Fantasy Worlds I’m Loving

currently playing on my iPod: Nature Boy (acoustic) by Aurora

You know the feeling when a story grips you by the hair and yanks you into a world you can’t stop thinking about? That’s how I feel about some fantasy books I’ve picked up lately.

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Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (her Windwitch just came out too!!)

This world is ALIVE, people. ALIVE. The layered history and character backgrounds give the setting such depth. The author doesn’t overwhelm you with exact details at the start, but you get enough to be curious and to “feel the real” in every scene.

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor

This collection of short stories came out a long while back but it’s worth a re-read before Laini Taylor’s next masterpiece, Strange the Dreamer, comes out later this month. Hatchling is probably my favorite in there. The atmosphere is unforgettable.

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn 

Another oldie-but-goodie, this fantasy, inspired by events in Japanese history, holds moments that sucked me in whole. The combination of superstition and the personality of the place…I just love it. Take this snippet for instance:

“…we came to the city of Hagi, the castle town of the Otori. It was built on an island flanked by two rivers and the sea. From a spit of land to the town itself ran the longest stone bridge I had ever seen. It had four arches, through which the ebbing tide raced, and walls of perfectly fitted stone. I thought it must have been made by sorcery, and when the horses stepped onto it I couldn’t help closing my eyes. The roar of the river was like thunder in my ears, but beneath it I could hear something else—a kind of low keening that made me shiver.”

What books have drawn you in lately?Beautiful World

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Cover Reveal for my YA/Adult Fantasy!

currently playing on my iPod: Fire in my Bones by Fleurie

Hey all! So the first standalone novel in my Uncommon World series, Waters of Salt and Sin, comes out April 4th! Here is the cover!!! Merilliza Chan (responsible for Elise Kova‘s Air Awakens series) created the amazing art and my niece, Miranda Klapheke (recently graduated from design school), helped me with the typography. I love it! Do you?

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This book was born of my love for boats, pirates, Game of Thrones, folklore that bleeds into magical realism, Sabaa Tahir‘s An Ember in the Ashes, and Leigh Bardugo‘s books. I love ensemble casts and I hope this one makes you laugh and cry during their wild tale of adventure and survival.

I’m hoping to give readers a fun escape with a historical feel (even though it’s all totally a mash up and from my crazy brain). I won’t lie. I’m nervous about releasing a book into the world. After diving into Victoria Schwab‘s A Conjuring of Light and CJ Redwine‘s The Wish Granter, I wonder if I should even bother! So good. But I want to go for it and it’s been fun organizing everything for the release. Let me know what you think of the cover in the comments! 🙂

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What to Pack: Traveling Abroad

currently playing on my iPod: Life on Mars by Aurora

I’m a complete travelholic. My living room sports the couch I bought in college and I’m wearing a Victoria’s Secret Pink shirt from the nineties—all so I can afford to spread my wings and fly.

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Soon I’ll be off to Japan to ride the bullet train, eat bizarre seafood, soak in the art and landscape, find quiet in a shrine, and sneak around ninja castles. Sooooo excited!

To keep travel simple and headache-free, I only take a sling pack (aka tough purse) and a backpack. Why? you ask. Well, because once upon a time, lovelies, I traveled to Munich and the airline lost my luggage. I wore the same sweater for five days before they returned it. To get it back, I had to try to speak German, and sometimes French, to the nice woman at the airline. It was a hassle. And it was the last time I checked baggage.

I’ve never looked back. Now I just stroll right on off the plane and into the taxi. No worries. I walk casually down the cobblestone streets of Rome without having to haul a monstrosity of a suitcase. Those wheeled fellas totally disrupt the beauty of Venice. (I’ve heard they actually outlawed them, but that may be urban legend.) Steps to a hidden little hotel in the perfect place are no biggie. I feel light and happy and non-obnoxious. It’s wonderful.

What do I pack?

*a small bottle of Woolite to hand wash stuff in the sink

*clothes that can all be layered and worn together (mainly grays and blacks and purples)

*only the absolute necessities for skin care (you won’t die giving all that up for 8 days)

*PJs that are thin and easy to roll up

*one paperback book

*a deck of cards

*a small writing notebook and pen

*(for Japan) thin flip flops for going in and out of places without shoes

*only the necessary cards/IDs and not the entire bloated wallet

*a small brush (hotels will usually have everything else your hair needs–don’t be picky)

*my phone of course

And that’s it. Try it on your next adventure and you’ll feel free as the fabulous bird you are.

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Most Anticipated Fantasy Novels of 2017

currently playing on my laptop: Dracarys by Ramin Djawadi

I’m super excited about my goal to read a book a week in 2017. The books (both adult and young adult) I’m most pumped to get my grubby paws on are:

Poison’s Kiss: I’m sooooo excited about this assassin novel based on folklore from India! I just downloaded it on my Kindle! Eeeee!

Strange the Dreamer: Laini Taylor has a way with words. Her books are unlike anyone else’s for sure.

Our Dark Duet: I loved the first in this series, Savage Song, because the world is so different and delightfully dark.

The Prince’s Rogue: This is a prequel to the Air Awakens series so Giant Surprise I’m excited about this one!

Flame in the Mist: This new one by Renee Ahdieh is a reworking of Mulan! How can you not squee over that action?!

The Last Stand: I’m just starting Rachel E. Carter’s Black Mage series (this is the final book!) and I’m loving it!!

A Conjuring of Light: Ms. Schwab hits my list twice because she has writerly skills, people. I cannot wait for this conclusion to the Shades of Magic trilogy. I adored the second book especially (Gathering of Shadows) because the magic competition was amazing!

The Wish Granter: The second standalone in CJ Redwine’s Ravenspire series promises to harken back to the old tale of Rumplestiltskin, which fascinated me as a kid.

WHAT 2017 FANTASY RELEASES ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT??? TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS! 🙂

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Headed to Japan

currently playing on my laptop: Endless Rain by X Japan

In less than two months, I’m off on an adventure to faraway Japan. It’ll be my first trip and I’m researching the heck out of the place because I’m nerd and that’s how we do.

Food is a big player in my research. I love food. I’m also a bit gluten sensitive, so I have get all my facts straight before making tough choices. Thankfully, there are great articles out there if you are like me. Here’s one. 

I also wanted to know how to eat sushi properly. I adore living in cultures different from my own and it kills me if I accidentally disrespect anyone while abroad. I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi and was so wowed by the beauty of discipline and passion involved in his restaurant. I don’t want to do something that would be considered disgusting or offensive. Here is one article I checked out that was forgiving but also very honest.

My husband and I are going to spend two nights in Tokyo (we’re going to do our best to pretend to be Anthony Bourdain), then jump on the bullet train (Shinkansen) to Kyoto for the rest of the week. Kyoto didn’t suffer from the war damage like many spots in Japan, so there is much for the history nerd couple to enjoy.

The event we’ve always wanted to experience is seeing a nightingale floor. Nijo Castle in Kyoto has a great one, or so we’re told. These floors were like alarm systems, set up to make chirping sounds when one doesn’t know exactly where to place the feet. Very cool.

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We’re going to see the Golden Pavilion, a zen buddhist temple.

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Another point interest is the pine where the great warrior, Musashi, fought. We run a martial arts school so this is a biggie for us. He traveled about, learning how to fight. After defeating everyone so often he got bored with using a real sword and switched to using a wooden sword or bokken. The fighter loved calligraphy and poetry, a real well-rounded warrior. We are fans.

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A lovely local woman named Hori will house us for our time in Kyoto, via Airbnb. She supposedly greets visitors with tea and I truly hope she shows me how to use her washing machine because I like to travel very, very light and I don’t want to shame America with foul clothing.

In a future post, I’ll tell you all about the specific period I’m going to research while there. I plan to use it as inspiration for a fantasy down the road!

Have you been to Japan? If so, I’d love to hear what you enjoyed!

 

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What a Samurai and a Stingray Have in Common

currently playing on my laptop: The Beach by The Neighbourhood

I’ve been indulging my not-so-inner history nerd of late. The Frist Center of Visual Arts here in Nashville currently houses a load of rad samurai stuff. Armor made of silk, paper, leather, and metals. Long bows and calligraphy cases. Elaborately painted scrolls.

And swords decorated in…stingray skin.

I’m not kidding. It’s true. I never knew they used stingray skin to decorate sword sheathes. It makes the sheath all sparkly! Very cool. Just thought I’d share that tidbit and some of the pics I took. Enjoy, fellow history nerds!

Here are some of the sparkly swords. 😉

And this is a gorgeous screen showing the Genpei War (1180-85). I’m thinking of using this naval battle in a future fantasy plot. During this period, the samurai’s main weapon wasn’t the sword, but the yumi, or long bow.

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Here is a close up of part of a yumi. (Yes, I know my silly hands are in there. The lighting was rough, y’all.)

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All sorts of insects cover this next sword. It was made of shell, bone, wood, steel, and probably more things I didn’t write down. There are moths, cicadas, grasshoppers, snakes, and snails in the mix. It was gorgeous! The one below it is another one decorated with that crazy stingray skin. 

And last, but certainly not least, is this lovely samurai armor. I hope you enjoyed the pics and have a great day! 🙂

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Why I Plan to be a Hybrid Author

currently playing on my laptop: Lose Yourself by Eminem

As an active member of the SCBWI Midsouth crew (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), I have long been deeply entrenched in the traditional side of publishing.

For those not in the business, this means having an agent (I have a fantastic one, Kathleen Rushall, at ABLA) and sending one’s manuscript to large and small publishing houses. Said houses may offer a contract on a book and it goes from there.

I still want to publish traditionally. I love and respect the process. They make some gorgeous books and the competition to get those contracts has greatly improved my craft.

So why am I about to indie publish a series of young adult fantasies?

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My husband and I own and operate a small business, Elite Martial Arts. It has been a joy. A tough joy, but a joy nonetheless. I have a degree in marketing and the business side of things has always fascinated me—almost as much as writing! Because of this fascination, and the experience I’ve had with Elite, I’m going to indie publish five books beginning in April of 2017.

I will keep you all posted on my journey and I welcome tips and ideas along the way!

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