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!

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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 – my personal favorite – opening 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 – Goodreads
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) – Young 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 – Young 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.

where has the time gone

In my last blog post, I apologized for taking some time away to spend vacation time with my wife, and then went on to talk about finishing The Assassin’s Wolf before New Years and made promises about a bunch of stuff that I was going to share with you guys.

Unfortunately, as soon as I made that post, December proved to be one of the most jam-packed months of my life. Between writing the book, working on the details for the tv series, working my day-to-day job, reading the instantly addictive Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole, my amazingly adorable new nephew being born, the holidays, and battling a long and awful cold, I barely had two minutes to sit down and think. But this time I really AM going to make it up to you. To start off the first week of the New Year, you guys are going to get a blog post a day, every day, for the next five days. And on Friday, I have some big news coming your way.

Today, enjoy a preview of one of my favorite scenes in the first draft of The Assassin’s Wolf, Book #1 in the Midnight in the Marsh Series.

“When the moon rises in the sky on that night, I will be called to give in to my baser urges. The animal that exists in me will be called to the surface, and he will have complete control. I will be forced to submit fully to my instincts. Any modicum of control that I have will be gone.”

Boone could see the wheels turning in her head as she stared at him, piecing together what he was saying and coming to the right conclusion. He could see it in her eyes, the realization, the admittance he was trying to make.

Still, she asked, her voice gone hoarse and nearly breathless, “And what does that mean for me?”

More than anything, Boone wanted to dissuade her fears. But he couldn’t lie to her. She needed to know the truth. She needed to be fully aware of what she was getting herself into. He reached forward, one large hand wrapping around her smaller one.

“If you are close enough for me to scent… I will come for you. I will claim you as mine. There will be no reasoning with the wolf, no slowing things down. I will have you.”

He felt the way she trembled in his grip just before she yanked her hand away. The smell of her fear was pungent and clear, her anxiety rolling off of her so thickly that it nearly filled the cabin. But there was another smell… an underlying hint at an aroma he would know anywhere.

Bella Spurlock was terrified of what the animal inside of him could do to her. But there was also a part of her, though he knew she would not admit it, that was excited.

And there you have it, folks! I hope you enjoy this first glance and that you’re just as excited to get your hands on this book as I am.

The rest of the week will go as follows:

  • Tuesday, a review of Case Maynard’s upcoming debut novel, The Surrendered.
  • Wednesday, some insight into my other, very beloved, project, Gifted, and how things with both the book and the tv series are beginning to take shape.
  • Thursday, a recommended reading list of some of my most favorite books, spanning multiple genres.
  • Friday, big news! But it’s a surprise, so you’ll have to wait and see.

After that, I’m hoping to make a point to start blogging here every Monday and Friday. Wishing you all light and love in the new year – I’m so excited for what it has in store for all of us. And with that in mind, I want to leave you with this quote:

“What the new year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the new year.” – Vern McLellan.