Thursday, March 14, 2019

Blog Tour - Author Interview - Aileen Erin + Giveaway


Off Planet
From USA Today Bestselling Author Aileen Erin

Maite Martinez has always yearned for more than waitressing in a greasy diner on the polluted ruins of planet Earth. Hiding her special abilities is a full-time job on its own, even with the government distracted by the mysterious alien race – the Aunare.

When a SpaceTech officer gets handsy with her, she reacts without thinking. Breaking his nose might not have been her smartest move. Now she’s faced with a choice: serious jail time working in a chain gang on a volcano planet or join the corporate army to fight against the impending war with the Aunare. It’s really no choice at all.

As with everything in her life, Maite quickly realizes that the war with the Aurnare isn’t what it seems. And Lorne, the Aunare prince, keeps popping up everywhere she goes. Being seen with him could get her in even deeper trouble with her commanders, but he’s the first person who sees through the wall she’s built around herself and she can’t bring herself to send him away.

When the situation between SpaceTech and the Aunare escalates, Maite has a way to end the war before it even begins. There’s only one question: Can she stop the total annihilation of humanity without getting herself killed in the process?

Interview

What is your ideal writing setting (outside, at a desk, etc.)?
I love to write in a comfy, quiet spot. Usually, that’s in my office. I have a writing chair and a couch that I use. Although if I’m really having trouble getting focused, I’ve been known to write in bed. The more comfortable I am, the easier it is to sink into the story and into my characters’ heads. I also need music. I can’t write without my Bose noise-cancelling headphones. They’re the best. When I’m listening to music and in a comfortable spot, the real world melts away, and I can get totally immersed in my imagination.

Off Planet is a sci-fi novel, what inspired you to write sci-fi and not another genre? What gave you your inspiration?

I wrote Becoming Alpha, the first book in the Alpha Girls series, when I was working on my MFA, but I finished it early and still had another writing term to complete. So, I needed another idea. I was living in Albuquerque, NM at the time while my husband was producing the first Avengers movie, and learned about Spaceport America, “the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport.” I blew my mind that something like that already existed in New Mexico. I started to imagine a world where Albuquerque became the center for space travel and where corporations took over the government. I dreamed about an alien race and what might happen if tensions arose between them and the human Earthers. I had so much fun working on the world-building. I didn’t necessarily set out to write a sci-fi, but that’s where the muse lead me.

Do you have any writing exercises or habits?

I love to do morning pages as described in The Artist’s Way—you free write for 15-20min in a journal. Not working on a book, just stream of consciousness. In The Artist’s Way, Julie Cameron says to do them when you first wake up, but I don’t necessarily need them to be done in the morning. But before I write, they’re extremely helpful. I find that doing them clears my head of any little things—my to do list or worries and stresses—so that I can focus on writing.
I also don’t end my day’s writing at the end of a chapter or scene. Even if I’m at the end, I’ll write just a few sentences more into the next chapter or scene. That way, I’m stopping in the middle of whatever I’m working on, and when I start writing the next day, I can just continue the thought. I’m never really left staring at a blank page.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

For me, not stopping my day’s work at the end of a chapter or scene really helps prevent writer’s block. Also, the morning pages help. But sometimes, even with those two things, it happens. I’ve learned that when I have writer’s block, it means that I’ve gone a direction with the story that isn’t working. So, I usually take a day or two off, and then go back and re-read what I have and then plot to make sure that I’m still heading in the right direction. 

What does literary success mean to you?

Literary success is more than a financial thing to me. It means that my stories are resonating with readers on some level, and that is the whole reason why I write. 

What are some of your favorite writing tropes that people usually hate?

I really love the romance trope where the heroine meets the hero pretty quickly in the book. I really love knowing who should get together, and I love seeing the journey of how the two characters get there. I don’t know if people hate that, but I know that some might fight against the way that romance can be a little formulaic. I personally love it. I love knowing what I’m getting into right away, and love seeing the Happily Ever After.

What can we hope to see from you in the future?

The Aunare Chronicles will either be 3 or 4 books before it’s completed. So, I’ll be working on that. I’m also working on the Alpha Girls series, and then a spin-off series based on Samantha, a girl that the Alpha Girls gang ran into during Being Alpha. It’s a little darker than the Alpha Girls series, and a little more horror than paranormal. I’ve been wanting to write that one for a long time, and I was so excited that I got to introduce Samantha in Being Alpha.

Any advice for aspiring authors?
Write every day. The only way to learn to write is to write all the time until you finish your book. Don’t worry about if it’s perfect. Give yourself the space to write a shitty first draft.
Then, find someone you trust to read your book and give you feedback. So much of writing is rewriting and revising and rewriting until it shines. You have to be able to take feedback and learn to edit your writing. So many aspiring authors either don’t finish their book or don’t listen to and apply feedback. Both are crucial in becoming an author.


Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.



Giveaway





Friday, March 8, 2019

Top 10: Books by Female Authors


Happy International Women's Day! This year, to celebrate, I'm going to give my top 10 books written by female authors (in no particular order). Enjoy!

1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

2. Traveler by L.E. DeLano

3. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

5. The Body Electric by Beth Revis

6. Legend by Marie Lu

7. Angelfall by Susan Ee

8. The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross

9. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

10. Control by Lydia Kang

All of these lovely books at one point or another (many of them continuously) have reminded me why I love to read so much. They push me forward and, to a degree, have helped me become the person I am today. These lovely ladies not only brought such wonderful books into my life, but they have also pushed me into my career of book-loving and blogging. So thank you to all of you, and many others, that inspire me to keep doing what I do!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera - Review

39320556Title: They Both Die at the End
Author: Adam Silvera
Rating: 4/5

Themes:
death, friendship, love, celebrating life, courage

There's something beautiful about death. When I picked this book up, I didn't even bother to read the synopsis because I had heard good things about it and I just wanted to charge right in. I would say spoiler alert, but the book itself is a spoiler.

Plot and World-Building:
Conceptually, the idea of Death-Cast is intriguing. The idea is that you get a call on the day you're supposed to die. No one knows how Death-Cast knows when you're going to die, but they are never wrong. The idea of knowing when you're dying has to be a heavy weight. Sure, some people get told they have a month, 6-months, a year, but these people get 24 hours maximum. And it's all via a phone call from people that their entire job is calling these will-be-dead people called Deckers. I could probably read a handful of books from this world because I have so many questions about it. Does this make people do more reckless things on days they don't get a call? Are people more outgoing? More violent? More loving? I think if we lived in this world I would get a panic attack in the middle of the night, just staring at my phone waiting for the inevitable and that just isn't healthy.

I need someone to talk to me about this because I find it very interesting and I want more details. Even though this story is told from the perspective of Mateo and Rufus, I like that Silvera added some snippets from other characters here and there. Not only did it show that effects of "the call" on other people, but it also showed how many paths crossed with Mateo and Rufus along the way.

Characters:
Overall, I really enjoyed the characters. Rufus doesn't necessarily have the best taste in friends, but they're loyal and they have his back until the end and I think that's really good. And yes, Peck, I would be extremely pissed off if my girlfriend's ex came out of nowhere and beat me up, but I don't think I would be so extremely pissed as to try and get him arrested or maimed on a day he is supposed to die. Just doesn't feel very worth it.

The characters in this were very diverse, which was a pleasant surprise. I particularly liked that Lidia was a single teenage mother that works hard to sustain them both. It shows a healthier side as opposed to what reality TV says about teen moms.

Mateo:
In all honesty, I thought Mateo was a recluse from the beginning and for the first half of the book I just wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake him yelling "Live a little". Meeting Rufus was really good for him and watching that relationship grow and develop from the start isn't something easy to do in a 24 hour period of time.

The one thing I don't agree with is his initial feeling to not tell Lidia he's dying. It just isn't fair to her and that took precious hours that could have meant a lot.

Rufus:
Their contrasting personalities were interesting. Unlike Mateo, Rufus is tough and outgoing. But he has had a hard life, so I think meeting Mateo did him as much good. He needed someone to push the boundaries with him, emotionally, to help him open up a little.

Last Thoughts:
The fact that this is a YA book is earth-shattering. Usually, death is too real for people to handle, especially when it's set in a world so similar to ours and the characters so similar to people we know. I think that breaks a boundary and really drives home that life is short and we should take advantage of the time we have. Counting the minute and seconds won't get us anywhere. So, take the jump off the cliff, run around in the rain, tell that person you love them.




Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Publishing 101 #2 - Visual Appeal

When it comes to publishing, visual appeal of graphics, book covers, and advertisements are what can make or break a book's impact on readers. Here are some important things to consider when it comes to making your book a success.

Graphics are everywhere. They're on advertisements, websites, labels, magazines, and all over social media. Creating them, making them intriguing, is a big step in making your graphics.

Color

Color is a very important thing to consider when making your graphics. Cooler colors are more likely to sooth the reader and your audience while bright, warm colors are more likely to set the viewer on edge. 

For example, blue is meant to be calming and purple is supposed to invoke the feeling of wisdom, while red and orange are exciting and drag attention.

Fonts

The most important thing, especially for such an image-focused industry, is to have content that the viewer can read and understand. That means using fonts like Ariel, Sans, and Times New Roman that are easy to make out and legible. Being conscious of the size of your text is important as well. If you are viewing from a distance, you want the text to be big enough to read, but not overwhelming and if the viewer is close up, you don't want the text to be screaming into their face. Using curly, fancy fonts is less likely to appeal to a general audience, because they take a minute to read fully or, in some cases, they might not be legible at all.

Message

The message is the heart of your graphic or advertisement. When you know the message you're trying to get across, you can expose it better to people that might be interested in your book. You wouldn't be making adult ads for a book that is predominantly for children or YA and you wouldn't be making big flowery posts for a book that is for a serious adult book. 

Know the genre you're advertising for to make your graphics and posts more appropriate to the book you're talking about.

Images

The main problem with images is knowing what is too much and what isn't enough. You don't want to yell at your audience but you don't want them to be underwhelmed, so make them interesting but don't scare them with your flamboyant color swirls and big images that overlap. This can end up obscuring your text. 

Contrasting colors catch the eye, so if you want to use color keep it to 2-4 that either go together very well or don't go together at all. It drags attention to what you're trying to say. 

Visuals can make or break your message, so make sure that everything you're doing is coherent and easy to understand so that the viewer doesn't get confused. This leads to happy viewers and a happy you!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Author Interview - Joshua David Bellin


What kind of research goes into developing a sci-fi world?

It varies depending on the project. For example, for the Ecosystem Trilogy, I had to learn a lot about (big surprise) ecosystems so I could create my own, sci-fi version of one. But for Freefall, which is set on an exoplanet, I had to research space exploration and colonization. I don’t write “hard” sci-fi, so I always end up taking liberties with the facts, but at the same time, I want the world I’ve created to be plausible enough that readers can lose themselves in it and not say, “hey, wait a minute!” on every other page.

Do you draw on other fantasy worlds to help develop your own?

Oh, for sure! The Ecosystem books have little parts of Dune, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Thomas Covenant series, and other stories I’ve loved over the years. I don’t think it’s possible to avoid being influenced in that way, and I don’t think it would be a good thing even if you could avoid it. Each imagined world gains depth and complexity from its points of contact with other imagined worlds, so as long as you’re not outright plagiarizing—setting your novel in a magical school called Warthogs with a wizard main character named Perry Hotter—I think you’re enriching your story-world by paying tribute to others.

What authors/books inspired your writing? Do you read the same genre that you write?

I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life, starting with books that would have been called YA if the category existed when I was a kid—such as the novels of Judy Blume and S. E. Hinton—then graduating to “adult” fantasy and sci-fi, along with the “classic” literature I read in college and grad school (and still read today). To give you an idea of how wide-ranging my reading is, this past month I read the historical novel Giants in the Earth, the contemporary YA thriller Following, and the nonfiction book on baseball analytics, Moneyball. Next up is Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, which I’m re-reading for a class I teach. Everything I read is inspirational, because everything I read goes into my brain and comes out in odd and unexpected forms. That’s why writers have to be readers: not because any particular book or genre teaches you “how to write,” but because every story you read adds to your ability to tell your own.

What is your ideal writing setting (outside, at a desk, etc.)?

Sadly, I find myself desk-bound most of the time when I’m writing. I wish I could venture into the great outdoors, or take my laptop to some cool, funky bookstore and type away while soaking up the book-vibes, but the truth is, I can’t write unless I cut out every possible distraction. That means no music, no social media, no food or drink or other people while I’m writing. The only problem is that I write at home, so occasionally I do have to interact with my wife and kids!

Do you have any writing exercises or habits?

I’m not much of a planner, because I find that I make my best discoveries as a writer when I don’t know what’s coming next. Setting is very important to each of my stories, so I do like to draw a rough map of my imagined world before I start. I also jot down brief chapter summaries, but usually only after I’m midway through a manuscript and want to make sure I tie up all the loose ends. What this approach means is that I tend to produce really messy drafts, which is okay since I’m a good reviser. I think every writer has to find the habits that work for them, with the only requirement being that if you want to be a writer, you have to write.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

The best advice I can give—and I learned this the hard way—is to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. Look, there is ultimately nothing you can do to assure yourself of commercial success as a writer: you can write the best book you’re capable of, and you can market it all you want (or all you can afford), but there’s still no guarantee it’ll hit the bestseller lists. The publishers have a formula, which involves pouring most of their promotional dollars into a few “big” books each year (usually the ones written by the already established authors who least need the support), but even that formula doesn’t always pan out, while occasionally, a book no one expected to hit it big goes viral. The one and only thing you can control as a writer is your writing. So write, and dream, and have fun, and maybe you’ll make a splash. But even if you don’t, you’ll still have written. And dreamed. And had fun. Which is what the whole thing should be about.


Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). A college teacher by day, he has published numerous works of fantasy and science fiction, including the two-part Survival Colony series (Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls), the deep-space adventure Freefall, and the short story collection Ten Tales of Terror and Terra. The Ecosystem series—Ecosystem, The Devouring Land, and House of Earth, House of Stone—is his latest work of speculative fiction. In his free time, Josh likes to read, watch movies, and take long nature hikes with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

You can find him on his websiteblogTwitter, and Facebook.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Blitz - The Ruins by T.H. Hernandez + Giveaway


The Ruins
T.H. Hernandez
(The Union #2)
Publication date: June 16th 2015
Genres: Adventure, Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
Heartbroken, grief-stricken, and wracked with guilt, seventeen-year-old Evan Taylor returned to the Union, leaving behind the boy she loved.
Now, she and her friends must find a way to do the impossible – warn the citizens of the Union about an impending rebel attack without alerting the government and risking retaliation against her friends in the Ruins.
When every move Evan makes is thwarted, it soon becomes clear she’s being watched. Faced with a daily fight to stay one step ahead of her pursuers, she returns to the Ruins. But life in the Ruins has its own dangers, and soon she’s fighting a different battle – to stay alive long enough to discover the truth.
EXCERPT:
Grief, guilt, heartbreak, fear, loss, and abandonment all swirl in my head, creating a vortex of pain and confusion keeping me awake.
Three days ago I was planning a future with the boy I love. Cyrus was going to come back to the Union with me. We were going to figure out a way to warn the citizens here or stop the attack. Together. Now his brother is dead and Cyrus stayed behind, unwilling to abandon the rest of his family.
The scents of honeysuckle and fresh-cut grass float on a late summer night breeze. I stare up at the clouds from the chaise lounge on the balcony. A thick marine layer inched its way in from the coast hours ago, blanketing the sky and obscuring the stars I was hoping to see. With the moon hidden and the Union lights off for the night, darkness envelopes me.
Over the soft murmuring of desalinated ocean water burbling through the aqueduct, I hear the door slide open behind me and sit up. My bio-dad, Eddie, walks out and takes the spot beside me.
“Can’t sleep?”
I shift to my right, giving him more room. “No. You?”
He shakes his head, his cinnamon-colored wavy hair sweeping across his shoulders. “My grandmother used to say if you can’t sleep, it means you’re awake in someone else’s dreams.”
That’s a comforting sentiment. Is Cyrus dreaming about me right now? Or is he like me, too afraid of the nightmares to close his eyes?
Eddie presses his lips together and studies me for several long seconds. “Are you ready to tell me where you’ve really been all summer?”
His question catches me off guard. I thought he bought my story, the one I told him when I came back. The one Lisa fed him while I was in the Ruins. Posing as me, she texted my mom and Eddie from my tablet with regular updates on our fake adventures sailing off the southeastern coast. When I first showed up here yesterday afternoon, he didn’t seem to care where I’d been or what I’d been up to, only that I was here at all. I’m definitely not ready to have this conversation with him.
“I don’t know, are you ready to tell me where you were for the first twelve years of my life?”
He shifts his weight on the chaise next to me and sighs. “I don’t know how many times I can apologize.”
“You think another ‘I’m sorry’ is going to fix everything?”
He rubs his palms on his thighs and stands. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you’d like, but you might want to ratchet the anger down a few notches.” He moves toward the door before turning back. “You’re going to have to forgive me some day.”
I raise my head and turn toward his dark silhouette. “Why? You think sending me a ticket and letting me hang out with your new kids makes up for everything?”
“No,” he says quietly, “because hanging on to all that anger and resentment isn’t healthy.” He walks back into the house, sliding the door closed behind him.
With a heavy sigh, I fall on my back and stare back up into the blackness. Seriously? After being nothing to me for three-quarters of my life, where does he get off being all parental right now?

Author Bio:
T.H. Hernandez is the author of young adult books. The Union, a futuristic dystopian adventure, was a finalist in the 2015 San Diego book awards in the Young Adult Fiction category.
She loves pumpkin spice lattes, Game of Thrones, Comic-Con, Star Wars, Doctor Who marathons, Bad Lip Reading videos, and all things young adult, especially the three young adults who share her home.
When not visiting the imaginary worlds inside her head, T.H. Hernandez lives in usually sunny San Diego, California with her husband and three children, a couple of cats, and a dog who thinks he's a cat, affectionately referred to as "the puppycat."

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Book Writing #3 - Starting Over

Perhaps the worst part of writing is starting over. It is when you wake up one day and realize that what you're writing is not what you originally set out to write and it no longer has the same hold and direction that you wanted it to take. This can be heartbreaking and recently is something that has nagged at me, personally.

My Personal Experience

For the past year or so, I have been working with my co-author to create a fantasy series. We worked hard and created dozens of documents detailing every character, their backstories, their interactions, and the place they have in the world. We created an entire world with five main characters and we had a rough outline that would span 5 books - not just one. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. We had characters we loved and characters we hated and a plotline that was solidly there, following our characters through their weaving stories. We even, in fact, finished the first book and had gone through editing it once and we started drafting the second book. 

It was at that point that I realized I no longer was in love with the story I was writing. While we were writing our fantasy series, I had gotten an epiphany. I had the idea for an entirely new story and I was excited about it and, better yet, it was a standalone. Suddenly, I began to notice the cracks and the faults in my 5-piece fantasy series. 

Solutions

Unfortunately, only you know what you want to do when you come to this realization, but here are some general pathways I've noticed that people tend to take.

1. Keep pushing - accept the fact that your writing didn't go where you wanted it to go and go back through it. Take out parts you didn't want and add parts that you feel are needed to make it the story you love again.

2. Start over - take your story and completely rework what you have. Since you know what you didn't like the first time around, you know what to look for. With this, you don't even necessarily have to start from complete scratch, just edit the crap out of it and cut it to bits. The story you originally wanted to write is in there somewhere.

3. Find a new story - put aside your manuscript and, literally, start over. New characters, new world, new genre, new feel. This can come naturally, like it did for me, or you can discover one. If your old story doesn't speak to you creatively, maybe a new one will.

Of course, this is entirely subjective and I have no room to tell people that these are their only options. You make your own story and no one can tell you what to do about it, but I've noticed that this is generally the roads the people take when they wake up and realize they don't love their story. I've heard many published authors say they feel this way about books they eventually got published. They pushed through the bad thoughts and found a way to love their writing again, but that can't be the case for everyone. Don't give up on your creativity and know that there is always a solution.