Zorok

Zorok pulled his sword from the child’s body and watched it crumple to the ground, wondering if he had ever been so frail and easy to kill. He was sure that he was impossible to kill now. There was nothing good aim and gun powder couldn’t protect him from.

He stepped over the bodies that littered the ground and paid no notice to the gruesome details illuminated by the flaming huts: tanned torsos with bloody bullet holes, looks of fear frozen on women’s faces, glazed-over eyes reflecting orange flames. His boots tread on an arrow, breaking it in half.  It amused him that these villagers thought they could defend themselves against his attack with such primitive weapons.  Bows and spears did little against pistols and gun powder.

The flickering orange light from the burning huts deepened the shadows in his hardened face making it look even more ominous. The top half of his dark, shoulder-length hair was pulled back showing a small hoop of gold in his right ear and the scar at his temple.

“It is time we claim what we came here for.”  Zorok’s deep voice rumbled as he reached his gathered men.  They cheered in agreement.

Zorok and his men grabbed torches from the pile they left in the cover of the trees on the outskirts of the village.  They lit them with fire from the nearest hut and headed into the jungle, toward the cave.

It would have been easy to sneak into the cave.  He could have led his men straight there and bypassed the destruction of the village, but he had to prove a point; no one told Zorok, most feared pirate in the land, that he couldn’t do something.

When he arrived on the island, a group of men from the village told him—through one of his crewmen who knew the language—that the cave was an ancient place of worship, and only a select few from their tribe could enter.  They wouldn’t allow him to go in and tried to scare him away by telling him that their god lived there and would kill them if they went in.

Once they shot down the men, they used their swords on the women and children. There was no reason to waste gunpowder on something that posed so little threat.  Normally Zorok would have taken those who looked strong enough captive and sold them on the black-market, but if the legend were true, he wouldn’t have room for slaves.

He could hear his crewmen murmuring eagerly to each other as they reached the cave.  The villagers claimed that it was a sacred place, but Zorok knew the real reason they didn’t want anyone to go in: treasure.

The cave’s ceiling was low and Zorok had to crouch over as he led his men down the winding tunnels. The scuffles of their boots bounced around in the enclosed space, making the group of just a little over two dozen sound like an army.

In the orange glow of his torch, he could see markings covering the walls. They were all symbols he didn’t know the meaning of or words written in a language he didn’t understand, so he paid them little attention.  Not all his crew members shared his indifference.  He could hear Tom, the one who had a flare for languages, reading the words painted on the stone walls.

“’All those who value their lives should not enter.’”

“Like I haven’t heard that before,” laughed one of the men. Tom laughed with him then continued reading the rest of the writing, all of it warning those who entered the cave.

“’Take care not to disturb the great god of the island,’” Tom stopped to read, squinting in the torch light.

“Would you stop reading those,” called a man behind Tom, “You’re holding up the line.”  Tom moved up to fill the gap, then read another one of the inscriptions.

“’Great evil lies within.’” He paused to translate the words in his head. “’If stirred it will devour the souls of those who dared to waken it.’”

“At the rate you’re going, Tom, we’ll have the treasure loaded on the ship and be setting sail while you’re still standing in front of a cave wall,” the crewman directly behind Zorok said.  The men laughed.

“And you’ll have us stuck in here with you,” said one of the men in the line behind Tom.  Tom stopped reading and moved on.

Just as the whole line was moving steadily, Zorok stopped.  There was nothing but cave wall in front of him.  Someone from the back of the line cursed at Tom, thinking he was the one holding it up again.

“Well that ain’t no treasure,” said a crewman right behind Zorok.

“All this way for a wall,” grumbled another.

“Quit your whining,” Zorok said. “It doesn’t end here.”  He dropped to the ground and crawled forward into a hole that his men hadn’t noticed because they were too busy complaining.

Zorok expected to find himself in a claustrophobic tunnel, but instead his lone torch barely reached the shadows of the cavern in which he stood.  The center was filled with knee-high chests.  Zorok went to the nearest one and shot the lock.  He opened it.  Shining gold coins filled his gaze.

“This is it boys.” He grinned.  He turned around and the grin came off his face.  None of his crew were there.  He grumbled under his breath as he walked back to the hole.  Were the idiots scared or just too stupid to find the hole, or was it Tom and his walls of doom holding them up?

The hole was gone.  Zorok scowled and moved his torch along the cave wall, searching for the place where he came in.  It wasn’t there.  He called out to his men, but it remained eerily silent except for a trickling sound on the other side of the cavern.  He cursed at the wall. He knew he came in from this direction.

A small wind brushed against his cheek.  At first he thought it came from the hole he was looking for, but then realized that was impossible.  They had walked too far and took too many turns for wind to be coming through that hole.  There must be another, one that led directly outside.

Before he could follow it, the wind grew stronger, coming from all different directions including  the solid wall behind him.   The wind merged into one place in the center of the room and a mass of swirling black appeared.

The wind stopped as the black shaped itself into a seven-foot, human-shaped form covered in a black, hooded cloak.

Zorok drew his pistol.

“You can’t fight me,” said a raspy but deep voice from under the hood.

“Give me a reason why I can’t,” demanded Zorok.  Holes that disappeared, wind that came from solid walls, and hooded figures that appeared out of nowhere made Zorok uncomfortable, but blasting things with gun powder was something he could handle.

“Your time is up, Zorok.  You made a deal with my master, and he wants his payment,” the form said in an eerie dead-pan voice.

“I don’t make deals,” he said keeping his pistol up and his stance ready. “I do what I wish and crush those who oppose.”

“You made a deal,” said the hooded figure, “Now your soul belongs to my master.”

Zorok laughed dryly.  “What do I care for my soul?  Tell your master, whoever he is, he can have it.”

“He doesn’t need your permission,” said the figure moving forward.  Zorok was ready to hear some enchantment murmured that was supposed to take his soul, but the figure put his hand into his cloak.  He drew out a sword that glowed slightly, giving off a faint white light. The moment he did, Zorok fired. The bullet disappeared in his black torso.  A rumbling sound came from under the hood that could have been a laugh.

“You can’t kill me.” The glowing sword moved steadily toward him.  Zorok stepped back and drew his own sword. An feeling foreigh to Zorok began to make its way down his spine: cold fear.

“Who is this master you serve—the one who wants my soul?” he asked, hoping to stall so he could look for a way out of the cavern.  

“The devil.”  The figure brought his sword down.  Zorok already had his sword drawn, and blocked the blow.  He spun out of the thing’s reach.

“I made no deal with the devil,” said Zorok backing away slowly.

“That’s what they all say,” said the eerie voice.  “But you’ve made the deal early in life and confirmed it many times since.”  The thing didn’t move after him, so Zorok took the chance to look around for some way out.

“Every time you stabbed your sword into a woman, every time you shot a man, every time you ordered your men to kill the innocent, a deal was made.”  The figure thrust his glowing sword at Zorok. Their swords clanged against each other and locked.  The thing was strong, and Zorok had to use both hands. His torch flickered as it dropped, but it continued to burn as it hit the stone ground.  He didn’t need it anyway.  He’d found his way out.

“You can tell the devil,” he said, grunting, “that my soul is mine for today.”  He used all his strength to push the glowing sword off his own, and ran toward a glistening ribbon on the cave floor.

White blasts of light flew past him.  One of them hit his shoulder.  He faltered and cried out as hot pain filled it.  He looked back and saw that the blasts of white lights came from the tip of his sword.

He froze.  There was one coming at him. His sword was up as if it had moved on its own and somehow he managed to deflect the shot with its broad side.  It ricocheted off his sword and hit the figure’s arm, knocking the sword from its hand.

Zorok spun around and headed for the dark liquid ribbon behind him.  He was taking the chance that the river didn’t stay underwater for too long, but it was better than being trapped with an enemy that couldn’t die.

As he jumped, he heard the eerie voice call after him, “Your cannot keep your soul forever. Memento mori.”

Cold water merged over his head. He swam with the current hoping it would lead him out of the cave.  After a few seconds, he tried to come up.  He was met with hard stone.  He kept swimming and tried again, but he was still underground.  It made him angry to have escaped a demon, just to die by drowning. It wasn’t the way Zorok, most feared of the seas, should lose his life.

Just as he was sure the devil would get his soul tonight after all, his head burst out of the water and his lungs filled with air.   He could see the moon half hidden behind the jungle foliage.  He dragged himself to the bank and a wild laugh of relief came out of his mouth.  He was Zorok, the pirate who defeated the undefeatable.  He had beaten a demon.  He had tricked the devil.

His laughter died.  The last thing the hooded figure said to him stopped his little celebration.  He didn’t need Tom to understand what those last two words meant.

Remember that you will die.

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This is a little bit darker and more gruesome than the little tales I usually post here, but it is fun to change things up a bit. Plus, my WIP, Blood Debt, has a tone similar to this (although my main character, Azrin, isn’t a bloodthirsty, treasure-seeking pirate).

I hope you enjoyed the story! 🙂

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The Wand in the Attic

Hey Epic Dreamers! I thought we could all use some fun in the form of flash fiction since we are stuck in quarantine. This little story is extra relatable since the main character is stuck at home with someone she doesn’t want to be. 😉

Enjoy the story!

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The Wand in the Attic

I was hiding from my bratty stepsister in the attic when I found it. At first I thought it was just a strange stick—as long as a ruler and as thick as a pencil—then I found the book Beginner’s Guide for Wand Use. I flipped through the many spells listed on the pages, thinking the book was a joke. Then I tried one.

I held it out and said “time for magic” to activate it as the first page instructed. I jumped when the wand gave a slight tremor. I was sure that I’d imagined it, but just in case…. I pointed it at the first thing I saw—a wooden music box that no longer worked—and said “muveras” which is what the book said to say if you wanted something to move.

The wooden box shot off the crate it was sitting on and crashed to the floor. I jumped and drop the wand. I looked from the box to the wand at my feet, to the box again. I wasn’t sure if I was excited or scared. Magic only existed in fairytales. How was it in my attic?

“Sarah! Quit leaving your dirty clothes in the bathroom!” It was my stepsister. She was twelve like me, but because she was five months older she seemed to think she was my second mom or something. That’s why I was looking through old boxes in the attic instead of watching TV downstairs. With mom gone on a date with my stepdad, she was more whiny than usual.

“Hello? Sarah? I’m talking to you. Come clean up your stinky clothes.”

I rolled my eyes and started to climb down the attic ladder.

Then I had an idea.

I snatched the wand and hurried downstairs. My stepsister was standing beside the bathroom doorway with her arms crossed. She was still yelling for me, so she didn’t hear me coming. I ducked behind a table with a huge decorative vase and scooted so I could look into the bathroom.

She wanted me to move my clothes? I would move my clothes.

I pointed my wand at the pile on the floor and whispered, “muveras.” The clothes shot through the bathroom door like a cannonball from a cannon, and exploded into the hallway. My step sister shrieked so loud you would have thought it was an actual cannon.

She stood, frozen for a moment with my tank top over her left shoulder and my underwear on her head. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Maybe staying home with my stepsister would be so bad after all.

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How’s Quarantine Life?

How is everyone doing out there? Staying sane? Doing lots of baking and reading and home improvements to keep busy?

It’s strange that with all the extra time on my hands, this is the first blog post I’ve written in the month and a half since things really got crazy with COVID-19. I’m not sure why I haven’t posted before now. It might be a combination of finding other things to do and being at a lost for how to address something this drastic.

I really have no topic for today’s post other than to check in and see how everyone is doing.

I’ve been really lucky and haven’t been affected in a drastic way. I mean, yes, the places I can go have been limited to the grocery store and my apartment complex’s parking lot, but I don’t count that as drastic in light of how many people have lost their jobs, their businesses, or even their life.

I haven’t lost any loved ones and my husband still has his job, so all things considered, I’m doing really well.

I’ve been keeping busy cooking recipes off Pinterest, working on my next novel, and last week I even did a bit of drawing.

Of course there are downsides to being pretty much confined to a 600-square-foot apartment but since complaints about staying home are already all over the internet, I’ll spare you those and tell you what I do like about quarantine.

Of course there’s the obvious. More time at home means more time to read and write. (Any good book recommendations?)

I’m also enjoying not having to rush through dinner. There’s no where to rush off to, no commitments I don’t want to be late for. I can enjoy the food I’ve made and not have to feel stressed or annoyed by all the dishes and clean up that is left for when I get back from where ever we (my husband and I) are headed for the evening.

Which leads me to the thing I’ve enjoyed the most about quarantine, and that is the extra time I’ve had with Eddy. With no commitments in the evenings, every night is like a stay-in date night. 🙂 I will miss all the time we have to play board games, play Age of Empires, watch tons of silly YouTube videos, and just cuddle on the couch when things go back to normal.

That said, of course I do want things to go back to normal (as normal as they can be after something like this).

So now that I’ve shared how I’m doing, how is everyone else? What kinds of things have you been doing to keep busy and stay sane?

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See what I’m up to!

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How I Got Over my Month-Long Writer’s Block

After reading the print out of my first draft, I sat down to start on the second draft…and immediately became overwhelmed.

There was so much I wanted to add: relationships between characters needed strengthening, story threads needed to be woven tighter together, new scenes added, old scenes revised. The list seemed never-ending.

Because I had pantsed my way through the first draft, I knew that I would have to rewrite every chapter to get it the way that I wanted it. At first, this idea was exciting because I was looking forward to adding in all the fun ideas I’d had while reading through the first draft, but as I began writing chapter one again I got these overwhelming feelings of lethargy. I felt like I was walking in circles—like I’d beaten a game only to have it crash and make me start back at square one.

I realized that I would have to do more than just add in some things and rewrite some paragraphs here and there. I would have to completely rewrite ever single chapter.

Chapter one suddenly seemed more daunting than when I was starting from scratch.

It didn’t help that I had this huge list of things that I wanted to accomplish in the first chapter. There were so many world-building elements I wanted to add, characters I wanted introduced, back stories and tension between characters that I wanted to hint at. Making the list was helpful, but having it loom above me while trying to write the first chapter made me feel more like I was writing a college essay than a story.

So there I was, barley a chapter into my second draft, and the only feelings I had were a sense of starting at ground zero after months of work, and the nagging feeling to make it perfect this time through so there wouldn’t be so much to add in the next draft.

Working on the story left me feeling frustrated and frustration dried up any creativity which might have helped me out…which left me more discouraged and frustrated.

I kept thinking that it was just a faze and I’d snap out of it, but my writing sessions were pitifully unproductive and I started wanting to write less and less.

Finally, I got tired of waiting for my writer’s block to leave me and sat down at my lap top determined to figure out WHY I had writer’s block in the first place.  Everyone goes through times where their writing sessions are sluggish or they are a little lethargic…but a month of no writing? Yikes!

First I figured out everything I wrote above. I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself to be mostly finished with this story when the second draft (at least for a pantser) is basically just the first draft since the first draft was simply me figuring the story out and serves as more of an outline than a first draft. (Why do I have to be a pantser? Seems like a curse.)

Instead of focusing on all the little details that needed to be added in and trying to fit them in at just the right place with just the right wording, I needed to continue focusing on the big picture and overall flow of the story just as I did in the first draft.

I was feeling bored and frustrated with it because I was trying to get everything set in place and nailed down too soon.

I was allowing myself to get bogged down with the dos and don’ts of story writing—looking at it like a list of boxes I had to check— instead of simply continuing to let the story tell itself, which for me still means keeping those concepts in mind but still letting the characters and theme drive the story.

One of the reasons I love writing the first draft so much is because of the dream-like quality it has for me, the sense that anything can happen, and the excitement of getting to know the characters and world. Writing those first drafts are a lot like smearing paint in colorful blobs on a canvas: anyone watching will see meaningless shapes, but the artist sees the overall picture, including the details he will add later.

I was trying to make my second draft like a math equation: Perfectly formulated character arc + perfect place for back story + every detail given in the “right spot” = a perfect story.

While there are times to evaluate a story like an equation to find what’s going wrong or what aspect could be strengthened, that approach simply wasn’t working for me at that stage. I needed to let surprises happen, start writing without knowing exactly where the scene was going, and begin a chapter without looking too closely at how the first draft of that chapter was written.

In short, I had to pretend that this was the first draft and—to keep from feeling like the first draft was a complete waste of time—pretend that the actual first draft was a messy, overly-detailed outline.

If you are reading this because you a struggling with a case of writer’s block and are hoping for a magic “trick” to help you out of it, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have one. There are so many reasons for writer’s block and what works once to get you out of writer’s block three months ago may not work for you in your current state of writer’s block.

But what helped me get out of this particularly long slump is something that can get you started on writer’s-block recovery even if it doesn’t cure it outright. I had to let go of how far along I thought my story should be—stop looking at it like a puzzle with a thousand frustrating pieces—and look at it as an adventure I get to go on every day. Some days are tough, but some days bring me the most beautiful scenery.

The only magic trick that can cure writer’s block is rediscovering that magic that drew you to the story in the first place. Find that spark that ignited the idea—a character, a scene, an aspect of the world—and focus on refining or expanding that character or idea until whatever is blocking your flow is forced to melt away.

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I’m excited to announce that The Hashna Stone has been selected for the book cover contest on allauthor.com!

The winning book gets some pretty sweet prizes, including free advertising.

It would help me out so much if you clicked the link below and voted! My book needs to stay in the top 100 covers in order to go to the next round.

Thanks friends!!! 🙂

VOTE FOR THE HASHNA STONE

Spilling the Secrets on My Newest Novel

I’ve kept the novel I’ve been working on for the last three months a secret because making myself wait to share it motivated me to keep working on it and because I don’t like to share things too early. I need more than some character sheets and world building to comfortably announce what my novel is about. Mostly because the story could change quite a bit from the idea I had in my mind to the first draft I write, and because there is always the chance that I may decide that the story isn’t worth pursuing while writing the first draft.
But once that first draft is finished…I’m committed!
I finished the first draft on Christmas Eve (which made a fantastic Christmas gift) so that means I can finally spill all the secrets on my newest novel.
Yay! 🙂
So let’s start with the genre. It will be another YA fantasy, although the tone will be a bit darker than The Hashna Stone. Also unlike The Hashna Stone, the main character will be female and it is entirely in one point of view.
Synopsis: 
Everything changes when Azrin, daughter of the most feared warlord in Asarna, finds out the truth about her heritage. The unimaginable knowledge forces her to rethink, not only who she is, but the views she’s held all her life. Will she let the secret she’s discovered ruin her, or will she fight against everything she’s trained to be?
Azrin
Introducing the Main Character
Now that she is sixteen, Azrin is allowed to become a warrior and pledge her allegiance to her father, the clan leader, and her clan, Dorgan. Being a warrior means that she finally gets to go on the raids that Dorgan is famous for and prove her worth as a warrior.
When her father refuses to let her go on the raid, she wonders if it is some sort of test, and decides to sneak off after the warriors anyway.
It doesn’t make sense that she wouldn’t be allowed to go when every new warrior is always taken on the next raid to prove themselves. Not being allowed was as bad as failing the test that determined if you were worthy of being a warrior. Were you really a warrior it you weren’t allowed to go raiding?
Azrin know it wasn’t because she wasn’t a worthy fighter. She had been training since she was seven and while her father was perpetually disappointed with her twin brother, he seemed to single Azrin out for special training that she simultaneously resented and was proud of.
Azrin knew that the extra training, though painful, was preparing her for something big, but she didn’t know what.
After a falling out with her father, Azrin accidentally finds out what it is her father has in mind for her, and she sets out to do it without his knowledge, seeking to win his approval back.
Other Characters:
Bryden–a sixteen-year-old bastard who lives with the town’s blacksmith. His mother was a slave, taken captive from another clan during one of Dorgan’s raids, who died giving birth to him. No one knows who his father is, but unbeknownst to most, Bryden carries the secret with him, knowing his father wouldn’t take too kindly if he revealed it, and bitterly not wanting to claim a father who wouldn’t claim him anyway.
Azrin befriended him when they were young, but after a falling out when they were twelve, hasn’t spoken to him for four years. But events play out in a way that leave Azrin no choice but to–at least begrudgingly–speak to him again and eventually admit the value of his friendship.
Delzred–Azrin’s father is cold, unforgiving, and ruthless. He is the clan leader of Dorgan, the clan that has been thrown out from the other clans of Asarna and banished from interacting with them in anyway. For generations, his clan has been forced to raid and steal from the other clans because none of them will trade with them (although they do enjoy the excuse to enact revenge on the clans who wronged them).
Delzred has found a way to make Dorgan a part of the Clans of Asarna again, though it make take a bit of trickery and Azrin is absolutely essential to the plan.
Does it have anything to do with The Hashna Stone
This book has nothing to do with The Hashna Stone and is a completely different story set in its own world and its own characters, so if you haven’t had the chance to read The Hashna Stone, you can still enjoy this book.
Well, there’s the scoop on my newest project! I’m loving this story so much and enjoying writing Azrin. She is pretty much pulling me along and I’m just writing what she does. She definitely made writing the first draft interesting!

New Year’s (Writing) Goals

The new year is a time to reflect on what happened in the previous year and dream about what may happen this year, but I haven’t spent that much time on either of those things until today.

It’s been a rainy, gloomy, sleepy day that hasn’t been good for productivity, but it did make for the perfect opportunity for some refection.

A lot of wonderful things happened in 2019. I moved into a new apartment, published my first book, and married my best friend. One might think that with so many amazing things that happened in 2019 that 2020 couldn’t possibly be any better. But I have a really good feeling about 2020 and am convinced that it will be even better than last year.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because people don’t tend to stick to those, but I’ve found that what works for me is to regularly evaluate where I’m at and where I want to be and list what steps I need to take in order to get there.

So I may not have some big resolution, but I do have goals I want to achieve in the next few months (which, to me, is much more doable than a vague or overwhelming New Year’s resolution).

One of these goals has to do with writing of course, because what would life be without constant writing goals. 😉

I’ve planned out the next steps I need to take with my manuscript and jotted down tentative dates for when I will start and finish each step. This includes reading through a printed version of the first draft (Which I’m working on now!), writing the second draft, sending it to beta readers, writing the third draft, sending it to more beta readers, then writing a forth draft, then (hopeful) it will be finished and I can start phase two and get an editor to look over the first few chapters.

Why only the first few and not the entire book?

That’s another goal for 2020. I’ve decided to give traditional publishing a shot with this new novel.

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I’ve given the indie author life a try, why not try traditional as well? 🙂

Since agents are likely to request a sample of the first pages or chapters in a book along with the query letter, I think it would be a good idea to have an editor look over it before sending (something I wish I would have done with The Hashna Stone).

These steps span out until April, so when April comes, I’ll reevaluate again and set new writing goals. That might mean a new story or yet another draft of my current WIP, depending where I’m at with it.

But whether I get an agent or self publish again, 2020 will hold yet another published book and all the work and thrill that comes from it.

And that, to me, will make 2020 a smashing success.

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebration! Any favorite memories about the holidays that you care to share? What about New Year’s resolutions? Any big plans/goals for 2020?

***Also, I haven’t forgotten about sharing some tidbits on this novel I’ve been keeping a secret. I’ll be sharing next week! But if you don’t want to wait that long, head over to my Patreon page for all the details.

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Back from NaNoWriMo

Hey Epic Dreamers! I thought I’d let you know that I am still alive. NaNoWriMo didn’t kill me and I don’t hate words and never want to write again after the experience. 😛

After finishing five (Or is it 6 now? I’ve lost count.) NaNoWriMos, I do find that it is easier and not as overwhelming as it used to be, but at the same time it still requires dedication, patience and a laser-like focus on writing.

I tend to write sporadically with some days only reaching a little over 400 words and other days writing 4,000. Instead of beating myself up for this yo-yo writing style, I’ve learned to embrace it. Some days I have more time than others and some days I have to spend an hour or two world building or researching or simply trying to figure out what comes next (because I completely pantsed this novel).

I learned not to sweat the days I didn’t write much because I knew there would be other days where I would write for hours in a wonderful writer’s bliss and make up for it.

I had about 4,000 words left to write on November 30th, but I drank some coffee and didn’t do ANYTHING else but write until those words were down and I’d officially won.

I actually enjoy the longer writing sessions. It really allows me to get into the world and get my head in the character’s mind and that’s when writing stops feeling like work and becomes magic.

So, that is my advice for anyone writing: write until it feels like magic.

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But, just because I finished NaNo doesn’t mean the work–ur uh magic–is finished.

I’m currently at 100,000 words for this project and I’m barely halfway finished, so I’ll be keeping this post short so I can get back to writing.

Before I go though, I do want to share some news I think you will all like. The project I’m working on right now will definitely be something that I keep working on until it is published (yay!). So you can be expecting more books from me.

I am absolutely in LOVE with this character and her story! I’m having so much fun discovering the story and getting to know the characters, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

It’s not time to reveal anything yet, but I will be letting you all get a gimps of my new project as soon as I’m finished with the first draft. For now I’ll just say that the world is loosely based on Norse/Viking society and it is about the daughter of a war lord who…

Okay, I’m zipping my mouth closed. No more secrets!  You’ll have to wait until I’m finished with the draft. 😉

Meanwhile, follow me on Instagram because I do occasionally let a few secrets out over there…especially pictures where some of the words to my WIP are visible and snippets of what I just wrote on my stories. It’s all great fun! 🙂

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Growing as a Writer: NaNoWriMo

If you aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo and you are an aspiring writer, you should go to their site and sign up right now.

Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Okay, really though, NaNo played a huge part in getting me to take my writing seriously and in motivated me to take my writing to new levels.

If you’ve somehow never come across this magical place and time for writers, I’ll explain what and how NaNo works.

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Let’s start for what this strange group of letters means: National Novel Writing Month.

It’s exactly what it sounds like; Writers from across the country band together to do the unthinkable and write an entire novel (50,000 to be more accurate) in a month.

It all takes place online, so no need to travel to another state of pay for a conference. 🙂

When does this mad rush begin? November! So for those of you who haven’t heard of it and want to try it, this is perfect timing. You can still do some last-minute planning before November and NaNo begins.

If you aren’t sure if you want to participate, well, I’m about to make you want to. 😉

 

Gives you a support group

Writing a novel can be a lonely process. Even if you aren’t writing a novel and write short stories or flash fiction for your blog, it can be difficult to find others who enjoy writing fiction like you do.

NaNo gives you a way to meet other writers so you aren’t so alone in this this solitary art.

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Pushes you to your edge

When I participated in my first NaNo, I’d never wrote 50,000 words in one project before. My largest story at the time was about 12,000 words. So yeah, taking on NaNo was a leap for me, but it pushed me to write more than I thought I could and taught me that I had more in me than what I was using.

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Sure that first NaNo project was a mess that I would never show anyone (I should probably go back and read it so I can get a good laugh), but with every year that I participated, my writing and word count per writing session improved.

I  began to create plots easier, get to the essence of a character faster, and writing scenes came more naturally.

I even wrote the first draft of my book, The Hashna Stone, during NaNo. 🙂

 

Gives you a rush of accomplishment

If you feel stuck in your writing, want to challenge yourself, or just want to explore working on a bigger project, NaNo is perfect for that.

I knew what I wrote for that first NaNo project would never be used for a published book (or even shown to a single person) but I’d never felt more proud then when I verified my word count and officially wrote my first 50,000-word novel (which is actually a really small novel, but it was a lot of words for a single story than I’d ever done before 😛 ).

If you don’t do it for another reason, do it to prove to yourself that you are a writer. Sometimes you need to prove to yourself that you can do it…that you take writing seriously enough to make it a priority.

Completing NaNo gives you a different mindset.  “Oh I’m just playing around with this writing thing,” becomes “I am a writer. There’s no reason I can’t write a book just like all the authors I look up to.”

Once you do that, writing a 140,000-word novel seems more possible (looking at you Hashna Stone 😛 ) and you go from aspiring writer to writer. 

All that said, you better join NaNo this November. *wink*

If you want to do NaNo together, look me up. I’ll be happy to be your NaNo buddy! My user name is AnnaFoxwrites. Or just click here

Oh, and since I’ll be busy novel writing, I won’t be posting for the month of November…as is my custom. 😉

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Introducing my best Friend

Hi Epic Dreamers! I have some exciting news to share with you. I usually don’t post about my personal life, but this particular event in my life is worth mentioning even if it isn’t writing related.

I’m just going to say it…I got married!

Not only did my dream of publishing a novel finally happen, but a few weeks after, I got to marry my best friend.

I bet you’re all wondering who this guy is and how we met so I’ll tell you our story (and I’ll throw some of our wedding pictures in too).

It all started with The Hashna Stone and this blog. Well, in a way, I guess it started before because Eddy and I went to the same church for years, but we never ended up in the same groups and never really talked. I’d seen him around and I knew his name and he knew mine, but that was about the extent of the relationship.

Eddy found my blog and started reading the chapters of The Hashna Stone that I posted.  He must have been impressed with my fantastic story-telling abilities *wink* because he messaged me and told me that he was enjoying the story.

I was flattered as any writer is when someone shows interest in their work, but I had no idea that he had another reason–besides complimenting me on my story–in starting the conversation.

Over the next month and a half, we sent messages back and forth. I thought he was just being nice–having a friendly chat. Even when he invited me to go skating, I still didn’t suspect a thing.

It wasn’t until he stayed by my side for the whole night that I realized he was interested in more than friendship.

The next day, he asked for my number and after only a week of texting each other like crazy I knew that this guy was going to be my best friend.

In the months that followed, I learned more about him.

He was an amazing, empathetic listener. Being an INFJ, I was used to everyone spilling their problems on me, but not having much patience with listening in return, but when Eddy and I held conversations we spent equal time listening and speaking.

I loved that he was an introvert like me and didn’t need the constant noise and stimulus that most extroverts never seem to get enough of. I was thrilled that he didn’t shy away from deep conversations and enjoyed talking one-on-one for hours. (Which is what totally makes an INFJ happy 😉 )

There were little things that we found that we had in common, like we were both interested in archery (I’d only gone as far as owning a bow and shooting it a few times…he was in archery in high school and went to tournaments). We both loved music and he played the guitar and I played the piano (well, saying that we can play is generous…more like we play around and pretend we can play 😉 ).

But what really made my little writer self happy was that he loved books and had an affinity for fantasy which–being a fantasy author– makes me ridiculously happy. 🙂

He’s been with me through this entire writing-a-book process and was even one of my beta readers for one of the early drafts of The Hashna Stone.

So–to speed this story up a bit–we hit it off right away, he stuck with me and was my support though some of the roughest patches in my life, and three years after we started dating, I am now married to my best friend.

I can’t say enough about this guy. I didn’t believe that someone like him could exist.  He makes me feel like I am the most beautiful, exceptional, loved girl in the world.

If you would have asked me before we started talking if I believed in soulmates, I would have said that I  wasn’t sure if something like that existed, but now I know it does. Something about him called to me from those first few conversations, and we connected so easily and quickly.  It seems strange that I ever lived without him and it feels like I’ve known him for my whole life.

I know this sounds terribly cliché and like romantic drivel when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway; It feels like my life didn’t truly start until he came into it. Like life was frozen, waiting for something I couldn’t explain, and it didn’t began to thaw until I met him.

I’m not sure how to end this post, since it is so different than my usually content, so I’ll end it with this: I’m one happy little writer. 😀

If you want to see more wedding pictures, follow me on Instagram. I’m sharing a picture every week. 🙂

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More than a Coffee Cup


There is such a cool story behind this adorable mug, and I just have to share it even though this is a bit different from the usually type of blog posts I have here.

It started when I saw a friend’s  (Barb) post on Instagram of her own adorable little coffee cup and I commented, “So cute. I want one,” not really expecting to get one of course, but Barb unexpectedly offered to send me a mug.

See, the mug in her post was sent to her by someone in Canada after Barb had commented on how much she wanted a mug like that. (It has it’s own little story you can read in Barb’s post @barb_ready_writes)

Barb told me that she would find the perfect cup for me and she did!

The cup talks about being courageous and not giving up when you’re being tossed by a storm, and that was exactly what I needed to hear.

For the last two week of so, I’ve been wondering if wondering if I should set this whole writing thing on the side…not give it up completely…just not devote so much time to it.

I’m thrilled with the accomplishment of actually writing and publishing a book and don’t regret the time and money I put into it at all, but I did wonder if that season in my life had come to a close and if I needed to back off on the writing/marketing/Patreon/blog posting (you know…all that stuff that comes with being an indie author).

It can get exhausting and, frankly, I was getting discouraged with it all. I knew that a book isn’t going to be an overnight success just because you put it out there and tell your blogging and Instagram friends about it, but I had hoped that sales would be a little better than they are.

I believe that God can speak through a stranger and his voice whispers through acts of kindness. Barb and the coffee cup she sent reminded me that I shouldn’t give up just because the waters are rough.

I believe that God has a purpose for everyone and I know that writing stories is mine.

Every time I look at this coffee cup, I’ll remember that I have the strength inside to keep going no matter what.

 

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The Hashna Stone’s Publication Journey and What it Taught Me

I can’t believe it! The little story I wrote for this blog three years ago has grown into a 400-page novel with a beautiful cover. I am beyond excited that it’s turned out so well and that I finally get to share it with the world.

Who knew that the choose-your-own-adventure story we played around with would plant the seeds for my debut novel? Looking back on those first few chapters I wrote, I would have never thought they’d turn into a book.

You see, the idea I had for The Hashna Stone wasn’t one of my “real” book ideas. I had quite a few ideas tucked away in my head or in some word documents on my laptop, and they were my real story ideas–the ones I would one day turn into those books I’d always dreamed of writing.

But The Hashna Stone? I was just playing around with it. I didn’t feel it was “good enough” to be a full-length novel, but it was the perfect little story to post on my blog. It was fun, but not complicated. The characters were engaging without being too complex.

But once I was finished posting those small chapters here on my blog, I realized there was more to the story than what I first thought.  I realized that if I dug into the characters a little deeper, thickened the plot, and expanded the story, it would be what I thought all those other story ideas were: book worthy.

It still wasn’t going to be one of my “real” books though. It was just going to be a little something I wrote for the fans that played the choose-your-own-adventure on my blog. I wasn’t going to pay for editing, formatting, or a cover because it was just a fun little project that I had going. I looked at it as more of preparation for when I wrote my “real” book.

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BUT…after working on it for about 6-8 months and realizing just how much there really was to the story, I didn’t want to put it out there without giving it a fair chance. To have any chance at success, my book would need an editor and professional cover at the very least. The problem was that these things can get extremely expensive. We’re talking $1,000-$3,000 for editing and $300-$500 for a cover.

And that was just the bare minimum. If I wanted it to look good on the inside, I would need to hire someone to format both the paperback version and the ebook. It was also highly recommended that a book goes through more than just an editor, so I would need to hire a proofreader as well (another $1,000 or so). And I didn’t even want to think about marketing. It would be a waste to spend so much on the book and not have anyone see it, but marketing costs would really put me way in over my head with expenses.

I had a problem.

we have a problem

I’d put way too much work into The Hashna Stone to make it a free eBook that I put out there with a cover I made myself and no one to check for errors but a few beta readers (which really isn’t even a beta reader’s job). But I couldn’t afford all the bells and whistle I needed to give my book the makeover it deserved.

With those facts in mind, there was only one way for me to do this: start querying agents.

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If the self-publishing route was too experiencing, than I would have to throw my book on the all-too-slim mercy of agents and publishing houses.

I knew I’d chosen a tough path that not many authors have had success with, but it was better than letting my book languish away in a metaphorically dusty folder on my laptop.

Fast forward 30 queries later and I still didn’t have an agent.

My lack of an agent didn’t make me doubt the quality of the book. I’d read plenty of authors’ stories and knew that even good books take time to get an agent and it could take me sixty queries to get an agent.

But I wondered if my lack of success was because I was going in the wrong direction. Maybe The Hashna Stone wasn’t meant to have a publishing house dictate its final outcome.

I decided to go back to my original plan to self publish. By this time, a year had passed (full of a lot of events that were unrelated to the book but that forced me to have to put it on hold) and I found myself in the perfect spot for self publishing. I had some extra time on my hands as well as some unexpected funds that would just be enough to pay for an editor, proofreader, cover artist, and some one to format the book.

I have never felt more alive in my life than in those early months after I decided to join the ranks of indie authors. It was a whirlwind of searching for the right people, hours and hours of editing, tons of internet research on self publishing and (surprisingly) having a blast at marketing.

There were a few setbacks along the way but (you know about the cover trouble), for the most part, the self-publishing journey has been smooth–a fact for which I am so thankful. This being my debut novel, there are a ton of things that could have gone wrong.

But The Hashna Stone is a stubborn little thing that wouldn’t let anything get in its way. Not being categorized as a “little story for my blog” by me. Not agent rejections. Not being sat aside and neglected for months because other things in life needed attention.

It knew what it was and wouldn’t let anyone or any circumstance tell it any differently.  It knew it was just as great as any of the other story ideas floating in my head, and it wasn’t going to let me rest until it proved that it was a real story.

The Hashna Stone taught me a valuable lesson: just because others can’t see who you are, doesn’t mean you aren’t that person.

For so long, I couldn’t see the true value in the story, and it wasn’t until two years later, after a lot of hard work and learning, that I’ve sifted though the dirt and found the “gold.”

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Which is another valuable lesson The Hashna Stone taught me. Some things take time to mature to the level of excellence that they were meant to be and as much as you may be tempted to rush the process (publishing it myself without the prep work) or to throw it away and start on something else more “worthy” of you time, you’ll never see the true value of that thing if you don’t stick with it until its process is finished.

If you find yourself in a place where you don’t feel valued, don’t feel talented, don’t think that your goals and dreams could ever be achieved, remember The Hashna Stone and how, even when its own author didn’t see its true value, it refused to give up.

Just because things aren’t working out now, doesn’t mean that you should give up, and just because people can’t see your real value doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable.

The Hashna Stone’s own author didn’t think it was a “real” story, but its joined the ranks of millions of published books out there and proving to me and everyone who didn’t believe in it that it is indeed a real story.

*For those of you who have read about the cover trouble I’d been having with the paperback…Yes, this post means it’s over! I’m so pleased to announce that The Hashna Stone is available as a paperback as well as an e-book.

Want to stay in the loop with real-time updates? Follow me on Instagram! That’s where I did the cover reveal for my book. I share my progress on whatever I’m working on at the time, and Instagram followers will be the first to know about my new book projects. 😉

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Writing Doesn’t Have to Come Naturally

Sometimes it seems like writing comes so much more naturally to everyone else. I mean, Brandon Sanderson can sit and write for 8-10 hours a day and I’m over here trying to keep myself from thinking about the ice cream in the freezer so I don’t get out of my seat for the seventh million time in ten minutes.

After the year and a half it’s taken me to finish the four drafts of my WIP, I feel like I’ve been hunted by the nine riders, stalked by a schizophrenic mole-looking creature who only knows one word (precious), and carried an all-powerful ring that will only make you go stark-raving mad if you hang on to it for too long.  In other words; finishing a book is like traveling to Mordor and back.

(This is me when I finally finish a story.  Yes, the rigors of writing leave your face smeared with dirt and scattered with scratches.  You didn’t know that?)

But before I can celebrate my hard-one victory, I realize that Brandon Sanderson’s book totaled 1,087 pages.  Talk about wanting to crumple up my 419 pages and throw them into the fires of Mordor.

I think I’ll get that ice cream now and eat the whole carton.

That’s it.  I should give up writing.  Let’s face it; Writing is harder for me than everyone else. Some days it takes me an hour to come up with a hundred words because I’m like Kronk in Emperors New Groove.

Okay, okay.  I shouldn’t compare myself to other writers. There’s a lot of talent out there, but that doesn’t make me less talented. Besides, every word I do write is a drop in the vast amount of practice needed to be a successful writer. It’s alright if writing is hard. It isn’t supposed to be easy.  Like Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 

That’s not painful at all.

Writing is a challenge, and it’s okay to admit that to yourself. You may think that you’re the only one struggling with it, but guess what?

You aren’t.

Want to know a secret? (Okay, well it’s not exactly a secret, but act surprised anyway). It took Sanderson twelve novels before he was published. Twelve of them! What was wrong with the guy? Didn’t he realize that writing was too hard for him?

No, he didn’t. Because it wasn’t. Writing is a process that gets better with time. The more you write, the better you get.

What would have happened if he’d given up after that 12th novel? We wouldn’t have impossibly long books to read, that’s what!

huge book Brandon Sanderson book

(An actual Sanderson novel)

I’m sure sometimes he thought, “This writing thing is so much harder for me than everyone else,” but he didn’t let that stop him. And because he kept going, he is now a best-selling author with more than 20 books and novellas published. The guy is so popular, that his signings can last up to five hours!  (He needs someone to build him a robot arm that can sign things for him. I mean, he probably has to wear a cast after all that).

The next time that you think writing is only difficult for you, be glad that you aren’t Sanderson in an arm cast.

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Where Imagination Soars