Monday, October 31, 2016

The Crushing Truth of Hating Myself to the Core

Every morning, I wake up, and it's the same internal mantra, I hate you. You're terrible. Look at you. Not even worth breathing. Everything about you is scum. You're scum. Nothing would change if you weren't here. The world wouldn't miss you one bit. And that's not me thinking about someone else. That's me thinking about myself. Every morning, every day, and every night, this is what rolls through my mind on repeat. My only relief is when I'm either working or trying to distract myself with an on-going story inside of my head. I used my characters often as an escape from these words. Still, somehow, they come back. They always come back. And I always, always believe them.

Over the past few months, things have become progressively worse. My self-loathing has devolved to a point where I suffer in constant despair. I often find myself romanticizing how my friends wouldn't even notice me missing if I simply stopped talking to them, or if I simply vanished from social media. About how they despise me and how I'm an absolutely horrid person. How I'm just the worst to be around, and how much they hate me for everything I am--and everything I'm not.

It's a pretty crushing feeling to think to yourself repeatedly, Your friends don't even like you. No one likes you. You're a burden. And to know, somewhere deep inside, you believe every single word. Every one. There's a point where it goes beyond me just believing those words, too. There was a point where those words become so ingrained that they're just about burned into my bones. That's how much I believe that little voice. I feel it, deep inside of me, that I'm worthless.

I hit that point about eight years ago. Now, the burns are more like giant gouges, dug so deep that my marrow leaks out from the wounds. No matter how much I try to plaster those gouges shut, they simply crack open again, breaking wider and longer than before.

The more I think about what's going on inside of my head, this tremendous self-loathing, this hatred for everything I am, everything I've done in my life, that I can't help wondering, Am I alone? I doubt it. Self-hatred isn't uncommon. It should be, but it isn't. I bet I throw a virtual stone and at least ten of my Facebook friends have the same self-hatred and deep-down despair that cripples you to the core. That's why I'm writing this. Because, you, my friends, aren't alone, and yes, someone would miss you. I would miss you; I would miss you terribly and deeply and without any way to describe in words the sorrow I'd feel at your loss.

Don't let the self-loathing win. Don't listen to that voice inside of your head, no matter how convincing it is. Please--just remind yourself that you would be passionately missed. That's what keeps me going. I have to remind myself how selfish of me it is to hate myself so much when so many people have put such enormous love into my life. When so many people have shown me their devotion and love for me... and it helps to know that I am loved. Even when the whispers are darkest and the most tempting, I try so hard to remind myself of that outpouring of love.

Because if I don't remember it, if the whispers start telling me that all of that love isn't real and, worse, if I start to believe them... I'm not sure what will happen.

For now, I'm fighting. Please, fight with me.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Facing the Days After

I've thrown myself completely into my work, from revising Frendyl Krune and the Nightmare in the North to working as hard as I can on The Soulless King: Part One. My day-job, too, has consumed me, whether for better or worse. Some days, my skin aches. It's a weird feeling.

I'm still compiling my feelings, my thoughts, and trying to work through the complex surge I've been experiencing over the past week. Sometimes, I'm okay. I can function pretty well and go about my day without any problems. Others, I just stop and start crying because of something stupid. I mean, god, someone texted me about something silly, like a video game, and I just fell apart. Or when my friend who works at a clinic told me about some patients, I cried, but I was also a little glad, because it gave me a little more insight into how things may have been during those impossible years. A battle fought, a struggle so impossible, I'll never be able to understand it.

Still, from what I've learned, from what I've heard, I'm so, so proud of him for what he tried to do. So incredibly floored by how Shannon did his best to come back from the brink. It's an impossible fight, and for a while, it sounds like he was winning. That's truly just downright amazing.

I'm still trying to figure this out. I want to keep focused and keep strong, but it's hard, because I keep thinking about what may have led him down this path. It's frustrating, too, because I really didn't know him the last few years. All of my memories of him are from when we were kids. To me, he was this dorky, funny kid who lit up my life when things got kind of dark. He was just... fun. Like, we were both stupid and we both did stupid things (dares galore at daycare; man, triple-dog-dares ran that daycare). But I get flashes of what he may have been like as he grew older, and it just gets harder. It gets harder, because I think we'd still have had a ton in common.

Death is frustrating and enraging and breaks my soul again and again, because I just think of how close I was to finally reconnecting with him after so many years of searching. Years of thinking I was crazy, because I had no evidence Shannon or his sister even existed. I honestly thought for a while that I made them up as imaginary friends. It wouldn't have been the first time.

Knowing he was real king of makes it harder. There are things I want to show him. Stupid things I hope he would have liked. Game Grumps, for example, or my husband. I honestly think that Shannon would have really liked Micahl. Oh, and my brothers? Forget about it! Man, those three would've been perfect friends, haha. The chaos they could have reaped... I just laugh thinking about it. And then...

Just... ugh. A sourness has crept into my soul. Not bitterness. I'm not bitter, but I feel... sour, like everything just isn't as sweet right now. I think that'll pass in time. Death takes time. Mourning takes time. I keep trying to force myself to focus on other things. On happy things. But the other day, I was talking with a friend about some of the things going on in her life, and they're pretty heavy. She explained how she was trying to force herself to be happy, because happiness comes from the inside (and she's right, of course; my depression and anxiety are much better on days that I make myself be happy and focus on only the good things in my life). I could tell, though, that she was really struggling with her happiness, so I told her that it's all right--healthy, in fact--to be upset, to mourn the bad things going on around her. I explained that her feelings are valid, and that she's allowed to be upset and angry and cry. It's how you start healing, after all.

I think I need to take my own advice. Let myself mourn instead of forcing myself to just shut everything down. Time will heal this. I've reconnected with two amazing people, and that's a positive note. One I can be more than satisfied with. I've learned a lot about myself and a little about my past. But for the next few days (see: my weekend), I'll be letting myself mourn a little more deeply so my heart and soul can begin to heal.

There are other things going on in my life. I've had to relinquish my D&D session time. Mostly because of work and time constraints, but there are other more personal reasons for needing to walk away. I'll miss playing, but I know in my heart I'm doing the right thing for me right now. Sometimes it's all you can do.

For now, I'll be writing, mourning, and spending time with my memories. Because right now, that's really all I can focus on. Thank you, all, for the love and support over the past week. Truly, your support means the world to me. Just remember to tell the people you love and care for how much they mean to you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Of my Childhood Best Friend

I'm not sure how to approach this, but I do know that I'm angry and sad and have broken into tears more times in the last few hours than I have over the course of years. And it's all because after searching for an old friend through Facebook for years in the hopes that he or his sister were on social media, I finally found him. I finally found his page.

And he's dead.

I don't know how, I don't know why, but he's gone. This kid... well, this man, because he was a man when he died--we were pretty close as kids. For a while, he was the only friend I had. My true best friend. The only one I played with, the only one whose house I visited, and the only one who visited my house. He came to all of my birthday parties. His sister was my sister's best friend. We all got along great. He and I would terrorize our sisters, because c'mon, that's what siblings do. He always showed off his latest baseball cards or his Pokemon cards or we played ball in the street. He was the reason I started playing Pokemon in the first place. I got cards just so I could trade with him. I got a GameBoy Color, just so he and I could play together. We told dumb jokes to each other. We laughed and shared our dreams and got picked on.

And now he's gone.

I don't know how long he's been dead. I want to respect his family and not ask, not pry, because we literally haven't spoken in a decade and a half, but... I want to know how long I've lived while he has not. But I need to respect them. I need to respect that his sister probably doesn't even remember me or realize how much his death has impacted me, even after we haven't talked for so long. I need to do that, even when I want to know what happened and why it happened and why I couldn't have stopped it. I keep thinking, I could have been there if I'd searched harder, if I'd found him sooner. I could have stopped this. He might still be here if I'd just...

If I'd only...

If I'd...

But I don't think there was anything I could have done. I'll never know. Maybe that's why I'm so angry. Why my heart and face and chest and entire body hurt so badly right now. Because I'll never know if my presence would have made a difference in his life or not.

My soul hurts.

When we were kids, Shannon was... he was smart. Funny. Always smiling. Taking dares from the other boys at the daycare we were in together, even though they treated him like crap. I never really understood that. Maybe it was just because he was an awesome guy. I always figured he'd become something amazing, you know? He was the type of person who could really change lives. Not just talk about doing it, but actually do something about the world we live in, actually do something to make the lives of those around him better. I figured he'd always become something so profound that the world would just... change for the better because of him.

That goodness has been snuffed out. But... I mean, do I even have a right to feel this way, to be this angry, this hurt, this... lost? Especially after not talking to him or even seeing him for so long? People change... something must have changed. But I don't know what. I almost don't even care. I'm so mad right now... at no one, at everyone, at myself... He might have been dead for five years for all I know. Longer, maybe. And it's just... unfair. I feel like the world should be screaming and mourning and raging all at once over the loss of this man.

I wasn't there, so I didn't see the tears shed, the screaming and mourning and wailing of his family after he died. Their pain and heartache weren't something I witnessed. I didn't witness any of it, and now, everything seems so... so quiet over his absence. No obituary. Nothing. Just... just silence. I keep wondering how anyone could go on after losing someone like him.


Just love the people you have with you. Reach out to people you cared for or were close to in the past. Because one day, you might stumble across them, but it could be too late. Too late to say everything you wanted to say, too late to tell someone how much they meant to you, what they did to impact your life, how they made you a better person just because you knew them. Too late... too late to even say goodbye.

RIP, Shannon Fox. The world has lost a great light.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Things are Happening... and they're EXCITING!

Hey, everyone. Sorry for being so quiet lately. There's been a huge change in my life recently--a good one, of course, but a change nonetheless!

I got a second (see: paying) job. Full-time as an editor for an amazing company. It's been an insane couple of weeks, and my schedule is nuts, but I love it, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Especially since this is giving me money to pump back into my true passion--my books. My Inrugia, my amuli, my ekra, and denayn, and all of the characters who rule my life.

That said, no, I have not stopped writing or working during this time. To give you an idea of what's going on, my amazing editor is currently working on two of my books--The Soulless King: Part One and Frendyl Krune and the Nightmare in the North. We're just about done with The Soulless King: Part One, which, OH MY GOSH. Gals and gents, I honestly never thought I'd see this book written. It just seemed so... so big and so beyond my abilities, but with Phil checking my every mishap along the way, double-checking my work... well, it is happening. I'm truly so glad and thankful that he is my editor. Fate is crazy like that.

Speaking of which! I have a book signing coming up this December at a local Barnes & Noble! At least three of the Frendyl Krune books will be available for you to purchase and have me sign, and I'm really hoping the fourth one will be ready and in print! Here's the address and phone number:

Thorncreek Crossing
701 E 120th Ave
Thornton, CO 80233
(720) 872-2619

My signing will be in the afternoon of December 20, but it's going to be so much fun! Come down and meet me and pick up some great Holiday gifts while you're at it!

And of course these aren't the only projects I'm working on right now. The Soulless King: Part Two and Part Three are in my queue and getting their comeuppance, I promise. ;) Also in the works is a stand-alone book called The Rise of the Four Kings. All of these are going to be released by Evolved Publishing next year.

I'm still (very slowly, as they aren't a priority right now) working on the Yorsyl Rises series and Axis of the Soul. Part III should be coming out here in a month or so, depending on my schedule. I'm going to try and get back into releasing Axis once a week, but we'll see. I want to redesign the cover, and I think that might be what's really holding me back right now. I made the current cover, but I'm not happy with it. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks.

My amazing VA for the Frendyl Krune series and I just got off the phone, and things are going swimmingly for the first Frendyl Krune audio book. If I have my way, the same VA will be working with us on the Soulbound series as well. Fingers crossed, please! He's super talented, and I'd love to have the opportunity to work with him again!

There's one more project that's taking up a good chunk of my time, but I'm not going to talk about it until next year. Sorry! I want to make sure everything's in order before anything's announced.

Gosh, when do I sleep? Well, if I slept, I wouldn't be able to bring you fun stories! Anyway, I hope the next update won't be far off. Have a lovely night!

Friday, September 2, 2016

5 Things that need to Happen for the Animorphs Movie to be a Success

I've been rereading K.A. Applegate's fantastic Animorphs series the last month or two, and during that time, I've heard numerous rumors across the Internet that Universal Studios purchased the rights to produce an Animorphs film. Whether or not this is true doesn't matter right now. There is no IMDB listing and very few sources to back this claim. If Universal did purchase the rights, there's a good chance they're keeping it hush-hush until a decent screen play is produced.

Because, let's face it... the 90s TV series, no matter how much you might have enjoyed it, was terrible compared to the books themselves. Not only did none of the actors really fit their roles (except maybe Shawn Ashmore, but even that was stretching it), but let's not even get started on set design, the fact that Tobias was cast as a red-shouldered hawk, not a red-tailed hawk (which bothered me to no end as a child), and the, um, Andalites themselves. Sorry, Nickelodeon, but that was probably one of the worst adaptions I've ever seen.

If a film is to be made, some things must be noted--especially if the company producing the film wants to make money off of it... and if they want to create something far, far better than the film's predecessor.

Number One: Pick a Plot

The series is made up of 54 fairly short books, each with its own unique plot, as well as four Megamorphs books, two Alternamorphs, and the various chronicles books, plus Visser. This expansive set of stories offers a myriad of plots to chose from, some of which (like the Chee plot, which is more subdued but still rather important, as it ties in with the Ellimist plot) merge together rather nicely, and could be boiled down into a cohesive film that focuses solely on the main series itself.

Another way to do this is choose a set of books (perhaps the first five or ten), and make it clear that the film is the first in a set. From there, follow the plot closely and get as much information right as possible. I can't tell you how irritating it was to see so many things done incorrectly in the TV series. As a huge fan, the inconsistencies were hard to swallow and actually made me want to stop reading the books themselves.

Number Two: Keep it 90s

The books were huge in the 90s. These were a staple to every 90s kid's reading collection. I know that there was a point where Scholastic tried to update the books to fit better in the 2000s, and that the reprint and rewrite failed pretty horribly. Part of the Animorphs charm was that the kids knew things we did. They watched the same shows as us. They were challenged because the Internet was still dial-up. Technology of the time meant none of them had cell phones. The juxtaposition between Andalite and Yeerk technology compared to that of humans was brilliantly played out. And let's face it, this film isn't going to be made for kids. No--it's going to be made for 90s kids. So, please, don't try to update it. Keep the setting in the 90s where it belongs. You wouldn't update Harry Potter to take place with iPads and smart phones, would you? No! So don't do it to Animorphs.

Number Three: Design

The third element that needed the most help in the TV series was design. The studio working on this film, I sincerely hope, would rely a lot on computer graphics and animation to bring out the stellar imagery of Applegate's universe. I mean, imagine an Andalite! Oh my gosh--or even a Hork-Bajir! Ah! I can see the gorgeous scenery in my head, the insanely gross morphing, and the plot simply glowing from solid use of computer animation, or at least, adaption. Think Avatar, and you've got a pretty good idea of how gorgeous this film could be.

PS--I'm not talking lovable, kid-friendly 3D animation. I'm taking art. I'm talking adult-friendly animation that would make your jaw hit the floor, and could be a movie you'd introduce your 13-year-old to as a way to get them interested in grown-up films (like, again, Avatar). We don't need cartoonesque Andalites. That would just be sad. :/

Number Four: Characters

For the love of god, make the characters the right age! Seriously. I hated that the characters were all 16+ in the TV show. These are kids. They're, as Marco states in The Extreme, in junior high school. They can't be older than 14, and they shouldn't be. The whole point of Animorphs was to show what kids can do--that even kids, and in my humble opinion, especially kids, can save the world. Don't show them as older teens. Don't give them cars or cool gadgets. The reason these kids were so likable was that they were just like us. We all came from similar positions in life as Tobias, or Rachel, or Jake, or Cassie, or Marco--and even Ax was someone I identified strongly with.

And in regards to the cast, please, please, please try to have the actors match their characters. I remember thinking, That's not Cassie, or That's not Marco--and not because of looks. The attitude the actors exuded on-screen was palpably not the same as their characters, and it bothered me. I felt like I was watching an Alternamorphs, but with characters whose names were the same as the main cast.

Number Five: Get Applegate to Help Out

I'd love to see K.A. Applegate help write the script, or at least some of the ghost writers who worked with her. I think this would help to keep everything consistent in the film franchise, and would maintain a strong sense of nostalgia.

Also, if these films are made, I'd love to see The Hork-Bajir Chronicles and The Andalite Chronicles made into films as well. Can you just imagine how amazing those would be on the silver screen? I'm fangirling just thinking about it!

This list is of course not all-inclusive, but I do think these five things are the foundation to what could be an amazing Animorphs film (or possible, film franchise). And Universal, if you're listening and you've bought the rights, you'd make 12-year-old Kira so, so happy if you made this film. Just sayin', it's an untapped market! ;)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Keto Update & More: Week Two and Beyond

Good morning and happy Friday, everyone! So, I wanted to update ya'll on a few things. First off is the ketogenic diet. In my last post, I talked about how I'd plateaued after losing only four pounds this go around. Well, it seems I was a little quick to make that assumption. As of today, I'm down 6 pounds (18 lbs total from before my first keto session). I have a lot more to lose before I'll be happy, but for the last two days, I've been losing roughly a pound a day. This is pretty cool--it's also because I changed my activities.

Instead of running--which seems to give me a terrible stitch in the chest--I've changed over to yard work. Our yard needed some work anyways, but my husband and I have been weeding and planting some late-season things (bushes, trees, etc.), and not only does it help to keep my chest from hurting, but it also seems to have worked as a way to kick-start my metabolism again.

I've also been keeping a keener eye on my carb intake. I suspect because we cut so many carbs naturally after our last keto round, my body was already used to getting less than 80g of carbs a day, so bumping down to 20g wasn't doing much. I've kept an eye on it and am sitting at less than 10g/day now, which makes me pretty happy. I also suspect that my... beer intake after the first week and a half on keto may have caused me to jump out of ketosis. It's a bummer, but I've learned my lesson. I'm planning a cheat day Monday (for special reasons), but after that, will get back in the habit of cheating once every two weeks. And most of that cheating will be beer. Sorry, I love my brew.

Still doing well without sugar, which makes me insanely happy. I did try to make my own whipped cream yesterday and added a half packet of TruVia, but man. That crap is too sweet for me. I ended up refrigerating most of the whipped cream in some coffee, and it melted (not surprisingly). I'm glad to see that my tolerance for sweets has gone down, though. Maybe once I'm off keto around the holidays, I can keep to that low-sweet tolerance. Hopefully. Pie is one of my favorite things in the world.

Yesterday, my brilliant cover artist, Mallory Rock, sent me the cover for Frendyl Krune Origins: Her Tired Heart, and I have to say--it's beautiful! I'm going to share the new cover in my newsletter on August 1, so if you haven't signed up yet, now might be the time to do it--especially if you want to see new covers before they're shown off to the public! I'll be revealing the cover here, but it'll be a few weeks later.

The cover for Frendyl Krune and the Nightmare in the North will be revealed once I have the final draft. I'm excited to see where Mallory takes this one!

Look for Frendyl Krune Origins: Her Tired Heart on September 26, 2017, and Frendyl Krune and the Nightmare in the North on November 28, 2017! Both are sure to thrill readers of all ages!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Frustration with the Ketogenic Diet

Hey, all. So I've been on keto for two weeks exactly now, and I've plateaued. Almost instantly, I stopped losing weight. I'm running four times a week and weight lifting at least twice a week. My calories sit just under 1300/day, which, to me, is already at the brink of me not wanting to cut any lower.

I've only lost four pounds since starting, and I'm not sure why. The last time I was on keto, I lost seven pounds in a week, and then eight more the following week before becoming addicted to sugar again. This is beyond frustrating and infuriating. I'm at my wit's end. No clue what more to do. No idea what to change. I'm already eating mostly lean meats, salads, and healthy fats. And I want to scream.

I don't want to give up on keto. My goal is what has kept me pushing forward, what has kept me focused, but if I cease to lose weight, no matter what I try, I may have no choice but to back out and try something else. Four pounds? Plateauing less than two weeks after I've begun this diet? It's insane!!

Ugh. Sorry. I just don't know what to do. Just frustrated and angry. I take in less than 20g of carbs a day, less than 5g of sugar... Any help or thoughts would be sincerely appreciated. I'm not even using almond or coconut flour this time around. Literally, I only get carbs from my coffee (heavy whipping cream), cheeses, and my salads!

Maybe this week will be better. I'll just have to wait and see. :/ Thanks for any help...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

First Big Drawing Project in a While!

Hi, everyone. I hope you're having an eventful weekend! I sure have. I've taken a short break from writing to focus on a gift for a close friend of mine (my previously mentioned co-author of our Epics of Etheliu series, which we'll be starting to rough out on Monday), C. G. Malcolm.

I started this last night, because I was literally shaking and couldn't keep still long enough to write. My mind's been going like the Road Runner on about 6 pitchers of coffee since Friday night, and drawing helps me to zone out and focus my energy. No thoughts. Nothing except the lines and the pencil/pen. I wanted to do something a little more traditional, and of course, now that I'm looking at the picture, I see about a million mistakes. Hopefully my friend won't care.

I wish I'd taken more process pictures. I think it might have been nice to show you the process during the 8 or so hours I poured into this illustration. Ah, well. A lesson for next time, I suppose! Anyway, here's me nearing the pencil stage.

I used a myriad of references during the sketching phase, which I normally don't have to worry about. Usually I'm drawing my own creations, so it was a little strange having to jump back and forth between various images. I think I ended up with like 7 tabs open on my phone while I sketched last night! Fun!

Initially, I planned to start inking last night, but I was so deliriously tired that I couldn't even keep my eyes open, so inking was out of the question. I woke up this morning, and after some yard work, I started the inking process. This is an image from the stage where I inked a bit and finalized a few of the pencil bits, adding more, clarifying a few things, etc.

Here was when I began to notice a few things that I wanted to add and adjust, such as the flags, the saddle bag, the bedroll, and the checkered bit near the horse's rump. The lines came out rather good, I think, for not having practiced with pens in a long time. I think the last illustration I inked was for Frendyl Krune Origins: Their Pretty Bones! That was a while ago.

Once everything was inked to satisfaction, I went back through and shaded, added some details, and erased all of the pencil lines. While I'm not 100% pleased with the outcome, I'm still happy enough to pass the picture on to my friend. So much to learn still!

Here's the finished piece!

And some close-up pictures...

I still have a lot to learn, but at least it was nice to draw again. I might give it another go sometime soon.

For those wondering, I have considered opening myself to commission work. If you're interested, feel free to let me know, and we can talk. :) I work best in pencil and ink, but have had some success with PhotoShop and mouse work.

Also, sorry for the bad photos! This illustration is 14x11 and doesn't fit on our scanner, so taking pictures with my phone was the only way to show this picture off. :)

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Keto: End of Week One

Hi everyone! So, today marks the end of my first week back on keto. I had mixed results, and I think it's mostly because I gave my body the first week to adjust to the new diet without working out. I'll start weight lifting and running either this afternoon or tomorrow, depending on how my body feels.

The cool thing is that I'm already down 3 pounds. Yay! I broke that barrier I couldn't seem to get through during my first round of keto a few months ago, which feels pretty good. I kept wondering if I might not be able to break through that barrier, and WHAM, this morning, I finally did. So glad to see my weight dropping.

Something else odd--I had keto flu for like a day and a half, but it didn't start until Monday, and I kind of think part of that was being hungover from Sunday (whiskey tasting, which I stuck to whiskies that were either no-or-low carb). I felt a little blegh on Tuesday, too, but today? I feel fine today. Hungry, but fine (and I'm currently enjoying a salad, so that will go away soon enough--okay, the salad is actually gone, but it was super YUM!). I can't wait for the energy part of the diet to kick in. ;)

I think the biggest struggle I've had with the diet (other than my husband noshing on chips literally right next to me) has been my greens wilting stupid fast. Like we buy them, I put them out to dry a little, because our grocery store over-mists them, and then the next day they're wilted and crappy! From my research, I've discovered that I need to wash them and then place them in a Ziploc bag with a small opening and a paper towel. I'll give that a shot. Hopefully it will work, otherwise, this diet is going to be a heck of a lot more difficult than I thought. :/

My hunger returned, which is good. Oh, I also figured out that eggs aren't terrible if I cook them over-medium. Something about scrambled eggs or mixing the yolk with the white really bothers my stomach, so I've stopped doing that. ;) Now just two sausages (1 carb each, 0.5 sugars each) and an over-medium egg work super well for breakfasts. I'll admit, I still don't eat the egg every day--I'm having troubles willing myself to down eggs, even when prepared over-medium and coated in salt. Maybe I have an allergy? I didn't have problems with eggs before I started keto last time, but it could just be that I overindulged in them. Who knows.

Anyway, I think I'll write an short update blog each week on Wednesday to kind of keep me focused on the diet and on my goals. It should help. And I'll admit--today I'm craving ice cream like no other. Maybe in a few months, I'll have some. That pesky sugar addiction needs to be worked out of my system completely before I even think about eating refined sugar. The only thing I truly do miss that I'm planning to enjoy in a week or two is beer. Gods, but I miss my ale. Soon, my Precious, soon I will enjoy you.

Have a lovely week, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Project Updates

Hi all. I hope you're having a fantastic Tuesday! I know I am. Today, I'm continuing to push forward in The Soulless King. This book is quite a bit larger than the first of the Soulbound series, which topped out at roughly 176,000 words and was split into three segments, each between 60,000 and 70,000 words. Part One of The Soulless King is currently with my editor, and pre-revisions, is at just over 70,000. Usually during the editing and revision process, about 10,000 words are added, so... yeah. This book will be a bit longer. I'm already planning parts of The Throne of Souls, which is the third book in the Soulbound arc, and boy! That one is going to be hefty. No doubt about it, especially with everything I'm building up in The Soulless King.

I'm nearing the end of my major writing season, which typically lasts from December through the end of August. I have one and a half books to write left (Frendyl Krune and the Nightmare in the North and The Soulless King: Part Two; I consider TSK-P2 half a book because I am still in the editing/revision phase before it goes off to my editor), which is truly not too bad. I'll also be finishing The Rise of the Four Kings here in a month or so, but that won't be available until next year.

A few other projects have since been completed or are awaiting the final editing phase with my editor. The main two right now are Frendyl Krune Origins: Her Tired Heart and The Soulless King: Part One. It's nice to know that things will be slowing down a smidge between the end of next month and the end of December. I won't cease writing, mind you, because I still have deadlines early next spring, but at least I won't have to sit at my desk between 10-15 hours a day trying to get things done.

The slow season will also offer me a little time to finish some miscellaneous projects I've had in the works. Axis of the Soul, for one, as well as the first in my co-authored series, Epics of Etheliu, which I am writing with C. Gaston (or C.G. Malcom, as he has not yet decided what his pen name will be). This particular series, and more notably, the first book, has been in the works for well over seven years now. We've spent much of that time developing the world, the cultures, and the magic system, as well as delving into the politics and the structures of the civilizations. While Mr. Malcom and I only meet up once a week to work on this book (and in the past, more often when time allowed), it is getting close to time to pen the first draft of the first book, and I'm beyond excited. Mr. Malcom is one of my best friends, and it's great to see where this story is headed. I think fans of The Amuli Chronicles will truly enjoy Epics of Etheliu!

For now, that's the majority of what I have on my plate. I'm pushing through it, and sooner rather than later, you'll be enjoying the first two parts of The Soulless King and the fourth Frendyl Krune book!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to have more to share soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Keto: Round Two: FIGHT!

Hey, all. So I wasn't going to announce this, because I was worried I might back out and decide not to continue with it. As some of you know, I've struggled with my weight for a long time and a few months ago, I tried a ketogenic diet. I lost 15 pounds total, which was awesome, but I stopped because I had a cheat day and got addicted to sugar again. Ugh!

Well, I weighed in after my wedding and honeymoon, and by some miracle, I've kept off 12 of those 15 pounds during the two months where I wasn't keto. I was astounded. No way had I managed to keep off all of that weight after pigging out on cake, Georgia Boys BBQ, and other bad-for-you-sweeties. But the scale we have is pretty accurate. So I have to assume it didn't lie to me.

Armed with the knowledge that I'd managed to keep off the majority of the weight over such a long span of time, I've decided to go back on the ketogenic diet. Only this time, I'm changing a few things. I'm not going to try and make cinnamon buns or anything that I'd normally eat bread-wise. Why? Well, honestly, I don't really like bread. It's just such a staple in the American diet that I've eaten it without realizing I don't particularly like it. Potatoes, on the other hand, will be harder for me to get over. I do love me some hash browns and baked potatoes. Oh well! Maybe in a month or so, I'll have a small cheat meal.

I'm also not going to do cheat days very often. I made the mistake of having one cheat day and had a ton of sugar, and WHAM, all of my hard work went away. I became addicted to sugar again. AGAIN. Ugh! Sugar is my worst weakness. I usually can manage to ignore the cravings after a few days, but the very minute I eat sugar again, it's like I never went on the diet at all. I just can't control it. So, this time around I've decided not to have any sugar on my cheat days, or if I do, it'll be in small amounts and never from things like candy or pastries. We'll see how it goes, but I want to try and stay as far away from refined sugar as possible, since that's what undid me last time.

I started being completely keto last Wednesday, and I've been weighing myself every day to make sure I'm sticking with the program. Holding myself accountable and all. I understand that as a woman, weight will fluctuate for a while, so I'm not doing anything super extreme when I do gain back a partial pound or so--mostly, I'm just trying to make sure that the trend is still downward and healthily so. This morning, though, I had a pleasant surprise! I've lost two entire pounds. That's a good feeling, since that means I'm almost back to the point where I stopped losing weight. I'm hoping this time around, I don't plateau for a little while. If I could lose another 15 pounds, I'd be pretty stoked, even if that means plateauing after those 15 drop off.

The amount I want to lose overall... well, it's going to be a long journey. That's why I'm so determined to stick with this for as long as I can. I feel better, feel less hungry, and am more determined than ever to become healthy. Losing weight and making sure I work out to keep from being skinny-fat is a huge part of that. I'm also trying to make sure I balance the oils I take in, and focusing on protein being my main source of incoming food. As time goes on, I'll adjust. Salads and fresh greens, too, play a large role in my new diet. Don't worry, for those who know keto well--I make sure to have plenty of oils and fats. Cheese, bacon, and oil-based salad dressing play an enormous role in my meals, too. ;) I'm not about to starve myself of the exact fuel my body needs!

There are tons of other benefits for me being on keto. The first and foremost is the energy. WOW. What a huge difference. In the few days (what, five??) that I've been on keto, I noticed almost a light-switch like change in energy levels. This happened last time, I think, but slower. I also didn't have the keto flu this time around. If I did, it was super short. Like less than a day. Odd, huh? I keep waiting for the flu to hit me, and nothing. Overall, I'm far less hungry, which is amazing, but it also worries me a little. I have to force myself to eat sometimes. This is the first morning I woke up hungry enough to actually eat more than a few slices of bacon and an egg.

Speaking of eggs, I think one of the bigger challenges for me will be eating them. I'm not a big fan of eggs. Period. I used to love them, but the last round of keto burned me out on them pretty hard. Like to the point where I feel nauseated just by smelling them cooking. I'm not exactly sure why that is, but I'm taking the cue and listening to my body. I think I'll back off on eggs for a little while and see how I feel in a few weeks.

Overall, I'm excited with how quickly I'm seeing results. Super glad, too, that I'm not living to eat, but eating to live. Usually I'm too hungry on diets to get very far without over-indulging on calories, and since I'm waiting until tomorrow to start working out (for medical reasons and because I wanted to be over the keto flu first), I really didn't want to over-eat during the first week. That said, I'd be lying if I didn't note a little concern over how little I've actually wanted to eat the last few days. It was a bit scary for a time, because I didn't even think about how little I was taking in. Today, I seem to have a normal appetite--not overly hungry, but also not completely uninterested in food. Hopefully I can keep to that balance, but we'll see. The first few weeks are usually the most important in terms of how the body balances out. My hunger may also be aresult of the whiskey tasting I partook in last night. My bet is that I may have kicked myself out of keto, but we'll see.

More updates will come as I continue forward. :) This blog isn't meant to be about the keto diet; I want to note that there are tons of other resources across the Internet about the diet itself, so please don't take my results or my alterations as proof of the diet. Do research and inform yourself. I can't eat most fruits due to allergies, and as I mentioned, I'm not overly fond of baked carbs (beer is another story, and I'll miss it), and I hate cereal with a scathing passion... so keto makes sense for my needs. Listen to your body. Listen to its needs. And more than anything, don't get discouraged. You will plateau. You will cease to lose weight at a certain point. That's okay. Just keep to the changes you've made, and eventually, the plateau will break (might have to cut calories, but be careful and do research first!).

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

New Short Story is OUT!

This week, the third installment of the Frendyl Krune Origins short story series was published through Evolved Publishing--which is pretty darn exciting! This short is probably one of my favorites so far, and unlike the others, doesn't focus on one of the core group from the Frendyl Krune main series of books.

I've had a few people approach me, noting that they would love to read Frendyl Krune Origins: Their Pretty Bones, and wanted to know in which order to read this Middle Grade epic fantasy series. I've listed that, along with links to each story, below!

Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun
Frendyl Krune Origins: The Ekrim's Oath
Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea
Frendyl Krune Origins: The Sandstone Script
Frendyl Krune and the Stone Princess
Frendyl Krune Origins: Their Pretty Bones

More of the Frendyl Krune series will be coming out this year, namely Frendyl Krune Origins: Her Tired Heart (due out September 26!) and Frendyl Krune and the Nightmare in the North (due out November 28!). This will bring the series within one short story and two full-length books of being completed! That's pretty darn exciting.

The face-stealer Laakashiin fell into the realm of the gods, and when Frendyl Krune left him behind, the god Batrisk swallowed him whole. Now Laakashiin sees all, knows all, and fears the worst, for Batrisk plans to steal the fabled Blood of the Sun from Frendyl. To keep the deranged god from claiming such vast power, Laakashiin must fight to keep Batrisk trapped below ground—or succumb to the god’s will and lose himself forever.

To grab a copy of Frendyl Krune Origins: Their Pretty Bones, go here!

If you're interested in receiving updates whenever a new Amuli Chronicles story is released and monthly newsletters, along with free stories and swag, please consider signing up for my newsletter!

Saturday, May 28, 2016


A winner has been chosen! Congratulations to Dalton Cortner! Please check your e-mail for more information, and thank you to everyone who participated!

Hey all! I'm giving away a signed paperback copy of Frendyl Krune and the Blood of the Sun to one lucky winner! To win, enter the Rafflecopter below! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Writer Within: Building Your Catalog

Happy Saturday, one and all! And after days of rainy weather and thunderheads, I can honestly say it's wonderful to see the sun shining out here again. I've missed it. Rain is great, don't get me wrong! It makes everything so green and helps the new plants take root. Yet, the sunshine is why I love where I live, so it's nice to see it again.

Today I want to discuss something that I feel is paramount to the success of any author, and that's building a catalog. You've published your first book and exhale, both relieved and excited, because you're about to start rolling in the dough. And don't lie--every author has this expectation after their first work is released. And their second. And third. It's an expectation society has built up for us all, even if we know deep down that it's not likely, and actually, rather impossible.

And then the sales don't come.

I told everyone right before my first two books came out, "I don't expect much success," but deep down, I was hoping, and when that hope was shattered, I retreated to seriously reconsider my work and my career choice. I stopped writing entirely for a long time--almost six months. At one point, I decided to try again, and finished my third book. After my first two books flopped, and my third, and fourth, and well, my eBook catalog currently boasts more than 10 individual eBooks (8 titles overall), I'm still not seeing much success. Some days, the lack of interest in my work is truly disheartening.

But rather than give up--because if you know me, I'm stubborn and refuse to walk away from something I love so much--I resolved to try a few different things. The foremost was that I wouldn't walk away. I refused to stop writing. Once that choice was made, I developed a plan.

First, I wanted to grow my catalog beyond the seven books and short stories I had out. The more books I have of high quality, the more interest I'm going to garner. It's only a matter of time before something clicks and word spreads. To grow my catalog, though, I needed to do something crazy. I needed to write all the time. Before, I wrote a few thousand words a day, and would do other things, such as take care of the house and run errands. No more! Now I write from about 8 in the morning until my husband comes home around 5:30, and sometimes, I write later than that. I don't often take lunch breaks, or any breaks, for that matter. Writing isn't just a full-time job anymore. It has morphed into my sole reason for existing. If I don't meet my word count and editing goals for the week, I get angry with myself and figure out what I can do to make things better, to increase my focus, and to force those words out, even if they're terrible. These are, after all, the first drafts.

I think the important part here is that even after not earning more than a few dollars a quarter, I'm still writing. I'm still pushing and still fighting. I refuse to let the depression defeat me. This is a choice you need to make for yourself, but once you make it, things will change forever--both inside of you, and out.

Next in growing my catalog, I decided I needed to stay in front of readers all the time. So I began to work on my serial novel, Axis of the Soul. I initially planned to release one 3,000-word part a week. Because I'm writing so much, there's a good chance I'll be upping that to two parts released each week. I'm still deciding if that's something I can realistically do while maintaining quality on my other projects. True, I want to put out a lot of new work, but I also want to maintain high quality and consistency within each and every one of my works. This is super important to me, because each book and short story is part of a larger epic taking place. For my plan to work, everything has to make sense and be consistent with everything else.

Other than building my catalog by writing and releasing new works, I'm also constantly updating my blog and checking what posts do well and which ones don't. I've noticed that interviews get huge numbers while these more personal posts see far fewer. That's all right, though. The larger numbers during my interview posts means there's a substantial chance someone who has never read my blog before might like it enough to start following me. It's a dream one can aspire to, anyway. And because of that, I'll keep posting what I love discussing--which is writing, Inrugia, and the cultures I'm creating. ;)

I have also started pushing my newsletter more, though I'm seeing little return in that, since I just began a few days ago. When it comes to things outside of writing, I've learned I can really only focus on building one at a time and maintain quality in my work. First, it was Twitter and Facebook (which, I'm proud to say, after a few weeks of hard work and interaction, I've upped both by more than 20 followers each!). Next is the newsletter, and once I have a decent readership there, I'll be pushing my Patreon pretty hard, and then roll back to Twitter and Facebook, and so on.

Why do all of this? Well, because this is what I want to do for a living. Beyond building my catalog, I have to show people that I've built it. Readers don't know that I have so many titles out, simply because to the majority of them, I'm invisible. While having a large catalog and eventually gaining a following is inevitable, I can bring readers to my catalog as it grows while doing other things to actively build a following. Writing a lot of books and short stories isn't enough. It just isn't. You also have to work hard at bringing other aspects of your love for writing to readers.

I have a few more ideas simmering in the back of my mind, and will give those a try. Until then, though, this is what I'm doing. Writing all the time, and when I'm not writing, I'm blogging or tweeting or posting on Facebook or working on figuring out this newsletter business. I'm also pinning and planning and soon, maybe even Instagramming. Who knows? All I know is that this is what I want to do. I want to be a writer, so I'm putting in all of the hard work I can to make this career a reality.

What do you do to build your catalog, and eventually, your readership? Have you ever felt like giving up? I have, but I pushed through it. If you have, please don't quit! Remember--it's all about gaining someone's interest. Build a relationship with readers, and you'll do fine. :) Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Writer Within: Writing a Serial Novel

Is it Friday already? Goodness! That's exciting.

Today, I wanted to talk about my (albeit brief) experience writing my first-ever serial novel, Axis of the Soul. I have to say, so far, I love it. Writing a part a week has proven almost cathartic, since it offers me something to do in my spare time and a break from some of the denser manuscripts I'm working on.

I'll be the first to admit that I had no idea what I was doing going into this. All I knew was that I had a story I wanted to tell and a character who I thoroughly enjoy writing about in the Frendyl Krune series. Kel, who's Frendyl's second cousin, is probably my favorite character to write in that series, simply because she says whatever she wants and does as she pleases. Are there consequences to that? Oh yeah. Of course there are, but it's still refreshing to have someone who says the things others might not want to here, someone who's open and honest and true to herself.

In Axis of the Soul, Kel has mellowed a little, mostly due to age and experience in life, and also in part because of her occupation. While Navyni became a high lord and Frendyl is on his way to becoming one of the youngest and most well-respected knights in the Amüli Kingdom, Kel applied her knowledge and skills toward becoming an assassin for the Order of Kravaldin. She's one of the best, though it's interesting to see how she does her job first-hand.

Part I was truly enjoyable to write, as it introduces readers (and myself) to a part of the amüli world beyond the kingdom and Isle of Forfeited Souls where most of the Frendyl Krune series takes place. Kel's journey takes her far beyond the lands she traveled as a child and brings her to the Empire of the Blue Sands, which I discussed in a previous blog post. Here, she not only encounters numerous peoples and cultures she doesn't quite understand, but others who seek to stop her at any cost.

While not every chapter will be high-octane, they are all exciting and pieces of a much larger story that, in the end, will do more than leave readers satisfied. As a writer who often plans as she goes, this is an interesting take on my method. I've put more planning into this story than most of my others, because I realize that I can't easily go back and make changes to the tale.

Overall, I'm excited to try something fresh and new, and hope you'll enjoy reading Kel's story.

What are your plans for this weekend? Share in the comments below!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Writer Within: Ecosystems

Happy Thursday, everyone! Let's get started. And warning. This is a topic that I'd list under "Pet Peeve" when it comes to writing and reading.

With that in mind, let me be honest. One thing that drives me absolutely insane in fantasy stories is horses. Not only horses, but birds. Fish. Cats. Dogs. Basically, Earth animals set in a foreign world, drive me mad. Unless that alien planet has had some connection with Earth (and has for quite some time), these animals do not belong on an alien world. And... let me be honest, most fantasy books take place on alien planets. Now, let me be clear: the inclusion of Earth species doesn't mean a book is bad, it just means I'm less likely to be intrigued or drawn into the world. Simply because I prefer not to have Earth species be native to Inrugia doesn't mean that you can't have horses or dogs or cats on your fantasy world. I just ask that you truly consider why those animals are present. For example, horses make sense in J. R. R. Tolkien's work, because it takes place on Middle Earth, which is essentially Earth. I have a tougher time believing that they belong in J. R. R. Martin's work, though, because the various lands are not intended to be an early lore for any part of Earth.

Due to Earth's role in my series, Inrugia posed a large problem to me for a long time. I wanted the ecosystem to make sense, but I also wanted to make sure that Earth's own ecosystem didn't end up taking over the unique flavor of Inrugia. I wanted to draw from reality (Earth) and create a fictional world where animals and plants are at peace with their habitat. Thus began the long process of creating various species that exist on Inrugia.

During the early phase of creation, I often asked myself what sort of theme I could rely on. What, for my world, made the most sense when developing creatures? Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance are, for the most part, grand examples of how to create an ecosystem that fits with the world. Note that he does have horses, chickens, dogs, etc., which to me is beyond strange, since he created amazing creatures like axhounds and other carapace-covered animals. He drew from the sea to inspire his new ecosystem, which, awesome. Love it. Hate the horses and chickens, love everything else. I adore the rockbuds and the shalebark and the massive greatshells. I'll always cringe when someone rides a horse, but I suppose that's all right. Note that if he had filled the niche of a horse with a carapace-covered creature, that would have made a lot more sense, even if he had decided in the end to call it a horse.

So, Sanderson's idea of pulling from the ocean gave me a great launching point. The three deities created life on Inrugia (at least according to lore), and the deity given the most credit is Batrisk, who is associated with bone (Matrisk with flesh and Katrisk with blood). Because of this, I decided to give the majority of life on Inrugia bony armor (especially life associated with the ground or water). Not carapace, mind you, but something thicker, heavier, and more reminiscent of Devonian period ocean fauna. Fish all have bony plates, same with beasts of burden, and recbrether (literally bone-armored tree). Insects are a little different, but most anything larger than them are covered in some form of bone, and if they aren't, boils and pock marks are the norm, along with mutated feathers or other consistent mutations. I also worked with the other two deities. Birds have mutated flesh (Matrisk) and various carnivores have blood-related alterations that have changed their physical appearance quite a bit (Katrisk). I strove to make everything as alien as I could while still touching upon familiar themes, especially in early books in the Chronicles.

While working out the kinks of Inrugian life, I kept in mind how life on Inrugia has changed, who changed it, why, and what those changes meant for species other than denrana, ekra, and amüli. For example, ekra are created from the bones and flesh of deceased creatures; does that mean an ekrim can create a zombie animal, or does it turn into an ekrim as well? The answer: it turns into an ekrim. What about denrana? Do they hold any power over their environment? Turns out, they do, but mostly in the way of eating the souls of other living creatures. And amüli? How do they impact their world? That one was a little trickier, but I think I managed to find a balance. The answers to those questions shaped the ecosystem of Inrugia and the creatures who wander her surface.

"But what about the crows? You're totally obsessed with crows!" you might shout, especially if you've read The Soulbound Curse.

Okay, yes, I am a bit... over-the-top when it comes to crows, but the very first thing I made sure to mention about the crows on Inrugia is that they are an invasive species brought to the planet by a High House. A few mating pairs escaped captivity, because crows are freaking smart, and then bred and bred and bred until they overwhelmed the local ecosystem. Crows play a significant role in my story and aren't simply mentioned for the sake of being mentioned. The same goes for cats or dogs, which there are very few of, because they're expensive to import from Earth and care for. I'd argue that any Earth species on Inrugia is invasive and, in my opinion, makes sense. Someone brought them there and their presence becomes a rather clear mistake.

While not every fantasy story needs its own creatures, I do feel that even Earth-based fantasy should have some sort of reasoning behind creatures such as horses, dogs, etc. being part of that world. Make the ecosystem work with the world and the strangeness you seek to build, not against it. The more you create, the more original the creatures and flora, the more likely you'll immerse readers in your world.

How do you construct your ecosystems? What do you do to make something unique and playful without losing sight of the reality needed to structure your fantasy planet? Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wonderful Writers on Wednesday! Interview with Author J. W. Zulauf!

Welcome to Wednesday's new blog series, Wonderful Writers on Wednesday, which features authors at Evolved Publishing! Today, please join me in welcoming author J. W. Zulauf. His whimsical Balderdash Saga is full of adventure and amazing characters--and I should know! I've read them all.

Can you describe the setting of your current book or work-in-progress? What do you love about this setting? What do you hate?

I’ll speak on The Balderdash Saga as a whole, being as I’ve very recently closed the lid to this coffin tale. The main installments—there are three—have a strange Tim Burton-like backdrop, and they take place in an underground kingdom called Balderdash, following the lives of corpses that have been brought back at the hands of a shaman. Now, I call it a backdrop because it really is just that. The premise can sound scary at first, but really the reader is focused on the characters, causing these macabre details to fall to the wayside. This is actually what I love about it all, though. I love odd places, and I can honestly say that I don’t hate any aspect of this story’s setting.

How do you write a convincing setting? Do you wing it or do you plan everything out first to make sure you haven’t forgotten something?

A story for me is like a storm coming in off the horizon. I see the shape and color of the clouds. I see small streaks of lightning, maybe feel the rumble of thunder, and for a brief moment, I watch it creep across the sky, barely a thought. I might look away, but before I know it, the clouds are rolling in so fast, I can hardly run for cover. They tumble across the sky like waves crashing on a beach, and then a blanket of details and information washes over me so hard and quick that I’m swimming in character development and setting and plot, and then I start writing. I don’t really map things out on paper, but my mind files things away, and to be honest, if I forget something, it wasn’t meant to be in the story.

Literature comes in all sorts of media forms; other than written literature, what media form do you find to be the most inspiring (film, graphic novel, comic strips, etc.)?

I would have to say video games. This is going to sound weird, I’m sure, but I missed out on a lot of these things. When I was younger, I played outside, and when I wasn’t playing outside, I was diving into video games. I didn’t invest a lot of time or money into comics and graphic novels, and I missed out on a great deal of film. Back then, the games were story like and character focused, and they always seemed to carry me away. I mean, video games are where the inspiration for The Balderdash Saga came from. I wanted to create something I could love as much as I did the Zelda games with a princess, magic, and adventure.

What first inspired you to begin writing? How old were you?

This is a weird question that always seems to have a different answer for me. I feel like all my life creation has been in my mind. I’ve wanted to do everything under the sun, from acting to playing music to drawing, but no matter what my interest temporarily went to, it always came back to writing. I think the first time I can remember ever being interested in writing was when I was very young. Somewhere in the 8-11ish range. My mom had purchased me a typewriter from a yard sale, and I remember typing up some stuff that was surely inspired from reading through R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. Say Cheese and Die, if I remember right.

What do you love most about writing?

I would say the sense of purpose it gives me. I’ve never been overly crafty with my hands like most of my family. I’ve never been a computer whiz, and no matter what types of jobs or hobbies I’ve taken on, writing has been the one thing that makes me feel like I’ve truly accomplished something. It also helps control my mind. My brain just seems to go so fast all the time, and I can honestly say, I don’t know what peace and quiet means. All I do is think, think, think, and writing gives me the avenue to channel some of this nonsense going on upstairs.

Thank you for your time! Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?

I tend to say this a lot, but it can honestly never be said enough. Reading can change the world! Always read. Put books in your kids’ hands. Put books in your hands. Give the gift of reading. Be proud to be smart. Most of all, thank you for reading my stuff and this interview.

Grab a copy of any of the Balderdash Saga through the Evolved Publishing Website. You'll just adore this set of tales for readers young and old!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Writer Within: Linking a Universe Together

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope your week is going well. Mine is! :)

I've been asked a few times why I write The Amüli Chronicles, and more specifically, why I work with characters that I've written about before. The truth is, I don't always choose. In some cases, the characters make it clear that they have more of a story to tell. Such was the case for Frendyl Krune, who made his first appearance in The Soulbound Curse. Out of the numerous characters named within that book, he was the first and firmest to state that he needed his own story to be told.

From the Frendyl Krune series emerged more characters, who in turn desired their own works. Thus, Axis of the Soul came into being, which will explore Kel's life after the events of the Frendyl Krune series.

Now, I suppose the biggest reason I continue to work with characters readers see in various stories is to maintain consistency within the world. I'm a firm believer that interesting characters will always draw out their own tale, whether or not I'm the one to write it. Still, if the characters and plots are interesting enough, one series eventually leads to another, which in turn leads to another, and another, and so on.

There are so many stories within the amüli world that I couldn't possibly write them all, even if I had a lifetime to do so. I find myself thinking about a farmer or a miller or a miner from time-to-time, wondering if there's a story there. What's that character's struggle? Why is it important? How can I transform a labor-intensive task into a powerful obstacle? These are the questions I ask when a character comes to me with a story. I want to know who the character is, of course, but I also want to ensure that there's some connection between one character's tale and the grand theme that needs to be played off of in the greater Amüli Chronicles as a whole.

Some day, I will likely return to the stories of those who aren't mentioned by name in any of the series I'm currently writing. For now, I'm content working on character that are already established. This creates roots for readers to grip onto. I also must note that I can't begin to say how many series I've enjoyed where one set of characters is thoroughly explored only to be replaced by other characters that I have no connection to. Such a drastic change rips me out of the larger arc of the world, and often times, if I can't find a connection, I don't return to that series. This happens not only with books, but with television series and movies. If a creator spends a massive amount of time developing a set of characters, I as part of the audience, want more of those characters. I don't want a rehash of the original (Legend of Korra) or something entirely new; I want to continue the tale that was told before. Perhaps from a different perspective, but one that I can connect with.

This is why I link together every story and every character in The Amüli Chronicles. It might take a long time to get everything the way I want it, but until then, there are plenty of characters and tales to explore.

How do you link together your world? Do you do so one book at a time or with entire series? If you do write all of your work in the same world, why? What about that setting is so powerful to you? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Writer Within: Building the Empire of the Blue Sands

Happy Monday, everyone! Today's To Do list is rather long, but I wanted to take a few minutes to write about my method when developing new lands for The Amüli Chronicles.

Late last week and into the weekend, I spent a great deal of time sketching the map for the Empire of the Blue Sands. This land and its people are mentioned briefly in Frendyl Krune and the Stone Princess, but have been in development for quite a few years. Since beginning the most recent and final iteration of The Soulbound Curse, I've spent time working through what lands beyond the Amüli Kingdom (later, the Amüli Republic) might look like, what differences their peoples may have compared to the Amüli Kingdom, the various cultures, and the reasons behind those cultures' existence.

While some peoples of various lands, such as the Isle of Forfeited Souls and the Empire of the Blue Sands, have maintained their physical similarities to post-Transition amüli, others have not. Those I'll expand upon later, of course.

The Empire of the Blue Sands is quite different from the Amüli Kingdom in a number of respects. First and foremost, it is, of course, an empire. A single ruler, in this case--and forever and for always within the empire--an empress, oversees and maintains all of the city-states beneath her control. These city-states range from the border of the Avdenahvin (which one can see crosses the borders between the maps of the Amüli Kingdom and the Empire of the Blue Sands below) to the Peaks of Eleiandae to the east.

Unlike the Amüli Kingdom, the empire is comprised of city-states that agree with one another on a single platform: religion. No matter the disagreements between the individual city-states on other subjects, religion unifies the empire in a way that the Amüli Kingdom can never be brought together. It also should be noted that the Empire of the Blue Sands is a great deal larger in land mass than the Amüli Kingdom, but because of Venaeyn's Blessing, the amount of useful land is minimized quite a bit, and the empire has a smaller population than the Amüli Kingdom.

When developing the empire, I had to keep all of this in mind. I had to think about what the subsequent and prior rulers would have called various city-states and how that would have impacted the growth of the empire as a whole. As I named parts of the empire--specifically, cities--I didn't second-guess the words that came to mind. Sometimes I do, but in this case, I let the city-state names simply come to me, and it seems to have worked well.

As for the titles of geographical locations, those I named after great heroes of the empire. Venaeyn is the first of Vilboyen's lovers (if you haven't read Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea, I suggest you do so if you would like to learn more about Vilboyen), the woman he deemed his only true love. There's more of a story there, but I'll wait a bit before revealing anything more about Venaeyn. ;)

In the case of Maltalik's Expanse, the Sanctuary of Elmyk, and the Peaks of Eleiandae, these are all places named after heroes and heroines of a time long past. Every single one of these figures are mentioned in the Doctrine of Our Lady of the Blue Sands and holds some significance to the rise of the empire and the role religion played in its dawning.

Not every developmental stage is the same for the various lands of Inrugia. For the Isle of Forfeited Souls (Frendyl Krune and the Snake Across the Sea and Frendyl Krune and the Stone Princess), I wrote the book first, exploring the geography and cultures first-hand through Frendyl's eyes, and later created the map based off of the book's descriptions.

There's a lot more to discuss about the Empire of the Blue Sands, and some of it will be revealed in Axis of the Soul as the serial novel continues. Keep an eye out for a new part every Monday!

There are many other lands on the amüli homeworld to explore, and about 1/6 of the landmass has been revealed at this point. I look forward to exposing more of Inrugia as new stories unfold.

How do you create countries, empires or kingdoms? What's your favorite method of developing maps and cultures? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Writer Within: Managing Multiple Projects

Goodness, it's Thursday at last! For some reason, I kept thinking every day this week was Friday. Even Monday felt like Friday. Makes for a bit of a long week, doesn't it? Oh well. That just means I have more time to reach my writing goals this week.

I'm not the only author who works on multiple projects at the same time, not by far, and I'm quite glad this is the case. Because I'm not, it meant there was an enormous number of blogs and articles for me to peruse when I first began juggling projects. I needed to find something that would help me stay on track and reach my goals, while not being intrusive or annoying (alarms, for example, are both intrusive and annoying, and actually break my focus).

After a few years of searching, I still couldn't find something that worked well for me. During this time about a year ago, I was averaging about 1,000 words a day. Some days, I'd average more, some days far, far less. There were even days where I (gasp) didn't write at all, either because I wasn't "feeling it," or I simply had other things I needed to do. Things became a little more desperate when I began writing full-time and when I changed my release schedule with my publisher. I've known forever that writing is what I want to do with my life, and to do so successfully, I needed to overhaul my daily goals and make sure I was, at the bare minimum, doubling my daily output.

But none of the methods on the blogs I read were working for me. I tried everything from alarms to listing my goals and projects every morning (my most recent attempt before my current one), and still I could not get in the groove. Sure, for a day or two, I'd bust out more words than usual, but then things would settle down and I'd space out my goals and just... stop writing as much.

"Not good!" I said, and I went back to the whiteboard--literally--and erased all of the lists and tables I had charted up for the week. I needed something else, something that I could use to hold myself accountable.

And then, I created this.

Note that I still have troubles with realistic goals. I'm working on it, I swear! However, I my output has increased a lot. Other than Tuesday, which was what I term a Black Day, I've done pretty good, keeping my daily word count above 4,000. Thus far, this method had proven the best for me. I list out the projects I want to work on each day of the week, and then below, have a chart where I can keep track of my successes or failures to work on certain projects. This is a pretty good system of accountability for me, because everything is listed out. I can literally see my accomplishment on each and every project, and it really helps me keep my projects more balanced.

While I have yet to know if this method will work for me in the long-term, I'm pretty happy with the short-term success right now. This specific method allows me to keep juggling my numerous projects while keeping in mind my due dates, and helps me prioritize fairly well. There are a few books I haven't worked on this week (Rise of the Four Kings being the most notable), simply because I had other priorities. I may reconsider how I approach this method, though, and try to do at least 100 words on every project, even the ones that I shouldn't technically be working on.

I'm a stubborn person. I'm also very driven. When I decided to be a writer, I said, "I want to be a powerhouse. I want to go into this a furnace whose bellows don't quit. I want to stoke the flames in myself and in writers and artists all around me."

That's my goal. Not just in writing, but in life. It's what keeps me going. Driving to be that powerhouse is what pushes me hard every day to keep writing, keep supporting my fellow authors, and keeps pushing me to always do more, to always do better, and to always fight for what I love.

How do you keep track of multiple projects? Does your method seem to work well? Share in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wonderful Writers on Wednesday! Interview with Author K.M. Hodge!

Welcome to Wednesday's new blog series, Wonderful Writers on Wednesday, which will be interviews with authors at Evolved Publishing! Today, please join me in welcoming author K.M. Hodge! Her newest release, Red on the Run, is an action-packed thriller with interesting characters and a unique twist on the genre. Let's dive in!

What first inspired you to begin writing? How old were you?

Like most writers, I have always been writing in some form or fashion. Before I knew how to write, I would make up all kinds of fantastical stories and force my family to sit and listen to them all. When I was in the third grade I got in trouble for selling my stories on the playground. For the most part I wrote a lot of poetry, but in high school I started my first novel. I didn’t finish that book until eighteen years later!

Got in trouble for selling stories! Wow! That's not very fair. What’s your favorite genre to write in? Why?

I love writing suspense and mystery novels. It was the kind of books that I grew up reading.

Awesome! Is there something you like to do to that genre to give it a unique twist and make it your own? How do you change the genre while keeping it recognizable?
I like to make my characters more realistic and relatable. I do this by giving them issues like addiction to drugs, alcohol or sex. My stories are also written for women and give voice to a lot of important things that women go through like domestic violence, sexual assault, sexism, fertility problems, and much more.

Those are some really heavy topics. I'm glad you bring the gravity of them to your work. Who’s your favorite character that you’ve written? Now how about in literature as a whole? How are these two characters similar and how are they different?

My favorite character is my hemingwayesque writer, Jason Knettle, who becomes the focal point in Black and White Truth, the second book in my Syndicate-Born Trilogy. My favorite literary character is Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. Both men are hard to love, but once you see passed their protective façade, you can’t help but love them.

Jason sounds rather interesting. Now, tell us a little about your current work-in-progress, if you can. What’s your favorite scene that you’ve written so far?
I am working on the second book in my Book Cellar Mystery Series, Texas and Tiaras, that I co-write with Melissa Storm. My favorite scene so far is an emergency meeting of the book club. The youngest character’s interaction with the sole male character was a fun interaction to write. It’s such a fun, light series to write.

That's good! A change of pace is always welcome, I think. Thank you for your time! Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?

I love talking to my readers and hearing what they think about my work. I reward my loyal readers with free ARC copies of all of my books. If you would like to be on my VIP list sign up today

I'm glad we got to speak with K.M. Hodge! If you want to read more of her work or take a look at Red on the Run, just click the image below! You can also visit her and learn more at