How to reach “The End”

Weeks later, I’m still reflecting on the awesomeness that was Awesomecon 2017 (and already scheduling future convention appearances), and one of the things that stands out the most is how many aspiring authors asked me, “How do you finish?”

The truth is, it took me a very, very long time to train myself to finish a first draft. I say “train” because I really do feel that’s what I had to do. Why was I so hung up on not wanting to finish? Part of it is that I love the creation phase of writing about as much as I love ice cream, and I hate the idea of letting go of something that makes me so happy. Playing in the sandbox is so much fun for me that I never really want to go back inside.

The second reason I was reluctant to finish—and if you only take one thing from this post, this is what I hope sticks with you—is I was afraid that once I finished my draft, I’d have to let others read it. Errors and terrible word selection and awkward structure and all.

But here’s the thing. They’re called rough drafts for a reason. They’re supposed to be ugly. You’re supposed to put them aside for a bit to decompress before beginning to polish them up. But nowhere is there any rule or implication that says you have to share this draft with anyone. Not an agent, or strangers on the internet, or your best friend, or your mom. The rough draft is meant for you to explore your world and get to know your characters. And that’s what matters.

So here is my advice and heartfelt plea to all of my readers out there who had that amazing story idea… the one you’re not sure how to finish (or even start): Pick up a pen and paper. Sit down at your computer desk. Put yourself in whatever setting you need to be in so you can record your thoughts and write. Literally nobody else on Earth can tell the story in your heart the way you can, and both you and your story deserve to be expressed.

Even if we never meet, I believe in you. I believe in y our story, because stories are powerful creatures in their own rights. For whatever reason, the story in your heart chose you. It trusted you to be able to get it told. Now take its hand and trust it to lead you to The End.

 

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What I Learned From AwesomeCon!

What a whirlwind of a month I’ve had so far! I kicked June off with finally getting to complete my cross-country move then immediately began preparations for my first convention ever–AwesomeCon! Not only was AwesomeCon the first time I’ve sold Devotion in person, it was my first time even attending a convention. It was an absolutely amazing experience, one which I do hope to repeat in the future.

Urban fantasy author R.R. Virdi and I shared a table alongside a few other indie authors (visit the Awe-Thors website to find out more) and by the end of the con were being sought out by con-goers for our broad selection of books. We had a little bit of everything, spanning through space opera, paranormal, epic fantasy, and steam punk, and we met bunches of amazing readers and several aspiring authors. I do think the most rewarding part of the event was getting to meet new readers face to face and get to hear about the books they love to read. At least speaking for myself, I know I left the con with more titles on my To Be Read list.

I’ve had a few people ask me what the highlight of the convention was, and I honestly can’t choose just one thing. I met so many enthusiastic, lovely people and am honored that they’ve decided to venture into the world of Abaeloth. I learned a lot about where my comfort zone is as far as marketing and promotion goes, and picked up a few pointers on what not to do in the process. Ultimately, I surpassed my expectations for how many new readers I picked up and am blown away by the support of the con-going community.

I want to thank everyone who made this past weekend the success it was–from my fellow authors, to the veteran vendors around us, and especially to the readers who stopped by to take a look at the books we had to offer. It’s people like you who make the publishing side of an indie author’s life worth persevering through. Next time I want to cry over formatting snags or groan over not being able to find that perfect word, I’m going to reflect back on this weekend and all of the moments I shared with other fantasy enthusiasts and know that it’s all worth it. Thank you for being amazing readers. Thank you for being amazing people.

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Meet and Greet with Veed

Following up on my previous post of Kelly Blanchard’s interview with Mathias, I’d like to share her interview with my antagonist, Veed Astaldt. While I had tons of fun participating with this interview, I think it’s also important to note that I’ve presented it to you exactly as it was conducted. This means not only is it in a rough draft form from both me and Kelly, it also has a few answers that are a tiny bit vague. Kelly’s process is amazing at getting you thinking about what parts may be weak or lacking in your story or characters so you can go back and tend to them later. With that in mind, a couple of Veed’s answers were vague at the time of being asked, but after he had time to settle down after Kelly left and I pressed more quietly for answers, he gave me beautiful replies. As before, the part of Kelly is played by Kelly Blanchard. The part of Veed’s been interpreted by Katika Schneider.

Kelly looked around. This seemed to be the right place, so she balanced the plate of chocolate chip cookies in one hand and lifted her other hand to knock on the door.

Veed’s attention snapped up at the sound and he frowned. Where had his sentries gone? The knock didn’t sound a second time, but a very distinct presence continued to radiate from the other side. He waited a moment longer to see if his men would do their jobs then shoved himself to his feet. He walked around the table and jerked the door open, meeting the pleasant eyes of a young woman and his two guards happily munching on cookies. He was surprised to be met by such a petite woman, wondering how she found the nerve to face him so casually, but had to remind himself that he’d volunteered to be talked to. After all, he was worthy of being fawned over.

He pulled the door open further and gestured into the room. “You’ll take a seat?”

Kelly smiled at him. “Yes, thank you. Would you care for some cookies?” She looked back at the guards at the door. “Sorry, guys, he gets the rest…unless he cares to share.” And she went to the table and sat down, taking in the war room. “Interesting choice for our meeting.” Kelly shifted her gaze back to Veed. Each location revealed something about the individual. “Thank you for meeting me. How should I address you?”

Veed’s eyes lingered on the young woman and shut the door on the guards that waved their gratitude to Kelly in lieu of speaking with full mouths. He continued to watch her as he walked back around the table to his seat, gesturing Kelly to the one he designated for her. “What you call me depends on how familiar you want to get,” he said, loosening the bottle’s cork. “Wine?”

“No thank you.” Kelly shook her head but gestured to the wine. “You’re welcome to it, of course.” She preferred to keep a clear head rather than let wine at all had any kind of affect on her. “So, I understand you are a general–general of what army precisely?” And she watched as he pulled himself a glass of wine.

“The only army that really matters here on Elidae,” he said. For the ten years he’d been leading his own force, he’d been quite content with simply letting it be called his own. “My men and I take care of the threats that Nessix and her boys can’t handle on their own. Someone’s got to keep her safe.”

“So…you’re the ‘Army That Matters Most’? Or does your army known as Veed’s Army? Or Veed’s Men? Or simply Veed?” Kelly raised her brows. “Because I know you’re not general of Nes’ army though you work closely with her.”

He smirked and sipped at his drink before stretching back in his seat. “Nes usually refers to us as ‘Veed’s forces.’ I rather like the power in that phrase, and she even came up with it all by herself. I suppose I do leave that sort of impression.”

“Oh, talking about powers….” Kelly interlaced her fingers together on the table as she leaned forward. “I’ve been informed that you have magical powers. Is that true?”

“It is.”

Kelly waited for a moment, but when she saw that was all he was going to say, she pressed. “Well, I’ve encountered a lot of magical individuals with a whole variety of powers. What are yours?”

To say that he didn’t trust Kelly was an understatement at best, but he was determined to keep that hidden. A man of his stature and power had no feasible reason to be uncomfortable around such a little, unassuming thing. “My power allows me to manipulate my energy against the beings around me. I’m sure its uses are limitless, but I prefer to use them to enhance combat.”

Kelly listened to him then tilted her head to a side. “Sounds like typical manipulation, and that can be done without any magical abilities.” She pointed out. “But if you do has magical powers, as you said you do, then how are they useful in combat?”

Veed snatched up the bottle of wine and filled another glass, forcefully shoving it across the table in Kelly’s direction. “My usefulness in combat speaks for itself. There’s a reason why Nes can’t keep up with me.”

Kelly caught the glass but didn’t drink it. She arched her brow at his reaction. “I don’t doubt your superiority in combat, but you specifically said that you use your abilities to enhance your fighting. How does that work? By your stance, the way you carry yourself, and by the way you are aware of your surroundings, I would say you are a very skilled fighter, but you don’t need magical powers to be a good fighter. How do you use your magic in combat?” She wasn’t about to back down though she wanted to be respectful.

Kelly’s pointed tenacity was wearing on Veed. “You’re right. I don’t need these powers.” The emphasis he placed on the words suggested that he hoped the message would reach an absent third party. “And they were bestowed on me in the relatively recent past. How do I use them in combat? To enhance my senses where I can, to tap in to the reserves of energy that might make the difference between coming home wounded or well.” He shrugged. “There’ve been times when I’ve repurposed my energy in order to negate those sorts of wounds. I use my power the way I use any other resource around. However I see fit.”

“I see.” Kelly nodded, then tapped on the table once, then twice, before finally looking at him and smiling. “So, what do you think of Nes?”

The sudden change of subject surprised him, but was quite welcome for more than the obvious reason. As the slight defensive tension trickled out of his shoulders, Veed relaxed into his seat once more. “Nes is doing her best, I’m sure, but she could always do better.”

Kelly shook her head, but she could see where he misunderstood her question. She met his gaze. “No, I mean, as an individual, what do you think of Nes? I already know you dislike the fact that she relies on Mathias as an advisor on many matter…” And she watched him closely to see where this would go now.

Veed’s eyes narrowed. “Mathias routinely endangers her by pushing her further into this war than she needs to go. Don’t get me wrong, she’s feisty and skilled – I trained her myself. But she needs less guidance and more protection than he’s giving her. I don’t dislike -” that word was clipped, “Mathias trying to advise her. I dislike him needlessly threatening her welfare.”

“So you care about her…more than just someone you’ve trained, and by the way, that’s not a question. I already know that to be a fact.” She smirked at him before letting the smile fall as she approached her next question. “I understand you worked with her father?”

“I served as his commander from the day he accepted the title of General.” Veed couldn’t gauge where Kelly was trying to lead him or what she was after with this wild train of questions. He’d been told this was meant to be an interview, but increasingly felt it was heading down the path of an interrogation.

“You served as his commander when he accepted the title General…but yet you have your own army, and I’m assuming Nes’ army is the same as her father’s so…I’m a little confused.” Kelly frowned as she sat back in her chair, furrowing her brows. “So, what happened? Why did you go out and get your own army? You must have been close to General Laes if you trained his daughter and still watch out for her, but…there’s a rift? What happened?”

This was the question that Veed had seen coming and the same one that he lived every day not wanting to talk about. He’d given the answer enough times to quit being bothered by delivering it, but the impact that it’d had on his past was something he preferred not to revisit. Regardless, he figured Kelly would just keep driving after this truth until he delivered, and he wasn’t in the mood to be pushed to his edge. He took another drink.

“Laes died several years ago and it destroyed Nes. She was young and still so dependent on him for everything and didn’t know what to do after the kingdom was dumped on her shoulders. The role of General is handed down from one generation to the next, with the child of the current one gaining the necessary experience and climbing in rank until it was their time to take on the title. Nessix hadn’t even promoted out of lieutenant at the time of Laes’s death and is the first time in our history that a power jump like that was made. She didn’t know what to do and was too afraid of failure, so she handed half the country to me. It…” He stopped for a minute and clicked his teeth together. “It wasn’t the response I’d expected out of Laes’s death, but it did it out of loyalty to the family.”

Kelly paused as she heard this. “So you gained your army because Nes handed you half the country?” She lifted her brows as she spoke softly, wanting to better understand completely.

He’d have smirked over her disbelief if it wouldn’t have also come with highlighting Nes’s weaknesses. “For how much you seem to know of me already, I’m amazed that you didn’t know that. It’s common knowledge around here, already drafted for the histories, I’m sure. She was afraid and confused, and she trusted me.”

Kelly shrugged. “Some things I prefer others to tell me. I always learn something new when that happens.” She smiled before turning to another topic. “Okay, so Edric Maliroch, tell me about him.” Kelly observed Veed closely.

Veed choked on his exhalation and rubbed his forehead. That question had most certainly been unexpected and, unlike Laes, he hadn’t thought about Edric in decades. “He… He was a good man, a good friend. Was killed in a scuffle a long time ago.” His eyes narrowed as he tried to gauge how much Kelly already knew about that exact situation. “Is there a reason you want to know about him?”

“You had a history with him, and I’m trying to get to know you, so…I’m probing.” Kelly shrugged and finally scooted her chair back and rose to her feet. “Hope you don’t mind if I meander about. I like to move sometimes.” So she walked a bit, inspecting the maps on the walls, before she turned back to Veed. “Who was Edric to you? Your reaction to the mere mention of his name indicates he was more than just a comrade-in-arms or so.”

The past was always a dangerous place to Veed, sapping him of the resolve time had given him, and it was not a place he favored venturing to. “Edric was one of the young officers I promoted with. He spent a lot of time running with me and Laes, getting in to the trouble that young men find.” His sigh beat out of him with a staccato and he pinched the bridge of his nose. “He married Laes’s sister in law, Evelyn.” Her name flitted from his lips with a reluctance he hadn’t yet shown to Kelly. “Became family to Laes, so family to me. I-” He looked down for a moment and twisted his lips uncertainly. “I don’t know how much of his death was my fault, but I know that if he would have lived, I wouldn’t have. Me sitting here today cost him his life and left Evelyn a widow and her son fatherless.”

“How exactly did he die?” Kelly asked quietly as she drew near to the table again and set her hands on the back of a chair to observe Veed.

“There were five of us out on a scouting patrol and ran in to a group of minotaur.” He pinched his lips together as he thought over the details he’d held on to, both the reality of them and the softened version he’d fabricated in his mind. “I was engaged, probably deeper than I should have been, next thing I knew, he was roaring my name and shoving me out of the way. He was gored straight through the chest, leather breastplate and all.” He’d have elaborated about that being the reason he trusted nothing but steel, but didn’t see Kelly ever having use of such advice. He looked up and met her eyes with a clarity that his previous sentiments hadn’t suggested. “Do you fish after this sort of thing from everyone you talk to?”

Kelly chuckled and nodded as she pushed away from the chair, resuming her meandering path. “Yes. I got a lot out of others I interviewed, but you can trust me. I’m not going to share any information you tell me with anyone else. So there’s no need for a facade.” She finally turned to him, crossing her arms as she really regarded him.

“You know, Veed, I see you being a man of pride, but you are also very guarded. You’ve been hurt, but you may not even allow yourself to admit that. If you do admit it, it’d be on your terms, so you can manipulate whomever you’re speaking with. You have specific desires and goals, which you likely share with no one. This makes you mysterious and unpredictable, and you like that.” Kelly paused, still staring at him. “But you’ve been hurt deeper than you may even know or acknowledge. You keep up your facade because that is what people expect of you, and it’s simply easier to go with it because, after all, it tends to work in your favor. Of course, I could be wrong.” Kelly shrugged but watched him. “But am I right?”

Veed regarded Kelly with a matching intensity, his expression cold for the longest time. The secrets he kept, he kept for a very precious reason, and it would take something far more drastic than a prying woman to get them out of him. A smirk slowly eased his features as he loosely clasped his hands and rested them on the table. “I believe everyone’s been hurt in their time. I may have witnessed a lot of death, two of them dear friends, one of them I may have caused. Have I been hurt?” He shrugged. “Sure. But I’m more than confident that I’ll get what I want out of life. If there’s one thing my past has taught me, it’s that you take what you want at the earliest convenience and the rest will fall in line.”

Seeing he was stubborn, Kelly inclined her head briefly but then pulled back her shoulders and smiled at him. “So what if you take what you want from someone, but it isn’t what that someone else wants?” She locked eyes with him. “Do you still take it because you want it?”

“If they don’t have the strength or will to keep it for themselves, why wouldn’t I?” His smirk melted into a devious grin. “If it’s not important enough for them to keep a hold of, I may as well put it to use where it’s appreciated.”

Kelly rolled her eyes. “Wow, you really are a total jerk. Seriously, Veed?” She arched her brows. “So, you would hurt Nes to get what you want from her just because you want it.” She didn’t word that as a question, but she gave him the chance to answer anyway.

The smile snapped from his face. “I’d never hurt Nessix.”

“Really?” Kelly didn’t back down. “Because you seem totally concerned with your own desires and well being, so why is she any different from anyone else?”

He scowled. “Because I’ve seen her hurt before. I’ve seen her dearly killed. Nobody, not even-” He pounded his fist on the table and looked away as he regained some degree of his composure. “It doesn’t matter what rumors you may have heard, she trusts me, and I will honor that notion from her. You cannot take loyalty from my people.”

Kelly shook her head and braced her hand on the table as she leaned forward, locking eyes with him as he still remained sitting. “Veed, I don’t care what the rumors say. I’m talking to you, and I want you to be honest…with yourself, at least. You’ve seen her hurt, so you don’t want to hurt her–that’s fair, but you’ve seen a lot of other people hurt too. You’ve been the cause of their hurt sometimes, so why is Nes so different than everyone else?” She refused to let him break eye contact. “And be honest.”

Veed clenched his jaw and held her eyes with a menacing calm as he pushed himself to his feet and leaned right back at her. “Because I swore I’d never let anything else touch her as long as I lived. I cannot expect you to understand that.”

“Even if that’s you?” Kelly cocked her head to a side, arching a brow.

“Are you implying that I would hurt her?”

“You could.” Kelly nodded, pulling back and crossing her arms. “You have the potential. Sometimes the greatest dangers to ourselves are those closest to us, and the greatest threat to those we love are ourselves. So, as you attempt to protect Nes from any danger, keep in mind that you might be the very danger you need to protect her from. Yes, you might not think that now, but…these things likely wouldn’t be premeditated, and you wouldn’t know until after the fact. So, if you really want to protect Nes, you keep yourself in check because I see a lot of darkness in you…and I’m rarely wrong when it comes to things like that. Call that my supernatural power.” She smiled at him and stepped back. “Well, our time is up. The interrogation is over. Thank you for your time though, and you’re welcome to keep the cookies. Tell Nes I said ‘hi’ next time you see her.” She smirked once more before vanishing.

Veed’s jaw ached and his fists shook with a fit that he hadn’t anticipated rising from a woman of Kelly’s unthreatening build. Reaching across the table, he tucked his fingers beneath the plate of cookies and flipped it to the floor before storming out of the room. Let the guards eat the blasted things like dogs. He had more important things to tend to.

 

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Meet and Greet with Mathias!

A couple weeks ago, the wonderful Kelly Blanchard posted her interview of my FMC, Nessix Teradhel (you can read it here!). There’s an interview of me on her site, as well, but I personally find Nes much more entertaining and interesting.  If you’re a writer, especially if you’re wanting or needing to explore your characters a bit deeper, Kelly’s service is amazing. I went in to my first interview (of Mathias, posted below) with her assuming to limit it to the publicity and exposure her posted interview would give me, but each one I’ve done has helped shed light on characters I’ve carried with me for the better part of 13 years.

Anyway.

If you’ve read Nes’s interview, you’ve had the chance to get to know her a little bit. To gear you up for Friday’s release of Devotion (YAY!), I’m going to share with your the other two interviews Kelly and I went through. Today is my MMC, Mathias Sagewind. My lovely antagonist, Veed Astaldt, will be posted on Thursday! Hope you enjoy! (ETA: The part of “Kelly” was played by Kelly Blanchard. The part of “Mathias” was played by, well, Mathias, as interpreted by Katika Schneider.)

Mathias Sagewind excused himself from the boisterous festivities to find a place to chase after Etha’s insights, but his prestige made finding privacy difficult. He wound his way deeper through the courtyards of Nessix’s fortress, walking away from the bustle, until he came across a quiet garden. He hadn’t paid much mind on how he got there, and a gentle buzz still filtered through the air, but it would serve his purpose well.  Taking a seat on the edge of a raised garden bed, he sighed out his weariness and closed his eyes.

Mother, what can you tell me about where we’re heading?

No ready answer came, which was unusual for his chipper goddess, but he sat patiently.  A few heartbeats later, footsteps graced their way toward him. They carried with them an unfamiliar soul and a gentle air.

He met this woman with a confident smile and warm, green eyes. “Well,” he said amiably. “You’re not Etha.”

Kelly gifted him with a warm smile. “Most certainly not, but I’m honored you mistook me for her.” She struck out a hand. “I am Kelly Blanchard, and, according to your reaction to me, I’m assuming you were not expecting me.”

Mathias stood and accepted her hand, stopping short of kissing her fingertips. He still hadn’t figured out the acceptable customs on Elidae, and while it seemed as though Kelly was not among a member of the fleman people, he did not want to offend her. “I most certainly wasn’t, Miss Blanchard, but I would not be so unkind as to turn down your company.”

“Well then, this should be interesting.” Kelly smiled at him as she withdrew her hand. She’d forgotten how different cultures greeted each other differently. “You see, I’ve been given the unique privilege to ask you questions–a lot of questions. I hope you don’t mind answering them.”

He raised his brows at the thought, wondering who got him into this commitment. “I’ll answer what I can.”

“Do you mind if we walk? These gardens are lovely, and I find talking easier when strolling about.” When Mathias gave her a nod, and they began walking, Kelly plucked out her first question. “Now, I understand you had died and was brought back by Ehta.” She glanced at him. “What was your life like before your died? Do you recall?”

His lips twitched at distant memories, eyes wandering far into the depths of his past. “Oh, I remember. Life was simple then, much more straight forward. Ever since I was a kid, I’d dreamed of greatness, but never actually thought I’d find it.” His smile faltered with the smallest hint of remorse, but he buried it behind a sigh. “Wait-” His hand swept through Kelly’s shoulder when he tried to grasp it to direct her the other way in their stroll. That was odd… Shaking off the unusual occurrence the way he typically disregarded the uncanny, he changed his approach. “We don’t want to go that way. It’s rowdy over there.” He turned down a path he hadn’t yet explored that led away from the sounds of the celebration.

She nodded and went with him. She’d noted that remorse in his face and wondered how to touch upon it. “Who were you back then? What did you do?” Then she paused before adding, “And what led you to your death?”

A polite laugh gently shook his shoulders and he glanced toward his feet. He shook his head and looked forward again. “I was an ignorant, starry-eyed kid back then. I was born the oldest of a farming family and was convinced I’d somehow become a knight. My sister was scouted out for her greatness and I escorted her to Zeal for her training as a priestess. We’d spent all of our money on the journey there, anyway, so I couldn’t afford to just turn around and go back home, so I used it as an opportunity.”

He shook his head again, this time with a smile. “I found a knight to apprentice under, learned how to fight demons, and ultimately rose in rank enough to command my own troops.”  His lips parted once more, but he struggled for a moment with his next words. “I’m sure even a lady such as yourself can imagine the dangers involved with leading an army against demons,” he said. “That’s where I found my death.”

Kelly nodded as they walked along the quiet path. She had to gift him with a smile. “Well, it could have been worse. At least your death was fairly honorable.” She shrugged. “And how long were you dead before Etha brought you back?” She cast him a glance. “Or does time work differently after you die?”

He barked a short laugh after her assumption of honor surrounding his death, but time had healed his scars enough for him to see past them. “When you only exist as a soul…” He contemplated this a moment, having never really thought about it. “I suppose time doesn’t exist at all.  I remember falling. I remember the rushing of blood in my ears and the stench of battle. I remember ringing and haze and then… nothing. There was peace. It was still and beautiful. Next thing I know, I was choking on musty air, and pounding my way from a rotting casket. Julianna said it had been somewhere around 300 years, but even after all this time, I only believe it out of my faith in her.”

“Julianna’s your sister, correct?” Kelly raised her brows and made note that these people had exceptionally long lives–even the mere mortal ones. “So what has become of her?”

“Julianna is my sister, yes.” He cast her an amused glance at her skeptical expression. “As I mentioned earlier, she’d been scouted out for her divine gifts, traits that are uncommon for mortals to wield. As a little girl, she was brought to Zeal and trained under the clergy, continually refining her talents. Before I’d died, she’d become made quiet a name for herself as a priestess and sometime between me dying and coming back to life, she’d been blessed by Etha herself as High Priestess. I blame Julianna’s influence for the reason I was brought back to life to begin with.” His chuckle suggested he harbored no ill will toward his sister for the action.

“Jules is still alive today, but where I get to run around and play hero, she has to sit around in stuffy Council meetings.  I think I got the better end of the bargain, in the end.”

“Well, I should probably thank her some time for her influence in bringing her back because otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Kelly gave him a bemused smile then fixed her gaze ahead as she tucked her hands behind her back while walking. “So, I understand you are charged with protecting Nessix. How fares that task?” She glimpsed his way with a slight smile on her lips.

Mathias started to speak, but his words croaked out with dwindling enthusiasm. He didn’t wish to publicly shame the young general, but she hadn’t done much to earn his glowing reviews. “That task…” He blew out a slow breath from puffed cheeks. “It’s a good thing I was assigned to that task, I’ll put it that way. She needs a hand that isn’t afraid to be firm and a guide that doesn’t mind being senselessly beaten. Her heart’s in the right place, but…” His words trailed off again and his face twisted as though he had a stomach ache. “Her heart’s in the right place.”

“But what, Mathias?” Kelly stopped walking, forcing him to do the same. “Be honest with me. Say what you will. I will speak of this conversation to no one. You have my word. You can trust me.” She watched him closely, wondering if he would believe her honest words.

He turned to face her reluctantly and scratched the back of his head. “She’s got some deep-seeded issues that only experience can force her through, and I’m honestly not sure if she’ll get there in time.” His eyes grew sad and distant. “There is only so much I can do to protect her; she has to make the decision to grow by herself.”

“I’m going to be speaking with her eventually as well–don’t worry, I’m not going to mention you at all, but is there something you’d like to tell her that she may not accept from you but might accept from a total stranger such as myself?” she raised her brows.

He smiled at her offer but shook his head. “I wouldn’t want to burden you with that responsibility. It was just a few days ago that I was a complete stranger to her, and she’s been pretty resistant to advice. I was warned that her life hadn’t been gentle. If I knew nothing else about her, the fact that she’s barely a young woman and is tasked with leading her father’s army is enough. She lost her god, most of her family, and has never faced a threat she didn’t know how to handle on her own. The demons came. I came. Nothing makes sense to her right now and I can’t fault her for that.”

He met Kelly’s eyes with a sorrowful depth. “If you can convince her to push aside her pride, even just a little bit, it will be better than what I’ve been able to do. Her pride will be what gets her killed. There is no way for her to do this on her own.”

She gave him a warm smile. “I’ll see what I can do. Can’t promise anything, but I will bear that in mind when I speak with her.” And they finally resumed walking once more. “You seem so very sad, Mathias.” She glanced at him. “What troubles you?”

The thought struck him, as it had been ages since he’d considered himself sad. He looked around them as they walked and reflected on what Kelly saw in him. After this eternal existence of fixing Abaeloth’s problems, maybe he was sad. “I’d never really thought about it,” he murmured. “I suppose I’m just tired.”

“Tired of what? Existence? Always helping others, fixing problems? Or something more?” Kelly motioned to a nearby bench for them to sit, so they could focus on the conversation, and she watched his face for anything he might not verbalize.

Mathias waited for her to take her seat before sitting beside her. “I’m tired of the suffering,” he said slowly. “I’ve seen the best times Abaeloth has ever seen, and I’ve seen the worst, believe me, I’ve seen the worst. Then I’m told to help this naïve, inexperienced girl navigate a holy war…” He sighed and cast his eyes to the stars. “I help people. It’s what I do and what I will continue to do, but knowing that there will always be that need for people to be helped.”

He sat in silence for a second longer before a smile slowly crept on his lips. “And I suppose that’s why it’s a good thing Etha won’t let me die, huh?”

Kelly furrowed her brows at his last remark. “What do you mean by that?”

His smile broadened into a grin. “The reason Julianna begged for me by name and the reason Etha listened to her prayers was because I’m the only fool that’s ever lived that doesn’t mind throwing himself in the fire.  Repeatedly. You’d think I’d learn.” He shrugged. “I was born with the heart to protect and serve-” he pounded a fist against his chest. “Etha just equipped me with a body that can handle whatever gets thrown at me.”

Kelly pondered over his words, but finally she had to turn to him. “And what do you get out of it? It is tiresome to serve others endlessly day in and day out and put up with people’s demands and expectations and having to make people unhappy because they are stupid at times. I do that, and I’m merely mortal. I cannot imagine what it would be like to do that for an eternity. Is this all you want your…life to be? Is it all that is allowed you to be? To give yourself to others tirelessly without expecting anything in return?”

Mathias tucked his lips in a tight line and his gaze hardened. “I’m not sure what I want out of life anymore,” he confessed at last. “I won’t lie.  When I was still mortal, I chased this path for glory and riches and fame. I reached the very cusp of that before I died, and looking back, I’m not sure it was worth it. Now…” He scratched his palm and feigned interest in a smudge that wasn’t there. “I can’t quite explain it. Etha is infinitely powerful, but her laws forbid her to intercept free will. She needs me to help maintain balance in this corrupt world as much as I need her to breathe. I can’t explain it. This is who I am.”

Kelly nodded. “I understand that, but does it make you happy? I mean, sure, you’re probably very satisfied when you’re successful and everything, but admit it–it’s not always easy, and people won’t always heed your advice, and that will get others killed. No matter how hard you try, they might not listen, and that…that wears on your soul. Surely Etha is aware of this. Does she allow you any kind of break or…simple enjoyment where you don’t have to intervene in the daily lives of mere mortals?”

“Does the process of reaching success make me happy?  No, I can’t say it does,” he admitted. “But the people who I touch along the way, the difference that my hope can make for them, the good that my strength can give to them, that is enough. There are lives I cannot save, and there is nothing I can do to alter time, but each life that my influence can positively affect is a blessing. I doubt I’ll ever retire, but the flow of the world gives rise to mortal heroes often enough that I’m allowed the occasional reprieve.”

Contemplating his words, Kelly gave a slow nod but voiced her observation. “You’re merely tired. I can see that, but it’s not just physical exhaustion but a spiritual weariness.” But she knew she couldn’t be of much help regarding that, so she tried to find a brighter topic. “Tell me of one of you more…positive differences you’ve made since you’ve been charged with helping mortals?”

He breathed away the burdensome thoughts on his mind and relit the fire in his eyes. “Can you still hear the commotion over there?” he asked, waving a hand in the direction of bubbly music and boisterous cheering. “That’s an example of what I do.  Before I came here, Elidae had never seen a demon before, barely even had any lore about them. A few attacks were made, stirred up concern. Don’t tell her this, but it had Nessix practically paralyzed with fear. That exhaustion we were just talking about? Part of that was earned through having fought demons for a long time, but if it weren’t for that experience, that party you hear going on would be the last few gurgling chokes of a dying army instead of drunkards making stupid bets with each other.”

“Fighting demons–yeah, I can see why that would be so wearisome.” Kelly cast her gaze in the direction of the celebration. “I’m glad you were able to be here, but…if I may be honest, this was only one fight with the demons, and you’re already exhausted, and I think both of us know that there is *much* more to come. The fact that you’re already exhausted concerns me a little.”

He chuckled at her sentiment and stretched against the back of the bench. “I’ve got a chunk of god-slaying goodness siphoning Etha’s grace into my heart,” he said, eyes glittering. “Physically, I’ll be fine. After a good night’s sleep, I should be able to put today’s dose of Nessix’s temper aside long enough to recover on the mental front. After all, this is far from my first campaign.” He grinned.

“I understand, but still…” Kelly sighed as she rose to her feet to pace before him slowly. She supposed she should get back on purpose at hand with this interview. “So, you are a duty-bound, god(dess)-sent protector with all of eternity before you. Do you have any hopes or dreams for yourself? Have you accomplished all you’ve wished to? or have you no such…dreams anymore?”

Mathias leaned forward and propped his elbows on his knees.  “There’s not much of a reason for me to dream anymore, not in the way I had when I was a mortal.”  His mouth twisted at how unsatisfactory that answer came out. “I have hopes, instead. I hope for this world to find peace. I hope for the demons to find peace.” That thought made him frown for a moment. He’d tried for ages to convince them of that intention, and the vast majority of them wanted nothing to do with it. “I hope that someday there is balance so that I can resume doing whatever it is that I want… spend a week immersed in the library, visit the ocean and do nothing but smell the air. I was born a simple man and one day, I hope to become that man again.”

Kelly smiled. “Isn’t it ironic how that works?” But then she lifted her gaze to the darkened heavens and sighed before looked back at Mathias. “Unfortunately, my time allotted here has come to an end. I will speak with Nessix…eventually, but don’t mention me to her please. Thank you though for your time, your answers, your patience, and for all you do for this world. I’m not sure how many people thank you for it, and even though this is not my world, I thank you.” She bowed her head to him.

He smiled back at her. “The pleasure was mine, Miss Blanchard,” He stood and stretched his arms out, glancing up at the heavens. “Best of luck with Nessix. If fate holds it in her hand, I would be pleased to speak with you sometime in the future.”

Kelly smiled. “That would be nice. Now, get some rest. You need it.” Then she headed down the path from which they came and soon vanished altogether.

Mathias watched Kelly’s after image fade and smiled. “Alright, Etha,” he murmured into the night. “It’s your turn to talk.”

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Almost Back in Action!

Hey folks!

Yes, I’ve been quiet. Again. If there’s one great big thing getting Devotion ready for publication has taught me, it’s that you always want to make sure you schedule ample time for each step along the way.

In my previous post, I mentioned how soul-sucking and evil formatting is. To better convey this fact, it took me until Sunday to get my files just right and approved by CreateSpace for my proof to be sent to me. It should be here Wednesday (I promise there will be a post when that happens) and my fingers are firmly crossed that I won’t have to fix anything. If the proof shows Devotion’s paperback is good to go, it will be released on April 1st alongside the ebook.

Ebook formatting was a trip, as well. I was assured that it was so much easier than paperback, but even with the help of two professional level formatters and a government agency (long story), I couldn’t make one single page behave when viewing the preview of the file. I ended up needing to do some minor rearranging, but everything should be shiny and good to go on that front!

What I’m taking a whole lot of words (204, according to WordPress) to say is that writing was the easy part. I’ve had to take the past couple days off to decompress and in that time, figured it’d be well worth my while and the responsible thing to do to schedule out the final phases of Tale of the Fallen: Book II, Deception. Here is the goal I’m boldly declaring to all you lovely readers:

I will have Deception’s revision done by the end of this week (March 25th).

Per my usual procedure, I’m going to let it sit for two weeks to let all of the events settle in my mind.

Starting April 8th, I will edit, and I’m aiming to have it in the hands of my betas and my cover artist by mid May at the latest. This will allow me to have it back toward the end of June, then on to my editor sometime in early July. My hope is to have it back by the first week in August so I can put on the last polish and finalize my formatting.

I am not willing to make anything preorder official quiet yet, but I have my sights set on a September 1st, 2016 release date for Deception.

Stating it publicly makes things feel so much more official!

Thank you, all of you, for your patience with me. Keep faith in the journey!

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Where’ve You Been, Kat?!

So… I seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth for a bit. Sorry about that.

After a slew of real life happenings and the tension that went with putting the final bit of polish on Devotion, my blog unfortunately took a temporary back seat. What have I been up to the past couple days, you ask?

I’ve been formatting!

Want Kat’s Quick Guide to Formatting Your Novel?

Here goes…

Open your document, all starry eyed and excited. Enter your title and name and copyright information… sort out your heartfelt dedications and acknowledgements… then (trust me on this one) cry. A little. Or a lot. I can’t judge. Cry to your friends. Cry to your colleagues. Cry to the lady at the grocery store. Formatting, if it’s your first time doing it (heck, it may be the same every time… I haven’t made it that far yet!), is terribly frustrating. And you can’t get your quotation marks right. And your tabs are inconsistent. And your margins aren’t right.

Pretty much, my best formatting advice if you’ve never formatted before: Get yourself a template and practice with it well before you have a deadline to meet. Get to know how things work and what you’ll likely have to fix along the way. I’ve got no doubt it’ll all work out in the end but my goodness! Reaching that end is a feat!

The good news is, cover art is done. A portion of my promo art is done. Edits are all applied and I’ve carefully vetted a select sneak peak of Deception, book two of the Tale of the Fallen series. The ebook of Devotion is still on schedule for an April 1st release and if the paperback is not released at the same time, it will be soon after.

Keep faith in the journey, my friends! I’ve been needing to tell myself that a lot these past few days!

-Kat

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Monday Motivation – Trust Yourself and Your Vision

Self-doubt is a terrible beast that plagues a lot of writers. Every writer probably has their unique spin on it, but it seems to usually boil down to not being “good enough.”

First of all, that’s just silly. Of course you’re good enough. If you weren’t, the story wouldn’t have chosen you to tell it.

Writing takes a huge amount of trust in aspects of life that aren’t tangible. You have to trust that you’ll convey the story in the way it wants to be told (here’s a hint: you can and you will). You have to trust that if the story does begin to go astray, it can and will be caught further down the line. It may end up being stronger from the jaunt. You need to trust that vision that started you down this road to begin with. You need to trust that it won’t lead you astray, no matter what.

Trust is a hard thing to hand out, but out of all the things in life you can choose to trust, yourself and your dreams ought to feel the safest. Embrace it and it will love you right back.

I talk to a lot of folks new to or struggling in the writing world, and they almost all want to know how I get past writer’s block or find my way out of corners or fill in plot holes. The only advice I can give – and it seems like something that is hard to accept until it clicks – is to trust that the story and your characters know where to go, and to let them. Don’t worry about being “good enough” or “doing the story justice.” Not in the phase where you’re worrying about writer’s block or corners or plot holes, at least. The spit shining comes well down the road. For now, just write.

The moment you can turn off the self-doubt (and unfortunately, it’s something you’ll probably have to do more than once, so it’s best to get used to doing it as soon as you can), beautiful things will happen. You will always tell your story better than anyone else can, so let yourself write it and keep faith in the journey.

-Kat

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Because I’m a Load of No Fun…

So, yesterday, I’d posted about Mathias and Etha’s relationship, the Divine Battle, and a tiny bit about how Abaeloth’s magical properties revolve around divine energy. When I went back to read what I’d written so I could gear up and give my thorough post about how Abaeloth’s demons came to be, I realized I was dropping spoilers left and right. If I continued to stay the course, it would get even worse.

I have no idea how many readers I have at this point, so I have no way of knowing how many eyes read what went up yesterday but, in an effort to not spoil future works for anyone out there, I chose to take down yesterday’s post (booo!!) and refrain from posting the one I’d planned for today (hissssss!!)

Besides that, I think we’d all be a little more comfortable if I’d get on with the real purpose of this blog and discuss writing and reading as it pertains to all of us. Next week, I’ll be jumping in to my absolute favorite part of writing – character creation!

In the mean time, everyone should really go check out Amy Hopkins’s Dream Stalker! (click her name to get to her website, click the title to go buy it!) Dream Stalker’s a super charming urban fantasy following a plucky tea shop owner, her boggart assistant, and two entertaining brothers as they hunt down what’s been killing people through their dreams. Give it a read, give it some love, and as always, keep faith in the journey!

-Kat

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Giving Life to the World – Discovering Plot

This week should wrap up my little tale of how I discovered Abaeloth, and then we’ll discuss more broad topics concerning writing. I do hope that describing a little bit of my journey has and will continue to get the gears turning in your head.

No matter how much we love our characters, there’s got to be plot to keep them going, and in my case, I needed plot to get Nes and Mathias on the same island.

To be fair, around this time I also began exploring Abaeloth’s history as a whole. Developing Elidae was a direct result of developing the world’s governing bodies (more on that tomorrow), and so I ran two stories of sorts side by side while discovering both the story at hand and the bigger picture. When I sat down with Mathias to ask him how he reached Elidae, he introduced me properly to Etha, who took me on this bigger journey. I currently have this specific story outlined for release on Wattpad, but more on that at a later date.

Anyway, what Mathias ultimately gave me was that he was a demon hunter and, obviously, demons were attacking Elidae. With Nessix essentially all by herself, he went to her rescue. And honestly, that was as deep as the plot was for quite some time. The demons had no real motive and Mathias never questioned them, and I just started writing.

I should add here that I only outlined in the very broadest sense of the word and it was the first time since I began writing in fourth grade that I found my story shifting off the outline on its own accord. I was still discovering my writing style and methods and chose to allow these wandering thoughts to come out, but at the end of each chapter, I tried to pull things back on course.

Ten years down the road, I realize that I would have been better served to let the plot trail down the road it wanted to take and it would have saved me some massive headaches during revisions. Remember what I said last week about trusting yourself? I’m not saying you need to completely abort your original plan, and some people do swimmingly with outlines. But do at least entertain the idea that the story may know better than you do where it needs to go.

During this phase, I was still getting to know Etha and Abaeloth, and it wasn’t until I surrendered to the fact that my deities were full-fledged characters in their own rights that the world and my plot began to come to life. In the whirlwind of new characters, new places, needing to develop a magic system and cultures, I discovered just how important it was to surrender control to my creativity. Being a perfectionist and terrified of being out of control, it was a big step for me, but it led me to the mantra that I will tell you every single day. Keep faith in the journey.

-Kat

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Monday Motivation – You Can’t Do Creative Wrong

The beauty of writing (and any art) is that it’s unique to each individual. It’s about exploring what evokes emotion in us and our audience. It’s a place to discover a sense of freedom we may otherwise never get to reach in our day to day world.

Simply stated, writing is beautiful. Creating is beautiful.

But odds are good I don’t have to tell you any of that. Instead, let me tell you this.

You cannot do “creative” wrong.

The (inconvenient) truth about writers is that we’re all insecure on some level. We have to be, if we hope to tap in to what makes our characters real enough for readers to care about. And as insecure artists, sometimes it can be painfully easy to feel the effects of others’ judgment –

Folks telling us that we “can’t” use certain words. People who say the story would work better written in their voice. Those who simply don’t understand that to some writers, story crafting is far more than a business or something we quest after solely for the end product.

Despite all of the rules taught to us in High School English and in books by Big Name Authors, there is no right or wrong when it comes to creativity. All that matters is that you stay true to your vision, your story, your characters. Your ideas and your voice, those are the things that nobody can say you’re doing wrong because they are exclusively yours.

We are writers. We are artists. We get judged by people who think it’s their place in life to do so. But what it boils down to is that your story needs you as much as you need it. Your creativity is yours and it’s perfect and it’s beautiful. Keep faith in the journey!

-Kat

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