Soulless by Crystal Collier

soulless1Last month I reviewed Moonless by Crystal Collier and last week I finished the second novel in the Maiden of Time Trilogy, SoullessI don’t really trust myself to explain the story without unleashing massive spoilers, so I’ll start by sharing the blurb:

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she’s forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

Spoiler Free Review

The first thing I would like to say is that I liked this book a lot more than I liked the first book. You’re thrown immediately into a much more interesting conflict which includes one of my favourite characters from the series, and you delve much, much deeper into the world of the Passionate. The main character undergoes a tremendous amount of growth, both in her personality and in her abilities. And we’re introduced to some delightfully powerful characters on both sides.

Most of these differences exist because of the nature of a series. The first book has to do all the groundwork, introducing you to the characters and the world. And the main character usually has a lot of growing to do when a book starts. I never disliked Alexia, but I didn’t feel strongly for her one way or another until very close to the end of that book–it was questions about the world of the Passionate that pushed me through the story.

It’s also worth noting that I’m usually not as interested in stories about characters who get pulled into mysterious worlds; I read a lot of alternate world fantasy with characters whose lives are already shaped by those worlds.

By the beginning of Soulless Alexia has already grown a fair bit and she is deeply in the Passionate world. By the end of the book she is a much stronger character, a woman instead of a girl, and the Passionate world has become more complex and fascinating than I thought it would. There’s some really funky timeline stuff going on, but a lot of the confusing parts have already been explained and I believe it will all make sense by the end of Timeless, the final book in the trilogy.

I especially loved the last scene in this novel, and I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars. 

Sound good to you? Buy your copy of Soulless today!

Spoilerful Review

The one thing I want to talk about with massive spoilers involved is that Alexia’s relationship with her husband-to-be is at times deeply unsettling and I spent roughly two thirds of the book trying to decide if he was a creep or if the history/politics of the Passionate world justified his actions. He’s been watching over her since childhood, is much older, and is both overprotective and secretive. Yes, Alexia has been in mortal danger(which she was deliberately kept unaware of, and I’m not sure how I feel about that either) for most of that time, but it still felt really overbearing, especially in a world full of Edward Cullens and Christian Greys.

At the end of the book Alexia goes back in time. Like, reaaaalllly far back in time. I had actually started to wonder when real time travel happened–Crystal has talked about it in some of her interviews–and it starts partway through this book, with tiny jumps of ten seconds or ten minutes. But things she learns along the way convince her that she needs to go much further back.

The scene of her leaving is incredibly powerful, and it shows tremendous growth in both her and her lover. She is a long way from the girl whose curiosity got her in endless trouble in Moonless. He, on the other hand, actually lets her go.

For me, this was a defining moment for their relationship, the moment where I could definitively say yes, I was okay with it, the story did justify almost all his actions, and most importantly, the relationship is growing in a healthy direction. Alexia may have left him behind in the present, but if she ever gets back there I believe they’ll have a great future together, and that’s awesome. So once again, this book gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Pick up your copy of Soulless today! 

Don’t have the first book yet? Get the set!


#Ownvoices Author Spotlight: Lynn E. O’Connacht

cover-sfsOver the past year I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about inclusion — I choose the term “inclusion” because I think it’s more honest than “diversity”. Specifically I’ve been thinking about the duty I have as a writer to be inclusive in my work.

One thing I’ve come to believe very passionately is that while including diverse characters and relationships in my books is great, the best thing I can do is support diverse authors, most of whom are already writing diverse books. These authors have often been snubbed by traditional publishing and turned to self publishing or small presses, which makes it even more important to support their work. So this year my interviews are going to focus almost exclusively on #ownvoices authors, starting with today’s guest, Lynn E. O’Connaught, and her asexual retelling of The Little MermaidSea Foam and Silence

Let’s start with the blurb for Sea Foam and Silence:

She warned of the pain. She did.
But no warning can prepare you.
Nothing can.

How could I have known
What it is like on the dry sand?
We just watched.

It’s hard, not being able to ask
Questions, though I have learned some speech
With my hands. ˆ_ˆ

I miss my sisters.

I have made friends here.
I have laughed with them,
Learned with them, played with them.
I love them.

She said I would die if he loves someone else.
Will I die? At the beginning I wanted to. It hurts
So much. Life isn’t easy, will never be easy, but…
I don’t want to become sea foam.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Sea Foam and Silence?

I’d be delighted to! Sea Foam and Silence is a verse novel asexual retelling of The Little Mermaid. It’s told through the eyes of Maris, our little adventurous mermaid, and is divided into three different parts. The first part focuses on Maris as she tries to understand humans and gradually her curiosity means she feels less and less at home with her sisters in the sea. As in the original story, she loses the ability to speak after becoming human, though I’d imagined it was more down to the fact that, being a mermaid, she’s just never learned to produce human sounds. Instead, she learns sign language that lets her communicate with the world around her. The sea witch turns her human, on the condition that she has a year to find love or she’ll become sea foam. Most everyone around Maris has very specific ideas of what love is, but she just doesn’t understand it at all.

The second part introduces us to Bernhard, the prince. Bernhard is a sex-repulsed asexual and, being the crown prince, is rather beset upon by his family because he’s pressured to marry and produce an heir, neither of which he’s in any way keen on. He just wants to draw and be left in peace, bless him. Though it’s not named as such because neither Bernhard nor Maris are aware of the terms, he and Maris are in a queer-platonic relationship. Bernhard is quite sweet. He’s just not what his family wanted him to be and he’s not sure how to go about giving them what they want while being true to himself.

As for the foreign princess whom the prince eventually marries in the original… Well, she has her own thoughts about marriage as well, but I’ll keep some mysteries about the story intact!

  1. What inspired you to write an asexual retelling of The Little Mermaid?

I wish I could recall the exact details and share a lovely anecdote with you, but I think it just popped into my head as I was thinking about doing short verse retellings. Both in Andersen’s original story and Disney’s adaptation, the eponymous mermaid is a lot more concerned with studying humanity than finding a relationship. So… Why do all the retellings of the tale focus on her ending up in a (presumed sexual) relationship as the way she can stay human? Love takes many forms, so why wouldn’t her love for human life and land be real enough for the enchantment to become permanent as well?

That’s what I wanted to explore with the retelling: the ways in which we take it for granted that when someone says ‘love’, we’re talking about a very specific kind of love. Other forms aren’t less real or less valid, though, and I wanted to write an asexual retelling to explore how that might look. I didn’t expect Bernhard to be asexual as well, though!

  1. How long did it take you to get from first draft to published book?

Oh, goodness, I can’t even recall. I think it depends on how you look at it. Sea Foam and Silence didn’t go through too many revisions after I’d finished it, so in that sense… It took a couple of months, I think? I also serialized it, though, so it took about a year or so to get it published as a book, just because I was still running the serial online.

So… The short answer is: I don’t know because it’s complicated! (Also I’m terrible at anything that involves numbers in any way.) I’d personally stick to an estimate of about a year, though, just because I know that getting the formatting for the book just right took me ages.

  1. What was your favourite part of the writing process for Sea Foam and Silence?

Can I cheat and say ‘all of it’? I had a wonderful time working on Sea Foam and Silence. It was the first time I set out to write a story that included characters who were deliberately written to be on the asexual spectrum, so that holds a special place in my heart.

When I was younger, I wrote equal amounts poetry and prose, but I gradually settled into being predominantly a prose writer. Sea Foam and Silence was the longest I’d spent on writing poetry in some time. It was really lovely to go back to writing poetry and enjoying the challenges that come with it.

  1. As an #ownvoices author, how would you like to see representation change in the next five years?

Great question! Obviously, I would like to see more representation and specifically more #ownvoices representation in general. But I think what I’d really like to see is for mainstream outlets to show more of an interest in #ownvoices indie authors because right now we’re getting largely ignored in favour of traditionally published mainstream books, which makes it a lot harder for us to find reach.

I think most of the indie authors I know who write and publish #ownvoices do so because traditional publishing just isn’t welcome to them, and that’s a sentiment that you see across all kinds of #ownvoices. For a non-indie example: Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s HEX was originally set in the Netherlands. He rewrote the book to be set in the US to appeal to the US market. Joyce Chng is a fellow indie writer from Singapore and she often discusses the issue of traditional publishing rejecting her work because it’s ‘too Asian’. I think RoAnna Sylver and Claudie Arseneault were both asked to tone down their asexual representation by their publisher? I may be misremembering, but they’ve both definitely talked about making the asexual representation in their books much clearer in a second edition after regaining their publishing rights.

So… While I’d love to see publishers be more aware of and sensitive to #ownvoices content in the works they publish as well as seeing them publish more #ownvoices content in general, I’d actually just like more discussions about our works in general and for respected and larger media outlets to take our work more seriously and boost our work in addition to traditionally published books. That would greatly help a lot of awesome indie authors find an audience. We’re good at working together to spread the word of each other’s works, but our reach is only big when it’s pooled. A single Kirkus feature or review could make a massive difference to indie authors. I’d love to see respected outlets approach #ownvoices authors to help boost our work more than they do now. Right now, all I can think of that does such is Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO initiative. John Scalzi offers indie authors a chance to mention their books in comments around Christmas holiday shopping time, but it’s easy to get lost in the crowd of comments.

I’d also like to see things like Ko-Fi and Patreon become more familiar and acceptable. For a lot of #ownvoices authors, those are a great way to earn much-needed income, but there are people who look down on people who use them.

Basically, I just want to see #ownvoices representation to be more visible and present everywhere. I want to see my field diverse and vibrant, telling all kinds of stories in all kinds of ways. I want there to be so much #ownvoices representation that we can all find something to relate to. Not every #ownvoices book will resonate with a person it’s representing (just look at some of the comments on Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway!) and may, in fact, do harm to another person when its very purpose was to lift that person up. Having more books offering representation allows us to find representation that does work for us and that feels like it was written for us.

  1. Who is your favourite #ownvoices author right now?

Ooooh, I hate questions that only allow me to pick one person, and I’d like to point out that we don’t always write #ownvoices books. Still, I’d like to talk about Shira Glassman and her Mangoverse series. (She’s written other shorter works as well, but Mangoverse is the biggest setting she has.) All the books can be read on their own, though I’d recommend reading them in order so you’ve got all the background building up nicely, and though all of them are fantasy, they each mix it up with a different subgenre. It’s really delightful to see!

On the whole, though, the Mangoverse books are about a geeky Jewish lesbian queen who has food intolerances and her found family. The book feature a range of diverse characters too, that I’ll leave it for you all to explore in more detail. Overall, I think the description most used to describe her work is ‘queer Jewish fluffy comfort reading’, which is entirely accurate, but really does the range a disservice. I just… really want to highlight Shira’s work because it makes the world a much brighter place for me and I want to share that light with everyone else.

Shulamit is absolutely determined to do the best she can to care for her people and her friends. She’s brave, loyal and incredibly smart, albeit more book-smart than practical-smart or street-smart. Those fall to Aviva, Shulamit’s partner, and Rivka, her best friend, respectively. Those three already make up a team of awesome, but combined with Isaac’s might as a wizard and his ability to be sneaky and ruthless in a way that Shulamit isn’t, they’re an unstoppable team of awesome. (Just… do not mess with people Rikva or Isaac care about. It will not end well for you. At all. I heart them.) I just really love how happy this series makes me and others.

  1. What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

Right now, I sadly feel like my work is progressing at a glacial pace because I’ve recently accepted a job offer in another country and I’m focusing on moving, getting settled, etc.

That said, I’m still chipping away at the first book in a trilogy about the adventures of a demisexual princess and that’s the project I’m most focused on at the moment. I’m really excited about it. I love the voices of the characters and I’m having a blast working on it. I’m just… really slow. And I’d love to be able to publish all three books at once. Ideally with a fourth companion to go with it. It is, after all, a romance, so I’d love to explore the romances starring who are currently side characters as well.

Realistically, once summer arrives, I expect I’ll switch gears entirely to something a lot shorter and quicker. Possibly another verse novel fairytale retelling to accompany Sea Foam and Silence because they’re relatively quick to write first drafts of, compared to a novel.

But for now I’m staying focused on the trilogy! I feel a little bad because I keep talking about it and I’m such a slow writer, but I’m just so happy and excited about it!

Author Bio:

lynn-artMost recently spotted in the wilds of continental Europe, Lynn E. O’Connacht lives on a steady diet of fiction. Her favourite treats are fantasy and soft science fiction. The lynnetbird is more commonly known as the lion-bird as cats have built up a positive symbiotic relationship with her. Sightings of Lynn E. O’Connacht are rare as she is a shy creature, most likely to be seen in the early mornings.

#InkRipples — Who should design your book covers?

inkripplesblueandgreen-1This year I’ve decided to participate in the #InkRipples challenge, a quest to complete 12 themed blog posts throughout the year. Created by the lovely Katie L. Carroll, Kai Strand, and Mary Waibal, #InkRipples is a great way for writers to create a community conversation AND to make sure their blog is consistently updated. And January’s conversation is all about book covers.

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about book covers lately, partially because I’m excited to see the cover art my publisher chooses for Good Bye but more because I’ve decided to self publish most (potentially all) of my other work, starting with a novelette, and that means it’s my job to make sure I have the best cover art possible.

As an indie author I have two options: pay somebody to create a cover, or learn how to do it myself. But in my mind only one of these is really an option–paying for it.

Why do I think it’s so important to buy my cover art?

Good artwork doesn’t necessarily sell books. Cover artists know what the conventions are for each genre. They understand how important it is for their covers to look good in thumbnails. Most also have an extensive collection of stock photography or deep familiarity with at least one paid stock photo archive. This makes it easier for them to find the perfect imagery for your book.

Secondly, I’m not particularly interested in learning how to do graphic design. One of my goals for 2017 is to experiment more creatively, but I want to focus on hands on work–painting, creating wire jewelry, making props. I already spend most of my day on the computer and I don’t want to add to it.

If you’re actively interested in learning how to do graphic design or you’re already comfortable with it, making your own cover might be worthwhile–as long as you take the time to research the norms for covers in your genre.

Buying your book cover doesn’t have to be expensive

A completely customized cover can run you anywhere from $300 to $2500, but your book might not require a completely unique cover. Many websites such as GoOnWrite and The Cover Collection have large collections of premade covers that you can buy for less than $100. Cover artists also frequently offer multiple packages at different price points, and many will format your books too, allowing you to save money by bundling your services.

Writing a series? One way you may be able to save money is to create a cover template for the entire series and have your artist alter the template for every new book, adding new stock photography or taking old images away. If you already have character art for the cover artist to work with this can also bring your cost down.

That said, you shouldn’t be afraid of spending a lot of money on your book cover. If you have the budget for the very best artist, spend the money(just make sure you’re actually hiring the best). Your book will thank you.

Have you thought about doing your own book covers? What about buying premade covers? Let me know in the comments section below!

Author Interview: Frank Martin

2017 is already off to an excellent start and today I’m thrilled to introduce my first interviewee of the year, Frank Martin of Burning Willow Press. His first book is actually two stand alone novellas published together and it sounds delightfully creepy–but don’t take my word for it, learn it from Frank!

The Blurb

What happens when an overbearing family drives a teenage girl into the arms of a mysterious, pale stranger? How can a high school junior explain having strange dreams of a Nazi concentration camp after being bitten by his neighbor’s monstrous dog? And who will win when two iconic creatures of the night clash on a desolate WWI battlefield? Dive into a world of werewolves and vampires with SKIN DEEP and ORDINARY MONSTERS, two standalone stories featured in a dual novella from author Frank Martin. And don’t forget to check out the bonus comic short HORRORS OF WAR found in both ends of this doubled-sided work of pulp and terror.

Can you tell us a bit more about Skin Deep/Ordinary Monsters

Frank: Both stories essentially revolve around young adult relationships. Skin Deep follows two sisters, Jessica and Laura, who are very different from one another. The older one, Jessica, is an artist while Laura is a track star. But they both held certain resentments towards their parents as teenagers. Jessica learned from her mistakes and grew past them, but she’s afraid Laura is going down a similar path. The question of the story is whether or not she can stop Laura before she does something she’ll regret. Ordinary Monsters follows Liam as he uncovers a familial secret his best friend Eric is hiding that dates all the way back to World War II. The two boys are close. Very close. But they aren’t family, and Liam is forced to decide whether or not Eric’s dark secret is worth embracing or running away from.

Me: It’s amazing how many of our fears stem from our relationships–both with ourselves and other people. I can’t wait to see how these relationships unfold in the book!

Which story did you write first?

I wrote Ordinary Monsters first after being inspired by a World War II documentary. It took me over ten years to write. Skin Deep, on the other hand, took me about ten weeks. Writing is funny sometimes, isn’t it?

Me: Every project is different–and sometimes we simply aren’t ready to write the ideas we have right away. Tackling big historical events like WWII can be especially tricky.

Why did you decide to publish these two novellas together?

I wanted to put together more than just a book. I wanted to put together a complete experience. I was inspired by the Grindhouse double feature from a few years ago. It had two movies and a series of 70’s inspired trailers. I wanted to do something similar, so I put together a double-sided print book with two stories and two short comics. And I figured what better monsters to pair up then the iconic two: werewolves and vampires.

Me: That’s awesome! I love double features and I can’t help the sudden urge to do something similar…

How did you find Burning Willow Press?

I was friends with Kindra from before. So when she and her husband started BWP I knew they would be open to such a wild and crazy project.

If you could give an aspiring author only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to take chances. You’ll never know when an opportunity will turn out to be a big one unless you follow through on it.

Me: All too true. We can’t know what will be a big deal until it already is. 

What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

I’m currently working on a fantasy/sci-fi trilogy about floating cities. Tons of characters and action. I’m on book two now and it’s been a blast to write.

Me: Floating cities? Sounds badass. I can’t wait to read about them.

Thanks, Frank, for the insights into this awesome project!

Frank Martin is a prose and comic writer that always enjoys exploring new genres and mediums. He has an urban fantasy anthology series Modern Testament currently published by Insane Comics. His debut horror novel Skin Deep/Ordinary Monsters was also recently released with Burning Willow Press. Frank lives in New York with his wife and two kids.


Twitter: @frankthewriter

Amazon Author Page

My 2017 Writing Playlist

harp_attack_2_cd_iconAnyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I obsessively listen to music while I’m doing… Well, pretty much everything. I have mild tinnitus and it’s rather distracting, plus the right music gets me into the zone for whatever I’m working on.

Now, up until 2016, I listened to the same thing constantly while I wrote: the Lord of the Rings complete soundtrack by Howard Shore, which might be the best soundtrack ever created(except for maybe The Hobbit soundtracks, which are also godly). This was great and I still listen to it all the time, but something else happened in 2016: I transitioned to working entirely from home. And I spent an incredible amount of time writing and editing books.

I’ve always listened to other things while I did paid work–usually some kind of rock and roll or metal–but this year I found myself needing to increase the size of my fiction writing playlist or change it altogether. The soundtracks simply weren’t doing it for me anymore. So I set out on a grand journey of musical exploration.

During my search I focused on music that combined fantasy elements with the guitar I love so much, and I’ve found some incredible albums to get me through 2017. Note that most of this music isn’t actually new, but it’s new to me.

Check out these albums in 2017:

1. Who You Selling For by The Pretty Reckless

This one is actually the most recent–and the most surprising–addition to my list, having only come out in October 2016. I’ve liked The Pretty Reckless since I discovered them a year and a half ago, but this album is the only one I like enough to listen to while I’m writing. It’s got a rather eclectic song list with several different sounds but a common theme of powerful lyrics, and it really shows the range of Taylor Momsen’s voice.

2. Dreamtale — Literally all of their albums

Do you like metal? Do you like fantasy? Do you like songs that tell a story? Well then you’ll love every single album by this incredibly talented Swedish metal band. They have six albums and most of them are pretty long, and this is definitely the band I listen to most often while writing.

3. Life Screams by Lacey Sturm

Lacey Sturm is the former singer of Flyleaf, a Christian rock band I used to like, and now she’s doing solo stuff. This album has some really heavy lyrics and has proven to be excellent inspiration for certain heavy scenes.

4. Revenge by Iron Fire

I like a couple of Iron Fire’s albums(they have eight), but Revenge is definitely my favourite. It’s also one of their oldest albums, but that’s not really a concern for me. The most important thing is that this music tells a story and is gritty enough for even the darkest stories I tell.

5. The Harp Twins

These twins take all kinds of songs and turn them into amazing harp melodies. Also, they wear awesome costumes and make videos for many of their songs. They have an impressive four albums and show no signs of stopping any time soon.

Do any of these interest you? What will you be listening to in 2017? Let me know in the comments below or by Tweeting to @DiannaLGunn

Author Spotlight: Josh Matthews

book-hell-gateToday’s author, Josh Matthews, is here to share how he wrote his debut novel Hell Gatewhich came out this past October. I hope you’ll find his advice as useful as I have.

Here is the blurb for Hell Gate:

Sixteen-year-old Jason McCreary is living a nightmare within a nightmare. Not only is he trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by demons from Hell, he also shoulders the burden for humanity’s fate as it was his mother who opened the gates in a scientific experiment gone wrong.

In a last ditch effort to redeem his family name and erase his guilt, Jason joins a squad whose mission is to travel to Paris and close the Hell Gate. Once there, they discover an environment more frightening than anything they could imagine and demons more terrifying than they had ever encountered before.

Time is now against them.

Can Jason gain his redemption along with the respect of his peers, or will a new web of lies threaten to rip apart his world and jeopardize his team’s only chance for success?

  1. Can you tell me a bit about your book? 

It’s essentially a story about coming of age during the apocalypse. Jason is trying to figure out who he is as an individual while the world around him collapses. Yet he still must deal with normal teenage angst, the excitement and uncertainty of his first romance, and somehow manage the guilt he feels because his mother caused the end of the world. Jason is going to grow up quickly. Through the series he will learn about redemption, duty, and honor, and will be forced to make life-and-death decisions most adults will never have to face.

  1. What part of the story came to you first?

I developed the entire series around the character of Sasha after I had seen a photograph of a young woman brandishing a minigun. I was intrigued with the idea of a strong, independent female character battling monsters with heavy weaponry, and around that concept the rest of the series formed.

  1. How long did it take you to get from first draft to published book?

From the day I started writing Hell Gate in the summer of 2013 until its publication in October 2016 was three and a half years, however that’s misleading because there was considerable down time in between. It took approximately six months to draft the original manuscript and revise the final version after receiving the beta reads. I then took a year hiatus from Hell Gate as I concentrated on other projects. When I submitted the manuscript for review in late 2015, it was accepted within two months, but I had to wait a year before my turn came in the publication schedule. I spent a month reviewing the manuscript with my editor and working with the cover artist on the jacket.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing Hell Gate?

The hardest part was getting correct the mindset of young adults. Granted, it’s a post-apocalyptic scenario, and all the young adults in the story have to grow up fast if they want to survive. There’s a certain teenage way of thinking I needed to tap into so the story does not come across as an adult pretending to be sixteen. I hope I was successful.

  1. Who are some of your favourite authors?

If I’m in the mood for dark horror, I prefer Graham Masterton, Ed Lee, or Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series. If I’m in the mood for lighter fare, I read Jeff Strand. Other favorites are Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzalez, and Jonathon Maberry. I’m also an avid reader of history, especially if it pertains to World War II.

  1. What are you working on next?

I recently completed the sequel to Hell Gate and have submitted it to Burning Willow Press. At the moment, I’m finishing up the first draft of the third book in the series and am plotting out the fourth, which I hope to begin writing by the summer of 2017.

 joshmatthewsheadshotJosh Matthews is a former New Englander who now lives in north Florida with his wife, teenage daughter, and four lovable but exasperating pets. Josh used to work for the U.S. Government where he had the opportunity to travel around the world and be exposed to numerous cultures, many of which will appear in the Hell Gate saga. He has always been a fan of horror novels and monster movies, and sees the Hell Gate saga as his way to share that love with a new generation of fans.


Check out Josh’s blog or buy your copy of Hell Gate today!

Accomplishments of 2016 + Creative Goals 2017

The world in 2016 has been a bit of a shit show(yes, I know I’m being generous here), but I’ve made massive leaps and strides in my writing career, and as much as I am concerned about where the world is headed from here(into fire and brimstone?) on a personal level, I’m extremely excited for the new year to begin. But first I’d like to take a moment to honour all the things I’ve accomplished this year, because acknowledging our past accomplishments is as important as creating goals for the future.

So here goes, my 2017 creative accomplishments:

1. Edited Good Bye & Submitted It

Spoiler Alert: I got the contract! Good Bye, a YA fantasy novella I’ve put many years of love into, is set to release in April 2017.

2. Edited Moonshadow’s Guardian & started working with a professional editor

I ended up only getting half of Moonshadow’s Guardian, one of my fantasy novels, edited professionally because I had an epiphany that requires somewhat major changes, but this was a big step for me and I’m confident I’ll be able to self publish Moonshadow’s Guardian in early 2018.

3. Drafted Moonshadow’s Guardian 2

Once upon a time I wrote a sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian. It then got abandoned for several years. This year, I wrote a completely different sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian, full of exciting things like civil war. It’s a pretty bare bones draft but I’m quite proud of the story, and I’ve got a bunch of ideas bouncing around for a third book.

4. Embarked on some co-writing projects

I can’t say anything about these other than that they exist and none of them are novels, which is exciting. I’ve learned a lot by experimenting with different forms.

5. Wrote a few short stories

One of them has even been edited multiple times and is currently sitting with beta readers for a second read through. I’m hoping to submit it to an anthology with a December 31st deadline, which at this point is rather ambitious, but doable.

6. Started a new but not new series

2016 has been full of creative epiphanies for me, including a big one about a book I had abandoned for several years. Which involved rewriting an entire mythology and deciding to write an entirely different series of books in the same world first. And probably a collection of short stories. Or three. It’s kind of a big, awesome world.

7. Contributed to an RPG

My first official publishing credit for short fiction came in this year, a setting for Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and MonstersI had an incredible amount of fun writing this setting and I hope to write for more games next year.

2017 Creative Goals

In 2017 one big shift I want to make is to expand my creativity beyond writing. Writing will obviously continue to be my focus and career path, but I want to expand my horizons.

1. Edit Moonshadow’s Guardian into publishable shape & crowdfund publication

Most of the editing that needs to be done is around the final conflict, so I’m confident I can pull this off–and I’ve acquired an amazing team of beta readers who are going to help me do it. My goal is to get all the story edits done by October, run a Kickstarter in October to raise funds for copy editing and officially release the book in February 2018.

2. Rewrite Moonshadow’s Guardian 2 & get to beta readers

I’m hoping to release this book in 2019, so this is my other big editing goal for 2017. The first draft of this book was one of the most difficult I’ve ever written, but it resulted in one of my best drafts, and I can’t wait to see how my beta readers will react.

3. Write first book in the new series

This one I’ve already started, and I’m about a thousand words(and fifty pages of notes) into it. Right now the working title is Navelme’s Story, since the main character is named Navelme and titles always take me a really long time. I’d love to be able to publish this book in October or November 2018.

4. Write, edit, and submit six short stories

It might not sound like a lot, but this is one short story every two months on top of all my other projects. And these are entirely new short stories. A short story generally takes me a few days to write and a month to edit, so this gives me some breathing room and seems reasonable on top of my book projects.

5. Edit old short stories

There are also four short stories sitting on my hard drive that I’m hoping to edit and release as freebies for subscribers to my newsletter. Two of these are in the world of Moonshadow’s Guardian and two are in the world of my new series.

6. Finish at least one of my coworking projects

Obviously coworking projects take a back burner to my own personal career, but I’d like to continue working on them and finish at least one.

7. Make at least one prop per month

One of those coworking projects happens to be a script that we’re planning to film ourselves, and this is the perfect creative endeavor for me. I’m going to start with simple things and move on to more complicated projects as the year goes on.

8. Become more consistent with my newsletter & blog

As I mentioned, this year has been a bit of a shit show, and I’ve been mostly good about keeping the blog together but pretty awful at consistently releasing the newsletter. I’m planning to restructure this blog to focus on shorter posts so it’s easier to maintain.

How I chose these goals

There are dozens of things I want to do creatively. I have half a dozen other novels completely outside either series I mentioned that I’d love to rewrite someday, and there are dozens of other creative skills I’d love to learn. But I ask myself one question about every goal on my list: how will this impact my writing career? 

My career as an author is only beginning. Now is the most important time to focus on big impact goals. This is why I’m focusing on books that are part of series–readers prefer series, especially in the fantasy genre. The projects I’ve chosen are also the ones I believe are closest to the possibility of publication. Yes, I’ve only just started the first draft of Navelme’s Story, but I’ve poured endless hours of love into this world and the characters, and I’m confident this first draft will be my best yet. Also, I edit much faster than I used to, so I believe it’s actually possible for me to get Navelme’s Story into publishable shape by the end of 2018.

How do you choose your goals? What are your goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments section below!

Moonless by Crystal Collier

moonlessCrystal Collier approached me about reviewing her most recent novel, Timeless, a few months ago when she was first organizing her blog tour, and I agreed to read the whole series. Now, since I picked up all three in ebook format, I had no idea how long any of the books were when I agreed to this, and I was hoping I could read all three of them in time to get the review of Timeless up during the blog tour.

Well, it turns out Moonless is a pretty long book, so the blog tour is long over(although I still participated and you can see Crystal’s guest post), but I’m still going to review Timeless, and I’ve decided to review the other books as well. After all, new reviews are good for older books too. Every review counts, regardless of when you get it.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the blurb for Moonless

In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially later when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night.

Among the many things to change for her that evening are: her physical appearance—from ghastly to breathtaking, an epidemic of night terrors predicting the future, and the blue-eyed man’s unexpected infusion into her life. Not only do his appearances precede tragedies, but they’re echoed by the arrival of ravenous, black-robed wraiths on moonless nights.
Unable to decide whether he is one of these monsters or protecting her from them, she uncovers what her father has been concealing: truths about her own identity, about the blue-eyed man, and about love. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with the man of her dreams and risk becoming one of the Soulless.

And here’s my review:

The story in this book is immediately interesting, and while I have to say it took me a while to warm up to the main character, the questions raised in the first couple chapters are big enough that it didn’t matter.

One really interesting thing about this book is the use of dreams. I can’t go into it much because I don’t want to take you to Spoiler Land, but there are several different dream sequences throughout the book, and the vast majority of them are done really well. As someone who always struggles with writing dream scenes and deciding how many to include/how long to make the dreams, I’m always impressed when a writer pulls this off well, and Collier definitely has.

Another interesting thing about this book–one that makes me really excited to continue reading the series–is that it presents unique twists on common myths. The magical species in this book are, as far as I can tell, original creations, but they have characteristics reminiscent of many myths. And although a lot of questions were answered at the end of Moonless, I have a feeling I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Really, my only complaint is the amount of time Alexia spends obsessing over the blue eyed stranger’s eyes. There are interesting reasons why she is immediately obsessed, and it’s worked into the world, but man, I don’t think I’ve ever read another book that spent so much time on a character’s eyes. It’s kind of insane.

Still, I really enjoyed this book and I’m definitely going to read the next one. Overall I would give Moonless a 3.5 star rating. You can buy Moonless here.

Meet Kelly Phillips, Indie Games Writer

sl28copyIt’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of indie games(you should see my Kickstarter collection–I actually had to ban myself from the site) so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I am thrilled to introduce today’s guest, Kelly Phillips, who has written for a host of indie games and even run her own indie tabletop RPG studio with her husband. She’s been kind enough to share some great insights into the world of games writing and writing in general.

Please give Kelly Phillips a warm welcome.

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Have you started thinking about your goals for 2017?

2016 is rapidly coming to a close–a fact I’m sure many people are grateful for, since this year’s been a bit of a shit storm–and that means it’s time to sit down with ourselves and have a hefty dose of total(and potentially brutal) honesty. We need to take a look at what we’ve accomplished this year, where we stand in our careers and lives, and what we want to accomplish next year.

Now, it may seem a bit early to do this. After all, we still have almost all of December to meet even more of our goals, right?

Well, that’s true to an extent, but December is one of the most hectic months of the year. The holidays bring all kinds of responsibilities with them, and if you’re going to visit relatives out of town, you’re going to lose several days of writing time this month.

Often during our yearly planning we like to treat December like the other months of the year, planning for the same level of productivity, but when the holidays come around we find ourselves too exhausted to push forward in even the tiniest ways. No matter how you feel about your family or how much fun you have at the festivities, holidays are exhausting for everyone and our planning should take this into account. Spending time with our families and friends is just as important as achieving all our personal and professional goals. So is self care, especially if your holiday dinners tend to be fraught with drama.

In other words, you probably won’t be as productive as you expect this December. I’ve never hosted my family holiday dinners but I’ve also never had a December where I actually met all of my goals, largely because I work hard all year and my brain needs some time to recharge.

So this year I’ve only set myself two big writing goals for the month–one to finish a short(ish) story and submit it to an anthology, and the other is to work closely with my editor(s) and make Good Bye the best it can be before our release date.

Which means I’ve also already got a pretty good idea what I’m going to do next year. No, I haven’t written it all down yet because things might change, especially the timeline for editing Good Bye, but I’m thinking about it, and to be honest, I’m already looking forward to 2017.

Are you thinking about next year already? Are you still too entrenched in an ambitious December goal list to look past it? Let me know in the comments section below!