A slightly delayed, yet still awesome announcement.

My first book, UnBlessed, now has thirty reviews on Amazon!!!! Whoohoo!

As if that wasn’t awesome enough, Fire Blessed and Ice Blessed both broke the ten review mark! 

I’d like to send a huge ‘THANK YOU!’ to everyone who helped me reach this incredible milestone. Here’s to many more reviews (and books!) to come.

My Writing Journey – Part One

October 2011

A friend and I sat companionably together, discussing books and our dreams of one day becoming authors ourselves. Casually, she said, “I’m thinking about writing next month. Apparently, November is novel writing month.”

“Really?” Instantly intrigued, I pressed for more info. “I never heard that. A month dedicated to writing? I didn’t know such a thing existed. How’s it work?”

“I dunno. You just write, I think.”

“Oh. Cool.” After chatting a bit longer, she left for work and I ran upstairs to run a quick Google search. Within minutes, I found the nanowrimo.org website, thought the idea sounded awesome, and immediately created a profile on their site. I clicked the ‘I’m going to write a novel this year!’ button on the website, thinking that after years of talking about becoming a writer one day, I was going to do something about it this year.

I logged out of my PC and went downstairs to cook dinner, feeling pretty proud of myself.

And promptly forgot about the whole thing.

And when I say forgot, I mean I didn’t write a single sentence – not a single word – of fiction that entire month. In fact, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until the following February that I went, “Oh, crap. I was going to start a novel last November. Oops. Oh well, I can always try again this November.”

(Hint: I didn’t write a darn thing in 2012, either.)

2013 started much the same way, except I didn’t give the previous November any thought whatsoever. I was once again on the ‘dream to be an author one day’ wagon, never stopping to consider when ‘one day’ should be. Instead, I drowned myself in distractions: TV series marathons, book reading binges, and an alarming addiction to World of Warcraft.

Oddly enough, that addiction provided the first push toward actively reaching for my dream.

Earlier in the year, I joined a new guild and met a host of new people. One of my new guild-mates happened to be an English major and a fellow bibliophile. However, when I casually mentioned my aspirations to become an author one day, I didn’t get the ‘Really? That’s so cool.’ response I usually received. Instead, he launched into an excited English major version of twenty questions that completely took me off guard.

“That’s so awesome! What do you write?”

“Uh. Nothing, yet. I mean, I did a little bit of fiction when I was in high school.”

“Wow, that’s incredible.”

(Insert my cringe here – nothing I wrote in high school could remotely be considered incredible.)

Undaunted by my lackluster responses, he continued with his barrage of questions. “So what kind of fiction? Romances? Science fiction?”

“Um, no. More like fantasy type stuff. But I haven’t written anything in years.”

“Aw, man, fantasy rocks! I love how fantasy writers just create something out of nothing, you know? Do you write epic stuff like Tolkien? Or parallel universe stuff like Harry Potter?”

“Uh … neither? Just plain fantasy, I guess. Like I said, I haven’t written for years.”

“I know, but what do you want to write about?”

Now, at this point two very interesting things happened.

First, let me point out – just in case you didn’t catch it before – that despite constantly saying I wanted to be a writer, I never stopped to think of what I wanted to write about. Ever. The furthest I got was ‘Oh, I want to write fantasy.’ I didn’t even stop to consider that fantasy covers a huge range of topics. That is, until Mr. Questions started interrogating me.

And you know what? Not having an answer to his question kinda pissed me off.

Not at him, but at myself. Good grief, I’d been telling my parents I wanted to be an author since the third grade. Here I was, a few months away from turning thirty – which meant that I spent somewhere around twenty years daydreaming and looking at this lofty goal without ever taking a moment to think about how to achieve it. How in the world was I going to become a writer if I never stopped to write? There was no way I’d ever become an author if I didn’t have a story to tell.

This is where interesting thing number two comes in.

Embarrassed, vaguely irritated with myself (and to be honest, with the unexpected onslaught of never-ending questions), I opened my mouth and made something up. “Well, actually I like the idea of having a half-breed girl who – according to a prophecy – is destined to save the world.” Whoa. That sounded way better than it had in my head. Where had that come from?

Mr. Questions immediately went nuts. “Dude, that sounds awesome! Those types of stories are the best – what’s her heritage? Human and what?”

I thought about it for a second, not wanting to admit that I had no idea what I was talking about. “Not human. Half elf and half … shape shifter. The two races don’t really get along, because the elves are all elegant and refined, while the shape shifters are more like … coarse barbarians? They live in harmony with nature, refusing to cut down trees and stuff. The elves, on the other hand, don’t care about the land at all.”

“Whoa, really? That’s the opposite from most elves. I like it! Is there a reason they don’t care about nature?”

“Not really. It’s just not that important to them.”

“What is important to them?”

“Magic.” I stated promptly – partly because I was playing my mage at the time. “They can control the elements – fire, water, air, earth. Actually, the fire users have a little bit of responsibility for why the two races don’t like each other. I mean, you need wood for fire to burn, right?”

At this point, one of our other guild-mates, Murph, had entered into the chat. “Wait, what book is this? I want to read it.”

“It’s Crystin’s book! She’s writing it.” Mr. Questions replied before I could – and way too enthusiastically.

I admit, I panicked a bit. “Uh, it’s not a book. Just an idea. I haven’t started writing it or anything.”

“Well you should,” Murph said. “I want to read it. It sounds right up my alley.”

Mr. Questions agreed. “Yeah, me too. Send it my way when you finish it!”

“O-okay. I’ll, uh, keep you guys in mind.” I stared blankly at my computer screen for several minutes after that – partially thinking about how incredible this guild was (they had all sorts of team building slash friendship events) – but also thinking about the spontaneous story idea I created out of nowhere. It actually sounded kind of cool …

To be continued on November 19th…

Nanowrimo Week Two: drifting further behind.

Nanowrimo Week Two: drifting further behind.

To be honest, I almost didn’t post today. I dislike negativity, failed goals, and accountability – so it would have been far too easy for me to ‘forget’ to update you all on my abysmal progress so far with Nano.

I’m officially 6,000 words behind. Granted, that means I’ve written a total of 20,000 words – which certainly isn’t anything to sneeze at. Celebrate the little successes, right?

But I hate that I haven’t been able to keep up with my word counts. It’s not like I have writer’s block – I know exactly where I’m going with the story. It’s not that I don’t have time, either. I only work 40 hours a week, and I haven’t even procrastinated with World of Warcraft much. (I think I played an hour on my day off last Wednesday.)

After reviewing my notes and tracking attempts over the past week, I’ve come to a few conclusions regarding my difficulties though.

  1. I caught a cold – or at least a severe cough. It’s hard to stay motivated for anything when you don’t feel well. Focusing on a computer screen when you haven’t been able to sleep (due to aforementioned cough) usually won’t end well. I should give myself a little bit of credit for trying.
  2. The Pomodoro method of writing is not for me. With this method, you concentrate on writing for 25 minutes, then take a five minute break to check email, get a drink, etc. It’s supposed to help people who are easily distracted to focus on the project at hand. Now, I’m easily distracted to an extent, but I’m also incredibly single-minded. Really, if I can play a video game for 4+ hours without a break, I can probably manage a similar length of time writing. In fact, I’m starting to suspect that’s how I produce results – it takes me several minutes to get going with the story, but once I’m in a groove, I can churn out 2,000 words easy. The problem with the Pomodoro method is that I’m just starting to get going when the timer goes off – and I immediately take that break, even though I could have kept going for a bit longer.
  3. Writing a follow up book to a series requires a lot more careful thought, fact checking, and creative problem solving than writing the first book to a series. Yes, you have a cast of familiar characters to work with – but now you have to be careful that those characters still act like the same characters they were in the first two books. Any new plot twists or developments have to be carefully weighed and checked to be sure they don’t contradict events in previous books, and you have to extremely careful that you follow the rules and histories created in those initial books, as well. In short, writing a third book to a continuing series – especially one as richly detailed and complicated as I made mine – is exhausting.
  4. Twitter is not my friend when I don’t have good things to say. I think I posted my word count once last week. After that, I just didn’t have the heart to post triple digit numbers. It made me feel like a failure – which I’m not, darn it!

So, what am I going to do? Am I going to give up?

Heck no. I think I have a handful of fans out there who’d hunt me down and threaten bodily harm – or negative reviews – if I didn’t finish my series in a timely manner.

No, I’m going to keep plodding along. 900 words are better than no words, after all!

I’m also going to stop with this silly 25 minute writing sprint thing. I’m going to sit down and write until I want to go to bed, or until my head hurts from thinking too hard, or until I just can’t stand looking at my laptop screen anymore.

Finally, I’m also going to let myself do a little bit of non-novel writing. In fact, I already did a bit of non-novel writing (which is how I discovered that the Pomodoro method doesn’t work and that book three is oodles more complicated than I gave it credit for).

At the request of a fellow writing buddy (who, coincidentally, is also the graphic artist that designed all of my incredible cover art and promotional items), I put together a document detailing my initial Nanowrimo journey, and the subsequent adventure in writing, revising, and publishing my first two books.

At her suggestion, I’m going to break that document up into manageable segments and post it here for other writers who might be dealing with writer’s block, insecurity, doubt, the sheer effort involved with the writing process in general, or any number of other issues that plague us author-types.

Here’s hoping it helps someone else find that inspiration or motivation they’ve been looking for. 🙂

Book review: The Viper and the Urchin

Book review: The Viper and the Urchin

Longinus isn’t your typical assassin. He’s a gentleman assassin – the most elegant assassin in Damsport. As such, he doesn’t rely on messy methods of killing, like using swords or daggers. No, no, real assassins use poison.

Of course, the fact that Longinus can’t stand the sight of blood has nothing to do with his preference.

But when orphaned waif Rory discovers his secret, Longinus is blackmailed into teaching her how to sword fight. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, a mysterious rival assassin is taking credit for Longinus’s kills – and copying his poisons. When Rory and Longinus realize they’re the assassin’s next target, it’s a race against time to uncover the impostor’s identity … but they discover far more than they bargained for.

The Viper and the Urchin

I have to admit, this book was a surprising delight. I love sassy characters, and let me tell you: both Longinus and Rory are as sassy as they come. This isn’t a typical steampunk either – rather, it’s more of a low fantasy with steampunk flavor. I heartily approve of the mix, and the mystery element was also fairly well done. I did have one or two moments where I felt things were a little too convenient – but overall, it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the story. If anything, it probably added to the humor: I would snort to myself and roll my eyes … but kept right on reading.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a fun read, especially one who likes unique, well developed characters – cause this book had a few of them. The same goes to readers who enjoy discovering new worlds and exploring new genres. There’s just enough fantasy/steampunk/mystery/action/romance/suspense woven all together to give readers a taste of each without being overpowering. Well, except for the action – there’s a lot of action. Sword fights, street chases, a race to save the country … those are essentials to any good book. 😉

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

rosies-book-review-team-1

Guest Appearance! Crystin Goodwin’s Characters from UnBlessed

I’m guest posting on Olivia Berrier’s blog today. Check out my exclusive short story interview, featuring characters from UnBlessed!

Often Clueless, Always Shoeless

This post written by Crystin Goodwin
Featuring characters from her book UnBlessed
Which is FREE! 
(Just so you know. Last day to get it!) 

No Spoilers.

Extra-special guest post today, my friends! In honor of the last day of her sale for Blessings of Myrillia, I interviewed Crystin Goodwin! And by that I mean I interviewed her characters. And by that I mean I asked her to stick three characters in a room with strange boxes. 

This is what I like to call “The Mystery Box Interview.” (It’s great fun for anyone who enjoys throwing characters into odd situations.) I ‘gave’ Crystin three boxes and filled them with objects that I thought would spark conversation. She then placed the boxes and her characters in a room, and – ta da! 

~*~ 

“Lucien. Lucien, wake up!”

Grumbling, Lucien rolled over and tried to wave away his visitor. “Five more…

View original post 1,846 more words

Favorite Books (and series!) of 2015

Welcome fellow bibliophiles! Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable, because I have a hefty number of titles to share with you today. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now, for today’s post, I’m only going to cover my absolute favorite books from my 2015 reading list. Don’t get me wrong, I liked almost every book I’ve read this year – I don’t usually finish titles that I don’t like. But to be considered among my favorites, I use certain criteria:

  • Contains compelling stories, worldbuilding, and/or characters. Obviously, there has to be something about the book that draws me in. It can be a complex layered plot, fascinating hero/heroines, or even a richly described setting. If I find myself thinking about the book – or aspects of it – long after I’ve finished, I put it on my favorites list.
  • Rereads. I reread books, especially favorites, frequently. Some of the titles I’ll be sharing today are ones I’ve already reread, while the rest are ones that I plan to reread again in the near future.
  •  I own, or plan to own, personal copies of the book. The majority of my reading is done through the library, especially since I discovered Overdrive. If I read a library book and immediately decide to buy my own copy … well. I think that’s a pretty obvious indicator of a good book.
  • Finally, in regards to series. For a series to make my favorites, I must be invested in reading future installments. Not simply a ‘Oh, I kinda want to know what happens next’ sort of reaction. Favorite series send me to the author’s website or to Amazon/Goodreads to look up the next release date … and that release date often gets added to my calendar. If the release date is further out than six months, agonized groaning and ranting must ensue.

Okay. Everyone on the same page? Enough with the criteria then, lets get down to the good stuff!

Crystin’s Top Five Picks for 2015 – (and yes, these are in order of importance!)

  1. The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
    • This epic fantasy series currently has four installments: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, and Queen of Shadows. There’s also a compilation of short stories combined into a prequel: The Assassin’s Blade. I’ve read every single one – Throne of Glass at least twice – and they are, to date, my absolute favorites. I tell everyone about this series. (See my review of ToG here.) When I finished Heir of Fire this January, I went completely bonkers – because while it didn’t have a cliffhanger per se, my favorite character was left in mortal peril. Queen of Shadows released on September 1st, and I managed to make it a week before feverishly checking to see how things work out. I mourn the fact that I have to wait at least a year for another volume, but at least this book ended a little less angst-ridden.
  2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
    • A sci-fi fantasy, the Lunar Chronicles currently has three volumes (with the fourth due out this November), as well as a prequel. You might be familiar with the titles: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter (TBR), and Fairest (the prequel). While I enjoyed all the books, I must admit that Cress was my favorite – I loved the central characters in that volume. I’m eager to see how the series ends (Winter is the final installment) and I’m even looking forward to the short story anthology due out next February. The Lunar Chronicles has a lighter feel than ToG, though the stakes are just as high. This is another series I recommend frequently.
  3. The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole
    • This series is a brand new discovery, as well as a new form of self-torture for myself. I – LOVE – this series. It popped up on my Goodreads recommendations because I read Throne of Glass – and boy, did they hit the nail on the head with this one. Don’t get me wrong – the story is nothing like ToG – but the rich setting, the dark undertones to the story, and the beautifully crafted characters hooked me in the same way ToG did. The only reason this series didn’t beat the Lunar Chronicles is because the author writes the most infuriating, rage-inducing cliffhangers I’ve ever read. You know those silly memes and jokes about fangirls who read shocking endings and make screeching pterodactyl noises and throw things? Yeah. I think they’re reading this series. Ooh, but they’re good. The current titles consist of Poison Princess, Endless Knight, and Dead of Winter. Book four is supposed to come out sometime in May 2016 … and I tell you, May can NOT come soon enough.
  4. Trickster’s Duet by Tamora Pierce
    • Actually two books in one: Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen. An engaging YA fantasy recommended to me by a co-worker. Even though the main character is the daughter of a spy, and works at being a spy herself, these two books are a refreshing breeze of humor and intrigue, rather than the dark morbid tones found in ToG and the Arcana Chronicles. It helps that I found the love interest in this story absolutely adorable. Not sexy (though he is, in a way) but adorable. Weird, I know, but you’d have to read it to see what I mean. Just make sure you get past the first chapter – the story doesn’t get really good until then.
  5. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
    • Oh, Red Queen, how I love and hate thee. Some of you may have remembered my rant regarding this book, as well as my extremely sassy book review. (If not, read here.) Even though I hated the direction the story took, even though I went on a book rampage that lasted nearly a week where my poor coworkers had to listen to my ranting every time I went to work … I have to admit it has been one of my favorite books this year. Even now, months later, scenes and events from the book haunt my thoughts. I’ve even – despite my best efforts and the initial knee-jerk reaction not to – looked up the sequel. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I have a few months to battle with myself before deciding whether or not I’m going to read it.

Crystin’s Honorable Mentions for 2015 (in vague order – quite a few are tied with each other, hence the lack of numbers)

  • A Court of Roses and Thorns by Sarah J. Maas
    • As an avid reader, I’m firmly in the camp of favorite authors rather than favorite books. Maas lives up to my belief, and the only reason this first installment of her new series isn’t in that top five is because I didn’t think it was fair to my other favorite authors.
  • The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Neilson
    • I was surprised at how compelling this middle-reader fantasy series was, considering the main character isn’t exactly likeable or realistic. He’s arrogant, sarcastic, and I freakin’ love him. He’s not quite an anti-hero, but I don’t really care. I enjoy the stories, and that’s all that really matters, right? The individual titles are: The False Prince, The Runaway King, and The Shadow Throne.
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
    • Another Goodreads find – an excellent epic journey type fantasy. I’ve already downloaded the sequel, and hope that it’s half as good as the first. Gorgeous world building in this one.
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tabir
    • Impulse read because it kept showing up on my Amazon feed. Phenomenal character development and pacing throughout the novel – I can’t wait to read the next book when it comes out next year! A sort of alternate history fantasy based on ancient Rome.
  • Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
    • A beautifully written romance with a fairy-tale fantasy feel. Book two is sitting on my kindle waiting for me as we speak … I’m trying to wait a little longer so I don’t have a whole year to go before book three is ready.
  • Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
    • Yet another Goodreads recommendation done right. Read the whole book in one sitting, thanks to the interesting characters, story tension, and perfectly scattered pieces of backstory that explain how the main character got in her situation: namely, imprisoned for murder and offered the job of a poison taster.
  • Bound by Kate Sparkes
    • Another beautiful fantasy romance trilogy – again, I have book two ready to go, but having to wait for that final installment is the pits.
  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
    • A rich Russian-based fantasy story, full of magic and intrigue. Really liked this book, and I keep meaning to grab the next books in the series …
  • Radiance by Grace Draven
    • Another Amazon recommendation that surprised me. A fantasy with a very different and very interesting take on romance. The hero and heroine are from different (and incompatible) races that finds the other repulsive or terrifying. I really enjoyed watching the two find mutual respect for each other before falling in love with each other’s personalities … not looks. There’s apparently a sequel in the works, and I’ll be very interested to see where the author takes the story.