Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Enchanted: Magic Spark Release Day!

Today is the release of the first of a trilogy by Pen and Kink Publishing. Each book has three stories about magic and romance by Em Shotwell, Wendy Sparrow, and Sara Dobie Bauer.

I love these ladies and the stories they write! That's why I loaned my blog to my good friend Em Shotwell again. For more about the stories in Magic Spark, check out the blurbs at the end of Em's post!


By Em Shotwell

To celebrate the release of my new novella (first in series and included in an amazing anthology with two other awesome authors!) I have decided to share the playlist I used for inspiration, and why each song worked for this series. Some are creepy and some are fun. Some are dark and some are actually kind of funny. (You can find the complete playlist on Spotify at https://open.spotify.com/user/rpnlezyk14oj1nyqxhbe9npg3/playlist/6J3qQDQBhd2ax1XKHDtOBm )

Creep (Kina Grannis version)

The sadness evoked by this song is consuming. I especially love this version, the singer’s voice is haunting. For Creep, it isn’t necessarily the lyrics that make it a perfect fit for this series, but the emotion I feel when I listen. This was on repeat from book one to book three while I worked at telling the Murphey sisters’s stories.

Lyric: But I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here.

Why this lyric works: The Murphey women are witches—but their life has been anything but easy, and magic has nothing to do with it. Their family is dysfunctional. Their mama was an alcoholic and their dads weren’t around. The happiest times were spent at their Grandma’s house—she herself a seasoned witch. Now, even though they have come into their power, they never feel quite like they fit in. They each compensate in their own way—but it is hard to leave childhood scars behind. Even for a witch.

Where did you sleep last night? (Leadbelly version)

This song is so creepy and perfect for this book series. The lyrics work for each story in a different way. Cheyanne is trying to get back her cheating fiancĂ©, Marchland is trying to escape an obsessive man, and Bradley is trying to outrun a dead man. The sound of Leadbelly’s voice singing “don’t lie to me,” gives me chills.

Lyric: My girl, my girl, where will you go. I'm going where the cold wind blows. In the pines, in the pines. Where the sun don't ever shine. I would shiver the whole night through.

Why this lyric works: This is absolutely perfect for Cheyanne’s story on so many levels. Her heart is both hot and cold and she is out for revenge—and is driven by a deep hurt. Never cross a witch.

Graveyard by Devil Makes Three

This song works for all stories—but especially for Marchland. Her story starts off innocent and sweet and twists and turns and lands somewhere dark. I had to rewrite this story twice because the first two versions were too dark for a romance anthology. My editor asked me if I’d been watching too much American Horror Story (there is nothing gory in my tale…just creepy). Of course I took this as a compliment.

Lyric: It starts off just the Whiskey and Wine. Miles of travel and some real good times. But it ends in a dark corridor. Where there ain't no windows. And there ain't no doors.

Why this lyric works: The instrumentals are what works so well in this song—but the lyrics are perfect too. It is hard to choose one lyric, because the song works so well. Just…just go listen.

Psycho Killer by The Talking Heads

Confession. I love this weird song. It is on my workout mix, lol. There are so many songs that work for their creepiness, but I think this works for another reason. My novella series is dark and twisty—but it is also campy and tongue-in-cheek. It is very aware of its own ability to go over-the-top. That is why Psycho Killer made it onto the playlist.

Lyric: I can't seem to face up to the facts. I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax. I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire. Don't touch me I'm a real live wire.

Why this lyric works: This song is campy and fun, as is These Roots Run Deep, This Hollow Heart, and These Resting Bones. This song—and especially this lyric—works best for Bradley’s story. While her oldest sister Cheyanne embraces her darkness, and her middle sister Marchland has made her peace with it, only Bradley is terrified of the power she possesses. She just wants to blend in and disappear…easier said than done when you are a witch meddling in magic.

One more just for fun!

Sticks and Stones by The Pierces

This song is just pure fun for anyone writing a girl-power witchy story! It has been around for quite a long time, but it works for the Murphey girls as if it were written for them. It is upbeat and has fun with its dark lyrics (much like Cheyanne in These Roots Run Deep).

Lyric: Oh. Hey, lover boy. Oh, now do you believe me? That’s not all that I can do. Sit back down. I’m afraid we won’t be leaving. Can't undo my spell on you.

This lyric works for Cheyanne and Brett, Marchland and Chase, and even Bradley and the Professor.

I hope you enjoyed this short playlist. If you did, go check out the entire list on Spotify, then check out the first in my Murphey Family Saga, available in the anthology: MAGIC SPARK. My story is titled, THESE ROOTS RUN DEEP. Then visit me on facebook and let me know what you thought!

Em Shotwell is a Mississippi native turned Louisiana local who writes about misfits and the people who love them. You can learn more about her books by visiting her at www.emshotwell.com. She’d love to connect on Facebook, too! www.facebook.com/emshotwellauthor.

Want to know more about Magic Spark? Here's a bit about the three stories...

“When Demigods Court Death” by Wendy Sparrow
As the demigod of fertility, Aster Slone has a thriving doctor’s practice. In fact, the incidence of
triplets has made it too thriving. He needs more time with his neighbor the demigoddess of death to dampen his powers. Chandra Linton being gorgeous and sweet makes his task less of a hardship. Hitting the zenith of heretofore-unknown powers without enough exposure to her match is killing Chandra. Accepting all that her crazy, but hot neighbor says is her destiny…well, it muddles her convictions, but her real concern is: does Aster want Chandra because she’s the woman he desires or because she’s Death?

“These Roots Run Deep” by Em Shotwell
Spitfire, New Orleans weather girl, Cheyanne Murphey has everything, and that is exactly how she likes it. When she discovers evidence of her fiancĂ©’s philandering, she refuses to let her perfectly cultivated image fall to pieces. Cheyanne has worked too hard, dragging herself up from the trailer park into New Orleans’ society, to give in without a fight…even if that means trading a year of her life in exchange for a love incantation from her ancestor’s spell book.

A skyclad, moonlit dance, a mysterious potion, and magic gone awry leave Cheyanne with a very peculiar life lesson: love can take on many forms, so be careful what you wish for.

“Destiny’s Dark Light” by Sara Dobie Bauer
In modern day Charleston, lonely white witch Cyan Burroughs has waited her whole life to lead the battle against dark witches and eventually meet the man she is fated to love. A tragic trolley accident brings Liam Cody into her life. He is her destiny, but he’s also in love with someone else. Now, Cyan and her magic family must find the dark witch who caused the accident while Cyan fights her feelings for Liam—a charming Irishman with secrets of his own.

Get Your Copy Today!

Amazon (US) (CA) (UK)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My 2017 Reads

This year I didn't read as many books as I would have liked, possibly because I read more unpublished manuscripts for writer friends than in previous years. Unfortunately they don't count towards my books read total. According to Goodreads, I read 2,616 more pages this past year so I must have read longer books. If you want a quick summary, here's my year in books from Goodreads.

I listened to several audiobooks at the beginning of the year but found I ended up burning out because I was constantly listening and not giving my mind much downtime. I've taken an audiobook break but have been considering picking them back up.

In total, I read 30 books this year. Eleven were audiobooks I listened to between January and June. My physical book reading was way down this year, unfortunately. I also only made it through three e-books. I usually have a physical book and an e-book going at the same time. E-books I read while I'm eating because I can prop up my tablet. I think my e-book reading was down because I read more hard covers that I can prop open while I eat. If given the choice, I will read a physical book over an e-book.

It could have been my mental state or maybe my choices in books, but I didn't read anything I loved. There were lots I really liked, but nothing that I couldn't put down. I started the year with two authors I enjoy, but ended up disappointed in their books. One was Nest by Terry Goodkind and the other was Anne Rice's Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, which was actually better than I'd thought but still wasn't as good as I'd hoped given my love of Anne's work.

One of my favourites this year was by Em Shotwell. She did a novella called Froget Me Not. I actually critiqued it for her, but even rereading my physical copy, I had the same emotional reactions. It made laugh, broke my heart, and made me cheer...I may have even become teary on my second reading, just like the first. For a little more on this novella, check out this interview I did with Em earlier this year.

This year I read more young adult than previous years. It wasn't on purpose, just happened that way. I enjoyed The Hate You Give and have been loaning my copy out to friends. Karen McManus's, One of us is Lying was really good and once I hit the half way mark, I did have a harder time putting it down because I needed to know what happened! Her twist was really good.

It was also my year for V.E. Schwab. I read Vicious on the recommendations of two friends, and really enjoyed it. I also read the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy (and convinced my boss at the library to order them for our collection), which captivated me. The third book had me crying in the first fifty pages. I adored her characters and the story was fun. This Savage Song was a really good read and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel when it's my turn on Overdrive.

The closest I got to a book I couldn't put down were the audiobooks for Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I did tons of housework so I'd have an excuse to listen to it. If I'd read it, that series would have destroyed me. I wasn't pleased with the third book, but it summed everything up. I'd like to go back and read the physical books to get the full experience, I don't find listening to audiobooks as fulfilling as reading.

For 2018, I'm looking forward to the latest Iron Druid book, Scourged. I want to read more Laini Taylor. I've been itching to read Bernard Cornwell's Last Kingdom series, maybe 2018 will be the year I start. Then again, I'd really like to read the books I have in my to be read pile, some have been waiting a few years.

What were some of your favourite reads in 2017? What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Current Work In Progress

My blog has been quiet as it's been a bit of a busy and rough year for me.

The manuscript I'm working on has been a long time in coming and will hopefully be ready in the new year after a couple more round with critique partners.

To give you a taste, here's a novel aesthetic I put together...

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Writers Persevere! - Emotional Wound Thesaurus Launch

Today I am happy to be part of Writers Persevere!, an event that authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are running for the next few days to celebrate their release of their newest book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. This book looks at the difficult experiences embedded in our character’s backstory which will shape their motivation and behavior afterward.

I have been a fan of their thesauruses for a few years now, they are a huge help in breaking away from "go to" descriptions, ideas, action. I highly recommend them for anyone writing.

Because Angela and Becca have spent the last year exploring painful human struggles, they wanted to highlight a very important aspect of overcoming difficult circumstances: it can make us stronger. I promised to let Angela hijack my blog today, so please read on!

Hi everyone! When you set out to find examples of inner strength, you don’t have to go very far. Right here in the writing community we see it every day. Writers more than anyone understand the swirl of emotions as we work toward publication. We dream of making it and seeing our books in the hands of readers…yet doubt and frustration can be a constant companion. For us, there is a lot to learn, much to steel our nerves for, and unfortunately, a host of real-world problems that can try to derail us. And, even as we slowly move forward and grow, we can sometimes feel like impostors. This is a tough road.

But the fact that writers face this battle, day after day, and KEEP GOING…this should be celebrated! We need to be reminded that we are much stronger than we sometimes believe. We dream, create, and force ourselves to keep striving. Through the ups and downs, we persevere!

Have you encountered something on the writing road that made you question yourself? Have you faced an obstacle that required a force of will to get past?

If so, we want to hear about it! Join Becca and me at Writers Helping Writers from October 25-27th, where we are celebrating writers and their stories of perseverance. Stop in, and tell us about a challenge or struggle your faced, or if you like, join this event by writing a post on your own blog and share it using the hashtag #writerspersevere.  Let’s fill social media with your strength and let other writers know that it’s okay to question and have doubts but we shouldn’t let that stop us. 


We also have a prize vault filled with items that can give your writing career a boost, so stop by Writers Helping Writers. I would love for one of you to win something that will help you get closer to your goal!

If you struggle, remember to reach out to others. We are in this together, and by supporting one another, we cross the finish line together (and then keep going!). 

Happy writing!

Angela & Becca

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What I Hope My Writing Journey Is Teaching My Children

Writing is hard. Querying is hard--soul sucking at times. But then again, so is life.

I've been very open about the writing and querying process with my children. They see me write and send out queries, and hear about requests and rejections. I don't make it a point of telling them, but if they ask or are around when I receive an email, I tell them. They also hear me talk about it with my husband and ask questions, which I answer.

By seeing me work hard and not give up, I hope it will give them the courage to chase their dreams. Children often think their parents have everything figured out, or by the time children come along, parents are usually settled into their careers. Not all children see their parents strive to build a career.

When they see me get rejected and keep going, I hope they can carry that into their own lives by understanding it's not the end of the world. You can't win at everything. Just because you're turned down by one person that doesn't mean that someone isn't looking for what you have to offer.

I try to teach my children that if you want something, you need to work for it, don't expect things to be given to you. Hopefully my writing journey will help them understand that.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Forget Me Not Release Day and Interview!

Happy book (well novella) birthday to Em Shotwell!

I'm happy to help launch another of Em's stories! I can't wait for everyone to love Forget Me Not as much as I did when I first read it.

The special thing about this novella is that Em is donating all of her royalties from this novella to Operation Homefront.

Maybe falling for the good guy isn’t so bad?

When Rex Somersby’s family matchmaker sets him up with the famous Evelyn Cadeau, he can’t believe his luck. Evelyn is the woman with the perfect Gift—the woman every man wants—while Rex’s own magical ability leaves much to be desired.  He travels from Missouri to meet his dream girl in her rural Mississippi home, where Evelyn makes it clear that winning her heart won’t be an easy task. Good thing farm-boy Rex has never been afraid of a little hard work.

Evelyn Cadeau is used to getting her way. As the woman with the most powerful Gift, she knows she can have her pick of anyone she wants. And who she wants is slick, handsome, and off-limits Guy McCallister—not gawky, buttoned-up Rex Somersby. Yet, after an arranged date with Rex takes a dramatic turn, leading to a bottle of wine and sneaking to the creek for a late night skinny dip, she realizes there may be more to by-the-rules Rex than meets the eye.

Just as the young couple start to think their family’s tradition of matchmaking isn’t quite so backward, Rex is drafted to Vietnam. With war threatening to tear them apart, will love be able to save them? Or will it take a bit of magic?

Order your copy today here! If you want the ebook, you have to wait until August 22nd, but you can pre-order here.


With a new novella, I figured it was time to catch up with Em. Here's a little about how she's been doing since the last interview...

It’s been over a years since BBS came out, have you found anything has changed for you?

Yes. I understand so much more about publishing, and have been quite busy with projects. When Blackbird Summer came out, it was my only focus. I kind of miss that.

What’s been the most unexpected thing you’ve dealt with since releasing BBS?

I have been surprised by people I know who have read the book. I knew friends and family would pick it up, but I have received messages from people who I knew when I was a kid, or who are friends with my Grandma, who have told me they have enjoyed the book. That support has been terrific.

What are you working on currently?

I am currently working on both the third book in the Blackbird series as well as a novella series about a family of witches and all the trouble that ensues when they try to use their magic. The witchy stories will be released in an anthology with authors Sara Dobie Bauer and Wendy Sparrow from Pen and Kink Press in 2018.

Why did you choose to tell the story of Evelyn and Rex?

Because I just love them! I wrote a love letter from Rex to Evelyn as part of a blog series I ran in 2015. The story had been brewing in the back of my mind ever since.

Why did you choose the charity you did to donate to?

Operation Homefront has a stellar reputation. They are accredited by the BBB and have a five star rating from the organization Charity Watch. I wanted to give to an organization whose focus was on helping military families and vets, and I think I found a good one! 

When do we get the next installment of BBS?

Hopefully there will be two books coming your way in 2018, as well as (hopefully) another short story.

How many more books are planned for the series?

Right now there are four books plus novellas and short stories. Who knows. It could grow—that universe has endless possibilities.

Do you have any advice for those looking to get published?

Be open to feedback but also don’t lose sight of your goal.  Most importantly, never stop growing, learning, or writing.

Don't forget to grab your copy of Forget Me Not (print or ebook)!

And if you haven't yet...pick up a copy of Blackbird Summer. You'll thank me later!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Writing Contests

We are on the verge of another year of Pitch Wars and excitement is building! Along with hundreds of others, I've been frantically editing my manuscript so I can enter. I've wanted to write this post for over a month but thought I'd better get my revisions done, first.

Last year I was fortunate to have been chosen for two contests, one was Pitch Wars. I've entered many others and was never chosen. Though I'm far from an expert, I wanted to share some of what I've learned though my experiences and what I've learned from others.

Writing contests are intimidating and stressful. We all want our work to be loved and accepted, but that's not reality. It's important to put your work out there for others to see. Yes, you will likely be judged by some, but most will give you some thoughtful feedback that you can use to grow. If you join in, you will meet many wonderful people along the way who will accompany you on  your journey. This is the real benefit to entering the contests.

Contests are just as subjective as querying to agents or publishers. No one likes every book they read. Mentors in writing contests are the same. They are looking for one they love and know how to help. Sometimes I critique things and know something is off but can't put my finger on it. If a mentor thinks that, then there's no sense picking that manuscript. Another mentor may be able to see exactly what said manuscript needs. So not only are mentors looking for something they love, they are looking for something they can truly help.

Writing contests are not the end all and be all. Some people think that getting into a writing contest is the only way to get an agent or publisher. No. There are people who didn't get chosen for any writing contests that went on to write best sellers. There are also many people who get into contests but don't get an agent from them. Some go on to find an agent or publisher for their Pitch Wars manuscript through querying, while others write a new manuscript and find an agent or publisher for that. People get picked out of the slush pile every day. Everyone's path to publishing is different. Writing contests are only one path.

Don't self reject. Enter. What do you have to lose? The worst that happens is that you meet some people and you don't get picked. You're no worse off. Yes, not getting picked stings. Rejection always does. You allow yourself sometime to mope, then pick yourself back up. This business seems to be lined with rejection. It's part of the process, a painful but necessary one. On the flip side...what if a mentor loves your manuscript and wants to work with you? It's worth the chance of a no.

Be ready to work. If you do get in, be ready to revise your ass off. Some people in my Pitch Wars class rewrote their entire MS in the two months. It can be intense. But you have a great group of people to support you.

So why enter a writing contest?

Networking. Meet people, make friends (or critique partners). Learn what you can from anyone along the way. Even if you're not picked for the contest, this is the big win.

If you get in, you have a chance to make your manuscript better. This is an opportunity to get another set of eyes on your work and elevate it to the next level. You'll probably learn a lot during this process to better your future work.

The agent round is a bonus.

Those seem to be the main topics I see relating to writing contests. If you had any other questions, hit me up!