Monday, July 28, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop (plus 2-book giveaway!)

This blog hop started a while back, its purpose: to show how authors do their thing. (Okay, that's the "Serena Sum Up" of the purpose. But it gets the idea across, eh?)

I was tagged twice for this blog hop, first by Rachel Starr Thomson (click her name and it will link you to her great post!), to whom I must extend my apologies because in the midst of planning for a family vacation, I totally forgot to do my post! (So sorry, Rachel!)

But *great save* I was tagged again by my good friend Carla Laureano. (click her name for a link to her post!) The instructions given were to answer a few short questions about my personal writing process. So... here goes!

Basically, my writing process can be summed up like this:

Yep. That's pretty much how I do it.

But... since there were specific questions given for me to answer, I suppose I might as well give it a go.

1. What am I writing right now?

I am currently suffering through the first draft of The Sunken Realm, which is the second book in the Seahorse Legacy set and the fourth book in the Eyes of E'veria series. Confused yet?

This book picks up where book 3, The Seahorse Legacy left off and introduces a dark new character who is poised to inflict more trouble upon Cazien and Erielle (who suffered quite enough, one would think, in the first book of this set!) After making haste to his home on Eachan Isle to recover from injuries sustained in the previous book, Cazien and Erielle set sail for the Island Realm of Nirista where they hope to discover clues that will lead them to the hundreds of children who were stolen from neighboring kingdoms, and perhaps even participate in the famous Tournament of the Twelve. If he can make her stop throwing daggers at his head. She's a little angry with him at the moment. *wink*

For those who felt emotionally spent, or those who felt as if they were left hanging a bit at the end of The Seahorse Legacy, I am pleased to report there is still quite a bit of suffering ahead for both Erielle and Cazien in The Sunken Realm. But I have fallen in love with E'veria and its people (the pirates, in particular!) and I am really excited to see how Caz and Erielle's story will come full circle over the course of the next several months and revisions.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I think my books are different from others in their genre because, while they are epic fantasies, they are epic fantasies written with romance readers, specifically YA romance readers, in mind.

My style of writing puts a lot of emphasis on dialogue and on developing the relational elements of the story (friendships, as well as familial and romantic relationships), but I don't spend as much time describing the geography and politics of a world as many of the other epic fantasy authors out there. For me as a reader--and maybe as a person, too--, when the future of a relationship is at stake, that has more potential for pain and joy and bonding with the character than the threat of death. Death-schmeth. If I may quote that most quote-worthy of romances, The Princess Bride, "Death cannot stop true love."

Give me a good kiss, baby, and I'm yours. I'm weird like that, I guess. But when fantasy authors spend pages and pages describing geography, topography, politics, and machines, they lose me to boredom. Just being honest here. If I was on scene with them (which clearly, my reader-ADD will not allow), I might say, "Yes, dear. The mountain is scary and the sword is cool, but would someone please just kiss somebody already?" 

At heart, I guess I'm a sucker for good old fashioned romance and magical happy ever afters.

And pirates. Yeah, I'm a big sucker for pirates.

As epic fantasies go, I think the Eyes of E'veria books are a little more accessible to those who might shy away from epic fantasy novels due to the size of said novels when compared to other genres. The thick tomes of which we fantasy authors are so fond can intimidate those who just want to pour some bubblies in the tubbly, melt into a story, and float away. (Another reason I love Kindle books. I can sneak my big ol' fantasy novels on your Kindle without you even noticing, muah-hahahahah!) Yes, my (paperback) books are rather thick, and each story takes two of those thick books to tell, but since they come with dashing knights, cheeky pirates, feisty heroines, and a fair amount of relational focus, I hope readers can float away in them, bubblies or nah.

Oh, wow. I just said, "or nah." Clearly I hang around teens too much! 

3. Why do I write what I do?

Fantasy is a great genre to work a fairy tale into, but even my upcoming contemporary paranormal series has a bit of that "fairy tale" feeling. I can't imagine writing a story that doesn't have a romance thread or at least a little bit of a feeling of a fairy tale. I do so love a happy-ever-after!

4. How does my writing process work?

See above photo collage. 

But, seriously? In the first question, I mentioned that I was "suffering through" the first draft. I'm not exaggerating. For me, as soon as the short-lived fever known as "New Story Euphoria" wears off, reality crashes in and I realize I have no freaking idea
what to do with all these fictional people who are counting on me to torture them on their way to their Happy Ever After. Writing the first draft of ANYTHING is something I dread. 

And did I mention that my first drafts are horrible? As in, they stink up the joint?

Yes, I know they are the all-important bones that will serve to support the story-that-shall-be, but in that first draft they are pretty darn mushy bones, encased in globs of story fat that must be trimmed in order to find the few--yes, few--good meaty bits that can be expanded into something worth reading. My first drafts are truly cringe-worthy.

Good news, though: I'm a much better re-writer. I love the editing process of subsequent drafts. But that first one? Ugh. So, yes. I am suffering through the writing of this book at present, trying to make this story come the tiniest bit alive in the hope that a few months down the road I will have crafted a final draft that will catch a favorable wind and sail into readers' hearts.

For the most part, I am a seat-of-the-pants, organic, "I have no idea what is going to happen next" author. That being said, desperation (and reader expectation!) has led me to consult a lot of books on writing craft, like James Scott Bell's Write Your Novel From the Middle, which led me to try my hand at outlining *gasp* The Sunken Realm. It's not the best or most complete outline, and it certainly isn't concrete, because, let's face it, I'm a pantser. If Caz and Erielle want to go a different way a few weeks from now, chances are, I'll let them. 

Hush now. They're real to me.

Still, I spent most of June simply outlining the story and brainstorming scene ideas. I didn't dig into the actual writing of the book until mid-July. As of this post date, I'm about 50,000 words in, but I also know at least 20,000 of those words will be trashed before sending the *gasp* completed 120,000+ word first draft to my developmental editor on September 30.

That's two months from now. That's 64 days. To write about 90,000 more words. Oh. My.

*grabs paper bag in which to hyperventilate*

Hmmm. This scenario seems really familiar. 
Could it be because I was in almost the same situation this time last year with The Seahorse Legacy?

Yep, this pantser is really thankful for that outline, even though I know it is both incomplete and subject to change. This go-round I just really felt like I needed to have a better road map for where these characters were going than some vague idea that ended in: "a sassy happy-ever-after, after they've been through some scary bad stuff and a couple of good kisses." Therefore I'm leaning on that outline to give me direction. 

As with every other book I've written, the beginning few chapters are giving me fits, so this time, thanks to that outline, I'm able to jump forward to the heart of the action and camp out there for a while. At this particular moment, I am planning to write my pivotal, outlined scenes first and then fill in the cracks before I come back and figure out how to speed up the beginning. 

Or, y'know, what ev. (That's the pantser in me chiming in. Just can't seem to shut her up.)

But even with that outline to lean on, since all this has to happen by September 30 I'm starting to get a little nervous. Good thing I thrive best under tight deadlines! And speaking of deadlines... I should probably get back after it!

So that's my little hippity on this blog hop. And now I'm tagging my author friends Rachel HauckBrock Eastman, and Miranda Uyeh. Watch for their answers to these questions coming soon to their blogs.


The Seahorse Legacy
by Serena Chase
is available
at Amazon
Are you an author, aspiring author, or know someone who is? I'm giving away a Kindle copy of my latest release, The Seahorse Legacy, as well as a Kindle copy of James Scott Bell's Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers
Write Your Novel From the Middle
by James Scott Bell
is available at Amazon
and Everyone in Between.
This book has helped me a lot
while working on The Sunken Realm, and given the topic of this blog hop, it seemed an appropriate offering to share with EIR readers. To enter, use the rafflecopter below. 

Thanks for stopping by and reading about my crazy writing process!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hip-hop dancer image credit: Copyright: <a href=''>feedough / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Monday, July 21, 2014

Megan Reviews SYLO (The Sylo Chronicles, book 1) by D.J. MacHale (YA)

(reviewed by Megan Besing, EIR regular guest contributor)

What it’s about:
(from publisher Razorbill)

THEY CAME FROM THE SKY parachuting out of military helicopters to invade Tucker Pierce’s idyllic hometown on Pemberwick Island, Maine.

They call themselves SYLO and they are a secret branch of the U.S. Navy. SYLO’s commander, Captain Granger, informs Pemberwick residents that the island has been hit by a lethal virus and must be quarantined. Now Pemberwick is cut off from the outside world.

Tucker believes there’s more to SYLO’s story. He was on the sidelines when the high school running back dropped dead with no warning. He saw the bizarre midnight explosion over the ocean, and the mysterious singing aircraft that travel like shadows through the night sky. He tasted the Ruby—and experienced the powers it gave him—for himself.

What all this means, SYLO isn’t saying. Only Tucker holds the clues that can solve this deadly mystery.
LOOK TO THE SKY because Pemberwick is only the first stop.

Megan’s thoughts:
The plot is simple. The town is barricaded off from the world.  A strange substance makes rounds giving off super powers. Its only downfall seems to be…death. Yikes! Not a premise that makes me jump up and down, necessarily, but then I started reading about . . . football.

I enjoy football, sure, but I’m not in love with football. However, Sylo’s opening chapters made me love it. D.J. MacHale has a gift for drawing you away from reality and into the world he created.

What I enjoyed most about this book were the characters. Oh, boy, were they full of spunk!

Tucker, whose point of view you follow, just wants to live a normal life. Tucker doesn’t need to be anything special, he just wants to live and be happy. Instead, he is forced to become a ‘leader’ during an end-of-the-world scenario--definitely not on his to-do list! Quinn, his best friend, is the sarcastic brainiac. When the mess starts and the football ends they are focused in cahoots with Tori, the girl who keeps everything to herself. The ‘band’ is rounded out with Olivia, the hot one, and Kent the jock. It’s a ride in and of itself.  

Who is SYLO? What are they really there for? Lies, betrayals, and deaths are only the beginning. Each chapter will keep you guessing until the end. And The Storm, the second book in The Sylo Chronicles, promises to bring the guessing game to a whole new level.

RATING: 4.6 Stars
CONTENT: Edgier nearing Edgiest (language and violence)
(sequels available)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Don't you just love it when you discover a new author with a wonderful, fresh, evocative voice? Me too. Let me introduce you to Rajdeep Paulus and her novel, SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS

What it's about: 
(from publisher Playlist Fiction)
When high school cell phone disruption forces a classroom ban, the words on a Post-it note spark a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. Transfer student Talia Vanderbilt has one goal at her new school: to blend in with the walls. Lagan Desai, basketball captain and mathlete, would do just about anything to befriend the new girl. One Post-it note at a time, Lagan persuades Talia to peel back her heart, slowly revealing her treasure chest of pain—an absent mother, a bedridden brother, and an abusive father. In a world where hurt is inevitable, the two teens search for a safe place to weather the storms of life. Together.

Why you should read it: 
This novel surprised me in so many ways. With beautifully crafted poetic prose, author Rajdeep Paulus weaves fear and tragedy, hope and romance through a story that dictates you endure emotional anguish right along with her characters. When I say this is not an easy book to read, I am not speaking of vocabulary or comprehension levels, though there is a superb level of craft on display in this novel; I am speaking of the emotional depth of suffering through which this author dredges a reader's soul. Once you experience — for that is how it feels — the horrors of Talia's reality, it is impossible to disengage yourself from it. It is no wonder this novel has received so many award nominations and has garnered praise from critics, bestselling authors, and readers, alike. It is a work of art.
Talia is so fragile, so frightened, and so lonely — but she never comes off as weak, only as waiting to discover her strength. Lagan is steady, patient, creative and every bit the romantic hero she needs, but the prison within which Talia lives erects obstacles to his heroism. Although the physical, verbal, and emotional abuse suffered by Talia is beyond difficult to bear, even as a reader, it resonates as all-too-true, making Swimming Through Clouds the sort of story that lingers and begs you not to exit it unchanged.
Watch for my rec of the sequel, Seeing Through Stones, coming soon!
(rec first appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
CONTENT: Edgier (especially for Christian fiction) due to domestic violence/child abuse
STORY: 5 stars

Monday, July 14, 2014

THE ONE -- a sweet ending for Kiera Cass's bestselling YA "The Selection" series!

What it's about: 
(from publisher HarperTeen)
The Selection changed America Singer's life in ways she never could have imagined. Since she entered the competition to become the next princess of Illéa, America has struggled with her feelings for her first love, Aspen—and her growing attraction to Prince Maxon. Now she's made her choice . . . and she's prepared to fight for the future she wants.
Find out who America will choose in The One, the enchanting, beautifully romantic third book in the Selection series!

Why you should read it: 
The wildly popular Selection series by Kiera Cass is sweet YA fairy tale romance — within a dystopian world full of explosions, gunshots, secrets, politics, and a little sass. I loved it, and although I am happy with the way it concluded, I am feeling a little dejected *sniffles* to have come to "the end."
In both book two, The Elite, and book three, The One, there were a lot of times I wanted to grab America by the shoulders and shake some sense into her, but regardless of the poor choices she made and the opportunities she ignored, I remained gleefully addicted to this story and entirely invested in its outcome. Now that I've completed the entire tale *insert rapturous sigh* I consider myself among the quieter — and also, ahem, older — members of the Selection Fandom.
The pace of the series is quite steady up until the last third of the final book, when — Zip! Bam! Zinger! — everything changes and the characters are forced to suffer one tragic surprise after another. I would be lying if I didn't admit to a gasp, followed closely by an exhaled, "No-oooo!" at one particularly violent moment in the book. The author masterfully pulled off that shocker by building my affection for the character-in-question so much, but so gradually, that it almost physically hurt to say goodbye when the moment struck.
Although the idea of a royal-wedding-meets-The-Bachelor reality competition might seem a little fluffy at first glance, don't let the story premise fool you. Instead, trust the readers who have made this series so insanely popular. If this is fluff, it's a dark-chocolate mousse flambé — the sort of fluff that has a deep-flavored smoothness throughout and sizzling finale that leaves you fully satisfied. I ate it up.
Read the first two books first, of course, but once you do, I think you will find The One to be a tasty — and tasteful — fairy tale/dystopian romance.
(rec originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
Content: Edgy -- due to violence and a couple of steamy-but-clean scenes

Story: 5 stars

Friday, July 11, 2014

Recommended for readers who love a great epic fantasy (with a good dose of romance!) OATH OF THE BROTHERHOOD by C. E. Laureano

What it's about:
(from publisher TH1NK)
In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man's worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword,Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.
When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king's sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine's ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.
Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he's meant to play in Seare's future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?

Why you should read it: 
Oath of the Brotherhood introduces readers to a medieval world in which the natural and supernatural collide in sometimes frightening and often beautiful moments of Christian allegory and emotional truth. Author C.E. Laureano does not hesitate to strike her characters in the heart, contrasting the dissonance of passionate despair against the brighter chords of hope as they are forced to exchange betrayal for aid, death for life, friendship for sacrifice, honor for faithfulness, and all for love.
Conor is a very relatable teen boy, a likable outsider who longs to find his place in this world. Aine is, likewise, a character who seems just beyond the reach of true acceptance in her current situation. As attraction grows between Aine and Conor, it becomes the stirring, driving force of the tale and provides "that one good thing" to strive toward when everything good seems out of reach.
Best known for her debut contemporary romance, Five Days in Skye (written as Carla Laureano), this author's second offering proves she is a powerful voice that will appeal across multiple genres. Rich with Celtic lore, battle, and competing magics, C.E. Laureano's Oath of the Brotherhood is a heroic coming-of-age fantasy experience and an inspiring, romantic YA series opener.
(rec originally appeared at USA Today's Happy Ever After blog)
Content: Edgier (due to violence)
Story: 5 stars


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