cape literacy festival

A few days ago, on March 16th, I had the honor of accompanying my parter-in-crime, Case Maynard, all the way from our home in Cairo, Georgia to Cape Coral, Florida for the 1st Annual Cape Literacy Festival at Cape Coral High School. Case was a featured author at the event, while I was just tagging along to get a sense of what these things are like. And let me just say it was¬†so worth it.¬†I met so many fantastic authors who all had excellent pieces of advice and words of encouragement for an up-and-comer like myself. I hope one day, if I’m lucky enough to have any of the YA ideas in my head published, the festival will invite me to come and speak.

Among the people who left lasting impressions were Katherine Blakeney – seriously, just read this girl’s about the author to get an idea of why she had me captivated, – NYT best seller Cinda Chima, PK Hrezo – who is about to publish a novel I swear was based on my life, – and, of course, Jamie Ayres, the organizer of the event. Make sure you check all these ladies out, as well as everyone else who was featured at the festival. (You can find a full list of the authors and their featured books here, where you can also buy one or more of the books for the high school.)

I definitely arrived home from the event saying “I NEED TO GET PUBLISHED ALREADY.” Which means I flew hardcore into editing, editing, editing, getting ready to query my ass off for The Assassin’s Wolf. I’ve got a great¬†feeling about the edits I’m making and can’t wait to see what happens next. On top of that, Case and I are still dutifully working to get Gifted up and off the ground. Seriously – this book is about a decade in the making at this point, it’s gonna be¬†so good¬†when it’s completed.

Thanks for stopping by and, if I don’t see you before then, happy early Easter. ‚̧

back in the saddle

Holy crap! I can’t believe that almost an entire year has gone by since the last time I’ve updated on the comings and goings of my writing. So much has happened in the last 10 months that it feels like the blink of an eye.

In the spring of 2016, my family lost one of its most important members. My Papa, John Abbott, passed away after a long, long battle with cancer. Though he was technically my grandfather, and not my father, he was more of a father to me than anyone else. Getting the wind back in my sails after that took some effort.

In the summer of 2016, I made the 3,000 mile move from Anchorage, Alaska back to my family’s home in Cairo, Georgia. While I wasn’t sure in the beginning if the move would be temporary or permanent, I have 100% decided to stay now. Goodbye, Alaska! You will be… well, you won’t be missed that much, but I will definitely think of you fondly when it gets to be 110 degrees here in the south.

In the fall of 2016, I underwent Gastric Bypass surgery, something that I had been working towards having done for almost a year. In the last 3.5 months, I have lost 91 pounds! It had been a massive lifestyle change and I’ve basically had to relearn how to be a person.

Now, in the first couple months of 2017, I’m in the process of getting some of my various ducks in their proper rows.

Firstly, my wife and I have been stuck doing long distance for almost seven months now because she’s still up in Anchorage. Soon, she – along with my three fur babies, who I miss just as much – will be down here with me and things can get back to their own version of normal.

Step two, my mother and I have been tossing around a new business idea that we are both very passionate about. I’m going to do my best to keep it close to the vest until we have everything up and running, but I can’t wait to share the details later this year!

And lastly, possibly most importantly, I’m getting back into writing. In the last few days, I’ve printed out one hundred pages of plotting, world building and character development for the Gifted series. Together, Case Maynard and I are gonna knock that out of the park ASAP. And I¬†will¬†get The Assassin’s Wolf (Book 1 of the Desires of the Otherkind series) published this year. My next round of querying starts today.

This last year has tested me in a lot of ways that I didn’t expect. Emotionally, physically, mentally. 2016 is one that will definitely not be missed. But now that it’s in my rearview, I’m ready to move forward and get this show back on the road.

writing playlist, “the assassin’s wolf”

Since I posted the playlist for Gifted last weekend, I thought I’d post one for The Assassin’s Wolf today. I briefly touched on one of my favorite TAW songs in November, when I was halfway through writing the first draft. The complete playlist focuses on songs that focus on tension, on the push and pull and ‘will they, won’t they’ kind of vibe. Give it a listen and let me know what you think!

writing playlist, “gifted”

Music is an excellent way to clear my mind and really get in the mood to put a story to paper. Especially when I have a playlist tailor made for the project. In the case of Gifted, the playlist calls for hauntingly beautiful songs with a southern gothic feel. Give it a listen and let me know if it gets you in the mood to read about a biblical war in New Orleans.

me vs. technology

Look, I love technology. Really, I do. I’ve been a bit of a computer addict since I was in middle school. I met my wife online when we were like, twelve. (On a Harry Potter roleplay forum, no less, because we’re just that cool.) I am infinitely grateful for the internet, because, without it, I wouldn’t be able to do any of the research I have to do for my writing. (Or, at the very least, it would take me much longer and cost me $5 to get a card for the public library.) I have spent the past week obsessively playing the new Kendall and Kylie game on my iPhone. (Do not judge me. Those¬†outfits are fire.)

But sometimes, technology has a way of really, really letting me down. A few weeks ago, I was innocently using my¬†laptop, browsing Zillow to look for my fantasy house working on edits for The Assassin’s Wolf, when my laptop decided it would be a really good time to blow up. And I mean that literally. The screen went black, smoke erupted from the keyboard, I thought that my bedsheets were going to catch on fire.

Thankfully, I had the foresight to pay an extra $100 to get a warranty on the computer, so the next day I dropped it off at Best Buy. For a month, they fiddled with the laptop, before sending it back with a new motherboard. I never got a real answer about why my computer suddenly decided to almost-burst-into-flames, but as long as it doesn’t do it ever again, I’m fine with that.

But because I’m the World’s Biggest Moron sometimes, I hadn’t backed up¬†all of my recent book edits. And there were… a lot of them. Which meant that I lost about 75% of the¬†changes that I’d made to the first draft of the book.

It’s frustrating, but it’s my own fault. (Well, a combination of my fault and the fault of the Robot Overlords who are probably responsible for my laptop’s suicide attempt.) Since getting my computer back a couple of¬†weeks ago, I’ve been busy working on a revamped series bible for Gifted – which, hopefully, will lead to some exciting updates on that project very soon.

That’s finally over with, for now, and I can start¬†up again on¬†the edits to The Assassin’s Wolf. A month without a computer pushed my schedule back, but I’m determined to get back on course. I’m making a promise to myself that March is going to be the month. I will have these edits done before April. Query letters will start to go out in the next 30 days. I’m gonna make it happen.

sleep deprived local woman found wandering the streets alone shouting unintelligible exclamations of joy, petting every puppy

This is me right now.

Because I finished The Assassin’s Wolf!

… Well, okay, I finished the first draft. There’s still going to be numerous amounts of editing done over the next few months. But also… I finished, I finished, I actually finished!

I’ve never gotten this far in the creative process before. So, while it may not seem like a big step to some, it’s kind of huge for me. I’ve wanted to be a writer since forever. There were no other options for me.

(Well, except the fleeting moments where I considered being a social worker, a preschool teacher, and Рmy personal favorite Рopening up my own big cat wildlife rescue.)

Because I was so hellbent on being a writer, when I reached the Official Adulting Age of 18 and had yet to publish a bestseller – or even finish an entire book – I was absolutely convinced that I was doomed for failure. When I still hadn’t accomplished this by age 20, I was sure that I just needed to lie down and disappear into the dirt.

But I didn’t. And I’m so, so glad that I didn’t. Because I’m in love with Bella and Boone, and the whole entire story, and I think you will be, too.

Thanks for sticking with me the past few months. I’m so very excited for where 2016 is going to take us both.

required reading

If there’s one thing that I am absolutely certain is a necessity when it comes to being a good writer – it’s being an active reader. Nothing expands your imagination (or your vocabulary) quite like sinking your teeth into a really good book. And nothing makes me want to sit down and churn out a best seller like reading someone else’s.

Originally, I intended to make this a list of the best books I read in 2015. Instead, what I’ve got for you today is what I’m going to call my “required reading” list. While it doesn’t encompass all of the good books I’ve ever read in my life – that list would be way, way too long – it does include the ones that have really affected me.

Series

The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole – Goodreads
3 Books (Incomplete) – Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Why it’s Required: Excuse me if I do a good bit of gushing here, I’m still reeling from finishing the third book last week. This series is an absolute, no questions asked, requirement for one reason. Not the plot – even though the plot is without rival in creative genius. Not the romance¬†– even though the love triangle between the female lead and her suitors¬†is the first¬†to ever leave me just as torn as she is. This series is a must read because of the characters.¬†Never before have I read a series where every. single. character. delivers the emotional punch that they’re supposed to. They made me laugh. They made me cry. They made me scream, and shiver, and grin, and blush, and by the time I was finished I felt as if I knew them.¬†Any writer who reads these books will walk away feeling the compulsion to do better by their own characters.

Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward – Goodreads
13 Books (Incomplete) – Adult Paranormal Romance
Why it’s Required:¬†Each one of the Brothers is complicated, engaging, and¬†smoldering, and the friendships forged between them are what give the books their backbone. The political conflicts¬†that pull through each book add another layer of interest to the¬†series as a whole. But most importantly,¬†Ward approaches a romance novel in a way¬†that no one else approaches a romance novel.¬†If there is an unspoken rulebook about things that you should and shouldn’t do, she throws it out and carves her own path. She takes the risk. And, based on¬†her success, maybe the rest of us should, too.

Dragonlance: Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman РGoodreads
3 Books (Complete) – Adult Fantasy
Why it’s Required: I’ve read a good bit of fantasy in my day, and while I’ve liked most of it, none of it has stayed with me the way Dragonlance has. The biggest takeaway that I took from Weis and Hickman was a tremendous amount of worldbuilding. It was a foreign concept to me when I first read the series, but it’s now one of my absolute most favorite parts of starting a new project. In addition, the characters are compelling, the story is unique, and the books are impossible to put down from start to finish.

Dragonlance: Legends by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman – Goodreads
3 Books (Complete) – Adult Fantasy
Why it’s Required:¬†The Legends trilogy is a follow up and spin off to Dragonlance: Chronicles – one of many in the greater Dragonlance Universe, and definitely my favorite of the ones I’ve read. With all the good that was packed into the original books, Legends had the added bonus of being focused on my two favorite characters, Raistlin and Caramon. Twin brothers who couldn’t be more different, it was through them that I learned a lot about¬†complex characterization – especially in fantasy settings with the balance between good and evil.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling –¬†Goodreads
7 Books (Complete) – Young Adult Urban Fantasy
Why it’s Required: Could any list of amazing books really be complete without mentioning Harry Potter? I practically learned how to read with these stories. Rowling was the first person to teach me that writing could create a world apart from our own. That, through reading, we could travel across the world, make new friends, and have amazing adventures. Beyond the nostalgic factor, the Harry Potter series is still a must read for anyone who wants to convey themes of love, loss, friendship and sacrifice in their writing.

Immortals After Dark by Kresley Cole – Goodreads
16 Books and 2 Novellas (Incomplete) – Adult Paranormal Romance
Why it’s Required: While I’d been a casual romance¬†reader¬†for a while before I picked up a copy of “Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night,” it was Cole who introduced me to the world of paranormal romance. I¬†went immediately from casual reader to full blown junkie, and in all the years since I’ve yet to find a series that does it just as good as IAD does.¬†And while the men are brilliant and the sex is steamy, it’s the ladies that steal the spotlight. IAD is filled with female leads (and side characters!) who are sexy, deadly, hilarious and flawed in ways that make them all the more relatable.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – Goodreads
3 Books (Incomplete) РYoung Adult Urban Fantasy

Why it’s Required:¬†A ragtag group of friends that have come together to make a family. Magic and witchery around every corner. A brilliant but imperfect female lead. Sad but tough boys who don’t know how to talk about their feelings. Come on. What’s not to like? I especially love Stiefvater’s way of turning the YA love triangle trope on its head¬†by making everyone in the main cast¬†a little (or a lot) in love with everyone else.

Stand-Alones

(I realized as I was compiling my favorite stand-alones that I seem to have a leaning towards books that hinge on being “difficult to read.” A lot of these books deal with potentially triggering themes such as suicide or sexual abuse. Keep that in mind moving forward.)

By the Time You Read This, I’ll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
Goodreads – Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Why it’s Required: I’m just going to come right out and say it – the ending of this book f*cked me up big time.¬†We follow the main character¬†after a failed suicide attempt, as she gears up to try, once more, to end her life. Peters pulls no punches when examining mental health and how depression can destroy us from the inside out.¬†No spoilers here, but I will never forget the last chapter. It’s probably going to haunt me the rest of my life.

grl2grl by Julie Anne Peters
Goodreads – LGBT Young Adult Short Stories
Why it’s Required: Yep, another Peters book. The woman has such a way with words I couldn’t help but to include her twice. grl2grl is on this list for purely personal reasons, but I’m going to subject you to them anyway. I read it at the perfect time in my life – fourteen, and just beginning to try to understand my sexuality. The book is a collection of unrelated short stories about¬†young women dealing with sexual identity, relationship ups and downs, and gender expression. It’s honest, it’s touching, and¬†it’s a recommended read for all LGBT ladies¬†or the people who love them.

Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Goodreads – Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Why it’s Required: First and foremost, anyone who hasn’t already is hereby under strict orders to read at least one of Hopkins’ books¬†in their lifetime. Her way of writing novels through short poems¬†– while done, not as well, by others – is brilliant, and was a huge game changer for me when I first discovered them. Identical is my favorite of them all, though. The book examines the relationship between twin sisters Kaeleigh and Raeanne, who are both harboring unthinkable secrets. Beyond the super creative formatting, the book had me feeling all kinds of emotions, and the plot twist took my breath away.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Goodreads РYoung Adult Romance
Why it’s Required: I have a small confession to make… I have a bit of a Sarah Dessen problem. Her writing is so compelling and so easy to read that there may have been a time in my life when I was reading every single one of her books I could get my hands on. But my absolute favorite is Just Listen. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think the biggest one is Owen Armstrong. Owen is the love interest to the main character, and I think he officially established my “type” when it comes to fictional guys. That type being bad (and sad) boys with anger issues and hearts of gold. I just can’t enough of them these days, and Just Listen¬†is the origin story.

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess
Goodreads – Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Why it’s Required: In this dark novel about childhood sexual abuse, Wiess¬†manages to weave a beautiful story about justice and freedom from danger. In every chapter there are so many relatable, inspiring quotes that I can’t stop myself from highlighting every single one and reading them over and over again. There’s not much I can say without giving too much away, but I can’t recommend this book enough.

And that’s all, folks! Check out my to-read shelf on Goodreads to see what I’m going to be reading in the coming months, and leave a comment if you have suggestions for something you don’t see listed.