Free Books? Indie eCon 2017 Book Awards

Just a friendly reminder that my book Alen’s War is free for the next five days!

All this thanks to the Indie e-Con Book Awards. The best part of this contest is that, for the next week, all y’all fantastical readers can head over to Amazon and download any or all of the eligible books (some for free, others for 99¢) and dive into the literary adventures. Then, on the 18th, you can vote for your favorite books in different genres. Click this button to visit the official e-Con page for details- it’s all on the site!

Oh, and did I mention that you should attend the e-Con on March 20-24? Kendra E. Ardnek (remember her?) is hosting some brilliant indie authors to talk about a plethora of topics, like outlining and online marketing, and she’s also got some writing and fan-art contests going. It will be superb. At least, I’m expecting it will be; this is only my first year attending, too. So do click on the button and look around. Who knows? You may find something awesome.

By the way, if you enjoy my book, feel free to leave a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads so other bookworms can know how you liked it. A little indie secret: reviews aren’t always easy to get, and whenever you take the time to rate any book or leave a nice word about it, the author greatly appreciates it. At least, I know I do- so thank you!

Oh, and come back this Thursday during one of your reading breaks, because then we’ll be talking about a certain Star Wars Story.

Until then, happy reading!

The Day Is Here

Yes! Hahaha! The time has come, the day long awaited.

Alen’s War releases today!

AlensWarECover2

Get the paperback book here

or the Kindle edition here

(If you won the giveaway last month, you’ll get your free eBook today.) Even better, once you buy the paperback, you can add the Kindle version for just 99 cents with the Matchbook program. But there’s still better news for all you avid readers. If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read Alen’s War for free until October 23. Isn’t that awesome? I certainly think so.

And if you want to read a completely impartial review from an unbiased third party, check out my sister’s review on my other blog.

That’s it! In the next few days and weeks I’ll probably be doing promotions and countdown deals, so keep one eye open for those. For now, fare thee well, and have a blessed Thursday!

Giveaway Winners

A quick congratulations is in order!

I’ll be sending you your free ebooks on July 28th. Mazel tov!

And thank you to all who entered. Hold out until July 28th… it will be worth it. For now, you can read the first three chapters of Alen’s War on Figment.

Cover Reveal, Survey, and a Giveaway

The title says it all. Next week we’ll be back to a normal posting schedule, I promise; but for now, we get some new goodies for Alen’s War!

Cover first…

AlensWarECover2

Ah, I fooled you, didn’t I? (sneaky Sheriff of Nottingham face) I said before that the color scheme would probably be deep red, but then I turned around and made it soft green. That wasn’t a lie. I initially did want a red cover to match Agran’s flag, but while I was playing with colors, the green really stood out to me and contrasted well with the ship. Oh, and it wasn’t as scary as deep blood red.

Inevitably someone is going to ask the question, so I’ll answer now: Yes, I designed the cover myself, but I had a lot of sound input from other artists and the useful features of Paint.net and Picmonkey.  Who said an indie cover had to be expensive?

And that brings us to my second announcement. I need your help with a new blog series: Q&A on indie/self publishing. I don’t pretend to be an expert self-publisher, but other new authors and interested readers are always asking me the many questions that I had to answer myself when I was publishing Son of Ren. Obviously it’s a hot topic. In order to write about it, I need to know what questions to answer, so if you have a question about self-publishing, post it in the comments or email me through this page. Thanks in advance for your help!

Finally, the fun part- the giveaway. It opens on Friday, and you can enter by following me or tweeting a message to your friends. Here’s the link. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

The Nitty-Gritty of Alen’s War

Here it is: the Big Blog Post about my upcoming novel, Alen’s War. And this one will be fun.

Let’s begin with the updated blurbWhich is probably the strangest word in the English language. This is likely the version that will end up on the back of the book, but suggestions are welcome before I finish the final cover design:

Alen, the son of the king of Agran, is given a simple secret task: find an insurrectionist named Galer and bring him back quietly to the capital for trial, but in a series of tragic mistakes Alen sets off a full-blown civil war. Now Agran is out to have Alen’s head for a wereguild. To save himself and his homeland, Alen and a small group of fighters  must capture Galer once and for all. Yet their own dark secrets haunt them at every turn and foil their plans.

What else can I explain here? I find it hard to classify this book as anything beyond the generic “fantasy.” It has a young protagonist on a quest, and much of it takes place on beautiful pirate ships and frozen seashores. However, the whole plot revolves around a war that began as a rebellion. So what do I call it? I call it my fantastical YA war story that feels like historical fiction about vikings.

And now for the real cast of characters. Some of this might be a repeat of my introductory post, but there’s also some new stuff, so stick around. Oh, and I’m doing the dream cast this time, too.

Name: Alen
Personality type: ISFJ
Dream cast: …Alas, I could not find the perfect actor for my young protagonist!

     The prisoner lifted his head, the deep look of hurt still hanging in his eyes. “Then what will you do to me now?”
     Alen grinned. “I hope to save your life.”

What can I say? Alen may be a son of the king of Agran, but he’s by no means a normal prince. He is adorable, but not too soft; uncertain, but not a chicken; fierce, but not too impulsive. In short, he is every “good kid” when he or she was sixteen years old. Strangely enough, loyalty is simultaneously his strongest asset and his worst fault. It is the quality that propels him forward to accomplish his mission and yet holds him back from truly achieving the truth. Alen feels that letting go of the past is disloyalty, so he has to keep everything inside of him, pushed down where he cannot forget it.

Name: Brandis
Personality type: ISTP
Dream cast: Richard Armitage

That torch, though. (credit)

     “Do you believe we will win?” Alen asked.
     Brandis turned sharply, as if surprised and even offended. “Do you disbelieve it?” he returned, and Alen nearly withered at the frown that Brandis gave him. Then Brandis laughed. “Well, so do I.”

Okay, I admit it: Brandis the raider is my favorite character I have ever written, and that’s coming from an author who has written over thirty unique characters in one fantasy world. He is (dare I say it) Long John Silver, Coriolanus, and Faramir all rolled into one- although I wasn’t thinking of all those characters while I wrote him. To be honest, I wrote Brandis specifically with Armitage in mind. Brandis is the enigma that refuses to be solved: the friend who betrays and then apologizes; the killer who rescues people from fires; the raider who speaks like an English professor. And all that is resolved in his dark secret.

Name: Turomar
Personality type: INTJ
Dream cast: Harry Lloyd

I know… another Robin Hood actor. If only he would lose the mustache. (credit)

Still Turomar stared out at the grey sea. “I do not need love.”

Ah, my resident Mastermind. In many ways, Turomar the strategist is me gone wrong. That is, if I had been abandoned and rejected for all of my life, I would have the skewed worldview and priorities that Turomar does- all of which may explain why he’s a close second for my favorite character. Turomar may have a few acquaintances, but he refuses to let anybody into his life for fear that he will be written off as worthless or rejected altogether.

Name: Galer
Personality type: ENFJ
Dream cast: Matthew Macfadyen

Just ignore the gun. They haven’t invented that kind yet. (credit)

“Each of us failed Agran once, whether in word or in deed, and even after all the good we could do, there is no going back. Never.”

My sister teases me about the central antagonist, calling him “Enjolras,” and I can admit that there is some resemblance. Galer does serve as the hopeful leader of a revolution who gets himself into serious trouble. Yet he is also incredibly intelligent and crafty, having many more resources at his disposal than Marius’ college friends ever dreamed of, and his influence only expands as the war rages on. In short, Galer has a chance of winning, and he desperately wants to do just that.

King Reyis
Personality type: ISTJ
Dream cast: Liam Neeson

Ah, you knew he would turn up in one of my dream-casts someday. (credit)

“Whoever promised that life would be easy?” Reyis stood up and straightened, looking again like a tall king with steely eyes and grey hair. “Certainly not me.”

Good ol’ Reyis. He is Alen’s father and also the king of the second-largest kingdom in the world, so despite playing a relatively small role in the story, he was a great deal of fun to write. He’s not exactly the most touchy-feely parent in the world, but he always does what he knows is best, and if he doesn’t know, he will find out. I can appreciate that kind of attitude.

Arila
Personality type: ESFJ
Dream cast: Lily James

Of course it’s Cinderella. (credit: IMDb)

Alen felt the dagger at his side. Maybe it had no real magic, but Arila surely did, and it was enough for him to keep fighting.

You knew I couldn’t write a book without any estrogen, didn’t you? Not, that is, without getting complaints from my romantically-minded mom. Again, as a bookkeeper at the capital, Arila has a relatively small role in the story. However, while she does play something of a love interest (at least at the beginning), Arila mainly serves as a sort of impact character, the one on whom the message depends. And she is really quite a sweet girl, which makes for a sweet subplot.

That’s all, folks! I’ll be doing some interviews at other blogs as the big day approaches, so keep an eye out for those. You can also preorder the Kindle version of Alen’s War or hold out for the paperback in July.

No Shame in Starting Over

By now y’all probably know that I am writing a YA fantasy book called Alen’s War.  If you read my first post on the project, you might remember that I struggled a little with the characterization of the main villain. You may even have read the first-draft snippets on Facebook this week.

What you probably don’t know is that I wrote this story four times.

The book now affectionately known as Alen’s War used to be called The Manhattan Project. (So what? Son of Ren used to be called Beams.) It centered on the story of Alen, a reckless young squire, and his escapades with Tan the gruff dwarf and Ilkir the sullen elder brother. Their goal? Defeating a certain wizard named Qabar who had taken over Agran. There is also no shame in recycling. 

Yet I gave up on the story before it was finished. While I had written an outline and even achieved a decent level of characterization, the story was a cliche and the plot was a series of rabbit trails. I tucked it away into a folder which I call “Unfinished Tales” and which my sister calls “the place where stories go to die.”

But last August I pulled out the old draft- now called Agran– and restarted the project. Deleted. Every. Word. This may not sound so impressive to you, but to a sixteen-year-old aspiring author, deleting 65 pages and eleven months of work is a bit of a downer. On the other hand, getting back in touch with the characters and bringing fresh ideas and skills to the game is quite a lot of fun. Oh, it would be so much fun, I said. I could draw inspiration from the wars between the Scots and Edward I, I said.

Well. The new draft, which felt much more like the current Alen’s War, lasted until October, at which point I utterly burned out. The story just wasn’t working for me, and I felt that I had lost all motivation to write the story. So back into Unfinished Tales it went.

Until NaNoWriMo, that is.

It was my first time doing NaNo. And probably my last, but that is a tale for another time. I had originally chosen another novel project, but unfortunately that story had absolutely no plot. Yet stubborn little me… I decided to reboot Agran and finish the darn thing in the twenty days I had left. And I did it, but at the expense of my poor exhausted brain.

As of December 1, I thought I was done with the rebooting process. I focused on publishing Son of Ren that month and only did minor edits for Agran. When Son of Ren was out and selling, though, and I came back to Alen and his friends, I realized that something was off. You know how the plot and the theme should work together? Well, they were really just fighting their own little civil war. My theme was unclear, even to myself, and combined with the scatterbrained plot, I knew I was in for what I call a “decimation of the fanbase.” Meaning, people would not like that book.

So I faced a very, very hard truth, harder than adamant: I had to rewrite the story. Again.

Not the plot, just the story. (If you don’t have any idea what I mean, read this explanation.) I put away the draft for as long as I could bear, which for me usually means two weeks, and thought hard about the plot. I came up with another message in the same vicinity as the last one and rewrote accordingly. But it still wasn’t sticking. So I repeated the process… and repeated again… and again.

Finally, only one week ago, did I get to the point where I could define the theme in one sentence. *thumps microphone* Last week, people. It took me nearly two and a half years to write one sentence!

And what did I get? I got Alen’s War– a story that forced me to think more than I ever have before about one single novel. I got some of my favorite characters I have ever written. I got a new level of skill at intertwining plot and theme. Most of all, I got to learn a very important lesson. Hear me now and hear me clearly, fellow writers:

There is no shame in starting over.

It may be painful. It will most certainly be harder than ignoring the issue. But you will not regret it.

Have you ever restarted a big- or little- project?