Must-read indie books for Spring

Do you read books by indie authors? The blockbuster hits are, of course, incredible. Who can forget A Song of Achilles, or Throne of Glass?

But recently, I’ve gained a huge appreciation for indie books, and by extension indie authors. There are so many good stories published by small presses, or self-published by authors themselves. As a small-press author myself, I know how even just a little recognition can go a long way.

Here are some indie reads that you should absolutely check out:

The Soft Fall, by Marissa Byfield

Genre: YA Fantasy / Roman Myth retelling

Demon wolves roam the forest, the villagers all said. Dianna had been warned to stay away.
She didn’t listen. Now every full moon Dianna slinks into the cellar beneath the barn. Into the cage made by her brother to protect her secret. One that would get her burned at the stake by the village leaders if discovered.

The heirs to the throne disappear just as their enemies lay siege to the empire. Famine hits the village as it struggles to survive. Dianna does what she can to hunt and help. But her secret is discovered when she transforms during an attack. Captured and imprisoned, Dianna must find a way to escape. If she does, she has only one direction to go. Into the heart of the forest where she was cursed.

The Soft Fall is a refreshingly new take on the werewolf genre that mixes classic tenets with new ideas. In Byfield’s world, the wolves are prisoners of their own bodies. They are not inherently evil, just cursed.

The plot to the book is well-paced, and the features a diverse set of characters. Byfield writes with a poetic eloquence that makes it hard to put the story aside. It’s incredibly well-written, and an absolute must-read for any fantasy or Roman mythology fans! Dianna is a strong, independent young woman who will not bend to the expectations that others have for her. She is her own person who fights for those she loves while desperately trying to understand her place in the world.


Check out The Soft Fall on Amazon!

Clockwork Detective, by R. A. McCandless

Genre: Steampunk / Fantasy

Aubrey Hartmann left the Imperial battlefields with a pocketful of medals, a fearsome reputation, and a clockwork leg. The Imperium diverts her trip home to investigate the murder of a young druwyd in a strange town. She is ordered to not only find the killer but prevent a full-scale war with the dreaded Fae.

Meanwhile, the arrival of a sinister secret policeman threatens to dig up Aubrey’s own secrets – ones that could ruin her career. It soon becomes clear that Aubrey has powerful enemies with plans to stop her before she gets started. Determined to solve the mystery, Aubrey must survive centaurs, thugs and a monster of pure destruction. 

The Clockwork Detective was the first Steampunk novel that I read, and I loved it! I have the highest praise for McCandless’s book. Aubrey is a nuanced protagonist, who is both strong yet vulnerable, with flaws that make her human and relatable. The story itself kept me on my toes, as political interests weave in with the magical. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and anything in between.


Steampunk and fantasy come together in this heart-stopping detective novel that hits all the right tones. There’s mystery, hints of romance, and controversy afoot. Aubrey must solve the mystery of the murdered Druwyd, and fast, before the Imperium decide to go to war with the fae roaming the ancient woods near Aquilinne.

Check out The Clockwork Detective on Amazon!

The Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past, by Tiffany Lafleur

Genre: YA Fantasy

Beast Whisperer – that was Lily’s special talent. Useful, but not as flashy as some. Or so she thought. When she was a child, Lily had washed up on the riverbank near Basolt, with no memory of who she was. Taken in by the couple who found her, she was raised as their own, alongside their new baby. Years later she does something extraordinary. And word spreads of a new Spirit Hopper, someone who can enter into and control not only beasts, but people.

Someone who can change the land of Sapeiro. Someone who supposedly died years before. The rumors catch the attention of those who would control her power. Those who would use Lily for their own purposes, no matter how many lives it costs. They set their plots to capture her in motion. But Lily discovers there is at least one group who might hold the key to her real identity. One group who would protect her. But trust does not come easily for Lily. And her would-be saviors have secrets of their own. 

A Forgotten Past is the first book in The Sapeiro Chronicles trilogy. Lily is a complex character who finds herself in the middle of a years-long secret conflict, a conflict she wants nothing to do with. But Lily will need to weigh her resistance to adventure with the consequences of not partaking. A whole kingdom hangs in the balance while she decides which side to take.

Sapeio is a grand land, where everyone has inherited a touch of magic. A Forgotten Past is a fast-paced novel that is at heart uplifting, at times heart-wrenching.

Check out A Forgotten Past on Amazon.

Republic of Ruin, by L. Blaise Hues

Genre: YA Dystopia / Post-apocalyptic

Forget life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… Surviving is a feat in and of itself.

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Hudson immerses herself in the few things the Supply Wars haven’t destroyed—her ranch work and secret baseball games with her best friend. But her power-hungry stepmother is leading a group of domestic terrorists in an effort to start another Civil War and frame Ellie as the instigator.

Ellie’s lost her father, her home, and her country, but nothing can rob her of her need to preserve the American dream…or what’s left of it.

I had the absolute pleasure of being an ARC reader for L. Blaise Hues’ Legacy of Debris series, which includes three books, the first of which is Republic of Ruin.

An EMP attack has completely obliterated what we know the modern world to be. No more power, no more technology, only you and your skills. In the power vacuum left in the dust, some want to rise from the ashes and elect themselves as rulers. What I found most enthralling about the Legacy of Debris series was how realistic it was. This is not a story where you need to suspend your understanding of reality. The circumstances that led to the apocalypse are unfortunately not that far-fetched.

Republic of Ruin has all the makings of a classic in the genre: a heroic heroine, a nation holding itself together by a thread, a budding romance. But it also has elements that make it unique. Each book in the series is also a fairy-tale retelling. And let me tell you, it works surprisingly well!

Check out Republic of Ruin on Amazon.


The Wise One, by K. T. Anglehart

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy / Witches

Mckenna’s never thought much of her nightmares, but on her seventeenth birthday, a vivid dream of burning at the stake awakens her dormant abilities, thrusting her into a world where faeries are real, spirits hold a grudge, and a High Priestess obsessed with a 16th-century prophecy is tracking her every move.

​Now, her overprotective dads, Seán and Andre, are forced to tell her the truth—they know who her birth mother is, and her life is not the surrogate story she’s ​always ​been told. Abigail, Mckenna’s mom, is some sort of mystic, and Mckenna a Wise One. ​Whatever the hell that means.

​With the help of a persistent little wren and company of a newfound friend, Mckenna journeys to Ireland in search of her mother and real answers. Along the way, she learns to harness her innate magic and trust her intuition, as best she can anyway—Cillian, a kind and passionate delegate ​who crosses her path, is proving much harder to read. ​Only her mother could truly help her halt her ill fate and prepare her for what’s to come…before she gives in to the darkness she knows is buried deep within. 

The Wise one was a wonderfully witchy read, with strong elements of friendship and powerful family bonds that span oceans. Oh, and the best part? It’s set in the 90s!

The Wise One is a beautifully written book that takes us cross North America all the way to Ireland, where McKenna was born. As she embarks on her adventure of self-discovery, she makes friends along the way that help her in her search for her mother. But their motives might not be as genuine as they appear to be.

I read the whole book in like, two days. I had a very hard time putting it down, and I loved all the 90s references! An absolute must-read for anyone who enjoys reading about witches, friendship, magic and prophecies.

Get your copy of The Wise One on Amazon!

Time to Live, Jordan Elizabeth

Genre: NA Urban Fantasy

A witch’s magical orbs. Clan Wars that have lasted centuries. A heritage shrouded in secrecy.
Welcome to seventeen-year-old Banon Andreeta’s world.

Banon is a child of Clan Genae and can do things most people can’t. Which might account for her rebellious behavior. Or maybe she’s just a magnet for trouble. Either way, she’s in hot water more often than the average teen. When she rejects Fred, a random creep at the mall, she makes an enemy who will bring unwanted attention from Clan Julae, her own clan’s mortal enemy.

She also makes a friend in Clan Julae – the intriguing Hadley. Drawn to each other, neither understands the forces behind the attraction. Or that they are from opposing clans. Hadley only knows Banon is in danger and he must protect her. But the long-standing Clan War is not as much in the past as the Genae thought. Their very existence is threatened by enemies known and unknown. And the only thing between them and death is Banon. A secret weapon even they don’t know they have.

Time to Live is a beautiful story of love that spans hundreds of years. But it’s also a story of betrayal and the power that lies have when they become perceived truths. The characters were well developed and I found myself unable to put the book down as I rooted for them to achieve their goals!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and was impressed with how the author was able to jump between timelines seamlessly. I look forward to the sequel! Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys reading urban fantasy. 

Check Time to Live on Amazon!

Win a FREE copy of A Forgotten Past!

Question: do you set yourself a reading goal for the year?

This year, my goal is to read 25 books. I’m currently making my way through my 11th book, and I’m super stoked that I’m way ahead of the goal I set for myself!

In other fun news: I’m super thrilled to be hosting a giveaway on Instagram! This week I reached 3000 followers, and to celebrate I’m giving away one free eBook version of The Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past!

Check out the rules here. Entering is super easy. Make sure to tag all of your bookish friends!

And hey, if you did happen to read the Sapeiro Chronicles, consider leaving a review on Goodreads and Amazon. Each review helps get my book in the hands of someone else who enjoys reading YA Fantasy!

Hurry up! Giveaway ends on April 16th!

Sapeiro Chronicles wins Silver in Literary Titan Book Awards

Some good news for 2021…The Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past has officially won Silver in the Literary Titan Book Award!

This award makes my little Author heart ever so happy. It’s a small recognition, but one I am very proud of nonetheless. Not to mention that it starts the year off wonderfully!

You can read their full review here, as well as an author interview I did here.

Have you read A Forgotten Past yet? Get your copy on Amazon today: https://amzn.to/2V79PPO

ON THE PATH TO YOUR FIRST DRAFT: FIGURE OUT YOUR WRITING STYLE FIRST

Maybe you have an idea for a story that’s been kicking around in your head, screaming to be let out, nurtured, and put on paper. It might have come to you just as you were falling asleep, or as you were on your fourth kilometer while jogging around the block. But now, it’s here and it isn’t letting you rest easy.

It’s time to write it down and make the jump from half-baked idea to a full-fledged narrative. Cue the sudden realization that writing a whole book is…well, it can feel overwhelming. The first milestone is hammering out that first draft.

Here’s where it gets tricky, and this is where a lot of fledgling (and even well-seasoned) writers get stuck: writing the ominous, terrifying first initial draft.

But how does one write a first draft? Surely there are steps that must be accomplished before sitting down with your hot beverage of choice, a solid amount of motivation, and a healthy amount of optimism.

I’m here to tell you that yes, yes there is. There are indeed many things to consider before putting pen to paper for the first time. Character sketches, maps, floor designs, plotting the narrative, story development are but a few things to consider working on before writing.

It may seem like a lot. Take a deep breath. Good. Now, here’s the question of the day for you: what kind of writer are you?

It may seem innocuous enough. And may also seem completely irrelevant to writing a first draft. But determining what kind of writer you are may help in figuring out what kind of planning you need to do before sitting down to write.

From my musings with other writers, I’ve noticed there are two overarching ‘types’ of writers: those who write without a plan, and those who write with one.  

Both are equally good ways of writing a story. Personally, I’m a planner who writes. I don’t feel comfortable writing unless I have over-analyzed the whole world I’m trying to build. But Stephen King is perhaps the best-known writer who just writes, without tethering himself to a plan. And to give complete credit where credit is due, I think Mr. King has written enough stories at this point in his career that he can absolutely do whatever he wants.  

Before sitting down and working on your story, determine which type of writer you are. There are pros and cons of each style, and becoming familiar with the pitfalls or advantages will really help determine how to approach your first draft.

The ‘just do it’ writers

These writers don’t plan. They have an idea and execute it as the story evolves in their minds. After a first draft is written, they reexamine their story and try to find common threads that can be tied together and exploited to strengthen the storyline.

The advantage of this approach to writing is that the absence of a plan can feel liberating. You can do whatever you want! Your muse will guide you! The characters will speak for themselves! The story may even feel more authentic because even you, the writer, are flying by the seat of your pants!

There may not be much room to plan in this stage, and so the prevalent concern is to keep writing. Not having a story outline may feel freeing, but the weight of the blank page staring back at you feels a lot heavier when you don’t have a captain to steer the ship.

What’s important to keep in mind when pumping out your first draft is that the quality really doesn’t matter much. The longer you stay stuck in a particularly knotty area of your story, the longer you’re ignoring the rest of the narrative.

And here’s where the downside of this technique comes in: when you don’t know where you’re going, it’s easy to get lost and lose sight of the big picture while you agonize over details. Or, even worse, lose motivation to write after you’ve written yourself into a corner and can’t see a way out.

For ‘just-do-it’ writers, it’s important to remember that what counts is to keep writing, no matter how thorny or difficult the task may seem. Things can be altered, and since you haven’t adhered to any firm plan, everything can be changed anyway. But the crucial bit is hunkering down and pecking away at the keyboard, stringing sentences together so they make sense.

A good tip to unstructured writing is to structure your time. Set yourself a goal for how long you want to write, undisturbed, and then stick to it. And no matter how eloquently the siren of distraction calls, keep your butt glued to that writing chair until you’ve completed the required time to do so. Best to fit it into your schedule, or risk being at the mercy of ‘inspiration’.

The planners

As a planner myself, this method is what I subscribe to and fully endorse. I’ve tried the unstructured writing, but to be completely honest, I find it stressful. So I’ve always over-planned my stories, going into the nitty gritty of character development and plot structure before ever considering putting pen to paper. I draw maps, sketch out characters, and concoct whole backstories for my main characters, including the antagonists.

The planning method of writing means exactly that: planning the nitty-gritty of the story, the narrative arc, and plot structure so you get an idea of the big picture before sitting down to write.

The advantage of the planning method of writing is that staring at a blank page isn’t as intimidating, since you already broadly know what you want to say. It’s just a question of how you want to phrase it. By breaking it up into little chunks, it also minimizes the burden of knowing you need to write a whole book, because you can take the story one chapter at a time. It’s a nice way to confidently chug away at the narrative that was oh-so-brilliantly charted out by a past version of yourself. This way, you can blindly follow along to the arc that was pre-determined and concentrate on throwing words on the paper.

The downside of planning so much of the story ahead of time is that it may result in the story feeling forced, or at some point the narrative may outgrown the arc you’re trying to force through. In these instances, it’s totally okay to switch up the plan you had on the fly and spend some time re-charting your course, if you know it isn’t going anywhere anymore.

So, what now?

Hopefully, by this point you’ve giving some thought to what kind of writer you are, and what steps you may need to take before sitting down and typing out the first draft of your masterpiece. And don’t forget, you are also free to combine the two methods to create your own hybrid version that works perfectly just for you! Nothing is stopping you!

When I was writing the first draft of my Young Adult Fantasy novel, The Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past, I first spent countless hours delving into the culture, religion, and structure of the land. Then I agonized over character development and sketched out key locations. After that, I loosely plotted out what I wanted to happen, and used that plan to then section the whole novel into chapter blurbs. These chapter blurbs were the foundation of the first draft, and although the final result was immeasurably different from that initial first 50,000-word draft, sectioning it as I did helped in taking it one step at a time and, more importantly, see the big picture.  

THE IMPORTANCE OF A BAD FIRST DRAFT

Writing is stressful. It isn’t this blissfully serene activity, where writers spend their days on high-backed chairs sipping a perfectly roasted cup of coffee while story arcs magically plot and write themselves.

No. every word choice is agonizing. Every plot twist takes time and preparation to, well, plot.

From the second draft to the fourth (or fifth, tenth, or how ever many it may take to get to a final), stress levels are high as you boil down the words to their most perfect form, and strip away any imperfections within the narrative arc.

But here’s the thing: a lot of writers stress about this in their first draft. And that’s a bad thing. You may be asking yourself: “but shouldn’t my first draft be the best it can be so I can build from there?”

Here’s the short answer: no, it doesn’t.

The longer, more elaborate answer is that your first draft doesn’t need to be perfect, because perfection isn’t the goal.

No story is perfect, ever, but especially in the first few drafts. The story is still figuring out what it is trying to be. Even if you, the writer, may think you have everything perfectly plotted out and ready to go. The story needs room to breathe and expand.

The only expectation you should ever have of a first draft is to have it written. It doesn’t need to be good. Doesn’t even need to have all the pieces. It just needs to be on paper, and it needs to be finished in the sense that it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the first draft, the focus should be on story and making sure the main plot points are all in the right-ish order.  

You can always go back and tinker with the writing to your heart’s content. But focusing on the writing is kind of like choosing an outfit without looking at the forecast: might work out, but you might need to get changed. When you focus on the story, then you can make sure the pacing is good, the characters are where they need to be at the right time, and all the steps are in place.

The first draft is as bad as your story will ever get. It’s all improvement from this point on.

I’m a huge advocate of a bad first draft. My first draft for A Forgotten Past was just under 50,000 words. A few dozen drafts later, and the final was just over 100,000. The first draft was not publishable. Neither was the second or third. I would never have dreamed of sending it to an agent.

And that alleviated a lot of pressure. The stakes were lower. This draft just needed to be done, typos, mistakes, and run-on sentences galore. I didn’t care, because it didn’t matter. No one, short of a few trusted friends, would ever read that monstrosity.

But because I didn’t sweat the small stuff, I was able to get a first draft out in a few short months. And from there, I refined, re-plotted, re-wrote, and edited, edited, edited.

All the writers I know all agree on one thing: it’s a lot easier to edit than to write. Staring at a blank page is awful. The stakes are so high, needlessly so.

But editing is a thing of beauty. You have an outline, maybe not a clear one, but an idea is beginning to form, and it just needs some polishing. Your first draft is the putty that you need to sculpt your masterpiece. It needs to be sculpted and mashed and cut and worried for it to resemble something worth displaying.

Without that first bad draft of A Forgotten Past, I might never have finished the whole book. Or maybe I’d still be writing it. But by hanging up my pride as a writer and embracing a get-‘er done attitude, I was able to have fun just writing and throwing ideas onto a page for an older and wiser version of myself to edit at a later time.

The more time you waste on trying to find the exact, perfect word to describe something, the less time and energy you have on building your story.

And remember: story is everything. Readers will forgive a good book that is written okay. But good writing cannot cover for a bad story.

Fantasy Writer Spotlight

Since becoming more involved in the writing community online, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of meeting a ton of amazing writers with incredible stories.

One of those writers is Jonathan Chandler. I had the pleasure of reading his entire manuscript for Bright Claw, a fantasy story about a wolf who goes on a journey to discover who she really is, and how her relationship with her mother, the pack leader, has impacted her self-image. It’s an amazing story with a heartfelt cast of characters who each have their own struggles and conflicts to surmount.

Since our audiences and stories are similar, Jonathan and I decided to do a blog swap! You can read Jonathan’s blog here.

Here’s what Jonathan had to say about why he writes, and what his story is about.

What is your story about?

            Bright Claw follows a hunted wolf, fleeing the harsh and overbearing rule of her mother and the pack her mother commands. After refusing to give up the hiding place of a rival god filled being in the ancient and wintry forest her mother rules, the wolf eventually named Bright meets another outcast named Trickclaw, who shows her the merits of being willing to fight even one’s own blood for the right to live life one’s own way.

            It’s a story about coming to terms with the pains that have made your parents the way they are; about accepting the harshness of a world where power seems to be the only way to survive. It’s a story of the loneliness suffering creates in us and the will it takes to overcome that isolation.

            While gods and fate seem to clash with Bright’s pursuit of happiness, her adventure will call for her to accept those things and still, somehow, remain herself.

Why do you write?

            When I was younger, I used to fancy myself a debater. I loved playing devil’s advocate, but more, I loved when I could unpack the layered perceptions that led someone to believe what they did. And, in doing so, I loved when I could take part in creating an entirely new, often more nuanced perception—that even I hadn’t had before.

            As beings of flesh and bone and spirit—of thought—we are constantly living at odds with the world and each other. With our varied experiences and physical separation from one another, with our individual bodies and minds, we often feel we have no choice but to designate the differences in others as either wholly good or wholly bad. We have to make others either friends or foes, or risk being overrun by the problems of the world around us, and the basic physical needs we each have. Yet, in spite of that reality, we humans have managed to create societies, communities, and nations that have worked in concert to thrive in a harsh world and have even begun to manipulate those fundamental aspects of reality that only the gods had dominion over in the past.

            We have survived and evolved. And not just by chance. We didn’t simply always give in to our instinct to make lines of ‘us’ and ‘them’. We discovered a magic, I think, that does more than even a revelatory debate, because it acts as a neutral party to mitigate the effects of ego on the ensuing change of the involved parties’ spirits. That magic was storytelling.

            The act of creating a dialogical space where empathy could bridge the gap of our physical selves, helped us see other points of view and ways of experience. It helped us find common ground. It helped us continue to expand the once small tribes that our ancestors fought and bled for. Now, we sit on the edge of an interconnectivity that no one has experienced before, because of the momentum of that magic and the technology its seeded desires have given birth to, through us. I want to be a part of that.

            I no longer consider myself a debater—though I’m sure I argue as much as anyone else in these days. I don’t want to fight. I want to experience. I want to cry, live, love, and share in the magic of stories in whatever way I can. Because, I think, writing stories is the most human thing that can be done, and I can’t see myself doing anything else.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

            World building; initial plotting and character sketching, are all my favorite parts of creating a story. When you’re someone that, perhaps, spends too much time in your own head, it can be a surprising thing to discover that you don’t know everything that can be found there. I’m sure everyone has moments of introspection that coincidentally lead to recalling a vague memory, or person, or idea. But those small moments are often fleeting and rarely do more than bring up sparks of the emotion they had when they were first experienced. The nostalgia is short lived, however true it might feel for a little while.

            Unearthing a gem in the back of my mind and rotating it in the hands of my perception has always been a passed time, nonetheless. And I’ve found that writing enhances this act. It digs deeper and melds together half forgotten things of your past to produce something novel (to you and the world—oh, and no pun intended there, ha).

            The feeling of wonder that comes with the contradictory feeling of familiarity is the reason I love plotting and building worlds—particularly in fantasy, where archetypes let us graft our experiences intuitively. I think, just like how story allows people to connect with others outside of themselves by internalizing external experiences, I think story making allows a person to connect with the ‘other’ in themselves through the exercise of externalizing what has been left subconsciously internalized throughout their lifetime. Learning about the good and bad parts of myself, that I never knew before—or have never been able to articulate before—is the reason I keep staring at blank pages until my head hurts.

Here’s an exerpt from Jonathan’s incredible story:

She wasn’t alone. She only felt like it. There was a pressure, a pressing on the sides of her eyeballs that shadowed everything in a way that pulsed with the beat of the blood in her veins.

            The ravens’ magic? Bright wondered.

            There was another wolf with her, whining and growling plaintively for her not to press on. It was a familiar complaint, from a familiar source. She ignored it, in spite of her present self-howling for her to listen to the tag along her mother always sent with her. To watch her.

            To stop me from wandering too far….

            She was too far. The shadows broke along her memory self’s path, creating a tunneled vision toward the very place Bright of the present had run so far away from.

            There was a copse of ashen trees, clustered oddly together, so that they were like a great beaver’s damn emerging into Bright’s vision. She investigated them, sniffing up and down the wall’s length for an opening, a place where the scents beyond could become an inviting cloud.

            This place had been new to Bright. This was a place the pack hadn’t been. A place her mother hadn’t marked.

            It was a horizon. A place I could have made my own. It had been so important to do that, Bright of the present lamented. Then her past self found a way through the wall. There was a place where the lay of the trees was untethered with a dip in the ground. She had to dig to clear dirt, moss, and the ominous bones of some small beast, but the Bright of the past was undaunted.

            She was spurred on by a strange scent that grew and grew in her nostrils, until it was all she could think about. She smelled, beyond the dirt and roots and bark, animal flesh and smoke. Like the sky had sent down one of its blinding, jagged furies to start a fire in the Wood. But the smell didn’t have that warning itch, that dryness of the air that would have scared her off. There didn’t seem to be a storm brewing.

            Again, this had been something new; fire without the scent of a spark.

            When she broke through, she learned the terrifying why.

            There was the hollow skin from a bear, standing next to a fire, surrounded by small stones. Bright snarled immediately, even before she got her body free of the hole she’d dug beneath the clustered and stacked trees. The thought of how vulnerable she was rolled through her past self in a chill down her spine, making the Bright that had to watch bark in time with her vision.

            What kind of bear wasn’t afraid of a fire? What kind of fire wasn’t wild and ravenous, consuming all it could snare?

            This bear, placid and sunken in many places, was nearly hugging the flame; as if it had no fur to warm it. This fire was tame, beneath a conical roof of tinder, content to nibble at its own housing and blacken it to ember.

            The sunken bear moved at the barks past Bright threw at it. But it didn’t move like a bear. The head didn’t raise and the eyes, the wolf realized, were empty sockets— sightless.

            Bright of the present, who saw this as a ghost might, through eyes too far away to control what was seen— to demand her past self to turn away— watched the tunneling shadow of her vision condense around the figure that was not a beast of any kind. It stood tall, having been crouched in the guise of an animal. As it did, the fire it had been huddled over cast a dancing light on its skin.

            Skin. Not fur. The thing, the lanky, but muscled thing that stood on two legs, had almost no hair, save for its shoulders, face, and head. In its head were piercing eyes, darkened by the cowl of the bear pelt and strong brow.

            Bright had never seen anything like it. Her past self knew to fear it though. After all, what prey thing could wear a dead bear.

            It took a pack of wolves to kill a bear, normally. This creature had apparently done it alone, because Bright scented no others. The question of how crawled over Bright’s mind for a moment. Then the thing spoke. And, having now felt what god-speech is like from a more mortal creature, Bright of the present could not help but flinch at the force of a god’s thoughts given form.

            Through this vision, Bright experienced the sights this new god had cast into her and all around her, a second time.

            While the fear of this new thing speaking seized her chest, the Bright of the present had the mind to keep her eyes opened as the god spoke its words to spawn sights not just into her mind, but into the world itself.

            That was the power of true god magic. Bright’s mother could do the same, as host of Great Cold. It created more than visions. It created the real. But no god Bright had ever heard of had ever been able to produce so much. What was this god’s name that it had mastery over the trees, earth, and fire?

            Only the Bright of the present could now wonder if indeed the strange new creature was full of only one god at all.

            Trees sprouted with loud cracks of stone and earth, right in front of the wolf and made her jump from the hole that was her only apparent escape. She was nearly bowled over sideways when a fir erupted at an angle to her left and thundered toward the sky, headless of the wolf in its path. Then another sprouted and lanced through her now wounded ear. Bright of the present cried out from the doubly present pain.

            More words came, followed by trees and rocks and fire gouts that licked the pads of her feet. At one point, her breath a scratching coil in her chest, incomplete and panic inducing, she was seized. Great arms grabbed her by the scruff and tried to wrestle her from her feet. But she thought of the bear. She thought of the blackness of those empty eyes and the icy gaze of the figure wearing the bear’s sockets as its own. 

            She felt like prey. She felt like death was near.

            I had looked for a horizon— not an end!

            She twisted in the god’s grip. She lashed out with her teeth, biting some part of the figure blindly. The creature’s muscle moved oddly in her mouth, like a clutch of snakes. The taste of blood on her tongue was hot and filled her with a shock of strength. The thought of how her mother looked, hunting other god-hosts, occurred to her for the briefest instant. Then her mouth burned. It flashed with a bewildering light that made the creature holding her yell and set her free.

            Immediately, she ran in a widening circle, unsure what random creation would spear her or flay her, when her tag along resolved on a ridge above a low part in the ash tree wall.

            Bright followed his howl, as she remembered from the actual moment of her frenzied escape. All the while the god thing spoke and she couldn’t understand his words, or even really if it was more than one word it was speaking. An incredibly terrifying and, somehow, frustrating situation. As if she couldn’t understand why she was afraid, despite the danger of death on her heels.

            But I’m almost free….

            No.

            The path she took up the hill to leap over the ash wall vanished, then the other wolf she’d been with turned into shadow and shattered into a burst of cawing black birds.

            Suddenly Bright was in complete darkness, with the cloud of black birds becoming a veil that crowed and yelled to drown out the god she fled. At first, this was like a gift. Then there was snarling.

            She was still running. It was the only thing that made her heart’s pounding feel right in its cage. Ahead there was a dimly glowing light, growing its ambient sphere as if Bright were rapidly closing on it. Light in this emptiness was welcome, but a cold tingled her nose that soon sank beneath her fur. Her mother resolved in the light, snarling and barking loud enough to shake the invisible ground beneath Bright’s feet.

            The whole pack was behind her mother’s tall shadow and were resolute as a wall amidst the wisps of frost and snow her mother brought with her. All their hackles were raised and they magnified to the size of mountains as Bright’s legs rushed her toward them.

            With numbing anxiety, Bright thought she might pass between the giant wolves’ legs, since she could not change direction or slow down.

            She was afraid. And she was right to be.

            Her mother’s head lowered, nearly to the invisible ground, her massive eyes, the color of winter wind, peering into her soul to dispel all hope.

            “Tell me, daughter,” Bright’s mother said, with a voice like the hiss of a blizzard’s gusts. “Where is it?”

            Bright kept her jaws closed.

            “Where is the new god in my wood? Tell me, so I can avenge my daughter.”

            Bright shook her head with a whine as her mother’s oversized head let its mouth hang open on the path Bright took. She would be consumed!

            “Tell me or you will be eaten first, and the Great Cold will still have its way. Why protect what threatened you? Tell me and be the wolf you are. Tell me or be gone!”

            The fury of winter and the god within Bright’s mother cast spikes of ice on either side of Bright’s path. She would be eaten.

            And like the new god, she realized, she was alone and afraid.

            I will be no more than what my mother wished for me….

Sunday Musings: Tips on Creating Your Own Writing Process

So you have an idea, and you want to write a book. Congratulations! And my sincere condolences.

Maybe it started as a dream you had, or a conversation that took place solely in your head, but you feel good about your idea and you want to turn it into something bigger and, maybe even, have someone else read it (GASP!). But before you even sit down to write the first word, there are a few things you should consider. This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list of everything that needs to be considered when working on your story – but it might help guide you as you prepare to embark on your long, perilous journey as a writer.

Work backwards

This may sound counterintuitive but bear with me. What’s your story about? Is it an epic fantasy that takes place in another dimension? Or a period romance set in the Victorian era?  

Now think about what you need to know in order to write. In my case (and the reason why I love the Fantasy genre so much), I needed to make up a lot of details. What did Sapeiro look like, smell like, feel like? What methods of transportation did they use, what is the logic of the world, where do they get their food?

You write well about what you know. So before sitting down and getting started, figure out those details that will make your story feel more real. You’ll be happy you did later on, when you’re knee deep in writing and realize you never gave any thought to something that has suddenly become important.  

Overthink your world

It’s helpful for you to immerse yourself in the world you are creating, be it from scratch or based on a real place and time. Now overthink it to hell. Consider every single detail that encompasses your world, things that you’ve never even stopped to consider in real life.

How many different cultures are there in your story, and how do they all interact? What’s the geography like and how does it affect the water supply? What’s the local flora and fauna like, and where are they in the food chain? What events or circumstances have shaped your character’s worldview?

These details may seem unimportant when compared to your actual story, but here’s the thing: the more you overthink your world, the more real it will feel to you and to your reader.

Make your characters come alive

Characters make or break a story. You can have the best story idea in the world, a real award

 winner. But if your characters are hollow, uninteresting, or don’t integrate well with the story you’ve built, you’ll lose the reader’s interest.

As I was researching how to write, and tips on writing, I came across a mind-boggling statement: work and develop your characters until they feel that they are their own people.

I scoffed at this at first. How could my characters, who were created in my own imagination, ever possibly feel as if they are their own individual people, with their own individual personalities, traits, and emotions?

But that’s exactly what happened.

Approach your characters as you approach your world: overthink them. Flesh them out until they feel like real people, with hopes and dreams, flaws and skills. Make them perfectly imperfect, with mannerisms and fears. Chart out their lives before the story begins: how are their parents, how were they raised, did anything majorly traumatic or splendid happen to them? How did this affect them as they grew and matured?

Just like with your world, a well-rounded character will feel more real to the reader and improve the story immensely. 

Make a schedule. Stick to it.

Life is chaotic, and busy, and volatile. Think of all the times you’ve told your friend you should get coffee. Now think of all the times you actually did.

If you don’t have a plan, that’s likely what’s going to happen to your book, too: it will remain a half-construed idea somewhere on your hard drive, just waiting to be turned into an actual story.

I wrote my first book, The Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past: while I was still a student in my last year at Concordia University. Although I had a lot on my plate at the time, each Sunday, as I sat down to plan out the week ahead, I would carve out time to write, and I would assign a goal to how much I wanted to get done. It didn’t matter if I felt like it or not, but because I had written it in my agenda, I felt obligated to do it.

As a final thought, I feel it’s important to remind you that there is no one path to planning or executing your book. Find a strategy that works for you, and pair it with an idea that makes you feel motivated to write. But just remember, the only way to become a writer is to write, even if it’s just a little bit at a time!

The Sapeiro Chronicles, A Forgotten Past now released!

The day has finally come! The Sapeiro Chronicles: A Forgotten Past is now available in print and eBook format!

It’s been a wild ride, but I am so very excited to show you the world of Sapeiro and the magic that exists in it. It’s an old land, with a rich culture and long, bloody history.

Beast Whisperer – that was Lily’s special talent. Useful, but not as flashy as some. Or so she thought. When she was a child, Lily was found washed up on the riverbank near Basolt, with no memory of who she was. Taken in by the couple who found her, she was raised as their own, alongside their new baby. Years later she does something extraordinary. And word spreads of a new Spirit Hopper, someone who can enter into and control not only beasts, but people. Someone who can change the land of Sapeiro. Someone who supposedly died years before.

You can order your print or eBook copy on Amazon or Indigo. And don’t forget to leave a review on Goodreads if you enjoyed the story!

And if you want to make sure that you are always in the know about news and announcements, make sure to join my newsletter! Just pop your email below!

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WRITING IS HARD. SO WHY DO IT?

There is nothing as frustrating on this earth as having a clever idea in your mind but being unable to fully express it through words. Words are hard. They can suck. Sometimes, you want to describe something and there just isn’t the right word for the exact emotion or feeling you’re trying to convey.

Did I mention that words suck?

I made my peace with writing a long time ago. I’ve always viewed writing as a kind of putty that you try and shape into submission. After enough knocks and molding and tinkering, at the end, you might be lucky enough to have a misshapen mass of… something.

That something is story. And that’s why I write. I’m not so fond of the stitching words together part as I am the create new worlds part. Stories have lived in my heart and soul forever, just dying for someone to PLEASE oh God someone ask me about my idea already. 

My life has been shaped by these stories, and I still remember some of the ones I came up with as a child. No, they were not good. But that’s okay! Because at least I wrote them down. And by writing them, I come one step closer to being able to tell the next one.

Something that has become more apparent to me as I progress in my writing career is that writing and storytelling are deeply personal things. When you tell a story, you’re opening yourself up to the world. To write, you must rip away all sense of self-preservation and bleed on the page for everyone to see. No matter what faraway worlds you create as a writer, a part of you lives in that world, and therefore a part of you lives in that story.

And yet, nothing could stop me from wanting to continue to write, to create, to keep punching the putty into something glorious, not even the potential for humiliation. To be able to use something as mundane as words to build an empire that only lives and thrives in my head is the closest thing to performing actual magic. To create stories, we must use words. Words will breathe life into the empires, characters, and creatures who live in our imagination. Words can strike fear or spark hope or evoke kindness.

Writing is one of the hardest things to do, even if it’s one of the earliest skills we learn when we start school. There’s objectively good writing, just as there is objectively bad writing. There are good stories, and then there are mediocre ones. But just like a muscle, writing can be improved, and storytelling skills can be developed. Ultimately, I think it comes down to writers and storytellers being a special breed of creative beings, who need to expulse the stories from their bodies in order to survive. Keeping it locked inside for too long will fester and boil up to the surface eventually. Better to just excise it, get it on a page, and be done with it.

As for me, I write because I have something to say, and I’ve chosen words as my medium.