deadlyeverafter

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

Cover Reveal for MACHINE HEAD by TA Brock

Today’s Brew:  Hot water, lemon, and honey.  Rumor has it it’s supposed to wake you up better than coffee.  We’ll see.  It’s yummy, though.

by Kristen

TA Brock is bringing us something brand new that I’m really excited about.  If you don’t know her zombie series, first of all, go pick up Fatal and Brutal.

I’ll wait. *sips lemon water*

Okay, now that we’ve fixed that, let’s talk about MACHINE HEAD.  TA Brock is bringing back one of my favorite things ever in this YA dystopian.

Choose your own adventure!  Yes.  It’s happening. Check THIS OUT.


Where young rule and elders are hunted to extinction… and you decide who’s guilty.




MACHINE HEAD
An Interactive Novel

Available April 10, 2015


Adults have poisoned the world with their selfishness, jealousy, and deceit. Now it’s up to the young to heal it. First order: eliminate every elder. Second: discover the secret to never growing up. Third: procreate.

Ten Sixty-Four is on trial for treason. The crimes he committed are unforgivable: hiding elders who should be long dead, consorting with illegal untrained young, and purposely botching kill missions. He’s come a long way from the cold, unfeeling, Sleepwalker he began as. He’s still four years from the death age, which means the Hex can’t afford to kill him. If found guilty, he’ll be given to the Machine for reprogramming. But none of that matters because he’s done what no other Sleepwalker has dared to. He’s found love. And he knows something they don’t. Falling in love is the secret to achieving the third order.

Brille has a secret of her own: the elders aren’t extinct. They’re not even endangered. But what the rest of the world doesn’t know can’t hurt them. At least, not anymore than they’re already hurting themselves. There is no more laughter. No more crying. No feelings of any kind. Only in the secret hiding places where the untrained dwell with elders, can emotion be found. Then it’s anger, rage, and hostility. When she finds herself a target of the Sleepwalkers, she realizes she’s not the only one with secrets. Ten Sixty-Four feels. He might even be capable of love. The idea leaves Brille with an emotion she never thought she’d have: hope.

The Hex has convened. A trial will commence. You, a member of the jury, must decide Ten Sixty-Four’s fate, and with it, the future of humanity.


T.A. Brock spends her days gleefully plucking words from the chaos of life and dressing them up so they look pretty. Then she calls them stories and tries to convince people to read them. Paranormal, horror, and contemporary romance rocks her socks, but anything YA makes her feel young again, so she sticks with that mostly. She resides in the great land of mountains and green things (Arkansas) with her husband, two children, and her beloved Keurig machine, which she has built a countertop shrine to.
For more information, visit http://www.tabrockbooks.com
For updates on new releases and other fun little bits, sign up for T.A. Brock’s Newsletter HERE.

Happy Release Day To THE EMBERS OF LIGHT!

Today’s brew: iced coffee, since I made a pitcher of it before Snowpocalypse. I’m actually writing this on Monday and scheduling the post for today because I may be drunk under  some snowdrift with no way to connect to the outside world.

by Kristen

THE EMBERS OF LIGHT

The Dia Chronicles Book Two

by Tammy Farrell

 

jacket2

Genre: Adult Historical Fantasy

Release Date: January 28th, 2015

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 Blurb:

The descendants of the ancient gods think they’ve found peace, but the time has come when new magic and ancient powers will collide…

Stripped of his Dia powers and left to rot, Malcolm is a prisoner of Valenia—a sentence he finds worse than death. His thoughts of revenge are the only thing keeping him sane, but when he finally manages to escape, Malcolm discovers that living as a mortal is more dangerous than he ever imagined. After stealing from the wrong man, Malcolm becomes a captive once more, only this time his punishment is one that he won’t soon forget. His only hope of survival is Seren, an enigmatic young girl with golden eyes and a malevolence to match his own.

When he’s led to Mara and Corbin, the two responsible for his fall from grace, their new faction of Dia is in chaos, infiltrated by an ancient power thought to have been banished forever. This only fuels Malcolm’s ruthless ambitions, but he soon realizes that he too is under attack, a pawn in a centuries old game of power and greed. As new battle lines are drawn, Malcolm finds himself in uncharted waters, forced to choose between helping those he’s vowed to destroy or give in to his lingering desire to settle the score.

Debts will be paid, lives will be lost, and no Dia will ever be the same.

 EXCERPT

By the time the smell of smoke and roasting meat finally reached Malcolm, and his hole in the ground was completely black, he knew the time was drawing near. The sound of laughter and flutes from above stoked the fires of determination within him, while the repetitive drumbeat counted down the minutes.

His mind wandered as he stared sullenly at the walls of black earth. He clutched his mangled hand to his chest, far too weary for anger. He was humiliated. Over and over again he’d been disgraced, robbed, laughed at. The hardest truth to face was that there still might be more degradation to come. He had wanted everything and succeeded at nothing. Hope was now but a whisper in the past, still carried on the winds, but too distant to hear.

Malcolm pressed his head against the soft earth. He had nothing left to lose and nothing left to love. Even his own mother had become an unseen shadow, abandoning him in his time of need. She was useless to him, as she always had been, and he vowed that if she ever showed herself to him again, he would speak any word that might pierce a mother’s soul.

About the Author:

13

Tammy Farrell grew up in Orangeville, Ontario Canada where she discovered her love of writing, and all things related to Edgar Allan Poe. She now lives with her husband and six fur babies in Greenville, South Carolina, where she attempts to learn French when she isn’t busy writing.

 

Learn more about The Dia Chronicles and Tammy Farrell’s other works at: www.TammyFarrell.com

 Author web links:

www.TammyFarrell.com

www.facebook.com/thediachronicles

@tamzwrite

Moonlit gothic scenery with remote mysterious european medieval castleEMBERS13

What’s on Our Nightstands for National Readathon Day!

TODAY’S BREW: French Vanilla because it’s coffee meant for staying in bed.

By Julie

IT’S NATIONAL READATHON DAY! Coincidentally, I’m on bed rest to help recover from stupid surgery, so I’ve been reading and will be reading for-ev-errrr.

So when the avid readers over at Casper asked Kristen and I what books were taking up our nightstands, I was on it. Then they told me their mattress comes delivered the size of a mini fridge, and I thought that was awesome. Look.

Casper Box

And then I thought about how much time I’d be in bed, and I really wanted one AND a mini fridge so I could just lay on my bed and eat and read. Anyway, we all need new mattresses it turns out. Go see why at https://casper.com/mattresses. They’re also hilarious tweeters which is funny, because MATTRESSES. https://twitter.com/Casper.

As I was crybabying over, I just had surgery this week, so BOOKS.

  1. I needed a book that was both familiar but new enough to make me forget what was just taken out of my body. I went for THE HUNGER GAMES, and as a real jerk about heroines, I was totally into Katniss. She’s powerful. No other word for it.
  2. ATLANTIA by Ally Condie. I loved the MATCHED trilogy, and so was amped for this which is a dystopian Atlantis novel? Sold. Also I have a signed copy, so take that.
  3. THE CORMORANT by Chuck Wendig, about one of my favorite antiheroines ever, Miriam Black.
  4. ISLA’S INHERITANCE by Cassandra Page, a very cool coming of age Fey novel set in Australia.
  5. (ahem) RUNNING AWAY by Julie Hutchings because now is the time for me to refamiliarize myself with the sequel to my first book, RUNNING HOME so that I can get smacking on the end of the trilogy.

Kristen is not bed-bound but is always looking for a nice book boyfriend to lull her to sleep, and I know for a fact that right now she’s reading:

  1. DEAD OF WINTER by Kresley Cole, which I am staring at her over so I can read next. This series is in both of our top tens of 2014.
  2. RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo (also a favorite of mine), an incredibly lush Russian inspired beauty.
  3. And this is all me talking, but you very much need to have on YOUR nightstand, my favorite of Kristen’s books which is the perfect winter bedtime book, SILENT NIGHT

Well, I hope you’ve had fun imagining our bedsides, and all the books that are piled up there, and all the cookie crumbs all over them. Tell us what’s on your nightstands, too!

Happy Book Birthday To The Trouble With Bree!

Today’s Brew: I bought some Mayflower Autumn Wheat last night, which I may crack open during the Patriots game (I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon).

by Kristen

Break open the local brews!  Bree is having a book birthday.  If you’ve read Secondhand Heart, you’ve already met Bree. The most common question people asked me about that book was, “What happens with Bree and Josh?”

Now, you know. Bree is Daisy’s best friend, and a young mom. She’s got a big heart and makes bad decisions, but she can totally laugh at herself.  She wants better for her family, but as we all know, that’s easier said than done.  Especially when you’re carrying a lot of baggage.

Josh hasn’t had it so easy, either. He seems like he’s got his collective crap together, but sometimes he still makes bad decisions. But it makes them a great couple, because they can understand each others mistakes, and they want to make each other better.

TTWB ebook FOR WEB

The Trouble With Bree is available on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited!

How about an excerpt?He ran a hand through his hair. The curls didn’t go back to the exact same place. “Does it bother you? To have someone so new be in charge of Landon’s school?”

 “Are people giving you a hard time because you’re young?” I asked. I did some quick math in my head, and settled on Josh being twenty-five.

 “Yeah.” Josh looked a defeated. “The administrators wanted someone fresh, but then they’re not always open to new ideas. It’s a struggle.”

 “This is what I think. I’ve been in charge of Landon up until now, and something tells me you’re a couple years older than me. I’m a little biased, but I like to think I’m doing all right. So if I can do it, you can totally handle him three mornings a week.”

 Josh leaned back on the couch, relief washing over his face. Maybe his age did bother some other people. Whatever. People judged first and asked questions later. I stopped letting it bother me when I had to bring Landon with me to high school. “I knew I liked you,” he said.

 “Did you?” A smile spread across my face.

 “You were the best fifteen minutes of my day.” He nodded. “Those evaluations can be pretty stiff, but with you guys, I felt like I was talking to friends. That’s why I asked if I could see you again. To be honest with you, I shouldn’t be doing this.”

 And there it was. The catch. “Why?”

 “It’s against school policy to have a relationship with the students outside of school related activities. That includes their parents.”

 “That makes sense.” There were so many creeps out there, in most circumstances, I’d be one hundred percent in favor of that rule. But now I was wondering what the loophole was.

 Josh had gone back to the kitchen for a second round of food, and dropped another Rangoon on my plate when he came back. “That’s actually why I didn’t get in touch with you right away. But I just moved here, and you were the first girl I couldn’t stop thinking about.”

 My heart stuttered in my chest, confused. He couldn’t stop thinking about me, but he already had his doubts. He was putting a lot on the line by just being here. “I’d said on the way to the meeting that I was never going to date again.”

 He raised an eyebrow. “So we’re both breaking the rules.”

 

Prepping for New Releases

Today’s Brew: I am partial to this cinnamon roll coffee

by Kristen

I’ve said many times that I think writing the books is the easy part. I hang out on the couch in my pjs and let the voices in my head tell me what to type. I enjoy spending time with them. We laugh together, cry together, and sometimes I suggest what they should do next. They take my advice if they want to.  I try my damnedest to steer them to a happily ever after. If I’m going to exert my will over my characters, I figure that’s the best way to do it.

TTWB ebook FOR WEB

The editing and proofreading is done.  The cover designer and formatters have made my stories beautiful.  It’s time for The Trouble with Bree and Too Many Reasons to meet the world.

TMR ebook FOR WEB

People have said that if you write a good book, people will find it. There’s a sliver of truth in there. You have to write a good book. But there will be no blinking arrow on Amazon or the shelves of Barnes and Noble pointing to your book. Nope, you get thrown out there with all the other great books, and the not so great ones, too. A lot of those not so great ones sell really well. Hate all you want, but it comes down to the fact that those books are appealing to something that people want and people can find them.

Now I go from sitting on my couch and writing a book to sitting on my couch and getting my work out there. This is the tough part. Even though I have some repeat customers (Man, I love you guys. So much.), I’m still a new author, and I’m actively trying to find a new audience. It’s not a road map to find those people, I can read one of those. It’s a treasure map.  There are false leads, pitfalls, oases, mirages, and a whole lot of ways to get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

You need to get as far out of your circle as possible. It’s great that the writing community knows about and loves your book, but you need to reach readers. People who don’t go anywhere without their kindle, the ones who talk about books and authors like your husband talks about fantasy football.  I work with a publicist, and she does a ton of front line and behind the scenes work. But I’m still out there, too.  I actively ask for reviews, even though it’s the scariest part of writing. There’s a chance that you may ask someone to read your book who isn’t in to it. Not all bad reviews are bad. I still struggle with that.  But you might find someone who loves your book. A lot. And they would have never known about it if you didn’t ask for the review. The bottom line is, you need to get people talking about your book. It takes a person 7-10 times of seeing something before she begins to recognize it.  The more people that are talking about your book, the more likely someone is to want to read it.  They tell two friends, and they tell two friends…you get the picture.

One you get the book in people’s hands….hopefully they love it enough to do a little author stalking. After I read a great book that I can’t stop thinking about, I go straight to the author’s website. I want more!! Right now, I’m working on putting together related content that go with The Trouble with Bree and Too Many Reasons. Even though they’re both in The Spotlight Series, they are very different stories.  All of it will give a little more insight to the characters. So if you loved the book and want more, you get more. If you haven’t checked out the books yet but you find the blog posts cool, maybe you’ll want to check out the books. It works both ways. I have tours, lists, interviews, and videos planned. It’s going to be a fun month over on my website.  I hope you’ll join me!!

Just because a book is out doesn’t mean your job with it is done. You have to tend your garden. Sometimes it’s beautiful, and sometimes it needs to be weeded. And it always has the chance to bloom.

If you are interested in helping out…sign ups for The Trouble with Bree and Too Many Reasons blog tours are open! The Trouble with Bree comes out January 19 and Too Many Reasons comes out February 9. Both are available for preorder.  I hope you love them as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

Julie Gets Sorta Medical Up In Your Face

TODAY’S BREW: Candy Cane, because I don’t like candy canes but I like candy cane flavored stuff.

By Julie

When I whine-texted Kristen asking her what I should blog about she said I should blog about what’s on my mind.

Know what’s on my mind? Fibroid tumors.

I’ll do my bestest to not make this too graphic or give you all my nitty-gritties, but as I learn more about this “large fibroid” and “some other vascular growth,” I’ve realized how many irritating issues are a result/symptom of the goddamn things. I thought some of you out there would be happy to hear from someone just now dealing with them some of the things that I’ve been experiencing. Things I had NO IDEA could have to do with the tumor. (BY THE WAY, THESE TUMORS ARE ALMOST ALWAYS BENIGN.)

First of all, you should know that up to three quarters of women between 30 and 40 are estimated to have fibroids. Here is some crap that I’ve dealt with and some that I haven’t that are all indicators of fibroids:

  • Restless Leg Syndrome or leg pains
  • extremely heavy menstrual periods (sorry, gentlemen) attributed to my age
  • abdominal pain
  • urinary or bowel problems
  • pain during sex
  • lower back pain
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • headaches

Not much information is out there saying that fibroids link to depression, anxiety and severe mood swings, but it IS out there. And it makes perfect sense, especially if the fibroids grow large enough to interfere with other organs. (It seems there are not usually many symptoms until they’ve grown enough to contact other organs.) It also makes sense that fibroids are often caused by a hormone imbalance.

I’ve been struggling a LOT with anxiety, and yeah I have a lot to be anxious about, but my panic attacks have been debilitating, astronomical in number, and far worse during my cycle. My moods change drastically from minute to minute and I can FEEL that it’s irrational, that they’re without trigger. I’ve known for a long time that something was off in my body and that it was doing something to my mental state. I am on medications for anxiety which I’m a big fan of and don’t expect the treatment of the fibroids to change that. But I do expect to feel RIGHT again. And just knowing that there’s a physical cause for the extremely tell-tale hormonal surges makes me have more hope than I’ve had in a long time. Hope I didn’t realize I’d lost.

So, I say all this stuff as just a person who’s had this/these tumors for what appears to be a very long time. Everyone tells everyone else to get checked for this, that, and the other thing, all important. What I’m saying is that I’ve had some seriously difficult issues that are due in large part to this at one time minor issue. I just want you to pay attention to your body, don’t brush off its messages to you, and don’t always assume that the seemingly unlinked things are just that. Treat yourself well. You’re needed.

Cover Reveal: TOO MANY REASONS

Today’s Brew: Classic Cinnamon Roll

Break out the confetti cannons!  I’m excited to introduce you to Abby, Devon, Eli, and the rest of Sinister Riot!  Too Many Reasons was one of those books that grabbed me by the throat when I wrote it. Abby spoke to me very clearly the entire time I was telling her story, and the words poured out of me.

Abby’s one of my characters that was influenced by Alice Cooper.  Yes, there’s more than one, and I’m writing the other one now. On Nights With Alice Cooper, Alice was talkin about a girl who worked for his band back in early days, one of those girls who does everything for the band, but isn’t dating anyone in the band. The story stuck with me, because not only do I know I ton of those girls, I’ve been that girl.  The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to write about her. And get her a boyfriend.

I can’t remember the name of the damn song! I need to write to Alice Cooper.

And this cover!  Sigh. My designer, Hang Le, just gets me.  Leopard print is my favorite color. You may be aware I have a leopard print tattoo. So when I saw this design, my heart went pitty-pat. If I didn’t write this book, I would buy it simply because it has a leopard print freakin’ cover.

Without further ado:
TMR ebook FOR WEB

TMR-print-FOR-WEB

 

So what’s this all about?

Abby Gauthier is close to getting everything she’s worked so hard for.  The band she manages, Sinister Riot, has been offered a major record contract. But it comes with a catch: the band must add Eli Jamison, winner of the talent show The Spotlight, to the lineup.

Devon Sinclair is the singer of Sinister Riot, and he’s Abby’s best friend. She’s in love with him, but fears she’ll lose him if she makes the first move.  Devon thinks adding Eli to the band is dangerous, and he’s right. Eli’s interested in more than just making an album. He wants to take control of the band, and he wants to get to know Abby better. A lot better.

When tensions between Devon and Eli threaten to destroy Sinister Riot, Abby must act on her true feelings or lose everything she’s ever wanted.

Too Many Reasons is the second book in The Spotlight Series.  It builds on the world created in Secondhand Heart, but it can be read as a standalone.  Add it on Goodreads! It comes out February 9, but you can preorder it now, and make sure this bundle of leopard print rock n’ roll goodness is waiting for you on your Kindle when you wake up that morning. Kinda like Christmas in February.

Like Santa, I also enjoy cookies. :)

Making Rejection Easy With Your Host, Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Target brand Candy Cane. It was less than $3.

By Julie

Writers put themselves through the ringer. We beat ourselves to hell getting words on paper to give to critique partners and welcome their line by line shredding. Then we do it all over again. And as if finishing the book isn’t enough, now we have to put it out into the world and seemingly beg for rejections. From advanced readers, from agents, from editors and publishers, and eventually readers. This thing that you’ve bled into, and you’ve sent it out to be

REJECTED

I watch writers sob, question their talent, their self-worth, all of their choices over ten or twelve pints of ice cream and booze after those rejections start rolling in. It kills me to watch. I have to say that one thing I am wildly proud of in myself is my ability to handle these rejections. I never let them get me down, and can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve cried over them. This is how:

    • I prepared to be rejected. Rejection is part of the process. Not everyone is going to love your work the way you do, and querying takes practice. You’ll think that your query is perfection and look at it in a month and think what in hell crap is this that I’ve conjured up? Knowing that, I didn’t query my dream agents first. I had practice agents, if you will. So when those rejections showed up, they were part of the plan. I felt in control. Those first queries are the pawns in this game of chess. I viewed that first wave of rejections as Step One, and I checked off that I’d done it. Easy.
    • I don’t give my work ultimatums. I of course have dream agents and dream publishers. But if they don’t like my stuff, or if they do but can’t sell it, I refuse to see it as the end for my book. I stand behind my work unfalteringly, and have had this attitude from day one: My books are coming out, one way or another. So shoot for the stars, the dream agents and publishers, but don’t hit the ground if they don’t catch you. Write what you want and if you believe in it, it will find its way out into the world.
    • Don’t take the rejection as a personal blow. Sure, some of the rejections baffle me. I have publishing houses on Twitter that follow me and rejected my books. But it isn’t ME they don’t connect with, it’s that they don’t think the project is safe enough for them to make money off of. That’s okay. Watch Shark Tank. Those folks like a lot of people and products but know when they can’t do the project justice and pass on it.
    • See the thing that gets you rejected and make it your point of pride. I’ve got a list of these bitches. Vampires. Paranormal. Abrasive female characters. Risky. Too cerebral. “Dangerous.” Well hell yes! All of this sounds like my favorite stuff. So if I do this to the point that it overtakes the tone of the book, then boom, I’ve done exactly what I wanted and you’re scared of it. I’m not. This is the voice I want to see in the world; mine.
    • Have backup plans from the start. This is important part for me, so listen, because I feel like it’s helped me keep my sanity. I’ve known from the first day I started querying that my book was coming out because I’d make it come out. The dream was everyone’s: Get an amazing agent, have said agent sell you to an amazing publisher, become famous. But this was the dream. And dreams can come true, but if they don’t I plan on creating my own reality that looks pretty damn close. I queried a million agents, and I knew that if I never landed one, I’d go to small presses. If small presses wouldn’t have me, I’d self-publish. My safety net was that the book was coming out.
    • Don’t let them tell you anything you don’t already know. I got rejected by all of my dream publishers, even the one that I was really sure would love me. But all of these big press rejections told me something I already knew and I took great pride in it: my work is too different and unsafe to be a sure thing. So when those rejections came, it was just what I needed to show me that indie was probably best for me anyway. If they’d come back saying the writing was poor, I would have been surprised. But I looked at my work from every angle and knew that it might just not be right for traditional publishing as it is right now. They more or less agreed with me. Know your work well enough to not get any surprises.

So this is all my stuff. Rejection is a sure thing in the publishing industry. Know you aren’t above it, and you’ll learn to work around it. But always remember: Write what you have to write, and that will show through in the manuscript. A book like that always finds its way into the world.

Dry those tears and make a path for your work. Look past the trees to see the forest.

Kristen and Julie’s Favorite Books of 2014!

Today’s brew: Caramel Chai tea

by Kristen

Happy New Year! Yeah, I know I’m a day or so late on this, but whatever. You know we’re on Undead Duo time.

I’m not a huge fan of year end nostalgia. I don’t need the news to remind me about Ferguson or Ebola like it’s a new story. But I love these year-end book lists. There’s a lot of books out there. A lot. There’s no way to keep up with them all. I’ve discovered some new interesting books these past couple weeks.  I hope you guys will with our lists, too.

JULIE

Julie reads differently now that she’s an author and an editor, but it hasn’t changed what she likes. Sci fi, dystopians, vampires, horror, stories of warriors and stories of romances that will never end. “These days the character has to drive the story for me without question. A good idea isn’t enough. A character that I want to see more of is the critical element that I demand as a reader, writer and editor. I read with an open heart as author David James once said. I don’t go in looking for what I personally could do better, or what doesn’t work,” she says. She reads more carefully now, because she doesn’t have the time that she did before. “But I must read for my sanity and for my job as author. I read with strategy now. First I like to read something that relates to what I’m writing so that even when I’m reading, I’m in the mood to write. It can be as simple as that I’m working on a YA so I read YA.” She likes to see how authors make their reputations, and how they make a story their own.

Yes, she sees more typos now. But as long as the story and characters are captivating, she can overlook them.  “I’ve seen works that had an incredible premise, and the character wasn’t complex enough or the themes fleshed out enough for me to buy into it. That’s the editor and the writer in me that wants every story to work. The editor in me wants to take the great idea and make it come alive the way the author intended it, in their voice, and it saddens me when that hasn’t happened,” she says.

FairylandThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente: Yes, the world is stunningly imaginative and vivid with Neil Gaiman-like depths and Oz-like creepiness/beauty, but what makes the series is September. September is a less than likely heroine, because she’s twelve. But man alive is she self-aware, self-possessed, and while she’s afraid of her choices, she makes them with conviction. She’s entirely believable as all of these things because of Valente’s gorgeous writing style that is breathtakingly poetic when she tells us things like September is a child, and therefore mostly heartless. The relationships that the child forms are solid, thoughtful, full of plausible, sweet love and ones I want to revisit in every novel in the series. Another thing Valente does incredibly well– she keeps the relationships interesting and fulfilling while still giving us loss and realism. Just an amazing feat of literature.

 

poisonprincessPoison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles) by Kresley Cole: I’m a sucker for dystopian novels, as well as for new and exciting paranormally/urban fantasy stuff. Cole gives us both of these things plus a great heroine with a bitchin’ dark side, a cast of delicious characters and a love triangle for the ages. As far as page-turning, can’t-get-enough stuff, this was by far my favorite book this year. Cole roped me in with references to the world’s end that this seemingly ordinary young girl managed to survive, and as if that isn’t enough to keep me reading, Cole throws at us this amazing mythology of the Arcana and our heroine’s place in it, the worldly and otherworldly loves that she falls into, and then puts this nice girl in a bunch of death traps that test her and make her grow on each page. I’m in love.

 

 

matchedMatched by Ally Condie: This one surprised me. At first I found it stiff, didn’t see what was exciting about the main character that would make me want to follow her story. But Condie had a plan, and it came to light quick. The stiffness lent to the Orwell-ish setting, but I wanted emotion, a breakout hero from that dystopia. It was when Condie ocassionally hit me with gorgeously poetic and hopeful prose that I saw there were more layers to this novel than I originally thought. And when Cassia’s voice seeped through those layers, hidden by the Society even in the very wording, I found myself truly excited by her. Her willingness to learn, to be different, while very quietly remaining a part of the Society. And as the series (which I devoured fast) moves forward, we see Cassia emerge more and more from the text and the story becomes truly complex, heartbreaking, and powerful. Condie hooked me.

 

sinnerSinnerby Maggie Stiefvater: This was an easy one. Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors, and the Wolves of Mercy Falls is my favorite series of hers, so when this unexpected addition to the series came to life, I was the first one at the book store smelling my copy. Don’t judge me. This novel is not just a shut-up-my-fans book (something I don’t think Stiefvater would be capable of). She takes characters that another author would make vapid and dull, and gives them gorgeous, loveable depth. Isabel, the fashionista rich bitchy girl, has serious trust issues and Cole, rockstar werewolf back from the dead, is an egomaniacal drug addict with poetry in his heart and a monster sense of humor. It was love at first sight with this book. Stiefvater never steers me wrong. (Note from Kristen: I need to read this.)

 

 

wonder showWonder Show by Hannah Barnaby: I’ve got a thing for circus stuff, despite having never been to the circus. Writing a story about a freak show that’s not ALL FREAKS at the heart of it is a feat. This is the story of how Portia ended up at the freak show, her heartwrenching story and the strength it gave her to go to a place where she didn’t belong among a bunch of people that don’t belong. She’s clever, brave, calculating. And yet we love her for what she’s lost, for her hopes, and for the sweet little love story that barely forms throughout. I just love this book and plan to read it again and again.

 

 

 

KRISTEN

Writing has changed the way  I read this year. If you’re wondering what my Achilles’ heel is, it’s reading. I haven’t read nearly as much as I’ve wanted to this year, and I’m making a concentrated effort to catch up. I’ve been reading for research lately, but not non-fiction. I’ve been reading a lot of book by popular romance authors, a genre I never paid enough attention to before I branched into writing straight romance. Don’t get me wrong, like Carrie Bradshaw, I am in love with love, but it had been a long time since my first choice wasn’t paranormal, biographical, or even literary fiction.  Needless to say, it’s been an up and down year. I’ve picked up some things I normally would not have. Some captivated me and I still can’t stop talking about them. Some had me muttering curse words under my breath.  I’m not as afraid to abandon ship on a book. If it’s not working for me, I’ll find something that does.

Regrettably, there are some books I can’t read any more. I have a hard time with classics. I’m horrified by this. But some of them are just too slow for me now. Blame it on my ADD, I guess. Like Julie, I notice typos more, and I’m okay with that. I know how hard it is to make something flawless.

I don’t think my taste has changed, like Julie, I’m pickier now, but I’m still all about a good, smutty, fantastical story at heart.

poisonprincessPoison Princess by Kresley Cole. First of all, I should be on Kresley’s payroll for this book. I’ve sold it to random strangers in Barnes and Noble. But silly Kristen did not want to read this book when Julie so kindly offered me something for my plane ride to Vegas. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I’d been working like a dog, and I didn’t have a chance to pick anything up. So I took her Kresley Cole book. I was alright with Kresley’s vampire stuff, but it was nowhere near my favorite. And this was YA? Dystopia? Ugh. Julie. But it’s six hours to Vegas, so this girl begrudgingly opened the book. Then I could. Not. Put. It. Down. I almost threw it out the plane window in the beginning, while Evie’s still in High School, but once the Flash hit, holy crap. Buckle your seatbelt. I could not put this down. The story reached up and grabbed me with both hands. The world, the struggles, and Jackson Deveaux. He was my first book boyfriend in a long time (although he’s sharing the throne now, keep reading). Cole nails the alpha male. I drove around Vegas like a maniac looking for the second book, Endless Knight, because I COULD NOT WAIT to have it.  Book three, Dead of Winter, comes out Tuesday, and all I can say try not to need me because this chick has a date with Jackson.

stormStormby Carian Cole. This book is the proof to me that blog tours work. I found this book as I scrolled through my Facebook feed on my author page, and a blogger had a release day blast. I mean, look at this guy. If you’re wondering what the men in my brain look like, it’s that. Storm Valentine. So I totally bought this book based on its smokin’ hot cover. And Storm was just as hot on the inside as he was on the outside. I’m wary of rock star romances. Some of these guys get written like brainless sex machines, but Storm was written with complexity and emotion. Three months later, I’m still captivated by this guy.  He was the one who managed to unseat Jackson. I could totally identify with Evie as well, settling for the safe things, afraid to take a chance. Readers get down on heroines like that, and I think it’s because they can hit a little close to home. Book two, Vandal, comes out in February, and that’s another day you can’t need me, because I need to get to know Storm’s brother.

 

promiscuousPromiscuous by Isobel Irons I offered to beta this book, and man, was that a good decision. This book showed me what New Adult literature could be. Brash, unapologetic, and raw. This book shies away from nothing. Tash gets labeled as the school slut, and she’s fine with that. But she’s actually a virgin. Her best friend is wilting under high school pressures, and dying from an eating disorder. They live in a trailer park, and come face to face on a daily basis with the uglier things in life. Also, I loved Margot’s grandma and aunt. A+ old ladies in a young persons’ book. This book woke up my writing. Instead of writing a story, I let my characters tell the story in their own voices. I owe a lot to Isobel Irons for that. Reading this book liberated me.

alone with youAlone with You by Debbi Rawlins Yeah, this one surprised me, too. I got it for free at the NECRWA conference, and opened it because I needed to something to read in a pinch. I judged it for looking a little cheesy. And I’d read plenty of genre Harlequins, historical, erotic, what have you, but never a straight one! Yes, this is true. I was really impressed with this book. Sure, it followed a formula, the poor little rich girl and the bull rider (Tanner! Fans self), but they had complexity and I was really into their story. Again, I enjoyed Tanner because he was alpha without being demanding or abusive. He was a man who was sure of himself.  So if you turn your nose up at these kind of books, do yourself a favor and give one a try.

 

 

TIE: LOVE, CARLY by Rosemary McElhannon and AND SCENE by Nikki Rose. I can’t link you to any pretty pictures or buy links on these ones. Why? These books aren’t out yet. They were both submitted to me when I mentored Pitch Wars.  I chose Love, Carly as my top pick and turned down And Scene because there was nothing I could do to make it better. They’re both movie star books, which is another genre I usually steer clear of. I work in the industry, and I’m going to spot bullshit from a mile away. But both Rosemary and Nikki nailed their movie stars. In Love Carly, Devon Hayes is on top of the world and Carly Klein is straight out of a stint in rehab. They’re costarring in a movie. Can they make it through without scandal? Do they want to?  Devon is hot. In And Scene, Preston’s a Dom who’s looking for a sub who can keep his A list sized secret. He finds Mina, and they even have the same hard limit: love. I know an agent or two reads this blog, and if you’re reading this, please consider these books!  They’re well written, well developed, and they made this list ahead of a lot of other well read authors.  Get in touch and I’ll point you in the right direction!

What I learned in 2014

Today’s Brew: next to nothing. I had oral surgery yesterday, and my meds aren’t agreeing with me. Most of this was prewritten, but please forgive any whackadoodle typos in this one.

by Kristen

Like I said, I had oral surgery yesterday. I had three teeth that basically needed an overhaul, and I had the last of the hard stuff done yesterday. I’m so glad it’s done. Besides using up the very last drop of my ’14 dental insurance money, I thought it was appropriate. 2014 was about the ugly stuff, and 2015 will be about the pretty stuff. I think that holds true for my publishing career, too.

I had to make some big changes in 2014. I had my hardhat on for much of it, looking at what I had and bringing it to where it needed to be.  Even though I’m in no way an expert on publishing, I learned so much this year. As I was waiting for the procedure to start, I was thinking the tooth analogy worked for my books, too. 2014 was for the ugly stuff, and 2015 is about hitting my stride.

Without further ado….here’s what I learned:

  1. Things in publishing change fast. What might have been tried and true doesn’t work anymore.  What worked in the beginning of the year doesn’t work anymore.  This is what’s going to stay constant: change.  I know a lot of people got burned by Kindle Unlimited. I actually benefitted from it. I wasn’t getting the exposure on the other channels, and even though I did get a lower payout for my full length books, it got them off the virtual shelf and into people’s hands.  As a new writer, that’s what I needed. My full length stuff won’t be in there forever. But I’m going to continue to consider it a tool in my tool box, and try to leverage it so it works.
  2. Writing is the easiest part of the job. For real. My brain supplies me with the stories, and my fingers follow. There’s no rules to the story. I just write. And it’s fun. But then that story needs to be edited and packaged and put out in the world. Putting out a book is like planting a garden. You can’t just forget about it. You need to nurture it to make it grow. I heard a great talk from Courtney Milan at RT, about the phases of being a successful author. I’m somewhere between Phase 1, where I am actively selling every book, and Phase 2, where my books are starting to sell each other.  Getting from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is much harder than writing the book. There’s Phases 3 and 4, but right now, I need to focus on where I am.
  3. You have to spend money to make money. Before you start throwing things at me, hear me out! What did you do before you were a writer? I’m a makeup artist. While that was actually very helpful to me, since I’d already built a career in the arts, a publishing expert it didn’t not make. As an independent author, I pay for editing, cover design, formatting, and publicity. There’s no guarantee I’ll ever see that money back. Tammy Farrell referred to publishing a books as an investment. We need to stop looking at the short game and remember the long game. The books will be available as long as we want to sell them. It’s a business, and you need to treat it as such. Even if you have a publisher, may have to pay for marketing. Your contract may include some marketing, but it may not be enough. Even if you’re going out on your own and contacting bloggers, your time is still an investment. Nothing is free. You have to invest wisely. There’s never any way to tell what’s going to pay off and what won’t.  See #1.
  4. Those who have had success are willing to share. Thank God! So many of those people helped me right my own shaky ship earlier this year. One of the leading voices in makeup business said to us, “you’d never ask someone who’s bankrupt for financial advice, why would you look to someone who’s not successful in your own career for advice?”  Marie Force, Courtney Milan, Zoe York, so many others are putting out some great information on what’s worked for them. I mention Zoe, she’s new to me, but she’s a solid mid list author who is growing. Some of her advice is more tangible for me than what the megastars do.
  5. Publishing is a lot of work! I can sit at my computer from the time that I wake up until the time that I go to bed, and I never get to a point that everything is done. Sure, one project might be complete, but it moves into the next stage, and I start with the next.  It doesn’t feel like work, because most of the time I do it in my jammies. And sometimes I drink. But it’s work.
  6. No two authors will have the same journey. We all have different definitions of what success means. I saw recently someone say no one reads the same book, meaning that our words have a different effect on everyone. That’s so cool! Our stories and schedules are all different. We really are all special snowflakes. Even if you do exactly what another author does, your story and timing is different. Results will vary.
  7. Nobody wants to hear they’re doing it wrong. I made a lot of decisions that were the best ones I could make at the time, and they were God awful. Some people tried to speak up, but again, I thought I’d done all the right things. I brushed them off. Once I was finally ready to listen, I made the changes I needed to. And it was the best thing I ever could have done. We’re not going to get everything write the first time. Some of us are going to fall on our faces pretty spectacularly. I learned so much from the mistakes I made with Because the Night, and I’m a better author for it now. I
  8. Nobody wants to hear they’re doing it wrong, part II. Let’s stop beating up on each other for how we decide to publish. As long as you’re putting the best book you can in the best manner you can, that’s all that matters. A reader shouldn’t know the difference between a self-published book and a traditionally published book. It’s that simple. What I learned in #7 was to make sure the people you ask to work for you are doing the best job they can. For you. That person might do a great job for someone else, but not for you. Stand up for what’s best for you.
  9. Try new things! This is an exciting time to be in publishing. You can be a hybrid author. You can write fan fiction and make a fuckton of money. You can put your books in your own store, or enroll them in Kindle Unlimited. You can write a variety of genres. You can put out as many books as your little fingers can handle typing. Think something is cool? Try it. You might enjoy it.
  10. Writing is the most challenging and rewarding job I’ve ever had. I’ve worked way harder than I expected to, and the journey was nothing like I expected. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

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