are pushing me forward. These are the words that keep me showing up every day, even when I’m uninspired and I’d really rather do anything except try to create something out of nothing. But I know it will be worth it in the end. Even if I don’t hit that lauded 50k, I’ll have pushed myself harder than ever and survived. Besides, if you want to have something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.

Right. Enough illicit words (2124 to be exact). Time to get back to work on the words that count. I’ve made it through the first half, and we all know that the first half is the hardest. Isn’t that what they say, Tomo?
That’s what they say, Jared. That’s what they say.****

* Haha I didn’t think about that until right now. Guess I’m feeling all vampirey. But there are no vampires in L490 :p

** Yes, that’s a real thing. It’s the top tier of my Painful Playlists, which also include titles such as ‘Literally Kill Me’, ‘But Why Did He Think This Was Okay’, ‘Please No’, and ‘ASDFGHJKL’. Sometimes I like to be in pain. I’m sick like that.


****Literal tears of laughter at the mere memory. Idiots :3
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m referring to Jared and Tomo being dirty birdies on VyRT (hence the picture. And also I just wanted to remind you all of that night.)

Saturday, 1 November 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

It’s here! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has arrived!

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a month long novel writing challenge aimed at getting participants to write 50,000 (yes, fifty THOUSAND) words during the month of November. It’s a big task that averages out to 1667 words per day, and it’s a task that I’ve decided to take on.

That’s right. 

For the first time ever, I’ve decided to put aside my fear and officially participate. I’ve thought about doing it for the last few years, but I’ve always been scared I wouldn’t “win”, which is, of course, completely ridiculous, but I’m a perfectionist and really what is the point of doing anything if you aren’t going to go all the way?? All or nothing. That’s how I roll. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to suck it up and try this year. Try and fail, but never fail to try, right? The challenge officially starts RIGHT NOW and goes until midnight on November 30. During that time, the only words that will be counted are the ones in the novel I have chosen to work on. Blog posts, shorts, and tweets (ha!) are just empty words (which sucks because literally all I can think about right now are the shorts. They are haunting me like you wouldn’t believe). I hope that by the end of the month I have 50,000 words, but even if I don’t, I’m proud of myself for taking the first step. I know it’s going to be hard. I know there’ll be days where I struggle to string a sentence together. But I’m going to try anyway. After all, you know what they* say: 

Work, work, work, work and work. Write, write, write, write and write. Even if you’re uninspired. Just show up and write. Just write and write and write.

Wish me luck!

*They being one Mr Leto. As always.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

THE OUTLANDERS Blog Tour: An Interview with Erin Rhew

Today I have the honour of welcoming back Erin Albert, author of the YA high fantasy THE PROPHECY from THE FULFILLMENT series. If you missed Erin’s first interview with me about THE PROPHECY, you can read it here. Erin is back today to discuss the sequel to THE PROPHECY – THE OUTLANDERS.

Hello again, Erin! Welcome back. What have you been up to since your last visit?
Well, I’ve been crazy busy since my last visit. I moved across the country—from the South to the Pacific Northwest. Upon arriving at the Pacific Northwest, I moved a second time and now live in a beautiful Victorian home. I also got engaged to Deek Rhew

And I got a job at BookFish Books. I started out as the line editor there, but I just recently became the social media director. So, my life has gone through quite a few major changes, but they’ve all been for the better!

Wow! That’s all so wonderful! Congratulations!! What can you tell us about THE OUTLANDERS?
The Outlanders picks up right where The Prophecy ended.  You’ll receive some answers to questions raised in Book 1: What happens to Wil and Vespa, who are the Outlanders, and what happened to Layla’s parents. But new questions will arise as well. ;)

Sounds intriguing! It’s been almost a year since THE PROPHECY was released. What are three things that you learnt or experienced this past year that you didn’t expect?
1) I can tell a big difference in my writing. I’m going back and working on The Fulfillment (the final book in the series), and I can really see how much I’ve evolved.
2) I didn’t realize how much time authors spend doing activities other than writing. There is so much marketing and promotion involved in getting people to actually read your book.
3) I didn’t realize I’d meet so many truly wonderful people. I’m very fortunate to have met all sorts of amazing friends throughout the writing and promoting process. 

All good things! What has been the most stressful part of this journey?
Balance. I’m not super great at balancing all the different elements of my life anyway. Then add in all the extras, and I’m like a chicken with its head cut off. LOL!

Haha, yes, balance is key to most things in life! But it can be tough to find. What has been the most fun?
The most fun has been interacting with readers, bloggers, and other authors. The writing community is just beyond wonderful!!

I wholeheartedly agree! You had already written this book and the third and final instalment of THE FULFILLMENT series before THE PROPHECY was published. Did fan reactions to THE PROPHECY make you want to change anything in THE OUTLANDERS and THE FULFILLMENT? If so, did you make any changes?
While fan reactions didn’t make me change things (though I did second-guess myself sometimes), I am in the process of making changes to the third book based on changes my editors and I made to the first two. The trickiest part of writing a fantasy trilogy is keeping everything consistent!!

Yes, that can be a challenge. Have any fan reactions to THE PROPHECY surprised you?
I think I was surprised by how much bigger “Team Nash” is than “Team Wil.” My Dream Team (my group of friends who were instrumental in helping me complete this novel) split right down the middle, so I assumed readers would do the same.

Okay so now I have to ask…Are you Team Nash or Team Wil?
You know I can’t answer that one! LOL! I will say I DO have preference between them… ;)

Haha. How has the reality from this past year differed from your expectations?
It hasn’t really. I knew books take a long time, sometimes years, to really get off the ground. So I came into this process with a “marathon” mentality. ;)

Ooo I like that. It’s always a good idea to have realistic expectations. If you could go back and speak to Erin from last year, Erin from before THE PROPHECY was published, what would you say to her? What advice would you give her, if any?
I would tell her to be bold. Chase her dreams and fight for what she wants because the result is even better than she could imagine!

I love that. It reminds me of one of my all-time favourite quotes… “Be BRAVE. FIGHT for what you believe in and make your DREAMS your REALITY.” Regular readers of my blog (or really anyone who has spent more than five minutes with me!) will know who said that little piece of awesomeness* Tehe. Have you been working on anything new?
I am currently editing The Fulfillment to prepare it for my editors. I’m also working on a futuristic thriller called Number 25589. Last year, I wrote a short story called “Volatile,” and lately, that one has been occupying a lot of my mental space. I think it wants to become a full novel! ;) Deek and I have also begun work on companion novels, loosely based on our love story.

Busy, busy, busy! Both the curse and the blessing of having a creative mind. Has your writing process changed now that you know what to expect when your book is accepted for publication? If so, how?
My writing process has changed a great deal. I now split my time between writing and marketing, so I get a lot less time to actually write. The move to the Pacific Northwest also changed my writing habits. I used to write consistently from 3-4 daily. But my life has changed such that I tend to write in the evenings. The catalysts for these changes are all positive, so I’m not complaining! ;)

Do you remember the moment you came up with the idea for THE FULFILLMENT series? Can you describe it to us?
One night, I was watching a movie, and the words “Vanguard” and “Etherea” popped into my mind. They were soon followed by the names “Layla,” “Wilhelm,” “Nash,” and “Samson.” From there, the story began to take shape in my mind. I wrote down my idea and emailed it to my friends to see if the story sounded like something they would read. They said, “YES!” I started writing right away. These same friends helped keep me on track and spurred me on to write more. They became my Dream Team.

I love that. I’m fascinated by the concept of an idea, because everything starts from just an idea. It’s really kind of incredible to look at how a person develops an idea and turns it into something tangible. Making reality from a dream. It’s sort of a minor miracle to me. If you had to describe OUTLANDERS in only three words, what would they be?
Complex, unexpected, and fast-paced

Three very good words! Thank you so much for stopping by again, Erin! THE OUTLANDERS is available NOW.

With King Jesper dead and Prince Wilhelm mortally wounded, Halfling prince, Nash, and the Fulfilment, Layla, assume the throne of Etherea. They must contend with a new Prophecy Candidate who asserts her position, and Layla is surprised to find her fate intertwined with this challenger. Facing a myriad of choices, Nash and Layla’s decisions affect not only their own futures but that of two kingdoms.
Unbeknownst to the Ethereals or the Vanguards, a slumbering menace stirs in the south, awakened after centuries of slumber. The mysterious Outlanders, a force shadowed in mystery, sit poised to tip the balance of power, sending ripples of fear throughout both warring kingdoms.
Elder Werrick proved a formidable foe, but Layla may yet meet her match in the monstrous Outlander queen. This mistress of the dark’s plans, rooted in revenge and ancient lore, now threaten the livelihood of all three kingdoms.
Racing against time, Layla travels to the Borderlands—home of the Voltons and Ecclesiastics—to discover as much as she can about the war, the First Ones, and the prophecy itself. Lives teeter in the balance, kingdoms sit on the cusp of ruin, and a beast, greater than any she’s ever faced before, plots a catastrophic attack.

Erin Rhew is an editor, a running coach, and the author of The Fulfillment Series. Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word. She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the "Grammar Police." A Southern girl by blood and birth, Erin now lives in a rainy pocket of the Pacific Northwest with the amazingly talented (and totally handsome) writer Deek Rhew and their “overly fluffy,” patient-as-a-saint writing assistant, a tabby cat named Trinity. She and Deek enjoy reading aloud to one another, running, lifting, boxing, eating chocolate, and writing side-by-side.
Find Erin Online:
Twitter: @ErinRhewBooks

Read on for an excerpt from Book Two of Erin Albert’s THE FULFILLMENT series: OUTLANDERS.

Everything about Mia felt wrong. The girl, who looked so much like Layla, just happened to be where Samson could find her and came with him to the home of her enemy without any resistance? Whole generations of Ecclesiastics searched for entire lifetimes and never found the Fulfillment, yet Samson encountered two potentials in short succession. She couldn’t pinpoint the reason for her unease, but something tickled the back of her mind, inching toward the surface with painstaking sluggishness.
“I don’t understand why she would just come with you to Etherea.” Layla struggled to keep her voice level and calm to avoid raising Samson’s hackles.
            “She didn’t have anywhere else to go. Vance killed her family in Vanguard.”
            Layla made a mental note to confirm Samson’s version of the story with the information Nash managed to extract from Mia. “If she’s a Vanguard, why would she come with you to Etherea?”
            “You came here,” Samson shot back, his inexplicable protectiveness for the mystery girl heightening her concern.
            She treaded with care. “Well, some insane man in a black and purple robe stole my brother, so I didn’t really have a choice.”
            Mia stared at the young man before her with a mixture of curiosity and weariness. She understood why others found him so handsome—rich, dark hair and those shocking green eyes. If she succeeded, he would be her…she stopped herself, determined to keep her mind clear. She had to give off an air of mystery, to lure the Ethereals into her web so they followed her plan. More than anything, she needed them to follow her plan, so much depended on it. She could not slip up. She could not make a mistake.
            Taking a steadying breath, she refocused her thoughts and slid her amethyst colored eyes across the prince in front her. She wouldn’t even think his name or give any indication she already knew about him. She had to forget how much she’d been told about him…how much she’d been told about them all. Feigning ignorance factored into her plan.
            “Who are you?” he asked, after spending an inordinate amount of time regarding her.
            She noted how his gaze bounced from her eyes to her hair and back again. As planned, her appearance intrigued him. Though he’d asked a different question, she heard the real one layered beneath it. He wanted to know why she resembled the proclaimed Fulfillment. That question would then lead him to an inevitable one…could Mia be the Fulfillment instead of Layla? And if she were the Fulfillment, what did that mean for him? For Wil? For Layla?
            “I’m Mia.” She almost grinned, pleased she’d answered his question but given him nothing more. When his lips twisted, her grin broke into a full smile at his evident irritation. “And you are?”
            He hesitated. “Nash, brother of the king.”
            “The injured king?” He flinched, a subtle movement most might miss, but she caught it.
            “According to our friend, Samson, you’re an Outlander.”
            “He found me in the Outlands.” The less Nash knew, the better.
            Frustration flickered across his face, marring his otherwise handsome features. She smiled to herself, not trusting his patience should her lips turn up yet again.     
            “Sooo,” he dragged out the word. “Are you an Outlander?”
            “No. I’m a Vanguard.”
            Nash cocked his head to the right. “Why were you in the Outlands then?”
            “I went to escape Vance’s oppression.” Mia stared at the wall behind him until her vision blurred. She willed tears to form. Given the pressure she’d been under, summoning them proved easier than she expected. When the familiar tight burning started near her lids, she blinked at the prince. He shifted in his seat. Mia wanted to snort at his reaction. Tears always made men uncomfortable. “Vance killed my family.” She paused and swallowed, hoping he believed she needed a moment to collect herself. “I ran as far as I could and ended up in the Outlands. Samson found me.”
            Nash cleared his throat and shifted again; she increased the flow of her tears in reply.             “What do you know about the Outlands?”
            “Very little.” She sniffed. Looking as pathetic as she could manage, she attempted to wipe her eyes, an impossible feat given her bound hands. Nash frowned as his gaze landed on her restraints. She bid him to unbind her hands, and for a moment, she believed he might. To her disappointment, he gripped the side of his chair until his knuckles turned white and left her tied up. Mia ground her teeth.
            “Do you believe you are the Fulfillment?” Nash kept his voice steady despite the turmoil she read upon his face.
            Mia waited a moment to respond, both to further escalate his frustration and to collect herself. In this moment, she needed to be most convincing, to begin what she’d been tasked to set in motion. She gestured with her chin, drawing Nash’s attention to the blazing “F” upon her upper arm. The dark purple birthmark matched the shade of her eyes.
            “The First Ones speak for themselves.”
            Nash shook his head. “It’s too obvious.”
            Mia’s head jerked back. She struggled to maintain her composure as his reaction, so unexpected, derailed her careful planning. Her mind racing, she grappled for a response.
            “Too obvious?”
            “Yes. See, Mia—” His clear distaste tainted the sound of her own name. “I know about the First Ones.”
            “Who do you think you are? An Ecclesiastic?” She smirked at him, acting like she retained complete control, but her insides knotted. She couldn’t lose her ability to direct the conversation.
            To her surprise, Nash laughed, though she noted no pleasure in it. “The Prophecy states, ‘In a time of war, when the land is divided amongst the two, she, with raven black hair, purple eyes, and a special blessing from the First Ones shall bring peace.’”
            “I think everyone in the three kingdoms and in the Borderlands is familiar with The Prophecy.” Mia rolled her eyes for effect. “What’s your point?”
            “My point is, the special blessing wouldn’t be something as simple as a birthmark. If it were, the First Ones would have just said raven black hair, purple eyes, and an ugly purple ‘F’ on the upper arm.” He flicked his hand toward her arm. “Special blessing is vague, indicating something mysterious. There is nothing mysterious about your birthmark.”
            Mia’s heart pounded as she felt the tables turn and the conversation slip away. “And there is something mysterious about her?”
            The word her hung between them for a moment. Mia took another deep breath, worrying she’d pushed him too far. Beneath his shirt, she saw Nash’s muscles ripple and hoped she’d managed to touch a new nerve.
            Mia clenched her teeth. She hated acting this way, so out of character, but she had to press on. No one could know the truth. She had to win this game…

Enter the draw to win a $50 giftcard from Amazon (international) AND signed print copies of the Prophecy and The Outlanders (US only)

*It was Jared Leto. Who else? :3