Saturday, 20 December 2014

Emma's Top 2014 Reads: Part 1!

Apparently, 2014 has been the year of ALL THE BOOKS. Well, that's every year, really, but this year, I've so many books I absolutely loved that I just can't fit them all into one post. So I'm doing something similar to 2013, and splitting my top reads of 2014 into three parts! This is Part 1, and I'm recommending the best fantasy books I've read this year!

The Rithmatist by Brandon SandersonThe Way of Kings by Brandon SandersonBrandon Sanderson never fails to deliver, and I love fantasy books with complex and cool magic systems. The Rithmatist is his first YA fantasy, and has an awesome concept! I also loved The Way of Kings, which despite being 1000-odd pages long, is a gripping and action-packed read!
Pantomime by Laura Lam

I loved Pantomime by Laura Lam, a YA fantasy unlike anything I've read before! It has circuses, magic, and a Victorian-esque world, and one of the most unique and compelling protagonists you're likely to come across in YA. Highly recommended.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

Cinda Williams Chima has been added to my list of favourite authors! I read her amazing Seven Realms series, starting with The Demon King, in only three days. It's that addictively brilliant.

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I was surprised to enjoy The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski as much as I did, but I loved it! It's not typical fantasy, but it's an engaging page-turner and the character development is excellent.

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page MorganTwo fabulous historical fantasies I discovered this year were The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan (gargoyles in 19th century Paris!) and Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard (zombies in 19th century Philadelphia!). Both are highly recommended!
The Falconer (The Falconer, #1)

I also loved The Falconer by Elizabeth May, a historical fantasy set in a steampunk-esque Edinburgh about a fae-killing aristocratic girl out for revenge. Soooo good!

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
I loved the Incarnate trilogy by Jodi Meadows! Such a creative and unique storyline based around the idea of reincarnation, and the one non-reincarnated soul in a society where the same people have lived over and over for the past five thousand years.

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

I finally finished the rest of the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy! It's a fantastically well-plotted series in a uniquely flavoured fantasy world.
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

This year also brought the final chapter in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising! And I loved it, of course. The ending was fitting and bittersweet, and I'm sad it's over, but thrilled that there'll be more books set in this world.

Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen 

Another delightful new discovery this year was Stolen Songbird by  Danielle E. Jensen. I loved the worldbuilding and the unique take on trolls and legends, and I really want to read the rest of the series!

Gates of Thread and StoneI was really looking forward to Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee, and it more than lived up to the fantastic blurb (and gorgeous cover!). Mythology, gods, and magic that feels fresh and original!

The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne)

I'm picky when it comes to adult epic fantasy, but I loved The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley! The gripping action and complex characters kept me hooked all the way through. I'll be picking up the sequel for sure!

City of a Thousand Dolls (Bhinian Empire, #1)

Another great find was City of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster. I loved how the story-world was different to most other YA high fantasy I've read, rich and detailed and full of mystery.
Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)

Heir of Fire is without a doubt one of my top reads of this year - it was well worth the wait! In this volume, the fantasy world's scope is explored further as we follow several new characters as well as those we know and love. Celaena herself goes through a heart-wrenching journey as she confronts the horrific things she experienced in her past, and the loss of her friend. This is much more intense than the previous books in the series, emotional, gripping, and with excellent character development. And oh, my God, that ending. I NEED the next book now!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Emma's street team is open for sign-ups! :)

In January 2015, I'm launching my new author street team! :) This is something I've wanted to do for a while, to reward my best fans and people who love my books and connect with my readers. If you've read and enjoyed my books or follow my blog and want to help out, then I'd love to have you aboard! 

What is a street team?

A group of awesome people who want to support an author. There's absolutely no requirement to participate in everything - it's all totally optional! Of course, I love rewarding my readers, so there'll be lots of cool giveaways exclusively for members. If I'm asking for help, it's only fair, right? :)

What do you get for joining my street team?

  • An invite to a special Facebook group where you'll get the news on my books literally as it breaks - and as I'm going to be taking charge of the publishing wheel next year, there'll be lots of awesome surprises! :)
  • Access to excerpts from my books before anyone else gets to see them.
  • Advance e-copies of my books, before anyone else!
  • Free swag when it's available - just email/message me and ask! :)
  • Insight into the writing and publishing process, including characters and deleted scenes/snippets.
  • A chance to win awesome prizes including signed paperbacks, gift cards, and more!
  • Giveaways, chats, and opportunities to ask me about writing, my books... anything!

Ways you can help out!

(All these are optional!)

  • Join the Facebook group.
  • Spread the word to your family/friends/followers who you think might enjoy my books.
  • Help me by sharing my posts/new releases on your blog/social media.
  • Leave honest reviews of my books on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.
  • Recommend my books to bookstores/libraries (as an independent author, it's the only way to get books shelved!).
  • Email me to get free promo materials to take to your local library, coffee shop... anywhere you like!
All you have to do to join is to fill out the form below. Thank you! ^_^

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

What's Up Wednesday

It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!

What I'm reading

I started Red Rising. The style's really unique, and the story's totally gripping! I've had quite a lot of freelance work so reading for fun has taken a back seat, for now! (Apart from rereading Harry Potter, obviously.)

What I'm writing

Still working on Book 4/planning/outlining/writing/editing/poking bits of the other books in the series because I've pretty much given up trying to keep my brain focused on one book. :P I passed the 20K mark of Book 4, though, so progress is happening!

My writing goal this week: Write more of Book 4. Try not to emotionally destroy self in the process. 

What works for me

I'm still getting that question about writing productivity and how I wrote six drafts in a year. Apparently, "I'm a cyborg" isn't a real answer. :P So...
  1. I've written a lot of books. My first took ten years (!!!), my second took a year, my third took eight months. Now I'm on my 18th first draft, and while my method might not be perfect, I know enough about my own writing habits to be able to finish a draft in 2-3 months. My drafts aren't super-long, either (I used to write insanely short drafts of around 50K, whereas now they're more like 75-80K).
  2. The part that takes longest is actually the planning/worldbuilding. It can take anywhere from a month to several years. But I tend to do it in my spare time when working on other projects. I got the idea for the Alliance series back in June, and worked on the planning for 2 months before I started drafting.
  3. I fast-draft, then edit like hell. That book I drafted in 24 days? I've been editing it for 3 months, and it's now on Draft #8 (that's Adamant, by the way! :D).
  4. I write/edit more than one book at once (in the same series). It actually takes me about 4-6 months to write, edit and polish each book, but they overlap. Now, I'm proofreading Book 1 in my series, I've just finished self-edits on Book 2, Book 3's first draft is now finished and I'm on to Book 4. As the series is pre-planned, it means I can move from one draft to the next without having to stop for long between books.
  5. I'm a single-minded, obsessive workaholic (in case you couldn't tell :P). 

What else is new

I announced my self-publishing plans! Next year is going to be EPIC, and I'm super-excited! And nervous. Because, y'know, I'm a neurotic anxiety-suffering author with a morbid tendency to expect the worst. ;) But this is something I've wanted to do for a long time, and I can't wait to share the Alliance series with the world! *bounces*

Monday, 15 December 2014

Coming in 2015: The Alliance Series!

It's time to share the announcement I've been sitting on the last few months! I'm pretty sure many of you guys will have guessed already...

I’m going to be self-publishing an adult contemporary fantasy series! 

happy animated GIF

The Alliance Series is set in a 21st-century Britain with a twist… our world, Earth, is connected up to hundreds of others through Passages, guarded by the Inter-World Alliance. The story follows two protagonists, Ada, who lives under the Alliance's radar, illegally helping refugees from her war-torn homeworld hide out on low-magic Earth; and Kay, fearless Alliance guard determined to solve his supervisor's murder - and when their two worlds cross paths, trouble follows.

This is the book I’ve dreamed of writing for years, a sum of all the things I love: alternative universes (not parallel worlds, but an interdependent Multiverse system); magic that kicks back; complex characters and unlikely partnerships; a high level of sarcasm; monsters (of course) and some more unconventional things like centaurs, hover-boots and invisible walkie-talkies. It's a weird hybrid of fantasy and sci-fi, and it’s been an absolute blast to write! 
It’s also my first adult novel, though I would say it’s suitable for YA readers – the characters are aged 21+, but content-wise, it’s similar to my upper-YA Darkworld series. I’m self-publishing the first book, Adamant, in March 2015! It'll be up for pre-order on Amazon from late January, I hope. And you can add it on Goodreads now!

So… how did this come about? Well, I've actually been considering self-publishing as an option for over two years, but I knew my best option was to write a longer series, like Darkworld. I finished editing my quirky MG fantasy in June this year (which is set across multiple universes), and I was daydreaming/procrastinating one day when I thought:

"I want to write another multiple-universe story. Not middle-grade. Maybe YA? Or New Adult?"

"But it'd be really complex. Not a standalone. Not even a trilogy."

"I've wanted to write another longer series ever since I finished Darkworld..."

"There are quite a few sci-fi books with parallel worlds, but there aren't many multiple-universe fantasy series out there, especially ones with both modern-day technology and magic. I love that kind of thing. I want to read a book like that."

"Huh? The Alliance? Brain, where did that come from?"

"Wait. Holy crap. Oh. My. God."

*sudden idea lightning storm* 

*frantically grabs notebook* 

*scribbles 10 pages of ideas before remembering I'm supposed to be writing another book*

I'm a firm believer in the maxim "Write the book you want to read" - in fact, it's more like "Write the book you'd be first in line to buy if someone else wrote it"! I tried to be patient and wait until I finished my other project, but kept sneaking off to write bits of it until I could finally concentrate on this series.

Next thing I knew, the characters had hijacked my brain, throwing me head-first into this series and leaving all my other projects behind. It's fun, it's intense, and it's challenged me as an author more than any other book I've written. And there was never any doubt that I wanted to publish it. I wrote the first draft in only 24 days, which is a million times faster than I've ever written a draft before - I was convinced the story was writing itself!

So I finished the draft, revised, went through three rounds of beta feedback and revised again ( Thank you so much to Cole, Jessica, Erin and Laura for helping me with various drafts!
). Meanwhile, I'd already started a prequel novella and the second book, which I finished in 34 days - proving it wasn't a one-time-coincidence. The series really wanted to be written. Since then, I've finished the third book (in 37 days) and self-edited the second one several times. Now I'm onto Book 4... and still power-writing!

In the meantime, I dealt with business-related things like obtaining ISBNs and tax stuff (fun!). And then I needed to commission cover art and professional editing, and learn how to format for ebook and paperback. I wanted to do this right, and put out the best-quality book I could manage. Now Adamant is with the proofreader, and I'm delighted to have been able to work with the talented Amalia Chitulescu (who designed my Darkworld book covers) for the cover art! ^_^

There will be six books in the series, and I’m planning to release a new book every 3-6 months. So, Adamant will be published in March, with the second book, Nemesis, following in June and the third book, Collision, to follow later. I'm hoping to publish a novella, Delinquent, next year, too. The wonderful thing about self-publishing is that I get to call the shots! I knew I didn’t want to put this series through querying, and that I wanted full control over the whole crazy Multiverse. And I've had my eye on the indie path for a while. When you write less-than-conventional books like I do, not to mention writing fast, it was probably inevitable! I love working with publishers (of course!) but I wanted a project just for me – one I had full control over. And this was a story I was adamant that I wanted to publish. (Sorry. I just had to make that pun at least once. :P)

Expect blurbs, covers, and other awesomeness coming up soon, and don't forget to sign up to my newsletter to be the first to see the cover and blurb for Adamant!

*disappears into a puff of smoke*

Fall Into Fantasy: Week 17

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 17: Meratis Trilogy
Book One: Evensong
By Krista Walsh

Author Jeff Powell wakes up to find the impossible has happened. He is within his own novel—summoned into the fictional world of Feldall’s Keep by a spell he didn’t write. One the House enchantress hasn’t figured out how to reverse.

When the villain he’s been struggling to write reveals himself, unleashing waves of terror and chaos, Jeff must use more than his imagination to save the characters he created—and the woman he loves.

Trapped within a world of his own creation, he must step outside the bounds of his narrative to help his characters defeat an evil no one anticipated, even if he must sacrifice his greatest gift. In the end, he has to ask: are novels really fiction, or windows into other worlds?

Buy it from: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iTunes
Or add it to Goodreads

Known for witty, vivid characters, Krista Walsh never has more fun than getting them into trouble and taking her time getting them out. After publishing a few short stories and novellas in various anthologies, she has now released her own anthology, the serial collection Greylands. When not writing, or working at her day job, she can be found reading, gaming, or watching a film – anything to get lost in a good story. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Find Krista online: Website  Facebook  Twitter

Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?
  • Don't forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.
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Friday, 12 December 2014

Review - Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)
The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Words can’t describe how much I love this series. Leigh Bardugo has created such a compelling story, and the final chapter is just as strong as the other two books. After the end of Siege and Storm, Alina is powerless and in hiding with people she’s not sure she can trust. But her only hope to beat the now-ruling Darkling lies in the legendary firebird, even though the power she could gain might cost her everything she holds dear. In this final volume, the plot comes together and secrets that have been woven into the series are finally revealed. I followed every twist and turn with bated breath, completely compelled right up to the bittersweet, yet fitting, finale.

I love the characters. Alina has grown so much over the series, yet still struggles with the lure of the power inside her and her connection to the Darkling. The villain himself remains as complex and alluring as ever, and despite his power, has a heartbreakingly human element. And Mal and Alina’s relationship gets some development, too (even though everyone, of course, is Team Darkling *ahem*). The minor characters are great as well, especially Nikolai, the infuriating prince and privateer.

I love the world of the story, too. It’s creative and unique and rich in detail, and the stunning writing makes this story even more enjoyable. Leigh Bardugo has a gift for phrasing the key moments just right so they hit you right in the feels. Ouch.

I’m sad it’s over, but I’m thrilled that Leigh Bardugo is writing more books set in this world! This makes the list of my all-time favourite series, one I’ll be rereading over and over again.

 Rating: 5 stars.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

What's Up Wednesday

It's time for What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow. Here's what I've been up to this past week!

What I'm reading

I started the Bartimeus trilogy, which I've heard good things about! The Amulet of Sarmakand is a great upper-MG read. I'm also rereading Harry Potter, because... just because. :D

What I'm writing

I finished the first draft of Shiny Book 3 at 77K words! Which means I've hit the halfway point of the series! It also means I've written SIX (and a half) drafts this year, and I've absolutely no idea how that happened.

I also wrapped up the first (well, second, really) self-edit on Book 2, which is now 81K words.

My writing goal this week: Re-outline Books 4-6 and write Book 4. I've started it already, despite my attempts to take a break between drafts. I failed. :P

(I am a slave to this series. Send help. o.O)

What works for me

What works for me when writing a series is accepting my own organised-chaos approach. Scrivener is a lifesaver, because at any point when drafting, I'll think of other random details, and they can be about literally anything - background info, plot details for any of the six books, short stories and spinoffs, characters, monsters... et cetera. It'd be virtually impossible to keep all that in one notebook, because I'd never be able to find what I needed at the right time!

So: Scrivener! I have a "characters" folder; a "settings" folder; all the other book outlines and blurbs;  a folder for each alternative universe (did I mention this series is crazy-complicated?!); a master post (I've heard the term "series bible") with the general rules for magic and other... stuff; a general timeline for the series; a list of other miscellaneous ideas; and a List of Awesome (I made this for motivation during the first draft of the first book!). So... that's a lot of folders. And unfortunately, it wouldn't make any sense to anyone other than me, because even I don't understand the chaos of my own brain sometimes. :P

What else I've been up to

I finally watched Mockingjay Part 1! And the Hanging Tree song is still stuck in my head. I think it could have worked as one film, but it was a great adaptation, like the other two HG films.

Other than that, I've been up to my neck in freelance work, blog tour stuff, emails, and some exciting Shiny Things. My subscribers will be the first to find out my news in this week's newsletter (except my CP's and beta readers, who already know ;)) and the Official Announcement of Awesome will be up on the blog soon...

*bounces around manically*