Friday, August 16, 2019

Writing Your End Scene First: Why It Works and How to Do It

"Write your end scene first."

That seems like weird advice, right?

Well, it is. But it's actually really good advice, too. I tested it out while writing my most recent writing project: This Pain Inside, an underwater sci-fi to be published in Strange Waters. As a trailblazer (the easier-to-pronounce term for pantster), this little trick kept my writing process far more efficient than it usually is. It was a magical experience, so I wanted to share some tips with you so that you can give the end-scene-first hack a try:

Writing Your End Scene First: Why It Works and How to Do It

Before we get started, I'm sure some of you more contrary readers have this question rolling around your head:

Why would you want to write the end scene first? 

This is easy to answer. You write the end scene first because it helps you see exactly where it is you are heading. If you don't have a solid end in mind when you start a story, you will inevitably start meandering. Sure, you could just have an outline (supposing you're the outlining type), but that isn't as easy to envision as having an actual end scene already written out. 

Writing the end scene first keeps you on track. It also helps you get pumped up because you have this awesome end scene that you just can't wait to build up to. 

Got it? Okay, let's talk tips: 

1. Know that you don't have to have it all figured out. The beauty of writing the end scene first is that all you need to know is the basic way you want to close out the story. You don't need to know the middle part of the story. You don't need to know everything about your main character or your world. Heck, when I wrote my end scene my main character didn't even have a name. I was basically pulling an Andy Dwyer: I didn't know what I was doing, but I knew I was doing it really, really well.

Andy Dwyer from Parks and Rec making an excited/sheepish face.

Despite not needing to know everything, what you do need to know is what issue is being resolved so that you can wrap it up nicely at the end. Ideally, you will have both your character conflict and plot conflict figured out when you start writing, as this is the information you need to reach a satisfying end.

Yes, it can be very disconcerting to start writing a scene with very little information, but that's okay. Keep going. You can edit later.

2. Go into your end scene with an emotion or theme in mind. This will give your scene a cohesive feeling despite the fact that you may not know a lot about the rest of your story. For instance: I knew that I wanted my end scene to convey hope and power, so I used actions and language that best conveyed those emotions.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. This end scene will change as your go back and write the rest of the story, so there's no use in fixating on any particular part of the scene. Don't stress about getting he ending line just perfect. Don't worry if you don't have a character name. It's even okay if you literally have no idea where you plan to start the story. None of that matters. What matters is that you block out an end scene for you to write towards.

4. Expect to have to re-write portions of your end scene. Portions of your end scene will change as you add or change details earlier in the story. I ended up having to re-work a good 30% of my end scene once I wrote the rest of the story. But you know what? That still takes less time than writing a sprawling story with no end in sight, then having to go back and re-work and cut and clarify. It's worth it, I promise.

Have you ever tried this hack? How did it go? I'd love to hear about it.

Related articles:
6 Tips for Writing a Killer End Scene

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Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, August 9, 2019

#ChatWithHannah Ep 17: Pep Talk for Writers

My Youtube channel is back up and running! It was down for a while because of life craziness, but I survived. Yay.

Here. Have a pep talk:

Have topics you'd like discussed on this channel? Leave a comment below and I'll see if I can make it happen! 

Related article: 
#ChatWithHannah Ep 6: Taking Writing Advice, Blogging Tips, and More

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Some links are Amazon Affiliate. Thank you for your support.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Favorite and Least Favorite Tropes in YA Fantasy

This post is brought to you by Next Door Neighbor Brain.

What's Next Door Neighbor Brain, you ask? Next Door Neighbor Brain is when you're trying to write a blog post at 7:30 AM, but your next door neighbor decides to start using a jackhammer, thereby inducing a headache, difficulty focusing, and thoughts of murder. (they're actually pretty chill neighbors aside from this, though, so it's okay. I'll forgive them after I drink some caffeine)

Because of this, today's post is going to be a little different. I'm going to list my fav and least fav YA Fantasy tropes in no particular order and with zero explanation. Let's go:

Favorite and Least Favorite Tropes in YA Fantasy

Fav: Over-powered heroes. 

Least fav: One character "romantically" stalking another character. 

Fav: A character pulling an impossible number of weapons off of their person during the disarming process. 

Least fav: Love triangles. 

Fav: Antagonist turned ally. 

Least fav: Medieval European world-building. 

Fav: Old warrior coming out of retirement to begrudgingly help the hero. 

Least fav: The female character having to best a male character to prove her awesomeness. 

Fav: Traumatic past being slowly revealed over time. 

Least fav: A character becoming instantly good at sword-fighting after practicing for a night. 

Fav: A character becoming instantly good at sword-fighting after practicing for a night.  

Least fav: Every male character being either completely stoic or a lady killer. 

Fav: A character out to avenge a fallen family member or friend. 

Least fav: Conveniently absent parents. 

Fav: Secret royalty. 

Least fav: Forced marriage. 

Fav: Characters participating in a dangerous competition or game to prove worthiness to their society. 

Least fav: Circular Reasoning Villain. AKA: The bad guy that's bad because he does bad things. 

Fav: Magical academies. 

Least fav: Female character not realizing how beautiful she is. 

Fav: The loner character who slowly gains friends. 

Least fav: The loner character who's new-found friend dies to provide character motivation. 

Fav: Assassin/mercenary/warrior who is feared throughout the land. 

Least fav: The handsome brooding bad boy. 

Fav: Dragons. 

I could keep going, but I'm going to stop because, well. Dragons are awesome and seem like a fitting end to a post.

What are some of your favorite and least favorite tropes within YA Fantasy? I'd love to hear 'em!

Related articles:
PFW Podcast Episode 17: How to Utilize Tropes in Speculative Fiction
7 Cliché Characters in YA Fiction That Need to Stop

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Friday, July 26, 2019

12 Horrifying, Unbelievable Sea Creatures to Use in Your Writing

I'm currently in the middle of writing an underwater sci-fi story and wow. I've turned up some pretty interesting things during my research.

And by "interesting" I mostly mean weird and kind of horrifying.

So who wants to learn about some bizarre/scary ocean creatures? You can use them in any of your water-based stories. Or even slap some legs/wings onto them and put them in a land or sky-based story.

12 Horrifying, Unbelievable Sea Creatures to Use in Your Writing

Warning: This post does have pictures and some of these things do look legitimately creepy. However, most of them are from the deep sea, so unless you own a submarine I think you'll be safe. 

1. Dragonfish

These deep sea fish are generally only about 6 inches long. Not too scary, right? Right. Unless you happen to be a tiny 3 inch fish, then you'll never see it coming. This fish has a little light that dangles beneath it's chin to lure in fish. Because dragonfish are so dark in color, its prey only see the light, not the hunter. Or its giant teeth. Fun fact: The dragonfish's stomach has black lining so that if they swallow a fish that is bioluminescent itself, the dragonfish's stomach won't start glowing, thus giving away it's location.

Make this fish 6 feet long instead of 6 inches and you've got an awesome fantasy/sci-fi monster on your hands. 

2. Barreleye 

Guys. This thing is weird. It literally has a transparent head. And also looks very depressed:

Baby, who hurt you?
It got its name because it's bright green eyes are tube-shaped and change locations depending on where the fish wants to look. Usually, their eyes are pointed straight up, but they can move to look forward, too. Also, they don't eat their prey. They just....engulf them.

It honestly looks like a semi-transparent depressed submarine fish and I'm kind of in love.

3. Diablo Rojo

AKA: The humboldt squid. These squid are usually about five feet long, but have been known to reach eight feet and 100 pounds. These squid are vicious carnivores (and sometimes even cannibals) that flash red when they're hunting and killing their prey (red works as underwater camouflage). They have been known to attack humans, though generally only when they're provoked.

I know sharks are often the featured animal in horror or adventure films, but honestly? Being attacked by a red squid with a giant, sharp beak and suction-like limbs is just as terrifying to me. 

4. Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait

These sea snakes have a paddle-like tail and debilitating, sometimes fatal, venom.

Also, they eat moray eels. Which is probably only notable to me because moray eels creep me out, so learning that there's a demon water snake that eats the thing I thought was scary is...a little traumatic. 

5. Fire Coral

For anyone who isn't familiar: Coral is painful. It's very sharp and can cut you to shreds. But fire coral takes this to the next level. It's basically a mix of coral and jelly fish: If you accidentally come into contact with it, you will end up having that area of your skin burning for the next few days. Luckily, fire coral doesn't really move and can't attack you, so just stay away from it and you'll be fine. 

Unless, of course, you want to write a story where fire coral has legs and can hunt things, in which case: That sound awesome. Do it. 

6. Frilled Shark not like these. They're basically a mix of a shark and an eel. They're about six feet long, live in the deep sea, and have been termed living fossils because, well....Look at it:

Even though it's called a shark, it moves in a serpentine/eel-like fashion. They have an inordinate amount of teeth and like to eat squid. 

Or maybe humans. I mean, sure, there's no evidence that they eat humans, but we don't really live in the same area, so how do we know for sure? They look like something that would eat a dumb character who swims too far away from their submarine. 

7. Northern Stargazer

This is a pretty chill name for a fish that has the face of a satan-worshipping gargoyle.

It camoflagues itself by digging into the ocean floor where it waits for fish to swim over it. Because they're eyes are on the top of their head, this fish can easily see its prey. When a target swims by, it emits an electric shock and swallows its meal whole. 

8. Giant isopod 

So this one isn't dangerous, it's just really, really weird. They basically look like underwater rolly-pollies, except they're about fifteen inches long and are usually lilac or pale pink in color. They are, apparently, a result of deep sea gigantism, a phenomena that explains why deep sea creatures are often way larger than their surface-dwelling counterparts (think giant squid).

They also have very, very reflective eyes. Which isn't really important, it's just weird and I had to mention it.

9. Sea spiders

Are you afraid of the ocean? Are you afraid of spiders? Then allow me to introduce you to your newest nightmare.

Sea spiders, especially the ones in the deep sea, can grow up to 2 feet long (though there are species that are less than half an inch). Many of them have proboscis that allow them to suck liquid from their prey. 

Yup. You know how giant spiders always end up in some kind of forest in a fantasy novel? These would be the monsters that frequently show up in underwater novels (if underwater stories were more common). 

10. Pelican eel

This one is a big fat nope for me. 

Why? Why does this exist? Its mouth is bigger than its entire body and that is not okay. They are about two and a half feet long and apparently their teeth aren't very big. As if that's supposed to make me feel better.

11. Stygiomedusa 

This guy is a giant deep sea jelly fish. And by giant I mean 33 feet long, making it one of the largest invertebrate predators in the ocean. It's tentacles don't sting like most jelly fish. Rather, they work as giant arms to trap and eat their prey. 

I mean, sure. They only really eat plankton and small fish, but, uh. What if they suddenly get a taste for human flesh?? 

12. Giant Squid

How giant are we talking? About 40 feet. And their eyes are about 11 inches in diameter. [insert screaming emoji here] One of their only natural predators is the sperm whale....Which is why sperm whales often have circular scars all over them.

I had a hard time finding a picture of a giant squid, so
here's a sort-of to-scale drawing. (Creative Commons: Ed T).

Fun (or horrifying) fact: Not only do giant squid have large beaks, but their tongues are lined with tiny, file-like teeth. As if the giant eyes, scar-inducing suckers, and sharp beak weren't scary enough. 

And there you have it. Hopefully this post gave you some cool writing ideas, as well as a new-found respect for the ocean. What is your favorite weird/unbelievable ocean creature? I'd love to learn about it! I personally think the deep sea jelly fish is pretty amazing.

Related articles:
10 Little-Known Weapons to Use in Your Speculative Fiction Stories

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Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, July 19, 2019

13 Tips for Preparing for a Live Author Event

I'm covertly writing this blog post while sitting behind my very own booth at Realm Makers (don't worry, everyone is in a panel right now so I'm not ignoring anyone).

And, honestly, I still can't believe I'm here. I've been planning this event for six months....and have been dreaming about selling my books since I was old enough to know how to write. There's been so much leading up to this. Sarcastic blog posts full of writing tips, short stories full of honesty, twitter feeds full of Batman gifs, comic con visits full of wonder, and so many other things.

And here I am. Sitting behind a 3-foot piece of table wondering how on earth I got where I am. And also wondering if it's appropriate to curl up under the table for a few minutes and take a power nap (I'm assuming the answer is no?).

But I can't take that nap (not yet) because I have knowledge to impart. For those of you who are planning a live author event (or for those of you who are curious about all the behind-the-scenes aspects of an author event), here's what it takes:

13 Tips for Preparing for a Live Author Event

1. Don't panic. Yeah, yeah. If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you know this is common advice. But it's good advice. Douglas Adam knows what's up. Live events are stressful for so many reasons. Not only do you have to pitch your own work, but you also have to print your books, come up with extra merch, prepare your table layout, plan traveling, market your trip so people know to look for you, and not die. That's a lot to handle. Whenever I found myself thinking about it too much, I started panicking.

My advice? Only plan small chunks at a time. Don't try to think about everything all at once. That way lies insanity.

2. Start planning early. Do NOT wait until the month before the event. That is really, really dumb (unless you've done this before and are an expert, in which case: It's only kind of dumb).

Gif of Hermoine Granger from Harry Potter cringing and shaking her head.

Things can and will go wrong. It's the beauty and horror of Murphy's law. Allow yourself time to adjust to all the craziness.

3. Don't go alone. If you can go to this event with a friend or, better yet, a fellow author, do so. Not only can they help you prepare for your event, but they can offer moral support and even pitch your stories for you. I'm here at Realm Makers with Beth Wangler and K.L.+Pierce, my good friends and fellow PFW authors. We've been able to bounce ideas off of each other, cheer on each other's work, and help  each other with everything from table setup to meal planning to matching people's real-life-faces to their internet-profile-faces (I'm terrible at this, btw). Their friendship and support not only has made the event 1000% more fun, but it's made it infinitely easier, too. So don't go alone. Take a friend. Or two. Or as many as you can.

4. Practice pitching your story. Naturally. Why did I add naturally? Well, the taglines you post online are not the ones that sound natural when spoken aloud. They come across as robotic and awkward. I highly recommend re-writing all of your taglines to be ones that would sound normal when spoken. It'll help your audience understand your stories more fully and it will save you a lot of embarrassment.

5. Fly Southwest if you can. This is a weirdly specific tip, I know. But it's important because Southwest allows two free checked bags, something that you're really, really going to need if you have a lot of merch. Like me:

Yes, the larger suitcase on the right weighs over 40 pounds. It was...interesting
to roll around.

It's cost effective and easy. Use them.

6. Make checklists. Dude. SERIOUSLY. Checklists. And not just one long one. Several different lists broken up into categories. A list for clothes you need to pack. A list of merch you need to pack. A list of table accessories (book stands, business cards, clipboards, a card reader, etc). A list of electronics. Allllll the lists.  This helps you compartmentalize and ensures you don't miss anything important.

7. Remember the nitty gritty. There are lots of small things that are easy to forget, but are still really, really important to have. Here's some of them:
  • Have a newsletter sign-up sheet
  • Prominently displayed your price card (nobody wants to awkwardly ask for the price) 
  • Bring a water bottle (because yes, you will get dehydrated) 
  • Bring a sign or a banner or something that instantly tips people of that "oh, hey, that's that weird author I follow online!" 
  • Bring a tally sheet so you can easily keep track of what you've sold
  • Bring a card reader for people who want to pay credit
  • Bring ibuprofen. it. You'll thank me later.
8. Bring caffeine. Because yeah, talking to people about your work (or about their work...or about their favorite version of Batman) takes a lot of energy. One of the first things I packed was a box of chai tea. That was one of my best life choices to date.

9. Think big. Don't assume that this will be your one and only live event. Buy more paperbacks than you expect to sell. Buy other merch in bulk if you can. It's more cost-effective and ensures that 1) You won't run out of stuff to sell and 2) You won't have to go through the hassle of stocking up next time you hold an event. Is it scary to spend a chunk of your hard-earned money on an event? Yes. But it's better in the long run.

10. Do freebies and interactive polls/photo ops. People may feel awkward about just walking up and staring at your table, but if you give them a reason to stare, they're more likely to stop by. Plus, who doesn't like free merch?

Free fandom buttons? Yes, please!

11. Market. If you already have a platform (which hopefully you already do, if you're planning an event), use it to trumpet the fact that you are going to be at a live event. Post to your newsletter, your social media accounts, your blog. With any luck, you'll have some familiar faces (or, in my case: names) stop by to say hello. It's a good confidence boost. And also helps with sales. A lot.

12. Write your blog posts early. Don't be like me and end up trying to write your blog post during the live event. That's dumb.

13. Have fun. If you aren't having fun preparing for/thinking about your live event, then you'll want to take a step back and reconsider. Maybe you're too stressed or maybe you need some help from a friend. Get the tools you need to enjoy yourself and soak up the glory of selling your books in public!

And there you have it.

I want to give a quick shout-out to all of you incredible blog readers who have stopped by and said hello to me during this conference. I have no words to express how much it means to hear that my little corner of the internet has helped fellow writers.

If you're at Realm Makers right now, come say hi!! I'd love to meet you! And if you're up for it: Ask for a picture. I'd love to memorialize our meeting because you are special and I'm thrilled to get to meet you.

Related articles:
Given that this is my first official live event, I have no corresponding articles. Have a Batman post instead:
Why Writers Should Strive to be More Like Batman
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Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Sounds of Deceit Release Day Party!

Ding dong, the story is here! The...the...

Okay, I can't remember the rest of that song, so I'll stop it there. The point is:

Book cover for Sounds of Deceit: A bell tower against a purple night sky and a glowing yellow moon.
Sounds of Deceit officially released today! WOOHOOOOOOO! *skips around the room* *trips over the random books and pens scattered all over my floor*

You can check out the gorgeous paperback here and the epic ebook here.

I am so thrilled to be able to share this YA Christian Fantasy short story with you all. It has a few sections that were straight-up surprises to me. One scene in particular ended up being something that I needed to hear, but wasn't particularly open to accepting just yet. It scared me a bit, but, in the end, it turned out beautifully.

In short: Sounds of Deceit was a blessing to write. I'm excited to put it out into the world.

For anyone who hasn't been paying attention: Sounds of Deceit is the third story in the Terebinth Tree Chronicles, but is also a stand-alone. You don't need to have read the first two to be able to appreciate this story.

What you do need in order to appreciate this story are the following qualities:

A love for magician characters, action scenes, sibling duos, vivid world-building, haunted pasts, honest writing, assassins, and self-exiled mercenaries.

Basically: If you like cool things, then you'll like this story.

To answer the inevitable question: Yes, this story is part of my Torn Universe. And yes, there are easter eggs. I dare you to find them all.

Like, now. Right now. Go find the easter eggs!

Gif of multiple pokemon cheering. Text reads: "Gotta catch 'em all!"

Just kidding. I have a few more things to say:


I'm holding two parties and you're invited to both of them. 

First, we have the Torn Universe Facebook livestream where I'll give you non-spoilery facts about Ailith, Sounds of Deceit, and the Terebinth Tree Chronicles in general. You're welcome to show up, hang out, ask questions, and eat cupcakes (which you have to provide for yourself. Sorry). 

This livestream is happening tonight at 5 PM PST. Make sure to request Torn Universe membership to get in! 

Second, we have a Sounds of Deceit livestream on Youtube tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 AM PST. Click "reminder" on Youtube to get a notification when I got live! 

I'd love to see you during these events. Bring questions, comments, cupcakes, and party hats! 


As always, I would love your help with getting Sounds of Deceit out into the world. Here's how you can be a superhero: 
  • Buy Sounds of Deceit. Duh.
  • Leave a review. Seriously. It may seem like a small thing, but even a one-sentence Amazon review is incredibly important. Bonus points if you leave a review on Goodreads, too. 
  • Share the short story online by sharing the Amazon, Goodreads, or website page on any and all social media networks.
  • Recommend Sounds of Deceit on Goodreads. Did you know you can do that? Because you can and it's really helpful. Here's how
  • Tell your family and friends. Shoot them a text, write them an email, send them a pigeon. Whatever works for you. 
  • Create fanart and post it online. And don't forget to send it to me so I can put it on my website! I LOVE seeing fanart and so does pretty much everyone else. Brighten our day with your rendition of a character or scene from Sounds of Deceit. Have questions about character details? Just leave questions for me below! I'll fill you in on any info you may need. 
  • Blog about it. You know how you have a blog post to write, but can't come up with a topic? I've got you covered: Write about Sounds of Deceit. You're welcome.
  • Youtube about it. If you're a booktuber, consider giving Sounds of Deceit a shout-out.
  • Take pictures of your copy of Sounds of Deceit and post it online. I love seeing my stories out in the wild. Plus, it helps other people find their next magic-filled fantasy read. You get a million bonus points if you grab something from my merch shop and post pictures alongside Sounds of Deceit. 
  • Go on a library walking-tour.  As in, walk from library to library and stock them with copies of Sounds of Deceit. Sure, you could just mail them a copy, but where's the fun in that? 
  • Test out whatever other fun marketing technique you can think of.

Even doing just one of these things is hugely helpful to me. Thank you for your support! 

But, at the end of the day, I really just want you to read and enjoy Sounds of Deceit. So get off my blog and go curl up somewhere with a copy! Have fun.

Related articles:
Sounds of Deceit Cover Reveal, Jacket Blurb, and Release Date!
Celebrating My 5-Year-Blogiversary: Merch Shop and Sounds of Deceit Paperback Release!

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Celebrating My 5-Year-Blogiversary: Merch Shop and Sounds of Deceit Paperback Release!

Monday just got a whole lot better. Why? Because today is my 5 year blogiversary!!

I look back at the past five years of blogging and, honestly, I find it all very funny. I started this blog at the same time that I started college. Because obviously that's a great idea and not at all stressful. It's been quite the ride.

During the past five years I have...

  • Written two duplicate posts because I forgot I'd already written on the topics. 
  • Scrawled random blog post ideas in my Chemistry notebook, across my forearm, and on the back of an essay draft that I thought was mine and then learned that wasn't (RIP, random idea I'll never be able to remember).
  • Wrote a post that got tens of thousands of views in a single week, got excited, realized that the post had a typo in its title, then had to fight the urge to die of shame.
  • Learned to stop turning tomato red when I tell people I'm a blogger. 
  • Met four fellow writers in-person, all due to having connected with each other through my blog. 
  • Received angry comments on the same blog post from a person who thought I was being too feminist...and then from another person who thought I wasn't being feminist enough.
  • Received countless kind, supportive comments from readers all around the world. 
  • Built a drop-down menu that I am now too afraid to update because it was horrifying to code. 

And that's just a few of the surprising adventures I've had due to this blog. When I started blogging, I never thought it would help me connect with this many amazing people. But it did. And I'm still in awe. 

Thank you to all of the incredible people who have been reading since the beginning. And thank you to everyone who has recently jumped on-board this train of writing tips, sarcasm, and nerd references. You all have great taste. 

As always, I have several reveals to kick off our celebration! It's all very exciting and shiny, so you may want to sit down and put on your sunglasses. 

(That was a terrible joke, but I've already committed to it. Just pretend it didn't happen)

Okay. Here we go. 

Merch Shop

It contains merch with my blog artwork, my logo, my character art, story quotes, and more! You can grab yourself a shirt, a journal, a mug, a tote bag, an art print, a pencil pouch, some stickers, and soooooo many other cool things. Like laundry bags and tapestries. Not sure why those are there, but they are. Have at it! 

This merch shop also contains your first official look at Jayel, so be sure to head on over and say hello. 

I worked incredibly hard on this shop. I already ordered myself some of the merch and am so proud of how everything turned out. It's beautiful and high-quality and I'm just really, really excited to share this with you. 

If you like what you see, don't forget to share the link online or email it to a friend!

Sounds of Deceit Paperback

Sounds of Deceit is now available in paperback! *flails* I released it earlier than the ebook, so feel free to head on over and grab a copy. 

If you like stories with magic, complex characters, fast-paced action, strong (but not preachy) themes, and fascinating (but not overwhelming) world-building, then this story is for you. 

Sounds of Deceit can be read as a stand alone, so don't be worried about the fact that it's the third Terebinth Tree Chronicle.

While you're off reading, don't forget to add the story to your Goodreads list! And also remember that there will be many festivities to come on Friday and Saturday after the official release of the ebook. You can head on over to my website to see which events you can come to. It's going to be SO much fun! Like, "I'm going to Disneyland but also don't have to change out of my pajamas" level of fun. 

I hope to see you there! 


Even though I'm having lots of fun live events, I know that not everyone will be able to fit them into their schedule. Because of this, I'm accepting questions in the comments section about anything and everything writing-related. I'll answer them on my blog next Monday.

If you have any questions about my blogging adventures over the last 5 years, ask away! Also feel free to ask me questions about any of my published stories or anything about my writing life. 

If there's ever anything you've wanted to know about this blog or my stories (or about being a blogger or an author in general), then ask away! I'm happy to be your guide on this curiosity voyage. 

And that's all the celebration I have for you today. Before you go, here's a party treat: 

Gif called "Ordinary Batman Adventures." It's a gif of a scowling Batman holding a cupcake as confetti rains down on him.

You only get to eat the cupcake if you can steal it from Batman without being maimed. May the odds be ever in your favor! 

Seriously, though. Thank you for being such amazing blog readers! You are amazing and I am very thankful for you. 

Related articles: 

Celebrate My 4-Year-Blogiversary: Paperback Giveaway + Hashtag Game Announcement!
3 Year Blogiversary: Announcements and Youtube Channel Launching
My 2 Year Blogiversary! + A Survey

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!

Friday, June 28, 2019

7 Writing Lessons Learned from Dungeons & Dragons

Heyyyyy. So. Before we get started, I thought you'd want to know: Sounds of Deceit is now available for pre-order! YAY!!! 

Okay. You can read the rest of the post now. 

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in January. I had no idea what I was doing...and was also playing with two other newbies who also didn't know what they were doing.

Fast-forward to now and, well. I'm still pretty bad at the game. Maybe? I don't know how to tell whether I'm good or bad at it, but my character dies quite often, so I'm assuming that's bad. 

But I've learned a lot. I love the game and, even though I'm not the Dungeon Master, I've still learned a lot about storytelling. Whether or not you play D&D, you'll want to stick around for the treasure trove of writing information I've picked up in various dungeons and zombie-peep-infested villages (yeah, you read that right). Most of these tips pertain to fantasy novels, but several of them are useful for any type of writer:

7 Writing Lessons Learned from Dungeons & Dragons

1. Let your characters mess up. For anyone who isn't familiar with D&D, the basic concept is this: The character you're role-playing as decides to do something. You roll dice to see whether you succeed or fail at the task. So you may have a character who decides to do something badass only to roll badly and have them fall on their face. For instance: My character once tried to heroically save a group of people from zombie peeps only to get infected and almost die. There was also a time when we tried to make it into a city by throwing one of our team members over the wall....Only to have him face plant into brick.

Think of how much more interesting and dynamic a story would be if you let your characters fail at things. Maybe they try to do something badass and instead end up making a fool of themselves. Or maybe they mess up an important fight and get badly injured. This keeps your readers on their toes and also humanizes your characters.

2. Get creative with races. Most fantasy stories have three races: Men, elves, and dwarves. But D&D doesn't follow this constraint.

Gif from Stranger Things: Mike slamming down the figure of a Demogorgon onto their Dungeons and Dragons table.

We've got humanoid vagabond birds (Kenku), evil snake dudes (Yuan-ti), epic dragon-esque beings (Dragonborn), genie-type people (genasi), and horrifying spider people that I wish I'd never seen (Driders). And that's just the tip of the iceburg. So I ask you: WHY do none of these show up in fantasy novels? Why don't we have all sorts of cool races populating our speculative fiction stories? It makes me sad. Be more creative, people. 

3. Let your characters be different from you. D&D is played as a group, so it's always interesting to see the choices other characters make. Often times my fellow players' characters will make choices I would never have considers. Usually they're pretty creative. Sometimes they're horrifying (James, you know what you did). Regardless, it reminds me of how important it is to work to get out of your head when you're writing characters. While it is fine to have characters who are similar to you, it can also get a bit predictable and boring (both for yourself and your readers). Make an effort to have your characters behave in ways that you wouldn't.

4. Use alllll the weapons. Wanna see all the weapons available in D&D? Here's a picture of the selection in the 5th edition player's handbook:

Glorious, right? And all you did was give your fantasy character a sword and a bow. For shame.

5. Let your characters get hurt (or die). It is very rare for my character to escape a battle without losing a decent amount of hit points (translationg: Without getting wounded pretty badly). And, yet, a lot of stories allow their characters to walk away from fights with only a scratch or two. Don't do this. It lowers the stakes of the story. If a character is going to fight, they're probably going to get hurt. That's okay. Let them.

Gif of Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec: "Everything hurts and I'm dying."

And you know what? You need to kill off characters every once in a while (unless you're going for a fluffy kind of a story, which is fine). People die in battle. People die of infection. People die of old age. Don't ignore these things in your stories. 

6. Go bold with the world-building. I touched on this a bit with the races point, but I'm going to drive this home: If you're building a world, then build a world. Flesh out the politics, the geographical features, the magic system, the currency, etc. Sure, it's possible that not all of that will make it into the forefront of you story, but mentioning some of it in passing lends a depth and richness to your world. D&D works in all sort of cool world-building: Social systems, religions, politics, geography, magic, money. Take a cue from them.

7. Collaborate. When making decisions in D&D, players will often talk with each other to make sure they're making the right call. After all, if one player forges ahead and then triggers a bunch of smiling, murderous statues and gets all their friends killed, then that's kind of sucky. Making solid choices is easier if you get input from others. When you're stuck on a story, remember to reach out to fellow writers and ask for opinions and suggestions. It'll jumpstart your brain and help you move in the right direction.

Bonus: If you play as one of your own characters from a story you're writing, you can come to better understand your character. It's pretty epic.

Do you play D&D? What have you learned from the game? Also: What character do you play? I must know. I alternate between a Dragonborn cleric named Norberta (I couldn't help myself) and a half-elf sorcerer (who is actually the D&D version of Jayel. It's pretty awesome).

Related articles:
7 Writing Lessons Learned from Stranger Things
Why Writers Should Strive to be More Like Batman

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Sounds of Deceit Cover Reveal, Jacket Blurb, and Release Date!

I have big news, people. Are you ready? Are you sure?? Okay. Here goes:

On 07/05, I will officially be releasing the third short story in the Terebinth Tree Chronicles. Sounds of Deceit is very different from the first two stories: It features a human protagonist, is not set in the desert, and takes places in a realm that is directly under Elgar's rule.

Oh, and one more thing. The human protagonist? She's a magician.

Allow me to tell you more.

One sorcerer. Four assassins. Uncover the stories of the warriors who will one day band together to kill the most powerful being in their world.

Death and destruction. Those are the consequences of being a magician under Elgar's rule. Ailith once thought that she could be the exception, but now she sees that her skillset only brings about pain, even upon those she intends to protect. Convinced that there is only one solution, Ailith buries herself in obscurity and turns her back on the warrior life.

It is a simple decision at first, but one that grows more and more complicated as Elgar, a tyrannical sorcerer, continues his reign of death and injustice. When Ailith is offered an opportunity to fight against Elgar once again, she must decide: Will she continue to live in fear of her powers? Or will she embrace them, no matter the consequences?


I will, of course, be rolling out more fun information as 07/05 comes closer. Here's what it's going to look like: 

Monday, 06/24

Next Friday, I will also be releasing the opening scene of Sounds of Deceit via my newsletter, so you should go subscribe.

Monday, 07/01

This is my 5-year-blogiversary and I'll be celebrating with a bang. Not only will I be rolling out a special, secret surprise for you all, but I'll also have the Sounds of Deceit paperback available to order. Mark your calendar! 

Friday, 07/05 

Sounds of Deceit releases! *throws tiny trash* Yay! I'll be hosting a Facebook livestream at 5 PM PST in my Torn Universe Facebook group. Come to hang out, ask questions, and have fun! Please bring birthday cake and your most absurd birthday hat. Be prepared to post pictures.

Saturday, 07/06

Sounds of Deceit Youtube livestream! If you're not on Facebook, this livestream is for you. Come hang out with me at 10 AM PST to chat, celebrate, and ask any questions you have about my stories or my writing. Be sure to hit "reminder" on the Youtube page so you get a notification when I go live!

You can find all of these live events marked on my events page calendar

Have any questions about Sounds of Deceit or any of the upcoming festivities? Leave a comment below and I'll get back to you! 

Also: Who here is excited to meet the first official magician in my series? Because I know I'm thrilled to finally introduce you to her!

Related articles:
Colors of Fear: Cover Reveal and Q&A

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Why I Write About What Scares Me

This is a post that is answering a question that nobody has asked me. A bit odd, I know. I’m writing and publishing it anyway because I hope that, somehow, it will encourage you in your writing journey (or even in your journey to tackle the thing that scares you). Thank you for reading. 

Every single story that I write is driven by something I have struggled with in the past…or am currently struggling with now. Themes I explore are often issues I wrestle with in my personal life, and character arcs and dialogue sequences that appear in my stories are usually ones I’ve had (or wish that I’ve had) myself.

As I write these stories, I am afraid. I struggle, and I grow exhausted. I want to give up sometimes. I want to pick an easier story to write, or perhaps craft something that is not quite so close to my heart. Because it’s painful, isn’t it? Writing about what matters hurts. 

Why I Write About What Scares Me

I dig deep, and sometimes I don’t like what I find in myself: Anger, fear, confusion. But then, other times, I plunge into the fray and find pieces of myself that I sometime forget exist: Courage, faith, passion. It’s all mixed up there in the pages of my stories. So many emotions, so many experiences, not all of them good, not all of them bad. I look at them, and that’s when the other kind of terror strikes me.

I am afraid of people seeing these pieces of my soul. The scenes that I labored over, cried over, sometimes even swore over, are going to be visible to everyone. And that frightens me.

Often I don’t feel qualified. I think that maybe I’m not ready, or that I don’t have the answers and thus have no right to dig up painful questions. Other times, I feel too qualified: I am afraid that I am too close to a situation to write about it.

In the end, none of those doubts really matter. Why? Because, over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s the stories that scare me to write that are the stories that touch people the most. The fear that I feel is a sign that I am heading in the right direction.

This is difficult to keep sight of sometimes. So, when I feel fear or anxiety warring over my keyboard, I take a step back, and I remember.

I remember writing Skies of Dripping Gold and crying as I realized that, like Gabriel, my strength and my faith would come if I only kept trying. I remember the person who told me that when they start to feel angry and alone, they re-read the scene where Gabriel swears up at the sky and, suddenly, they feel understood and strengthened.

I remember hurting as I wrote about Wanderer’s pain and fear upon watching one of his loved ones grow ill because I have experienced (and watched others experience) the same thing. I remember the people who told me that reading his story was the first time they saw faith struggles depicted truthfully.

I remember writing about the giant chip on Jayel’s shoulder due to her disabilities and differences only to be hit by the realization that I carry that same weight. I remember all of the people who have been encouraged by her determination, and who are inspired by her fight to grow.

I think of all this, and I remember that honesty is important. I know the power of a true story. I have experienced it firsthand.

And, yet, I sit down to write from my heart, and I am afraid. I feel my stomach knotting up as I think: "This is too hard. I can’t write about this. Not right now." I force myself to push through, but then I think: "Maybe this is the one that is too much. Maybe this is the one that I should just keep to myself."

I find myself wanting to write something a little more laid back. A little safer.

But I am a child of God, and, to quote one of my favorite songs: "My God is good, but he’s not safe." This is proven to me each time that I write. God has handed me a passion and a talent for creating stories, and I know that I was not given this gift so that I could play it safe.

After all, there’s always somebody out there who needs to hear what I’m afraid to say. Sometimes that person is me, and sometimes it is my reader. Most of the time it’s both.

That is why I write what scares me. I hope someday it gets easier, though, honestly, this post in and of its self was a bit nerve-wracking to craft, so I’m not sure that that’s a realistic hope.

But that doesn’t really make a difference, does it? I’ve long since given up expecting my writing to be easy. I don’t need it to be. Not anymore.

I just need it to be real.

Related articles: 
Challenging Writers to Write Honestly
Looking at the World Through Lyme Colored Glasses: Eyes Wide Open

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every Friday!

Some links are Amazon affiliate. Thank you for your support!
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