Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How I feel when I write a novel ...

Some people ask me: What is it like to be a writer? What does it feel like writing a novel?

Well, there's a lot of heart and soul that goes into writing a book. And sometimes, you lose yourself a little bit in the characters and the story and the drama.

So what does it feel like to write a novel? A little bit of everything. The proof is in the video.

Happy reading and writing!

Friday, March 3, 2017

YA Gets Real: Sacrifice

The four of us watched in horror as green light exploded from the tip of the witch's wand straight into Madison Patrick. Madison's eyes rolled back into her head, her body shuddered once, and she collapsed onto the ground.

Josephine, Carlyle, and Trevor gasped behind me.

The witch, who I thought would be ecstatic to have just ended Madison's life, glanced at the end of her wand. Her brow furrowed, and she frowned.

"Why did you not save her?" Her voice came out tinny and hollow.

There was a long, outstretched moment of silence. I gazed at the charred clothes on top of Madison's chest. I swallowed back a bit of bile from the smell filling the stone-walled space.

"We tried. We just got here too late," I said.

"No, Lex, we were here just in time," Josephine squeaked.

I narrowed my eyes and took a step away from my friends, the people I had spent ages on this journey with. We had come all this way to subdue the witch and save Madison's life. We had arrived at the tower too late, and there was nothing we could have done to save her. The witch had been casting her spell before we entered the room.

"We were too late," I said again.

Trevor shook his head and glanced down at his sword. "We could have saved her."

"No, we didn't have the time," I said.

"You could have," the witch said, eyeing me.

Finally, it clicked into place. I blinked at my friends and swept my eyes over the sullen looking witch. She had used all her magic on that last spell. She hadn't wanted to kill Madison at all. She had wanted to kill me.

"Whoa. Wait a second." I stepped back from all of them, holding my hands up. "You had expected me to travel across the continent, defeat the wraith, drain the swamp with the formi inside, and beat the harnessed rider to what ... to sacrifice myself for Madison Patrick?!"

None of them could look me in the eyes.

"I barely knew her! You barely knew her!" I pointed out to my so-called friends. "Sure, I was trying to save her life, but I wasn't prepared to die for her." The words were true, and I'm not sure what kind of person that made me. While I had failed to save her, so had they. No one stepped up on this one.

"You have the amulet," Carlyle finally said, eyes sullen and lips taut. "It would have brought you back."

"How was I supposed to know?" My voice rose, panic bubbling into my throat. "You guys never told me that!"

"They couldn't," the witch said. "It would have only worked if your intentions had been pure, if you were actually willing to sacrifice yourself for her." She shook her head, looking at me with disappointment. "I can't believe I planned all of this just to get to you." With that, she turned and marched out of her tower.

I stood there, jaw open, stunned.

"You weren't the person we thought you were," Trevor said.

"No one had to die today." Tears welled in Josephine's eyes.

"So are we letting the witch go?" I asked, putting my hands on my hips. "Because she's, you know, a murderer now."

As if in a trance, the three of them repeated, "No one had to die today."

"You can't tell me you wouldn't have done the same thing!" I slammed my foot down, hoping to break them out of whatever had just happened. This wasn't all on me. This wasn't all my fault, but they were making me feel like it was.

They continued repeating the sentence over and over again, "No one had to die today." Slowly, my companions shuffled out of the room, leaving me behind with the body of Madison Patrick.

- - -

Thanks for reading the parody series YA Gets Real! It's a parody series of shorts that make fun of the tropes we know and love in Young Adult literature. There are quite a few books where the main character does sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. I won't give any recommendations for this one, because that would give away too many endings. ;)

Cheers! Another YA Gets Real will be posted in two weeks! Stay tuned!

Friday, February 3, 2017

January 2017 Book Wrap Up and Giveaway

At the end of every month, I wanted to do a vlog with a wrap up of what I've read, or more specifically, what titles I recommend reading and why. However, I have found myself continuing to read books that I feel "meh" about. Despite knowing that I should put them down and move onto a different read, I still finish the title despite knowing I'll probably never really enjoy it.

Thus comes the idea that perplexes me. I can go months and years without finishing a writing project, but I can't seem to permanently walk away from an already written book. There have been very few exceptions to this rule. Very few. If I reach fifty pages in, I can't stop.

I tend to research books before I read them. I check out reviews from people I trust, because books are a huge commitment for me. A recent book I read had a huge red flag review, but I still started it anyway. I continued to think, "I should just walk away" until the very last page,

I did read a book in January that I'd like to recommend. At first, I was upset by one YA Trope used toward the end of the book (perhaps I'll make a YA Gets Real post out of it). But as time goes on, I find myself remembering the description, the characters, and the writing, because it was all really strong. The dialect was hard to get used to, but Orleans by Sherri L. Smith is a fast-paced book that starts slow and then becomes chaotic, much like her depiction of Orleans itself.

When I finished reading it, I wasn't as big of a fan as I am now. The trope almost killed it for me, but perspective has made me appreciate it more.

I also wanted to provide a few more recommendations based on the books I read last year. You can click on any of the photos for a link to amazon.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Silly somewhat dystopian Lord of the Flies take on a beauty pageant. When I started reading this book, I thought, "Man, this is going to be a trip." It was, but in the best way possible. These girls learn to kick butt. Who cares if it might be a totally outlandish plot, I adored every single ridiculous second of it.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
A disturbing and psychological look at a boy who needs the most amount of help possible. Intense and gripping toward the end when it all slams together in a fast-paced near nightmare.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
You know how all those supernatural stories have other people in them that never get talked about? The ordinary people who somehow manage to still have a normal high school experience despite the insanity going on around them? In this quirky and lovely book, Patrick Ness explores the lives of those people, creating an extraordinary story out of the ordinary.

If you are looking for indie authors to read, I've enjoyed books by all of my fellow Scriptors. I cannot recommend any of their titles enough.

That's it for January. Hopefully February will have several more titles to recommend and more current reads. I'm hoping to break the streak of mediocre books with some amazing titles in the future. Also, YA recommendations are welcome! Leave a comment! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 2, 2017

YA Gets Real: But School

Lindi sank into the seat next to Chris with a huff. She glanced over at him, her blue eyes blazing as she thought about the days ahead. Knowing she had to tell Chris the bad news broke her heart almost as much has having to repeat the same cycle over and over again.

Every semester since they had started high school, Chris and Lindi had saved the world. No one noticed, or if they did, no one cared. First, it had been the wild bats that could transform into hybrid invisible monsters. Second, the wild, mutant lizards that came out of the sewer system. Third, the talking rabbits who controlled every student's mind in the school.

Lindi was forced into this life because she knew Chris, but Chris fell into this because he drank some sea monkey water on a dare when he was nine. For whatever reason, those sea monkeys changed his body from the inside out, giving him the ability to heal rapidly, breathe underwater, and turn microscopic. Maybe they had been radioactive, maybe it was some chemical experiment, but whatever the reason, Chris was superhuman now.

"I've been doing some research," Lindi started.

"No. No research." Chris looked at her, eyes half-lidded and his irises almost black. "We can't save the world again, Lindi. I need to focus on school."

"I know, but this is really important. This Friday, there's going to be Medusa-like snakes called Lo--"

Chris slammed his head down on the desk. One of his pencils rattled, falling off the desk onto the floor. A few students turned their heads, but this kind of behavior was normal for the two weird kids. Chris's voice came out muffled from the wood. "I can't do this Friday."

"Can't do this Friday?! The supernatural isn't going to wait for a convenient time."

"I have a swimming meet, and Coach said if I miss one more, I'm off the team for good." He rolled his head to the side so he could look up at Lindi. His cheek was squished against the desk. "I can't lose swimming. It's the only thing that will get me into college."

"If you don't miss it, then--"

"Not to mention the report we have due for Mrs. Welsher's class." He lifted his head and glared at Lindi. "There is absolutely no way I can save the world this Friday. My personal future depends on it."

Lindi stood up, grabbing the backpack that she had just put down and began to storm out of the classroom. Her wedges slapped against the ground.

Chris caught up to her in a matter of seconds, snagging her arm. "Where are you going?"

She turned, glaring at him with an icy look that could cut glass. Her short bleached hair hung messily around her ears. "I'm going to find someone help me save the world. If you aren't going to, I'm sure there's some other powerful person who will. Besides, none of have a future if these snakes get loose."

Dropping her arm, Chris let out a defeated sigh. "What time are the evil snakes from wherever supposed to get here?"

Lindi straightened her back. "Around nine at Jonesbury Park, through a rift between our world and theirs." A small smile curled her lips, despite her best efforts to keep it at bay.

"My meet should be over by 9. I'll get there as soon as I can. Just ... Do your thing and keep them busy for me?" Chris's eyes softened.

Lindi grabbed his hand with hers. Their hands were the perfect size, his ever so slightly bigger. They nestled together like they were made for each other. "You got it. And on Sunday, we can sit down to write that paper together."

"Why Sunday?"

"Because you're going to spend Saturday healing and being all macho about how you just saved the world, again."

Chris frowned, but it was erased the second Lindi's lips touched his cheek. She gave him a small kiss and floated back to her seat, satisfied that Chris had agreed to save the world again. Now if only the rifts would stop appearing, maybe they could have a normal high school experience.


Thanks for reading the parody series YA Gets Real. If you enjoy supernatural stories, consider some of the following titles. Patrick Ness's The Rest of Us Just Live Here plays with this trope a lot, and I absolutely adore the book, so pick it up. All the cover images link to Amazon.

Friday, January 27, 2017

We're in a Forest

Right now, there's no clear cut path. The political turmoil has everyone feeling unhinged, lodged in a dark, endless forest. We should be traveling this path together, guiding each other through while holding hands, but all I see is hatred, spreading on both sides of the fence.

Politically, I will disagree with Republicans on a lot of levels, but I am respectful and open to discussion. They have beliefs, as do I. I will not shun them for having beliefs, as different as they might be from my own.

I want to talk to people in person. I want to discuss things rationally. I want to keep our voices calm and have a meaningful, open, and honest conversation. I want to walk through the forest with you, not trample all over your ideas or thoughts.

In my social studies class in eleventh grade, I was the only liberal student. Whenever there was a political discussion, everyone turned to me for my "liberal" opinion. I never pretended to represent everyone. I don't. I am my own person with my own life experiences and opinions. That's the core of it. Everyone believes different things for different reasons.

One person does not represent all of us.
Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. - Abraham Lincoln
How are we supposed to be a united country when we aren't willing to have civilized discussions with each other? How are we supposed to know what our neighbors need to be successful when we are screaming on the internet? How are we supposed to represent each other, when we refuse to calmly explain ourselves?

I am not talking about posting about your opinions in the echo chamber of your social media groups. Social media is fantastic for finding like-minded people, but unfortunately, this creates a vacuum around you where anything that is the "other" can easily be muted, removed, or blocked. You (as well as I) are surrounded by people who are telling you you're right. There are two sides to every story. If we do not learn the story of the "other," we are committing them to be less respected and worse, less human. Which, in light of the way things have been going on the internet, has translated into name calling, hate speech, and other awful words.

Would you say what you're posting to someone's face? If so, fine. Keep saying it on the internet, because you are representing who you are. If not, then maybe you should press backspace. Maybe you should message the person directly when you are calmer. Maybe you should open a dialogue and say that you honestly want to talk about it. Reach out. Be friendly. Be respectful.

Life has brought us to various points in the forest, but in order for us to survive, we have to start making connections with each other. We cannot navigate this life alone. And I, personally, refuse to navigate the woods by myself, especially at night.

We are stronger together and that includes everyone.

I realize I'm saying this from the anonymity of the internet, using a faceless mask to get a point across, but this is one of love and not hatred. This is one of wanting real life connection and discussion. I invite anyone who knows me to have a conversation with me. I invite anyone who doesn't to connect with me so we can talk further.

More than anything, I invite everyone to walk with me. Travel this path with me and maybe we can all learn something. We're not so different. We want to protect our homes and our children. We want to protect ourselves and our beliefs. We want what is best and that shouldn't make us hate each other.

Friday, January 20, 2017

YA Gets Real: New Girl

Harvey smirked, giving me a slick sideways glance with his dark brown, almond-shaped eyes. He slid his chair a little closer to me. We were in our homeroom in the science lab. I was surprised when he sat down next to me, but became even more surprised when he kept staring.

"Hey," he said.


"What's your name?"

I swear my jaw dropped to the floor. Over the summer, I had gotten laser eye surgery, finally ridding myself of the thick bottle glasses that had framed my face since before first grade. But I was still the same old me. Same red braid off to one side, same crystal eyes, same fair skin.

"Anna? You know, the girl you've been in school with since we were six?" I inched my chair away from him, and it grated against the tiles.

He narrowed his eyes, looking me up and down with keen interest. It practically made my skin run out of the room without me. "Anna ..." Harvey leaned back in his chair, rocking on two legs for a second as he switched his eyes to the ceiling. "Cunningham?" The chair slammed back down on the ground as he leaned onto the lab table.

"Harvey, jeez, yeah." I swallowed. My fingers curled around my bag, ready to run or hit him with it depending on whatever he said next.

"Huh." His eyebrows furrowed. Even when he looked confused, he was still fairly attractive. I mean, he was Harvey Orion, pretty much the pinnacle of the stars coming down and making a guy in their dream image. "You look ... different."

I rolled my eyes. "I don't have glasses anymore."

"Oh." He paused, frowning. "That must be it. So anyway, you're, like, really hot, Anna."

I continued staring at him with an arched eyebrow, not sure if that warranted a response. Surely he tried harder to date Sandra and Katrina, right? They were gorgeous. It had to have taken more of an effort than "you're, like, really hot."

"We should go on a date or whatever. You know?"

"No, I don't know." I grabbed my bag and stood up. "We've gone eleven years of our lives not speaking to each other. Why don't we make it the full twelve. Okay?" I turned to leave, but he snagged my arm.

"Anna, don't be like that. Just because I didn't recognize you doesn't mean-"

"It means everything, Harvey. I was invisible to you just because of my glasses." I yanked my hand back and shook it like his were hot coals. "I would never date someone as shallow as that." I went to the front of the room and slid into another seat.

Just as I did, Rebecca whispered a little too loudly to her neighbor, "What's the new girl's problem?"

I banged my forehead against the desk. This was going to be a long start to senior year.

- - -

YA Gets Real is a parody young adult flash fiction series where my main characters experience typical tropes that you can find in Young Adult Literature. I love Young Adult, but I use this series to turn the typical encounter on its head. If you like YA Gets Real, consider sharing it with someone you know would get a kick out of it. Check out all the past stories here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Reading: Hipstopia

I have a feeling that reading out loud is something that you get better at with practice. For the first time ever, I can be seen reading Hipstopia, my YA dystopian satire about hipsters taking over Los Angeles.

I was definitely a bit nervous, as this hasn't been something I've even attempted in the past. But I'm fairly happy with my first attempt. Enjoy! And happy reading!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Staying Creative to Beat the Blues

Some of you know that I take a lot of pretty photos, mostly of Oregon seeing as how I live here. A few of them are on @OregonIsGross on Instagram.

Last year, my creativity took a nose dive. I had no direction. I was struggling to publish even one book, let alone work on my other ones. I distracted myself with video games, and then I fell in love with running. At first, running was also a distraction. I needed something to do because my mind was restless. I wasn't being creative anymore, and frankly, I was more than in a "slump."

As I started to run farther, I explored more and more just in my own neighborhood. I started to find trails. I started to look for new places. I started to find beauty in everything. The first creative spark I had in ages was back, and it was because I wanted to jump back into photography.

Staying active helped keep my health up, but I still wasn't all that motivated to go back to sitting in a chair to read or write. It was when my back finally gave out (probably months of running without properly stretching mixed with stress mixed with a terrible snow storm that got me trapped in a car for three hours) that I realized there has to be a balance in life. You can't be active all the time. There's a time and a place for everything.

Since it is winter, and it somehow keeps snowing in Portland, I have hung up the running hat until it warms up a bit. I've started doing yoga, which I can do from the comfort of inside my warm house, and have picked up reading and writing again. Obviously, I'm also back to blogging with a vengeance. It has been too long since I've seen the creative side of myself, and I'm determined to make 2017 the year that I figure out how to balance work, life, and play.

I'm also really excited to start doing little photo updates for you all. There are some amazing shots I've managed to take throughout the year, and I plan on going on more hikes and adventures once the weather is warmer.

What do you do when it's cold outside? How do you stay warm and beat the January blues?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Excerpt: Girl Nevermore

Purchase your copy on Amazon
Girl Nevermore is my dark contemporary young adult novel based on real life events. When I was much younger, my best friend at the time tried to take her own life while sitting next to me in class. She went to the bathroom with the pass that hung by the door, was gone for a while, and came back a completely different person.

She slowly started fading away as she sat next to me.

The image of her eyes haunted me for almost a decade, and I still remember the look she gave me to this day, but I've grown up a lot since then. While the helplessness I felt in that moment used to cause me anxiety, I've realized I'm much stronger now and much more sympathetic because of it.

Thankfully, my friend is still alive, but some people do not get second chances like she did. I've lost a lot of people - a lot of good people - along the way, and I cannot imagine how it would have been to lose her in that moment.

Girl Nevermore's story grew from that single moment, and the thoughts and feelings that I had after. I never truly grasped how much it affected me until later on in life. But events like that change you.

If you are in the mood for a dark story, Cooper's journey is full of life lessons, things that took me a lot longer than her to realize. Today, I am sharing a small piece of Girl Nevermore with you. Cooper finds the journal that her twin sister, Kayla, had been keeping. Over the course of the book, she reads her sister's writing. Kayla never seemed so alive, and then ... Well, I'll let you read to find out the rest. Enjoy the excerpt from Kayla's found journal below:

We pulled into the park, stealing drinks from the flask he keeps in his glove compartment. We leaned against the side of his car, passing it back and forth, him taking bigger gulps than me.

When the sprinklers came on, I was already a little light-headed, feeling freer than I had in a long time. I kicked off my shoes and ran into the grass barefoot, laughing as water soaked through my jeans, my shirt, everything. The grass squelched between my toes, and I watched him watching me. His dark eyes never left my body.

It felt blissful, perfect.

Trent and I don’t talk much. There’s not much to say. We just are. We’re two different people who are from separate parts of the universe. But when we collide, our worlds smash together with such fire I can barely breathe. I want to take the feeling he gives me and bottle it up, keep it for whenever I need it.

This kind of perfection never lasts a lifetime. I’m not stupid. But that’s why I’m soaking it all in. I take every chance I can get with him to make up for all the insignificant moments that will happen later. Because as long as I live, I will never meet anyone who makes me feel as alive as Trent does now.

I spun around in the middle of the field until the stars collapsed in on themselves, blending together into one blurring ball of light. I wanted to kiss that sky, get sucked up into it and dance forever.

When I stopped, the world kept moving around me. Trent marched right through the sprinklers, dropped the flask in the field, and wrapped his arms around me. He kissed me with such an intensity I thought I would melt right into his skin.

That’s how he makes me feel, like I could become something bigger than myself. I’ve never felt that kind of power before. I grinned the whole way home, wondering how I got so lucky, but also wondering how I was going to keep this a secret.

Because I want Trent to be mine and just mine. I don’t want to share any of these moments with anyone else. They are too beautiful, too enormous. And I’m afraid if I tell someone, they might become a little bit smaller, and that would ruin the magic we have now.

Friday, January 6, 2017

YA Gets Real: Wizard School

The rolling hills fly past us as we head down the lush landscape and into a deep valley. I'm adoring the drive, and my mind rushes with the ideas of how the next four years will play out. To think, my parents had been keeping this a secret my whole life.

"We wanted you to grow up as a normal girl," Mom said.

"That meant keeping your past a secret from you." My dad nodded.

I grin as I look up at the clear blue sky. All of those things I read about were true. The fantasy books they gifted me as presents were hints, and I never knew how real they were until my parents confessed everything a few days ago. They had signed me up for my first year at Harringtons, a school for girls who are training in the magical arts. They had handed me a brochure which featured this great stone building, and it looked magical.

We turn onto a long drive and come to wrought iron gates. My dad presses the small red button, and the intercom comes on. A lady on the other side greets us cheerfully, and the gates swing open. Our car carries us all the way up the gravel path to the steps heading into the main gorgeous building on campus.

I step out of the car with my backpack on my shoulder and slam the door shut behind me. I take in the large steeples, the antique window frames, and warm stone of the structure. The building looms over us, but feels welcoming and cozy just the same.

My mom helps me get my two bags out of the trunk and gives me a wide smile. Something about it feels strange though, because normally her eyes light up. Maybe she's sad about me going away to school. "Honey, I want you to know, we love you." She pulls me into a hug.

My dad presses his hand on my shoulder, which is about as affectionate as he'll get these days. "Do you want help inside?"

A woman with a clipboard comes out from inside Harringtons. She has a pen tucked behind her ear, and her hair is pulled taut away from her face. "You must be Delilah."

Both of my parents back away from me, as if this woman is going to burst into flames. Perhaps she can.

"We'll be seeing you on holiday." My dad slides into the car, and my mom hesitates with her hand around the handle.

"I have in my paperwork that your parents told you about Harringtons."

I turn back to the woman and nod, eager.

The lady glances at my mom and gives her tight-lipped smile. The engine of the car starts behind me, and the gravel shifts underneath the car as they pull away from the building.

"I'm Mrs. Sutherland, and I'm afraid I have some grave news." She swallows, and my face falls. "You see, we're a boarding school. Just a regular one."

"But ..." I scrunch my face up. My parents had been telling me about my past for months. There had to be some kind of a mistake. "What about the brochure?"

"We made them so parents could convince their kids to come here. You see ... Most children don't want to come to boarding school, so at Harringtons, we decided to make the transition a little easier." The lady stands upright and looks down her long nose at me. "We do have some of the best classes and professors this state has to offer. And most students who graduate from here go onto do amazing things."

"But nothing magical," I say, crushed.

"Nothing magical. Just the wonders of the natural universe, I'm afraid." Mrs. Sutherland laughs to herself. It's high and tinny, but I don't get the joke.

She turns and heads up the stairs, carrying one of my bags with her. I grab the other and trudge in her wake, counting down the days until I could scream at my parents.

As much as I'm mad at them, I'm more angry with myself for believing them. Magic. Yeah, right.

- - -

Oh man, I wish Wizarding School existed in real life. I've been in love with the idea of being called to an adventure most of my life. This is probably why I read and write as much as I do, and go out hiking when the weather will let me.

Thanks for reading YA Gets Real! It's a parody series that takes some of my favorite YA tropes and turns them into something more realistic. Although this one is pretty silly in itself.

If you want to read about people learning about their supernatural abilities, consider some of the following titles:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Goodbye 2016, and Hello 2017.

I apparently make vlogs now! I have no idea what the world is coming to, but I am making a commitment to post three vlogs a month for the next year. We'll see how it goes.

In this one, I review 2016, state some of my accomplishments, and uh ... Hang out with some cats? I also look ahead to January 2017, where I'll be um ... Hanging out with more cats?

Watch the video. It's funny and stuff.

But seriously, if anyone wants a review copy of any of my books, I will happily send you a mobi or epub. Just tell me the title and give me  your email address and it's yours! All I ask is that you actually review it within two months (amazon, goodreads, your own blog, whichever!).

Also, remember to sign up for my Newsletter to get information about sales and new titles when they are released!

Happy New Year!