Monday, December 30, 2013

Geeky Monday Moment About Getting BIZAY

Happy Monday again! I took a nice week off from all things marketing, and enjoyed some Christmas-ey family time, as well as some quality writing hours! In case you were unaware, I finally graduated with my Bachelors this semester, so I don't have to worry about that on my plate anymore!

More importantly, I have been a writing fiend, and The Taylor Chronicles: Plane Walker is pretty much done. I'm very, very excited about this book! It's got everything: Paranormal suspense, action, mystery, cool dudes with out of this world power...some romance. Hot twins. You can't go wrong.

Anyway, I found this hilarious picture:


Besides the fact that I happen to have a four-year-old (not named Hermione) and grew up reading the Harry Potter series, I found it hilarious and appropriate for me to tell my husband as he went out the door to work, "I'm a writer...and gettin' BIZAY!" Don't worry, he already holds my sanity in question.

It makes me happy that a new generation of Harry Potter lovers has been born. I fully intend to introduce the series to my children when they are old enough. And that was my geek moment for the day, because realizing that Harry Potter is timeless and lovely, and worthy of being passed down through generations makes me inexplicably giddy.

Have a fabulous week, and stop by later this week for a post I've been dying to write. My experience comparing traditional publishing and self-publishing!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Using Pinterest as a Writer

Happy Monday Auchward buddies!

This is still technically a Geeky Monday Moment, but for SEO purposes, I made the title a little different. I mean, we're discussing technology here, and as we all know, there are several kinds of geeks to appreciate! Tech geeks have it going on, and they know what's up.





I am not that geek.

I'm the Sherlock Homles, Dr. Who, superhero, fangirl, writer, bookaholic geek. Tech and I rarely tango, and when we must, it isn't necessarily graceful.

That said, I'm still going to attempt giving you tech advice. If you are new to Pinterest, or unsure about how you can use Pinterest to your advantage as a writer, I've discovered a few things about the website, and I'm sharing them with you!

I know videos are a little annoying, but in this case I think this was the best way to go about it. I used Jing, and you'll be able to watch me use the website in case you don't know where these buttons and such are located. I'm making it tech-idiot proof, if you will. Takes one to know one.

So here are my short, quick tips on how I use Pinterest to making my writing better and my marketing easier! Enjoy!


http://screencast.com/t/brLZ1JbCVa1



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Is a Christmas Story?

What could be better than an opinion article on Christmas themed writing techniques?

Don't answer that. I'm doing it anyway.

This article has no particular purpose other than to discuss a random topic that, whether or not it needs to, clearly exists. What makes a "Christmas Story" as opposed to a Christmas-themed story? Because there is a difference, and I intend to illuminate the two with my blaze of blinking, multi-colored Christmas lights.

Who approves these covers?
Let's start with a Christmas-themed story. I see a lot of these. My literary poison of choice, Regency Romance, is inundated with them, actually. And not just by indie authors like myself. I'm talking Mary Balough and Julia Quinn decking their 19th century halls with mistletoe and holly-patterned corsets. It's kind of hilarious, because I LOVE Christmas, but I always feel like a Frito chip when I give these yuletide tales a go. As in I smell pretty corny.

These stories have events happening around Christmas. As Christmas twinkles along, the characters have conflicts within the Holiday spirit. For example, fictional Leticia plays a game at a Christmas party, and has to kiss Buck McSteamy. Gasp! You know what I mean. Christmas has an impact on the characters.

A true Christmas story is one in which the characters make an impact on Christmas. A Christmas Carol, for example, is not only about Christmas, the spirit of Christmas, and all things theologically pertinent when it comes to the season, it shaped Christmas for us, in a way. Louisa May Alcott's Christmas Treasury is a literary interpretation of how we should celebrate the Holiday. It makes an impact on our thinking, on the season itself. It is stories like that, that are true Christmas Stories.

So hey, while we're here let's go through some popular books and movies to find the true Christmas stories:

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLier--Christmas Story. This is one of those tales that takes the essence of Christmas, or one part of it, and creates a story as a metaphor for our attitudes during this time of year. It's not even about Christmas--but it's about the values thereof, and consequently during that time of year. It's a great example of toeing the line gracefully.

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich--Christmas-themed story. Janet takes one of our favorite characters, Stephanie Plum, and tells a story about her during Christmas. No significant impact made on my Christmas heart.

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone the movie--What the jingle bells? Why do they play this movie during Christmas? Because it has a Christmas scene?

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss--Christmas Story. Through and through, Seuss gives us a tale that is meant to change our hearts, and make them bigger and brighter.

Love, Actually--I'm calling this Christmas-themed. Christmas-ey stuff happens, but it doesn't touch on Christmas as a subject, as a principle. It's a relationship movie.

A Christmas Story--Duh. A Christmas Story. It's about childhood as related to Christmas. Clear cut one, but had to add it.

And the list goes on! I think you get the general idea.

So after reading all that, join in a pointless Christmas literary opinion exchange with me. What Christmas books do you like? Do you like Christmas Stories or Christmas-themed stories? Both? Think I'm wrong and want to stab me with your expertly pointed candy cane? Let me know!

Merry Christmas!





Monday, December 9, 2013

Geeky Monday Moment--With Randomness

Good morning, friends!

Mondays get harder closer to Christmas, don't they? I'd much rather be doing all the Christmas things than teaching my kids or doing homework.






But alas, real life moves on, and so do my blog posts here! Right now I'm working on my paranormal thriller. Almost done with it! It's turning out to be seriously action-packed and lots of fun! I really think you'll enjoy reading it.

It's too bad all I want to do is read a book in bed. Which, consequently, has its own name.



You're welcome. And then I suppose I will leave you with this. Just so you can wonder:

Have a fabulous Monday!!


Friday, December 6, 2013

How I Got Published

How it really happened.

I get asked quite frequently, "How did you get published/become an author?" And I usually give the typical generic response of, "Oh, you know, I just wanted to write a book, and then I got lucky!" Ptththtt. Lame answer. A lot of us are happy being self-published (*raises hand*), but its also pretty legit to have a publisher agree that your work is worth taking some sort of risk on. Definitely fist pump worthy!

So okay, how did I go about it? Maybe if I kind of go through it, it will help my fellow writers with their possible endeavors. I get all giddy about organization, so I'll put it in steps:

Step 1:
 Write the book. Well, duh, and a lot goes into this part, naturally. When I decided to write Lunula, I had a 1 1/2 year old daughter and a chubby little 5 month old son, I was in college full-time, and mostly wore pajama pants every day. My school has three semesters a year with one 7 week break between semesters 2 and 3. I had had the idea in my head for some time, and just randomly I figured, heck, why not? Get it on paper!

So in those seven weeks, I set out to write a book. I have written books before. Bad books...terrible books that should never see the light of day, but still. I had some experience under my belt, and at least knew what to expect when getting a full story into a manuscript. I stayed up really late after the babies went to bed, and woke up early when the monsters saw the first shreds of morning sunlight. I don't drink coffee, but I found a love for caffeinated diet sodas. But I did it; I wrote it, and it was kind of awesome.

Step 2:
Put it away for several months because you don't think its worth doing anything with.


Step 3:
Realize that hot buttered popcorn! you wrote a freaking book, dude, and you should probably do something with that. 

Step 4:
Edit the thing. This is the really tough part, if you ask me. It's impossible to be objective as an author, but I did my best. I went through it about three times on my own, fixing typos and reworking some of it. It was tedious, especially because I had a full school load and crazy babies in the forefront of my mind, but I got through it and thought, heck, that's probably good enough.

Stop.

Hold it right there.

This is where I made my first crucial mistake. I thought, "Well maybe there are some mistakes, but isn't that what the publisher hires editors for?"

No. Publishers hire editors to smooth wrinkles in the shirt, not mend tears or patch holes. That's your job. And I made that terrible mistake and went on to...

Step 5:
Send out queries. See, without really fine-tuning my book, I sent out queries with a less-than-perfect first chapter and no surprises, I got rejected. A lot. And I was so confused! Isn't this book the next Twilight? What was going on here?

Well, I have to tell you, this is where my luck really came in. My grandmother-in-law is not only an author herself, but she's a phenomenal editor and general wordsmith. She offered to read it over for me, and so I sent it to her...and then she saved me from my own noose. She tore into it (nicely, because hey, she's my grandmother) efficiently, and helped me overhaul the manuscript. So I basically redid Step 4 with her help, and finally came out with a finished product. A slightly wrinkled, but nevertheless very well-sewn shirt called Lunula. I wish I had some perfect advice for how to make sure your manuscript is as perfect as it can be on your own. I really think the best way is to find someone to read it...someone you trust, and someone who can give good advice. The more publish-ready that sucker is, the less apprehensive a publisher or agent will feel about taking it on. Less work for them means more chances for us. So NOW we can move on to...


Step 5 (for real):
The query letter. I've toyed with sharing my successful query letter, and hey, I'll do it if someone asks me to! But there really are lots of great sites with wonderful tips on making a splendiferous query letter. My best advice is to read the specific agency or publisher's guidelines, and do what they say they want. A lot of them will have blogs (with examples therein), or tips, or guidelines, and I advise you to follow these to the letter. So yes, that means I wrote new query letters for each agent and publisher I sent my manuscript to. I had a folder with the name of each one I had queried and everything.

After going after the big guys and some agencies, and being rejected the first time around, with my shiny new manuscript, I tried a different approach. I started looking for some small-press publishers who were actually accepting manuscripts without an agent. I found Malachite Quills Publishing on some random "here is a list of book people" website, and sent them a letter.

A few weeks later, I heard back! And that's really how it happened. And yo, I didn't land Random House or anything, but I did find a really rockin' publisher who has been kind and professional with me. They gave me the confidence to feel like a real writer, like I was actually worthy of sharing the stories in my head. Honest to goodness, I have the highest respect for self-published authors because it takes some serious courage to put yourself out there and just go for it.

Obviously I can't give everyone that spiel when they ask, "How did you get published?" So all of this is between you and me, my friend. But as a short version...

I wrote a book, and I got lucky.



Also be sure to check out my follow-up experiences: What Happens After the Publisher Acceptance Letter, Working With an Illustrator, and Publisher Contract).

 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Working With an Illustrator--Traditionally Published and Self-Published

Hullo my Auchward friends! I hope you had a satisfyingly delicious Thanksgiving, and gained at least five pounds for good measure along with the rest of us!

So. I made this whole video where I talked about working with an illustrator, but then the more I thought about it, the more I realized you probably don't have time to watch me talk about something when you could read about it in half the time. Pleasant as my face may be, I've got your interests in mind. (Although dang, my hair did look fine that day.) But you can count this post as one of the "publishing experience" series of videos I have done thus far. (See what happens after the publisher acceptance letter and  publisher contract.)

Today's topic, continuing in that vein, is what you might expect when dealing with an illustrator or book cover maker. I'm going to break it down into two areas: Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing. Because I've done both! So I can.

Traditionally Published
 
When being traditionally published, the whole process could not be more simple. For me, the publisher sent
along a document to fill out. In this document, they asked questions about setting, main characters, descriptions, and even what I might like to see on the cover of my book. Because--and I'd always wondered this--the artist doesn't actually read the whole book! It was very helpful and certainly enlightening when I realized I had to give the artist everything they would need to bring my vision to life. There's one thing they didn't ask for in that form, and I'll cover it in my self-publishing section, because its something I learned on my own. Suffice it to say, it was easy as pie to talk about my own book and then send it along to my publisher, who then gave it to whichever artist they chose for the cover.

And then I waited! I'm sure they went back and forth a little bit with the artist and the publisher, but I wasn't a part of that process. They sent me a final version, asked for my opinion, and I guess as long as I wasn't demanding a complete redo, they were cool if I wanted little changes. I asked for a change in font (looked too...manly I guess), the artist did it, and blamo! The first time I saw the finished version was when my book went live on Amazon. Just sit back and let them make your work look good.

Self-made cover by Eileen Sharp
Self-Published

However, if you are doing this on your own, you're going to have a little more work ahead of you. First of all, you have to decide how you are going to go about this. The way I see it, you've got three options:

--Do it yourself
--Find premade covers
--Hire a graphic designer

For the first option, I'll just say this: I've seen some really bad self-made covers, and I've seen some good ones. Get an honest opinion. As in not your mom or spouse or best friend...I mean people who can hide behind their computer screen and give a non partial opinion of the thing. If you read my blog somewhat regularly, you might remember that I put Inito's cover up for everyone to see, and I got some great opinions. Mostly, "We hate the font!" So I changed it. Done.

If you're more like me and have no graphic design experience whatsoever, then you will likely need to pay some cash for the cover. It's no big deal really, especially if you find a premade cover you like. They've got lots of sites for this, and most of them hover around the $30 range. That's very reasonable, and some of them look great! Here's a top ten kind of list you can take a peek at to see if these designers have what you need: http://jmmadden.blogspot.com/2011/10/10-sites-for-self-pubbed-pre-made-ebook.html

If premade covers aren't your thing for whatever reason, then you'll need to find an illustrator. In my case, I liked the work done for Lunula, so although I hadn't corresponded with the artist originally, I tracked him down like a stalker and asked if he would do my second. Which he did! For a very reasonable price, too. (Check out John Phillip Cameron here)

When working with an illustrator, here's how it basically goes down. You will likely talk price first. I can't tell you what a normal range is...you could find upwards of $1000 or more depending on the artist, but I don't think that high number is the norm (even though I was quoted that once!) I can tell you I didn't pay nearly that much, and I probably just got lucky. If you can find a young or new up-and-coming artist you like, you'll probably be able to snag a great deal.

After you hammer out prices, then you'll want to agree on a deadline with your artist. Be firm but nice. :)

Next comes the most important part. You need to give the illustrator an idea of what you want the cover to look like. Enter my epiphany. When I filled out the form for Lunula the first time around, I just gave facts when asked questions. When I began to work with John personally, I realized that he's an artist and he's going to need some inspiration! Lightbulb. I'm a writer, correct? Inspiring with my words is what I do! So I gave him excerpts. I included my most brilliant scenes, my most vivid descriptions. Anything that might put a picture into his head and inspire him to bring my words to life. And it worked perfectly. He latched onto a scene on a frozen lake, and we ran with that.

I have shared a document file with you that includes prompts and questions for when you work with an illustrator, just in case you are looking for a kind of guide. Provide as many examples from the actual body of work that you can! With any luck, that will inspire your artist and create a killer cover.

After that, you wait for your illustrator to do his/her thing, and they will send you drafts. My best advice when getting drafts is to stick up for yourself...but pleasantly. Give criticism with a smile. Make sure you get what you're looking for, but no reason to be a jerk about it!

So I hope this was a little enlightening for you if you haven't been through the process with an illustrator yet. One thing I really liked about having someone else do the cover for me is not having to worry about formatting. When you work with createspace.com, there's a specific format (bleed...dpi...what???) that the cover needs to be in, and I don't have time to learn random things like that. So thank goodness for artists who know better! He gave me the cover in every format I needed, and all I had to do was download and upload.

Here is that document for you. If you are an author or an illustrator, this might help you hammer out the important details!

http://www.4shared.com/file/wOrYaA1H/Illustrator_Design_Form.html


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Auchward Love...We Has A Meme!

I don't even know how to introduce this post. Just look at this meme a fan and friend made for the release of Inito. It made me laugh out loud with its absurdity and awesomeness.


Auchward people are the best. And speaking of Auchward fans, some of them are quite little, too! And they wear merchandise!!!



Pretty good looking offspring, right? If you want some nerd glasses (a la Auchward blog!) in your kiddo's hair, I got these from Cute N' Cozy Creations. They're the ones hosting the Christmas Writing Contest that ends December 6th! As soon as I saw them I knew the Auchward blog needed my kids' faces, adorned with this delectable creation.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving this weekend! I'll be back next week after I've recovered from my turkey coma!




Monday, November 25, 2013

Inito Release!

It's here my friends! Inito is available for purchase through Amazon.com and Smashwords.com in ebook and print formats. I would love to have you read it and tell me what you think!

Here are the links:

Amazon Purchase

Smashwords Purchase

It is not available through Barnes and Noble just yet, but I will let you know when that goes live! For now, please download my amazing sequel! If you haven't read the first one yet--Lunula--my publisher should be lowering that price sometime today for the rest of the week. So you can get both! Trust me, you'll want them together.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Inito First Chapter

Happy Friday my friends!

There are only 3 DAYS until the release of Inito. I'm super excited!! As one last push to get you nearly as excited as I am, here is the first chapter of the book. After all, I can throw my writing at you all day, but if you don't think it's good, then what's the point, right? Also, since I know it's a little much to ask of new readers to jump into a second book without having read the first, my publisher has agreed to lower Lunula's price to $1.99 the day of release!

So enjoy!



CHAPTER ONE


The witch of light is born with three fundamental abilities: The gift of healing, the gift of tongues, and the gift of connection. She can heal any wound she can physically touch, understand any written or spoken language, and connect to emotions in such a way that she persuades those around her. These are the foundation of her abilities, contained by the boundaries of fate. But if an evolution were to take place, if the nature of this magic changed altogether, the boundaries would cease to exist. It would be Inito.

“Wynn.” 

Gethin's voice seemed to hook onto my drifting soul, connecting it like a tether back to the world of the living. In one moment—a timeless moment that could have been minutes or years—I was between death and life. In the next, his voice called out to me, commanding my soul to return to him. I held onto that tether with all my energy.

I did not hear his voice again, but I knew in some way that I was leaving the darkness. It changed, shifting from an oppressive space in time to a more physical state of unconsciousness. I began to feel again. I felt emotion, which had not been in my time apart from life, then hope, and finally some impatience in my desire to see Gethin again. I gradually became aware of a rocking motion as I woke. I knew that I was warm, and felt arms holding me safely.

I felt my lungs expand with air before they let out a contented sigh.

The rocking stopped, and that voice said my name again. “Wynn?” Gethin asked.

I opened my heavy eyelids. Bright sunlight blurred my vision for a moment, but I could tell I was still in the forest near the elven border.

Gethin hugged me closer to him, and I felt the soft tickle of fur blankets under my chin. “Fates,” he breathed in relief, kissing the top of my head. “You're awake.”

The forest began to come into focus, and I saw then that I was high off the ground. A horse shifted under me, and I became aware of the hardness of a saddle beneath me. Gethin had me cradled against him with my legs draped over his right one and my torso supported by his arms. A cocoon of dark fur blankets wound from my neck down over my feet.

I wiggled my arms experimentally. Other than being trapped by the blankets, I knew I could move easily. I felt strong.

“How do you feel?” Gethin asked.

I licked dry lips and tried my voice. “Good,” I said clearly. I smiled and craned my neck to look at his face at last. It felt like years had separated us.

His dark brown eyes, nearly as black as his tousled hair, gazed down at me with relief. With my eyes, I traced the strong outline of his face down to his angled jaw, covered with a black shadow of beard growth. Two slightly bowed lips smiled slowly. “Welcome back.”

I struggled to free my arms, and with amusement Gethin helped me push the blankets down. I flung my arms tightly around his neck, raising my body so I could bury my face in the crook of his neck. “You saved me.”
His embrace locked me tight to him. “Only just. Thank you for coming back.”

I inhaled the smell of pine from his skin and reveled in the fact that I could touch him. I wasn't sure I could let go. 

But then Gethin loosened his hold, and I could sense he wanted to talk, so I pulled away from him and settled back into the blankets. The air was refreshingly cold, at least compared to the void of feeling I had just come from.

The warlock spoke as he arranged the blankets back over me. “I am sure you have some questions, but first I want you to know that Alexandria is gone.”

“I know,” I replied softly.

He tucked a strand of my blond hair behind my ear. “I could not be sure you had heard before you...” He faltered.

“Left,” I helped. “Although I do not think I died.”

He grimaced. “Someday, after I have gotten over the shock of you being here again, I am going to be angry at you for that.”

“That's fair,” I conceded.

“For now, I am just glad you are whole. I would have waited in the cabin for you to wake, but we needed keep moving. I suspected Alexandria had more soldiers not far away. They would have seen that flash of light.”

I remembered the small cottage Queen Alexandria had lived in, waiting for me to come to her with the lunula, to bring her ultimate power and control. The building had been tucked between two giant trees in a forest, and several guards surrounded it. “Did you kill the other soldiers?”

“Aias did before I even got to you.”

I peered around his shoulder to look behind the horse, and saw a small train following us. Aias, an elf and friend to Gethin, sat astride a black horse. He led two other mounts that pulled a wooden cart stacked with provisions.
“Are we going to meet with your men, then?” I asked Gethin.

“If they are still there,” he replied. “They were low on provisions.”

I waved to Aias, and he inclined his head in return. The elf had long, white hair, a slender build, and green eyes the color of spring.

Turning back to Gethin, I queried, “And what then?”

“Then things get complicated. First, we must find them.”

Gethin was in control of a detachment of about one hundred men, brought from his kingdom of Dristol to my kingdom, Irador. The two lands had been separated for many years by fear and hatred. Irador had command of Dristol, and only recently had I learned of the oppression Gethin's people suffered because of it. Now that Queen Alexandria, former ruler of Irador (and complete lunatic), was gone there would surely be changes.

Gethin started the horse forward. “There is another thing we must talk about before anything else. Something extraordinary happened when you gave your aura to me.”

I had somehow forgotten about my own magical abilities, even though it was at the root of all that had happened to us just hours before. I was born as a witch of light and Gethin a warlock of darkness. We were meant to be each other's counterpart and mortal enemy. Only one of each is born every one hundred years, and historically the warlock always sought out the witch in order to steal her power. It had never ended well.
But somehow, with us, fate changed. Brought together by chance and the dangerous plot of my former queen, we had found solace in one another in place of fear or power lust. In each other we saw only companionship. Unfortunately, Alexandria succeeded in obtaining great power from an artifact called the lunula. In order to defeat her, I had known Gethin would need the addition of my magic. I was already wounded and dying, so instead of forcing him to kill me and take the power, as had been done in the past, I gave it to him.

I knew something extraordinary had happened just before my death. I felt our auras combine, and saw a bright flash of light that ended Alexandria's life. The question now remained: Was I powerless? I closed my eyes and searched for the light that ordinarily thrummed within me. Rather than seeing that light, I could almost sense it, and in some of my darkest moments that warmth had brought me irreplaceable comfort.

My eyes flew open. “It's still there,” I said in awe.

“Look again,” Gethin suggested.

I did, and this time I could sense the power that pushed to be released. Before my magic had manifested itself as a white glow. Now, a gray essence seemed to coil and writhe from one source, striking like lightning with long-reaching tendrils. Rather than one spot of warmth, I sensed a power that coursed through my whole body with every beat of my heart.

I opened my eyes again, this time frowning in thought. “What is it?”

Gethin paused, before admitting,“I am not sure.”

I leaned my head against his shoulder, feeling the pull of his muscles as he supported my weight. “What happened after they joined together?”

I felt his voice low in his chest as he answered. “From what I could tell, the merging of light and dark was a violent reaction. There were two waves of light after they came together, one white and the other black. My theory is that they were aftershocks of power that were a result of the force we created. The first one, according to Aias, burned Alexandria to death in an instant. The second dissipated without any lasting effect.”

“Why did the light burn her and the dark not?”

I felt him shrug. “Aias believes it had something to do with the lunula, that perhaps that magic was drawn to the light object and consumed the queen. Because there was nothing to draw the dark, it did not attach to anything.”

“Hmm,” I mused.

“I have the same feelings,” Gethin said.

“So when the auras welded...the dark did not absorb the light?”

“Right.” Gethin steered the horse around a large, fallen tree limb, and we began to amble up the side of a hill. “I think the act of giving made it different. It was almost as if it was meant to be that way all along. Balanced.”

“Much more tidy,” I thought out loud. “It is as if everyone else in history got it wrong.”

“I think that is as good an explanation as we can get with so little information,” Gethin said, giving me a squeeze. “That is, without a divine revelation from the Fates. Maybe we should pray,” he teased.

“They don't deserve it,” I said bitterly. The Fates, seven deities who controlled the paths of life in our world, had made us in the first place as weapons in their war for balance between the three Fates of chaos and the three Fates of order. The Median Fate acted as the arbiter.

“Probably not.”

A distant memory of anger pervaded my thoughts, but I couldn't seem to locate the source. Like a dream forgotten that left behind only emotions, I felt that there was something important I had experienced. But then it slipped away just as quickly as it had come, and I turned my thoughts to our journey.

If Gethin's men were still where we had left them, they would not be far from where Alexandria had made her camp. Both locations were near the elven border, which lined the top of Irador's lands. These forests were hidden within the mountains of the north, and as such, winter seemed to be arriving quickly. Already, the hues of autumn rained down around us as leaves in orange, red, and brown colors fell from the branches above. Dips and crests of hills rolled through the woods, and as they grew larger I knew we would soon be upon the Dristolian army.

When the afternoon sun began a slope toward the horizon, I heard the hum of low voices just over the ridge of a steep hill. Gethin angled our horse to go around the base of the incline, where a narrow valley was disguised between two hills. That was where we had last left the army.

I lifted my head from his shoulder. “I hope they are alright. They had almost no food when we left them.”
“Starvation would have made them quieter,” the captain said drily.

“State your purpose,” a guard called from behind one of the trees. 

“Greetings Fannar, Geir,” Gethin gestured to the trees with a nod.

“Sir!” The two soldiers emerged from their hiding places.  

Fannar, a stocky man with short brown hair and giant arms, smiled and bowed his head. “Welcome, sir. Should I lead the horse and cart in?”

“Yes, and then take inventory of the supplies. Geir, go and retrieve Erik for me.”

Both soldiers hurried to their tasks, and Gethin led the horse into the camp. Before we had made it around the curve of the hill, Aias drew up alongside us. His tilted green eyes spoke his discomfort. “I will part ways with you now, King Gethin.”

Gethin stopped our horse. “Will you go back to Makynae?”

Aias shrugged one slim shoulder. “I have little choice.”

“You have a place in my army if you wish it,” the Dristolian king offered.

“No.” The elf seemed to be mildly amused by that thought. “I thank you, I will take my chances with my uncle.”

“You betrayed him,” Gethin reminded him.

“He betrayed his word,” Aias replied confidently. “We will reach an understanding I am sure.”

“With his son safe, you likely will.”

Aias gave a short nod. “We will find a way to mend what has happened.”

“Then, good luck to you,” Gethin said.

“And to you. Farewell, Wynn.”

“Goodbye, Aias,” I smiled. “Thank you for all you have done.”

The elf, looking somehow forlorn and even a little lost, turned his horse and made his way north into the woods and back to his people. King Lycus, his uncle, had exchanged me to Alexandria in return for his son, not heeding the possible consequences. Aias had been the only elf willing to follow Gethin and save my life. I owed him so much, and yet there was little I could do or say to show him the depth of my gratitude. Elves were removed from humans in many ways, and we did not share compassionate bonds.

“I hope he will be alright,” I said as we came upon the busy camp.

“I have a feeling that he can hold his own against Lycus.” Gethin reined in the horse and dismounted, holding his hands up to help me down. “For now, my attention should be elsewhere,” he looked at me pointedly.
I grinned as he slowly lowered me to the ground. That sounded good to me.

Erik, brother to Gethin and second in line for the throne, joined us as we were unpacking bags from the horse's saddle. He looked very like Gethin, only thinner, with chaotic black hair and a mischievous glint in his dark eyes. He studied us with pursed lips. “Welcome, brother.”

Gethin handed the Dristolian prince a leather bag. “I will take your full report in a moment, but what is the short version?

“We're bored,” Erik stated.

I laughed under my breath.

“And?” Gethin asked.

“And we have no idea what has been happening. Just this morning we spotted a bright flash of light some leagues away, and now you show up like nothing has happened at all.” Erik shouldered the bag and we made our way into the camp toward the captain's tent. “So you tell me the short version.”

I carried the folded furs under my arms, and it pushed my cloak open, revealing my dirty white dress covered in blood stains from my mortal injury.

Erik stopped and his eyes widened with silent questions.

Gethin propelled him forward with a push to his shoulder, and turned to me, pulling my cloak closed. “There is no short version. I just want to be sure you have all found food and survived.”

“Barely, but yes, we are managing,” Erik replied.

“Fine. Have Bevan meet with Fannar at the cart of supplies I brought and begin portioning everything out. Spread the word that we will leave in the morning, and have the men make preparations for our travel. Then I will give you the full version.”

Erik looked dubious. “At your command, sir.”

“And Erik,” Gethin added.

“What?”

“Give me that bag.”

Erik tossed it back to Gethin, who juggled it with the two other packs he carried, and we wove through the surprised crowd of soldiers. They all looked immensely relieved to see their king back alive, but they had to be wondering what had happened. The last they saw of us was before we entered the elven borders, before the lunula had been found, and before anyone even knew I was the witch.

Gethin nodded to many of his men, assuring them with his confidence, until we finally reached the canvas tent set aside for the leader of the army. At the moment, Erik had his bedroll and belongings scattered along the dirt ground off to the right of the enclosure. Gethin dropped the bags on the left, and then took the furs from me, spreading them out. “I thought you might want to change before we meet with Erik and the others.”
I glanced down at my blood-stained abdomen. “Why?” I smiled.

The tension in his face eased as his mouth curved into a smile of his own. “It did seem to shut Erik up.”
I shrugged. “I have nothing to change into, anyway. The elves kept all my clothes.”

Gethin prodded a bag with the toe of his boot, the one Erik had held. “If you can stomach it, the queen had no use for hers any more. I took a few from her wardrobe.”

I made a disgusted face. “Oh, well...I mean she had probably not worn them yet, anyway. I heard that she never wears the same dress twice.”

“They looked new,” Gethin said hopefully.

I sighed resignedly. “And I really cannot be picky.” I picked up the bag and gave Gethin one last weak smile. “I will be quick.”

Gethin left me in privacy to sort through my new wardrobe. 

He had packed me three dresses, all ornate and embarrassingly opulent. I set aside a green gown, and then carefully folded the others back into the bag. There was also a thick cloak, lined with fur for the winter months. The dress was complicated, and took me some time to figure out, but in the end, I was able to lace it up properly before someone marched in on me.   

I latched the black, fur-lined cloak over my shoulders, impressed by the quality, and thankful that at least I would be kept warm from the chilly air. When I pushed aside the flaps of the tent, the warm glow of sunset had darkened the shadows of the camp, and the evening meal was underway. Most of the soldiers had gathered around the warm coals of three fires, all of them holding trenchers or bowls with meager portions of food. I suddenly felt guilty for the time I had spent waiting in Makynae, well fed and safe indoors.
Gethin, some distance away and in conference with his right-hand man, Bevan, saw me emerge from the tent and made his way to me after a last word with his soldier. He had changed as well, trading his dirty tunic and white shirt for a simple, brown, cotton top he must have borrowed from one of the men. He, too, had left everything but his sword and cloak in Makynae. As he reached me, Gethin swirled his cloak over his shoulders and latched it at the front. “You look beautiful,” he said to me.

“Thank you,” I smiled self-consciously.

Gethin took my hand. “Are you hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Defeating tyrannical monarchs will do that to you,” he said in mock solemnity. 

As we neared the throng of soldiers, I asked, “Do you have a plan to speak to the lords of Irador about your people?”

“Yes, I had an idea in mind. We will discuss it after dinner and solidify the details before leaving tomorrow.” We stopped at the edge of the group. “The hard part is done, now. We can figure everything else out as we go along.”

By everything else, I had to assume he meant our mysterious new power and uncertain future. “I trust you,” I replied, infusing my sincerity into my words in place of the ability I had to connect emotionally with others. Our gifts did not work on each other, but that did not impede our ability to feel for and link to one another on a completely different level. Gethin was teaching me to trust and love—something I had never known before.
Gethin leaned forward, presumably with the intention of kissing me in full view of all his soldiers. But then a sound from the distance split the air with urgency. “To arms!” a man shouted.

Then an arrow pierced Gethin's leg.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Inito Trailer

Here's a totally sweet trailer for you to watch if you aren't yet pumped about Inito's release in five days! LET'S GET AMPED.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Writing Contest Reminder!

Hello friends!

Just a reminder that the writing contest hosted by Cute N' Cozy Creations will be ending December 6th! If you know any girls 13 and under with active duty parents, pass this along! The prizes are lovely, and it's such a fantastic way to show our troops how much they mean to us, especially during the Holiday season.


Visit their Facebook page for more information! After December 6th I will be a judge in the contest. I look forward to reading the submissions!

https://www.facebook.com/cutencozycreations

Sunday, November 17, 2013

One Week until Inito Release

One week and counting, people!

I thought I might have to push the release date back, but I'm working my tail off so I can stick to my deadline! Inito will be available for purchase on November 25th. You will be able to find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords for print and ebook.

I'm feeling pretty stoked about the whole shebang.


Trust me, if you enjoyed my first one, Lunula, you're going to love the epic events in the next one! I mean seriously, look at this thing:




 The witch knew she had died.

Wynn's return to the world of the living is not the only mystery surrounding the fusion of light and dark. Young men and women inexplicably disappear from their homes. Strange noises and moving shadows plague Wynn as she follows Gethin to a castle by the sea to negotiate the futures of Dristol and Irador. A new evil has emerged in the wake of Alexandria's death, and Wynn must uncover what it is before the fates of the brother kingdoms are irrevocably sealed--in the hands of Chaos.





The adventure is palpable. 

So please mark your calendars! The ebook will release with a price of $1.99 with the paperback at $12.99. There is fantasy, romance, magic...owls. I'm not kidding, there's seriously an owl. It'll make a perfect read for Thanksgiving when you're beached on the couch and stuffed with turkey, wanting to be entertained. Allow me to entertain you, my friends.






Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Should Books Have Content Ratings?

I picked up a great looking paranormal book from Amazon the other day. The cover was good, reviews were awesome, and I was interested in the storyline. I read about half of it--just enough to get invested--and then out of nowhere people were taking their clothes off and describing genitalia in ways I really just didn't want seared into my brain. I deleted the thing from my Kindle, angry that I got all invested in a book without foreknowledge that it would contain content that would offend me.

Yes, I'm a prude.

But I know I'm not the only one, and everyone has their own level of "prude" that they draw a line at. So how are we supposed to know if a book contains these elements or not? How can we avoid spending money on crap that we end up just having to throw out anyway? How can we keep our kids from reading stuff they shouldn't?

Movies have ratings. TV has ratings. Heck, every other form of media--Youtube even!--has some rudimentary form of letting users know when content has gone from acceptable to questionable. Why not books? Why are books not rated through a system like movies are?

Films are rated by the MPAA or Motion Picture Association of America. Their board of reviewers are made
up of parents, actually. It's the main criteria for being on the board, because if you are a parent, then you will view the content through the eyes of a protector of children, I assume. The MPAA is able to afford this because films must pay to have their films rated. And in order to show their films, it is law that they must first have it rated. So. They pay a fee, the MPAA rates it for them, and we're all a little wiser.

So how did books slip past this? Is it because books are so old? There are too many? Too hard to regulate a rating system?

I want to know! I did research, and not surprisingly, I can't find much on this topic. But as someone who's main form of entertainment is actually books, it would be nice to just look at the spine, see a "R" rating, and be able to slip that puppy back on the shelf. Perhaps it doesn't even need to be regulated. Perhaps it could just be a courtesy that publishers add for readers so they know what they are getting into.

Am I totally crazy here? What do you think about content ratings?



Monday, November 11, 2013

Geeky Monday Moment (WITH A TIME CRUNCH)

Hello Auchward readers!

First of all, before I unleash my stress on you, here are some Thor memes to make your day. It was everything I wanted it to be, and then some! Critics say "brainless action," and I say, "delicious CGI and two hours of Chris Hemsworth's gorgeous face." You can't go wrong.


And there's this one, which made me laugh:






Okay, so now to unleash my stress on you. Inito is all set to be released less than two weeks from now...AND I CAN'T ACCESS IT. I'm usually a stickler about using Google Docs for all my work so it doesn't get trapped in a computer, but in this case I formatted the book for both print and ebook, and I didn't want to screw with that formatting. So while I backed up the PDF versions, I do not have the Word documents floating around. And my laptop has been dead for like 3 weeks now. AND I had a last editor go through it, and some changes still need to be made. El stupido me didn't just email herself the doc files.





Now, I'm not saying the release date will have to be pushed back...but I'm not saying I'm NOT saying it will have to be pushed back. I'll have to see what magic I can pull out of my proverbial hat this week.

Just imagine me screaming like Shawn and Gus.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Christmas Essay Contest--Sponsor Cute N' Cozy Creations

Hello there readers! I'd like to share an awesome essay contest with you today, and hopefully you can share it with those you know. This contest is for girls 13 and under with an active duty military parent. In about 300 words, we would like to hear why their parent is their hero. Not only does this inspire younger children to share their talent of writing (something I think every writer can get behind), but it honors those who defend our safety every day. I was very excited when Ginny approached me to be a judge in this little writing contest, and I'm happy to share the news!


If you or anyone you know might benefit from sharing this, please do! More information can be found on their Facebook page.

LIKE US ON  FACEBOOK
 OUR WEBSITE

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What is an Indie Author?

While cruising around my Google+ haunts, I came across a persnickety writer who I imagined had a nasally voice and giant glasses he shoved up the bridge of his nose as he stated, " Actually, the term 'Indie Author' is a common misconception. Indie authors are small-press published authors, and should not be confused with the more common practice of self publishing." And he went on to kind of diss self-published authors for trying to "steal" a title or whatever.


That's not exactly what he said, but it's close enough. I also read this in a self-publishing how-to book that I mentioned in one of my earlier posts. The author, Catherine Ryan Howard, cautioned not to label yourself as indie because you are self-published, if that is what you are doing.

But that was news to me, and since titles are everything (eyeroll) I had to do more research to find out what exactly "Indie Author" meant, and where we all fit on the spectrum. What I found were, surprisingly, a lot of dull articles that either got way too specific with terminology and the nitpicky nuances of the definitions, or rainbows and unicorn blogs that couldn't stop blabbering about going for your dreams and picking a title that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. So I decided to lay it out Auchward style for you to see if it helps any.

First of all, in case it hadn't dawned on you yet, "indie" is short for "independent." This term "independent" seems to be used in a variety of ways, but it kind of speaks for itself. You stand alone! From what I understand, this term developed originally from the 1950's to 1980's with independent music labels. I won't bore you with a quote, but I did get it from a textbook, Media Essentials: A Brief Introduction. I just happen to be taking that class right now, so you're welcome.

The term sort of evolved to encompass the book publishing world as well, describing independent publishers who aren't one of the "big dogs" so to speak. They're small, and functional, and are not vanity publishing or self-publish aids.

So oh! You're thinking, wait, the nerd was right?

Sort of.

Here's where I stand with this: Both the mushy dreamland writers AND the nerd got it right. Independent Authors are authors who aren't using the larger industry publishers to represent their work. This could mean that you are an author for an independent publisher, OR it could mean you are publishing on your own...independently. Some bloggers have tried to argue that you're only an independent author if you are making your own publishing company and publishing other works, too.

Puhlease.

Where you draw the line with your writer title is up to you, but from where I stand, "indie" is just short for independent. If you aren't relying on someone else, or if your publisher is bravely forging ahead in this risky, not-always-rewarding business (like my publisher, Malachite Quills), it's all the same. **MUSHY UNICORN MOMENT AHEAD** We're all trying to share our creations. So be nice. :)

 Here's a chart for you. As you can see, the more successful or "big" your publisher gets, the more you might be able to consider taking off the "Indie" part of your name. But if you are self-published, whether through your own publisher or not, I think it's pretty safe to call yourself "Indie" if you are so inclined. I am most decidedly an Indie Author. My publisher is small, independent, AND I happen to be self-publishing my second work. I think that puts me smack dab in the middle of the independent spectrum.


I believe the take-away from this is that some writers will try to draw a line in the sand. They'll want to say, "You can't join my author club because you did things differently!" They're entitled to draw lines, but we're entitled to ignore them, especially if they're as arbitrary as they seem. I'm not sugar-coating the fact that self-published authors are at a disadvantage, or even that many self-published works are big piles of poop. There's a lot of poop out there now. But the title shouldn't be what holds you back from feeling accomplished. At the very least, not the title.

As always, I love discussion. What are your thoughts on the title?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Geeky Monday Moment With a Superhero

So Halloween is over, and now we have this awkward wait until Thanksgiving (a holiday no one *actually* likes, but it means lots of food and Gray Thursday/Black Friday so its cool anyway), and until that point our husbands won't let us put up ANY snowmen, snow globes, candy-striped decor, or otherwise remotely Christmas-ey things because they are grinches...

Hey part of my geekdom is being obsessed with Christmas. It's my thing.

Anyway, so we have this awkward period of time between the awesomeness that is Halloween and the supreme joy that is Christmas. So if you're like me it all feels a little blah and repetitive. But don't despair. Hold that thought, put away that overly full planner and...


Thor comes out this week! What kind of geek would I be if I didn't pay homage to the burly hot dude with a hammer?

Or maybe I'm just paying homage to Chris Hemsworth. Mmmm.

Haha, gotta love mashups. Either way, I'm totally stoked about this movie coming out this week. And if you don't like Marvel movies then we probably can't be friends. Just saying.

Will you be watching Chris Hemsworth and his flowing mane this weekend?