Saturday, October 18, 2014

I think this might be one of my favorite parts of blogging...

... hosting cover reveals! I love seeing books go from manuscript to real book, so today it's my pleasure to show off Mara Valderran's cover. So gorgeous!

Today is the cover reveal for Altar of Reality, the first book from Shifted Realities--a brand new series by Mara Valderran. This YA dystopian is set to be released January 31st, 2015 by Curiosity Quills Press. Mark your calendars, and be sure to add the book to your Goodreads list! Want to stay up to date on all things Altar of RealitySign up for Mara's newsletter so you don't miss a thing!

And now...the moment Mara's we've all been waiting for...

When sixteen-year-old Madeline suffers her first grand mal seizure, she finds herself in an unfamiliar reality, surrounded by strangers wearing familiar faces. Her best friend, Brandon, tells her that the world has fallen to chaos, the aftermath of World War III ten years ago. Madeline doesn’t remember anything from this life— especially not the explosion four years ago that killed her parents and landed her in a coma, or the Lord Commander; a zealot leader of the Southern Territories now searching for her.

Madeline barely has time to process everything before waking up to the life she’s always known. As soon as she dismisses it all as a strange and vivid dream, she finds herself back there once more. Unsure if she’s truly caught in the middle of a brewing rebellion, or teetering on the brink of insanity, she finds herself flipping between the two lives. Her heart becomes torn between two versions of the same boy and the lines between her realities begin to blur as she struggles to save her lives in both worlds.


Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books, but she's more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.

Find Mara Online: 

Be sure to check out the Heirs of War, Crown of Flames blog tour going on right now! There are excerpts, interviews, a giveaway, and more. You can find the tour calendar here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thoughts on Being Gracious

I did something crazy this last weekend.

I love shoes.

I love dancing.

I LOVE dancing shoes.

So I thought it might be awesome to go to Boogie By the Bay. If you ever have the opportunity, go. Just getting to watch the other dancers is well worth the price of admission, and the pros who compete there make it easily some of the best dancing I've ever seen. EVER. And I've been to a number of impressive ballets live, so that's actually saying something.

I watched competitions, and they were incredible. The dancing, the costumes, the music (though there really was a propensity to dance to Bastille's Pompeii), it was unbelievably good. But when I ran into one of the dancer's after her competition and said "That was great! You danced beautifully!" she blinked at me, tears in her eyes and hugged me.

She said "Thank you so much. I didn't dance as well as I could have."

It shocked me. She'd done things I couldn't even dream of doing. She was magnificent. She was better than I will ever be. Her 'didn't dance as well as I could have' was so many leagues above where I'll ever dance, that it sort of hurt.

Literally, there are not enough years left for me to dedicate to family, job, writing, and dancing to ever get to where she was on a bad day. EVER.

It caught me up a little short. Not because I saw a moment of my mortality in her incredible dance that was "not as well as I could have," but because it was possibly the worst thing to say. Her dance touched me. It gave new meaning to the song she danced it to, and I'll never forget the place she took the dance and the song and me in that moment.

But to hear that it wasn't her best sort of--okay, I'll fess up, it Hurt.

She gave me her art. It had an impact on me. And then--after I screwed up my courage to approach this beautiful, vivacious dancer, a woman put on this Earth to Dance--she told me it wasn't her best.

I understood something else in that moment: just because you are the artist does not mean you have a clue how your art will touch people.

Without a doubt, I could have lived my whole life without knowing that her routine that brought me to tears (yeah, I'm a crier, maybe people shouldn't be proud of the waterworks I give them) wasn't her absolute top performance.

But that was just one more gift she gave me. She showed me how I should always treat people who see something beautiful in the art I create.

Her response should have been: Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I love to dance.

At the end of that exchange, there could be a brief exchange about an upcoming piece. In writing, it would be to direct the reader to the sequel, or other work by the writer (or other work that was similar by another writer).

That wasn't the moment to confess that the performance of something was shaky. She'd already touched my heart. There was no greater place she could have taken me by confessing that it could have been better. In fact, the admission that it wasn't her best cheapened the moment, as if by being touched by the lesser performance, it was some sort of degradation of my ability to discern good dancing from bad.

Yes, this is all in my head. Yes, it is quite possible that she could have danced better. Yes, my dance experience is small enough to be suspicious as a judge. But I know what I like, and I know when something speaks to my soul and not the bean counter that can tell if the steps were all in perfect alignment.

Her performance was more than enough to take me to somewhere else. I didn't need to hear about her insecurities. I understand that she had them. I understand that it was amazingly hard work to put the routine together. Trust me, I get that part.

But what I didn't need to know was that she was dissapointed in the performance that I found so much meaning in.

It's okay to have insecurities. It's okay to talk about how hard you worked on something. It's okay to be disappointed, but it's not okay to greet someone who is praising your words with regret and insecurity.

I get that writing and dancing are different. I understand that on a visceral level. But the thing to do is to swallow your pride and realize that the performance that is given, be it novel or dance or painting or anything where the goal is to touch someone else's heart, is the best that you could make at that moment. Maybe the floor was slippery--we get that. Maybe your editor wasn't what you'd hoped--we get that. What your fans are trying to say was that your work was amazing to them and they don't care how amazing it could have been. The people who come to you after they've experienced your art are saying they loved the art Just The Way It Is.

Accept that.

Own that.

And after they've taken their deep breaths and screwed up their courage to even make eye contact with you (Yes, I mean you, because everyone who reads this blog, whether you mean to or not, intimidates the crap out of someone else), they deserve the respect that you can give to the moment they have had. Once they tell you about how you touched their heart, it's no longer about you the creator: it's about those who have interacted with your art.

Be gracious. Your art has just done the thing you've always hoped it would: you have touched someone's life. Be thankful, not everyone manages to achieve the One Thing they have always tried to do with your art. Be sure to say thank you. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

I know, it would look great in a beautiful cover

It's been a while since I put a smokin hot cover up on my blog, and lucky for you all, I've got one to show off! Behold!


A world like ours, but filled with gears of brass, where the beating heart is fueled by steam and the simplest creation is a complex clockwork device.  

Within this tome, you’ll find steampunk fairy tale re-tellings, as well as original stories that will send your gears turning.  

Welcome to the steampunk realm, with eleven authors guiding your path. 
GEARS OF BRASS is a steampunk anthology published through Curiosity Quills.  It will be available for purchase on November 10, 2014.  Within the pages, you’ll come across clockwork inventions and steampunk-ified fairy tale retellings.  Eleven authors will guide you through worlds filled with airships, top hats, and corsets.  

Meet the authors:

Jordan Elizabeth writes young adult fantasy for Curiosity Quills, including ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW which was published in October and the upcoming TREASURE DARKLY; she’s represented by the Belcastro Agency.

J. Million is the author of Last of the Giants and can always be found reading or writing. 

Lorna MacDonald Czarnota is a professional storyteller and author of several books including, Medieval Tales That Kids Can Read and Tell, Breadline Blue, Legends Lore and Secrets of Western New York, Wicked Niagara, Native American and Pioneer Sites of Upstate New York, and Dancing at the Crossroads: Stories and Activities for At-Risk Youth Programming.

SA Larsen is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary and is the author of published short stories, community-interest stories, and magazine articles focused on children. 

Grant Eagar is an Engineer who would take the tales he told his children at bed time, and transform them into fantasy stories. 

Clare Weze is the author of The House of Ash (forthcoming) and the co-author and editor of Cloudscapes over the Lune.

Eliza Tilton: gamer, writer and lover of dark chocolate; author of the YA Fantasy, BROKEN FOREST, published by Curiosity Quills Press.

Heather Talty's stories have been featured in Enchanted Conversation, as well as her own fractured fairy tale site, Mythopoetical (

W.K. Pomeroy is a third generation writer who has published more than 70 short stories/articles/poems across many genres and styles, which now includes Steampunk.

Christine Baker is the author of Lana's End, The Guild of Dagda, and many more. 

Natalia Darcy: a bookilicious reader, tea drinker and Zumba aficionado who enjoys playing cards against humanity and washing her hair with ice cold water. 

You can get your steampunk fix before GEARS OF BRASS is released in November.  To enter for your chance to win a copy of GEARS OF BRASS, you will need to share the cover.  This can be on your blog, Facebook, Twitter… Each time you share the cover image, log it into Rafflecoper to record it.  It will give you more chances to win.  The drawing for the winner will be held on October 27th.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Weddings and weekend, Oh My

Some how, another weekend has come and gone. My cousin got married, and all was merry in the world. We went gaming (haven't been doing gaming in years, so that was a blast), and now it's time to go back to work. But before getting back to work, there's time to squeeze in one last scrap of weekend. I think I'll use it to play some video games!
My kid was a hipster before me.

In other news, there's still a tiny bit of time to enter the Shelfie Blog Hop. Here are the entries so far, but if you want to hop on the Blog Hop and you've signed up in the Rafflecopter, leave a link in the comments to your post as well.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

We've all got Insecurities

It's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. If you don't know what I'm talking about, IWSG is a group started by The Ninja Captain where we hop around to blogs about the universal truths of writers: Insecurity! This month, Ninja Captain Alex has wrangled Kristin Smith, Elsie, Suzanne Furness, and Fundy Blue into being cohosts. Everyone be sure to go thank our cohosts for lending a hand.

Now on to the insecurities! (wait, maybe I shouldn't sound so excited). 

I think there comes a point in our writing where you just have to accept insecurity: I mean really, I’m scared to write. I’m worried you all are judging my words. I’m worried people will read my book and think I’m the biggest idiot on the planet. I worry that my words somehow cast a magical spell on the people who decided to publish them, and ANY MINUTE NOW I’m going to get an email that reads something like “Dear Author, I’m sorry to inform you that we have finally woken from the spell you weaved with your words. We will not be publishing your book because, as it turns out, you write crap.”

Yeah, that’s what I worry about.

And you know what, it’s just like all the other worrying.

Turns out that having a book deal just changes your insecurities. I sort of thought it would banish them, but now I get it. Now I understand what everyone was talking about. Once there is some success, the insecurity morphs from “I’m never going to get anywhere because I’m no good,” to “It’s a fluke that I got this piece of success, and everyone knows it but me.” Right. So there’s that.

And, honestly, this insecurity exists for everyone, maybe yours is different, or it wears a cute hat with a bow on it when it tries to convince you that you aren’t that great. Maybe your insecurities sound something more like “who am I to dedicate so much of my life to writing when I could be doing things to help those in need around me.” The point is, it’s always there. There’s always something pulling us from writing, and the key to overcoming the omnipresent insecurity? Ignore it and keep writing.

I’m sorry this is a tough love sort of post, but the reality is, we all feel it. We all have insecurities. We all have feelings of inadequacy from time to time. Some people can manage to keep going*, some people can’t. You know what we call the people who keep going?


We get it, Rena, but HOW? 

Oh yeah, writer peeps, I hear you. It ain't easy to keep writing when you feel like it's all for naught, or that every word you write is going to get trashed into the great abyss of your harddrive. I get that. But at some point, even knowing that the first MILLION** words went into the great wordprocessor in the sky, at some point you just have to write. It's the only thing that get's the job done. But if you need to know how I do it, here you go: 

I was gaming with some friends in college (rolemaster, for those of you interested in my RPG of choice), and we were facing down something really nasty. Our party was low on everything except cracked up ideas (those we had in spades). At one point our GM turns to us and asks, "Aren't you scared?" My buddy responded, "We're too stupid to be scared." 

Write like that. Maybe not too stupid to be insecure, but too tired or too caught up in the story, or too stubborn (yup, that's me, the mule writer, I get everything done by stubborn refusal to accept other options). I hope that helps. If you feel like shaking your fists at me for not understanding, well, I get that. In about a week or two, I'm sure I'll have a completely different song to sing about the whole insecurity thing, but this one works today.

*to be clear, I’m not saying that every scrap of every day has to be filled with writing. I’m saying that everyone has a hard time writing. Some people can push through it. We all feel the crazies, but that’s not enough to stop some people. It’s not enough to stop a lot of people, so get back out there and write. 

**Yes, I know that plenty of people have all kinds of success well before the million word mark, I just wasn't one of them. I didn't get so much as partial request until I was at 3/4s of a million words. Apparently, I like the scenic route. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Where do novels come from? (the sad truth of me)

I have a bunch of new coworkers, and inevitably, people ask about where the ideas for a novel come from.

Ideas are fickle beasts, and I’m lucky (or cursed depending on your view) to get many ideas and in a whole range of development: everything from a scrap of an idea to whole novels downloaded into my brain with everything down to chapter titles. Where does that come from? I know people often point to something mythical and religious, but I feel like that’s the easy way out.

Also, science. There have been a few studies linking depression and pain with the part of the brain that creates (I’m too lazy to look up the studies and direct you, but master Google could help you out if you just take a minute).

I’m not going to lie, it makes only too much sense to me. Whenever I’m in painphysical, emotional, you name ita book comes out of it. If the event is big enough, more than one book.

I wish I could say that my books come from a place of beauty and grace and that all the good in the world contrived to make me and my books what they are. Let’s be real: when chased by a predator, it’s not the hope of surviving that motivates your feet, it’s the fear of the pain. And so to with my writing. Spear me in the heart, and a book will appear. I’m not saying I don’t have books written without pain, but I know myself, I’ve never been motivated by the carrot. I’m all stick, and so are my writings.

And how about you, are your books more stick or carrot? And for a real can of worms, which do you think makes a better book and why?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And I present, my current shelfie

I mean, I asked people to share their shelfies, so I guess this is a classic case of show me yours I'll show you mine. As you can see, if you were worried that you have the messiest shelf out there, you got nothing to be worried about. That's mine--after I cleaned it up. 
That's my traveling super hero group.

Some of the titles are upside down. Some are... you know what, no judging. Yes, that's SAVE the Cat and The Cat Strikes Back, and the Art of War For Writers (Thanks Liz!!!)

The really sad thing about running shelfies while my whole library is in storage is that my whole library is in storage (cries into my borrowed copy of Harry Potter). Usually my shelves are filled with an equal mix: modern but not super new, Hot of the Press, and impossibly out of print.  But with all the books in their boxes, my poor books are pretty lonely--and mostly the same mix (the hot off the press books are in a stack right next to the shelf waiting to be read!).

The tootsie roll piggy bank was not staged. That's where it lives, full of pennies. I'm basically a really mature 12 year old. Incapable of giving up the things I love, but ready to crack open the mysteries of the universe... just after I finish this next GL book.

And if you have no idea what I'm talking about with all this shelfie business, it's a Blog hop.

Go around and check out everyone entries!

Tami Aschenbrenner