Monday, December 29, 2014

Where To Begin

A dream come true...
ten years in the making. 

Since I recently came out as a writer, I've had a few people approach me, confess their own dream of writing a novel and ask, "But where do I begin?" 

For me, the answer is simple. It all starts with an idea. I probably get at least three ideas for a novel a day, although only a fraction of a percent of those are good enough to scribble on a note pad. If you are having trouble getting the gears turning, just keep playing the "what if" game in your daily life. What if gifted children were recruited by the government to train for space battles? What if my school was actually an academy for wizards? What if my classmates and I were forced to fight in order to feed our families? Obviously this method works better for fantasy and sci-fi novels, but you get the idea. What if someone's mother died suddenly and a recovering drug addict was left to take care of his brother with down syndrome? What adventures would come to pass if a small town girl moved to L.A. to pursue her acting career? 

Susanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, says she got the idea for the popular disutopian novels one day when she was channel surfing. All of the channels were either showing coverage of the war in the middle east or reality TV shows. She said that it all started to merge together in a very distributing way. Ideas can happen anywhere around us. Anytime. You just have to keep your mind open in order to let ideas flow in.

I'll admit, I'm lucky. I've had the idea for Onyx Moon ever since I can remember. I would stay up late at night telling myself stories before I fell asleep. Sometimes they would bleed into my dreams. I began to "go" to the same place every night, and on the long bus ride to school. Over the years, characters developed and a plot eventually followed. By the time I was in high school, the story was bursting out of my brain. I didn't do to well in my classes. I was too busy day dreaming for all that nonsense. I finally got a hold of a bulky desktop and managed to get out the first few chapters. I took a semester off from college, where I only paid attention to my writing courses anyway, to focus on the rest of it. Boys and a social life ultimately got in the way for a while, but I finally finished it about a year after I was married. During those years, I had changed a lot as a person. I tried to edit the manuscript to reflect those changes to morals and spiritual beliefs. Looking back at the "Book" file on that bulky desktop, it was just a skeleton of the story I am proud to call my own.

I still have a long way to go with Onyx Moon. Two more books - at least. But I've had a long time to flesh out the story and I know if I concentrate, the plot holes will fill themselves. I specifically chose a part-time job where I would have a lot of time to let my mind wander.

It wanders too much. I have an idea for another fantasy series that has been nagging me lately. A few months ago, I was scrolling through Pinterest when I stumbled on a subject that seemed to be getting a lot of attention on my pin feed. My husband was engrossed in a fantasy video game at the time and I imagined a world where my latest Pinterest fascination could be widely explored. The idea spread as I went to work that day. I found characters and conflict and began to map out the cities on the concrete floor I was forced to spend 8 hours on. For days after that I couldn't sleep. Scenes played out in my head instead of dreams. I overheard countless conversations of people that didn't exist. But the more time went on, I couldn't deny their existence any longer. I finally sat down and mapped out the story and started the first three chapters. Since then, other projects have called my attention, but I can confirm that these new books will happen. They will just have to wait their turn.

In short, coming up with ideas are hard. Don't force it. Just do what you do in your daily routine and always question how things could be different. Keep your mind open to possibilities and don't ignore those random thoughts that might seem ridiculous at first. And it helps to have an annoying brain that never shuts up. :)

~ Coming Soon ~

* Book Review : On My Way Home by Allie Walker

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 10 Reasons You Should Read More Indie Authors

Independent Authors. The small businesses of the writing world. While I can't speak for every indie author, and every reader's opinion, here are some key points I've found while researching independently published books on Kindle. Like me, you'll probably be surprised by what you are missing. I encourage you to explore this rapidly growing sub-culture of books.

10. Hidden Gems

Make your hipster friends jealous by being the first among them to discover an amazing book! Bring something new to the conversation by reading something not everyone else has read. Not only will you be able to enjoy the book yourself but you will feel good knowing you introduced something fun to other people.

9. Indie Authors Are More Approachable

I believe it's safe to say it's much easier to get a response from an indie author than say, George R.R. Martin. Just about every author has a Facebook or Twitter account,  but so many of them are run by marketers or creative directors that you don't know who is actually reading or responding to your post. Since indie authors do everything themselves, they might actually respond! I've gone straight to Facebook and messaged several indie authors, letting them know I did a review of their book, or asking them a question. I've always gotten a reply within minutes, or at least that same day.

You may have to wait hours in line to get a quick scribble in your book at a J.K. Rowling signing. But since indie authors have a fraction of the turn out, they are happy chat with you and answer any questions, in person! (Not that all authors aren't ecstatic to have you there. Some just have less time for each individual fan.)


8. Indie Books Get In Your Hands Faster

Cutting out an agent, busy publishing supervisors, and a team of marketers also cuts out a lot of time. Typically, an indie author will finish the manuscript, wait for peer responses, revise, then send it to a copy editor. Since they don't have to wait for anyone to give them the green light, you most likely won't have to wait a year to find out what happens next in your new favorite series. 

7. They Do Everything Themselves

Since there is no big publisher to back them, all the work falls to the author. Especially marketing and sales. On top of editing, cover design, interior design, and formatting, they are constantly promoting and working to get their books on shelves. Word of mouth is the best kind of promotion, so your support is greatly appreciated. 

6. More Opportunities For Freelance Workers

Every author wants their book to be as polished as possible, inside and out. That's why a lot of indie authors will hire freelance copy editors, graphic designers, and reviewers to help. By purchasing an indie book, you are actually supporting several people.

5. Story Is Exactly As It Was Intended

Publishing companies are looking to fill very specific niches. When they buy the rights of a story, they can make whatever changes they want to plot or characters to fit the mold of a specific market. But when you read from an indie author, there are no unwanted influenced or puppet masters. Think of it as an organic reading experience. 

4. Just Because It Was Published Independently, Doesn't Mean It Wasn't Good Enough To Get Published Traditionally.

Do I think Onyx Moon is good enough to get published traditionally? Absolutely. So why isn't it? That's a whole other cup of cocoa. But the bottom line is, publishers have limited resources and time. A book has to float in a treacherous sea of analytical financial charts and graphs before it is even considered for publication. This is how thousands of amazing stories each year slip through the cracks. With indie authors, you can be the judge.

3. You Can't Argue With Free

It's common for Indie Authors to release the first Ebook in a series for free in hopes you will be snared in and buy the rest of the books. But watch out --- it works!

2. They Are Not In It For The Money

I can't speak for everyone. But I can say the best part of this is holding your book in your ands and seeing it on your shelf, or even better, someone else's. Some Indie Authors make a considerable amount if money. Most don't. But you can bet they love what they do, and that is the key ingredient in a good book.

1. They Need Your Support

Starting out --- No marketing team. No top rate expensive promo plans. No fan base. It's you that helps them get ahead of the game. It's you that makes their dreams come true. So don't just read an indie author, support them! Like their book? Review it on a blog. Post it on facebook. Rate it on Amazon. Reviews and rates on amazon are like tips for indie authors, and their business depends on it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Onyx Moon Progress

Just a quick update on what's going on with the book...

Copy editing is almost finished and then the manuscript with be ready to upload. Onyx Moon will be available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes and Noble. In the next few days we will be designing the entire print cover. I have a mock up of what I would like and I'm really happy about it. Simple, yet striking. :)

Also, we only need 4 more people to pre-order the book to meet our goal! I set up the Kickstarter in order to raise a little money for some promotional copies. I'm stringing together a few signings and will have a complete schedule up soon. Once things calm down I can finally get back to the fun part; writing!

Get your copy of Onyx Moon HERE

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Release Party at Yaccovelli's

I've always been proud of my family history, on both sides. My mother's father, John Cunningham,  was a colonel in the air force as well as the sole designer of the F-15 Eagle fighter jet, as well as a big part of the design team for the F-18, Phantom, and other military planes that are still in use today. He fought in WWII and on the beaches of Normandy. He was a brilliant man, and even15 years after his death, my mother is still trying to organize his endless notebooks and design portfolios.

I never met my grandfather on my dad's side, who served in the U.S. Navy. But I have lots of memories of my great grandmother, FilomenaYaccovelli, to cherish. In 1919, she came over from Italy with her husband, Jack, and opened Yacovelli's restaurant. Decades later, in a strange twist of fate, my grandpa Cunningham would become on of it's frequent patrons.

When I was little, going to "the restaurant" was almost a weekly event. Nana (great grandma) would join us at our usual table. While we waited for our food to come, my dad would take me to the bar. I sipped on a Shirley Temple while he chatted with great Uncle Dewey or who ever was working that night. Once the food came, my sisters and I would stuff ourselves on salad, bread, pasta, and shrimp and fuss until we got ice cream. The night always ended with a tummy ache and me curled up in my father's lap.

To this day, Yacovelli's is St. Louis's oldest Italian restaurant. They soon will close their doors forever, but not before I host my book's release party on December 20th.

I cannot tell you what this means to me; the memories of countless weddings, wakes, and family parties. I am so blessed to be a part of this family and history. I only wish Nana was here to meet my baby girl and celebrate with me.

Coming Soon:
~ Top 10 Reasons You Should Read More Indie Authors
~ Book Review: On My Way Home by Allie Walker

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Cornerstone by Kelly Walker

 Cornerstone (Souls of the Stones, book 1)

by Kelly Walker

Amazon description:

Epic Fantasy combines with Young Adult romance in this stunning new adventure set in a richly developed medieval world. Second Stone and Broken Stone are now available! Also be sure to look for Jaded Stone, the thrilling prequel to the Souls of the Stones series.

When Emariya Warren learns enemy forces have captured her father, she'll do anything to save him. Anything. Even marry a mysterious prince she knows nothing about in order to rally the strength to arrange a rescue. During her journey to Torian's foreign castle, Emariya comes face to face with her mother's killers--and a deadly secret.

Not only does Emariya possess a powerful but unexpected magical gift passed down through each of her families, the prince she's promised to marry possesses a third, and an ominous prophecy has warned the three gifts must never be combined.

If she breaks her promise to marry Torian, she won't be able to save her father and if she keeps it, she may bring a curse upon everything she holds dear. Determining which choice is best won't be easy, but when she meets the gorgeous prince who may desire more than just her heart, she realizes she will have to fight just to have a choice at all.

Her heart wants him desperately. Her head begs her to run. If she doesn't want to share her mother's fate, she'll have to find a way to untangle the truth from the lies in time to save herself.

Discover the heartbreaking betrayals, fascinating magic and fated love of Cornerstone.

My Thoughts

The cost to download this book on Kindle is free - a price I couldn't argue with. A lot of indie authors will do this; offer the first book in their series for free in an attempt to lure you in. With Cornerstone, it worked. I can't wait to dive into the sequel! 

This story opens with one of the best prologues I have ever read. In just the first few sentences, I was filled with a sense of urgency. Perhaps it was because of my maternal instincts, but I found myself consumed with the character's anxiety as if it were my own. The author managed to set the back story of a completely new world, all while convincing me I needed to care about its struggles and the people who endured them. In my experience, this is rare and difficult to execute.  

It was easy to befriend the main character, Emariya. She is strong, thoughtful, humble, a natural leader (even if she doesn't think so) and just the right amount of insecure. I'm not sure how much of a coincidence it is that she mirrors Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, but either way, I'm okay with it.

Kellly Walker sets up an intriguing fantasy world full of kingdoms and political obligations, with magical legends lurking in the shadows. Emariya's quest begins as a noble one, but quickly takes her in directions she, as well as the reader, wasn't expecting. The middle of the book slows a bit as the author tries to establish history and the characters try to figure out what to do next. The romance is subtle, but highly enjoyable. The book as a whole definitely  feels like the beginning of something big. 

I was surprised at how disappointed I was by the ending, especially by such a talented writer. It felt rushed, and left too many loose ends open. The last bit of dialogue seemed like it should have been a metaphor for something, but I couldn't figure out what. I was left with a gaping feeling of "that's it?" But I need more of this world, and more of Emariya, so I will inevitably read Second Stone (Souls of the Stones book 2) 

  * * * * 

(4 0f 5)

Kelly Walker's talent for storytelling amazed me. She has quickly become one of my favorite authors and I'm excited to explore her worlds. She also writes contemporary romance, and is getting ready to release her newest book, No One's Surrender before the new year.   

You can find out more about the author and her work here:

Coming Soon!

~ An exciting announcement!
~ Top 10 Reasons You Should Read More Indie Authors
~ Book review: On My Way Home by Allie Walker

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I'm Going To Share A Secret With You

I hate talking about writing.

My own writing, to be clear. It's much easier to let someone else run the show and get me excited about their work, rather than I try to scramble together a few fragment sentences about my project before I loose their interest and the conversation moves back to them anyway.

"Writer" is such a heavy word. It makes you think of someone who is expertly observant, soaking in all the details of the problems of the world so they can formulate some sort of antidote and spit back out on perfectly polished paper for everyone to partake without even realizing they are being cured. I can't even begin to put myself in a category with them.

So I've stayed quiet, for years. I used to call myself a writer, until I realized exactly what that was. So a few friends and family members know it was a hobby I used to peruse, but anyone who's met me in the last 3 years probably has no clue.

It's hard to talk about writing. It's so personal, risky, incomplete. When I start a project I'm so excited I want to shout on the rooftops - but what if all the idea turns out to be was a fleeting thought and it fizzles faster than you can trudge through that dreaded fourth chapter? I've had a few of those. Especially in the few years I wasn't actively writing due to some life changes. For instance, my husband and I moved across the country, (again) I took a job that had me away from home 16 days out of the month, I had a baby. But in quiet times, when ideas would come out of the woodwork, I would jot down a note or two on hotel paper or anything within arm's reach of the baby I was nursing.

But there was one project that would never leave me. It almost faded away (I was really afraid for it) but oddly enough, starting another novel brought it back to the surface. While I still plan to write that new novel, I dove head first back into my current book. And rightly so. It deserved it. We've been through a lot together :)

I am so excited about it. I am buzzing with energy, but I'm also wrenching with fear. The two emotions battling for dominance is keeping me up at night. (and just when I get my daughter to sleep through the night!)

But there is one emotion I refuse to give into, and that is regret. "You don't know until you try. Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars," My mother wrote on my bedroom mirror when I was a teenager. "Create your dream, and live it," I like to remind myself.

A little while ago I had a very vivid, scary dream. I was drowning. I knew I was going to die. At this point, before my daughter was born, I felt I had lived a very full life. I had grown into a decent human being, I had found my soul mate, and I had a strong relationship with my Heavenly Father. What more can anyone really ask for besides that?

There were two things, in the dream, that I felt an over whelming sadness over. I never had children, and I didn't write enough. In that moment, when I was sure I was taking my last breaths, I was overcome with regret for my wasted talents. I needed to be a mother; to nurture children so they would grow up to hold a place of light and good in this world. I needed to be an author; to enjoy my passion and say the things I needed to say that did actually have value after all.

When I thankfully woke up from that dream, I started on those two things right away.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Onyx Moon Pre-Order

Great news! 

My new book is available for pre-order! I've made a kickstarter to help spread the word and to raise a little extra cash to pay for the first shipment of promotional copies. Everyone who participates gets a sneak peak with the prologue and first chapter, as well as a favor from me to redeem at anytime! ;)

You can check it out here....

Coming soon....

~ an exciting announcement

~ Post: Review of Cornerstone by Kelly Walker

~ Post: Top 10 Reasons You Should Read More Indie Authors

Monday, October 27, 2014

Introducing Onyx Moon

What if you were forced to live a double life while you sleep, and pursued by Demons while you were awake?


 After spending all of her nights in a dreamless sleep, city girl Ora Gondry awakens in a realm that is not her own. Through the help of long forgotten heroes, a legendary swordsman and former witch, Ora learns that her soul teleports to a separate twin body while she slumbers.     

 In Alethia, a land plagued by demonic legions, she must awaken her true power before the world falls to dark forces. While in the city, she struggles to pass exams keep her best friend from joining a wannabe vampire cult. Oblivious to just how connected these two worlds are, Ora must wager which new friends are true allies, and which are demons in disguise. But after a crushing betrayal, she is left questioning everything. 

 Armed only with faith and unseen Angels, Ora learns to fight for beliefs and a courageous power she never knew she possessed.