04 Dec 2017
This edition of book recommendations first appeared in Newsletter October 2017 (creepy reads) edition.
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff:For those who prefer their fae bloodthirsty and horrific instead of sparkly and romantic. This was a rare 5 star read for me. Excellent character development, worldbuilding, and storytelling.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Ghost hunter. Ghost girl bent on bloody revenge. Who wouldn’t fall in love with a girl ready to rip your heart out? Think Supernatural with teens.
Also check out another skilled WA-based author, Lili St. Crow’s Strange Angels for a super dark gender-swapped take on monster hunting.
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong: Classic teens-with-powers, but one happens to be a necromancer. The only thing worse than being trapped in a spider-infested, lightless underground crawlspace is knowing something’s clawing its way up from below.
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab: Seems like this is the least-hyped of Schwab’s work, but IMHO definitely the creepiest. Seriously. Classic fantasy with a terrifyingly tangible setting and evil at every turn out to get you.
Also check out The Archived for even more ghost hunting.
The Diviners by Libba Bray: Left this one for last because it seriously pushes the limits of my horror tolerance - like, don’t-read-at-home-alone level scary.
The Roaring 20s historical fiction setting and over-the-top characters are lots of fun, but the monsters are… yikes. Make sure you have a buddy to check under the bed for you.
27 Nov 2017
This edition of book recommendations first appeared in Newsletter August 2017 edition.
Best of Summer
A MONSTROUS REGIMENT OF WOMEN by Laurie R. King: I can’t believe I’m giving top billing to a non-YA, non-fantasy read, but this book honestly takes top prize for my summer reads. All of King’s books seem to be excellent quality, and I’m still working my way through the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, but if you can only read one King book, make it this one. Adult historical fiction/mystery with a feminist twist.
GIVE UP THE GHOST & The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe: Canadian Indie author bonus points! Crewe writes disarmingly authentic teens with complex and conflicted motivations, awkward, slow-moving romances and a touch of the creepy. The Way We Fall is first in a trilogy of excellent and very Hollywood-esque plague’pocalypse thrillers. Give Up the Ghost is contemporary-paranormal, and it’s FREE to Crewe’s newsletter subscribers.
Missing by Kelley Armstrong: The best thrillers aren’t just action-action-action. This tense, surprising read has a lot of heart. The slow-burn romance and challenging, complex characters were incredibly compelling. Armstrong also has a gift for making remote locations sound appealing. Love all her YA books. Add to your list for Halloween spine-tingling horror-lite (no paranormal, just human creepiness!)
Lockdown by Laurie R. King: I really don’t tend to recommend novels about school shootings . . . or contemporary novels, period, but this is a must-read. The level of craft alone - King writes in a dozen distinct voices, each with character development arcs and backstories - mind-blowing literary skill. But what makes this story readable is that it brings a distinct sense of hope to the otherwise traumatic subject matter.
20 Nov 2017
This edition of book recommendations first appeared in Newsletter June 2017 edition
Best of the Best:
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: you need to read this. Seriously. Beautiful writing. Gorgeous language. Classic, epic storytelling. The richest worldbuilding you can imagine.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake best YA dark fantasy all year. Three competing protagonists with their own cast and setting. Plus, Kendare’s one of my fave writers who inspired the style and content of Blind the Eyes. PNW writers unite!
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: and the sequel is even better, an incredible accomplishment when most second books are the weakest of a trilogy. Mature content warning.
Canadian reads to check out:
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston: a strangely uplifting tale of teen rape. Non-explicit trigger warning for trauma, but an incredibly hopeful and instructive read of how to help in the aftermath, and how stepping in changes everything.
Missing by Kelley Armstrong: best YA thriller I’ve read in ages (well, since the last one she wrote, probably, lol.) Just the right balance of compelling romance between complex, relatable and flawed people in a high-stakes fast-paced setting.
13 Nov 2017
So, I read a ton. Like, well over 150 books a year. And now that I’ve discovered Goodreads, I also rate and review most of those books, and then feature them with dubious quality photography on Instagram.
What I haven’t done is launched a book blog/reviews section here, because let’s be real; how often do I get around to updating? And how many of you hang out here on a regular basis? So.
However, just last month I discovered Booklikes, which not only shares reviews on-platform and pushes reviews to Goodreads, it collects them in a custom blog. Update one place with automatic syndication to all useful platforms? Yes please!
All that to say: Check out my book blog for (mostly) YA Fantasy recommendations!
I also do bimonthly book recommendations and “best-of” lists in my newsletter, and those I will to take the time to host on this site (eventually), so look forward to it!
04 Nov 2017
So there’s good news and there’s bad news.
The good news is, all that querying attracted some attention after all, literary agents do like Blind the Eyes, and the full manuscript has been requested. It’s not a publishing deal (yet, lol), but it’s actually pretty rare to get that far and it took less than 50 queries (many books take over 100 to even get that sort of response), so it’s definitely cause for celebration!
…The bad news is, now I can’t publish BTE in November like I was hinting at, which is super sad because my proofreader did an amazing job AND turned the project around in half the time I’d had scheduled, so it should have been right on target for a pre-holidays release.
Back to good news: this means I can (ahem, should) get the sequel(s) plotted out and written for fast, consecutive releases when BTE does come out. But, yet again, sorry to make you all wait longer and thanks for your patience!
While I’m at it, huge shout out to my awesome team:
I highly recommend these guys if any of you are looking to form a publishing team of your own!
So what comes next? Well, there’s a lot of waiting. The waiting period for the querying stage wouldn’t have closed until this December (yeah, I was jumping the gun with a November release no matter how you sliced it) and, for a full mansucript request, you normally add at least six months. If an agent offers representation, that’s another week or so to alert any outstanding queried agents that they need to throw their hats in the ring, then paperwork to hire the agent, then they go to work selling the manuscript to editors. So, more waiting. Years of waiting. And at any point in that, potentially more edits and rewrites.
But, as I’ve said all along, traditional publishing isn’t right for every book and every author, so while it’s very exciting to see a positive response from the establishment, given the current market and opportunities, BTE may do better as an indie book, and as new information comes to light, I’ll be making a judgment call on whether to release it sooner. Again, all the pieces are in place except for final layout design, and I’ll probably book that and get it ready in the coming month or so too, so an independent release could happen fast.
For those of you book bloggers/reviewers who’ve gotten in touch, and those who are thinking about it, feel free to keep signing up, just know the timeline’s been pushed out to next year. I’m keeping a database of everyone who’s shown interest for when the ARCs are ready to go.
Until next time, K.
21 Sep 2017
I should get the next newsletter out in a couple weeks, but since I’m past due for an update, thought I’d pop in and share the progress!
BLIND THE EYES is out for query with a number of literary agents. For the uninitiated, to get a book published in the traditional manner, you send a sort of formal application letter to literary agents, who ask for more information on your book (or decline). If they love the story and think they can sell it to a publisher, they offer to represent you. Then they contact editors and try to sell the manuscript. Then a publishing house responds with an offer (and if you’re really lucky, you get a few of these to choose from). Then you get assigned an editor and work with that publisher and editor to adapt the book, which can mean more editing, rewrites, proofreading, cover designs etc. Then the book comes out in stores, 1-3 years later. And at every step of the process, it’s super competitive and subject to both market demand and the relevant professionals falling in love with your work.
I’ve had some really encouraging responses from agents, but nothing to tempt me away from indie publishing so far. That said, the publishing world moves super slowly, so I’ve only heard back from a quarter of the queries I’ve sent out so far.
So here’s the plan: there’s only a couple steps left to produce BLIND THE EYES as an independent publisher. It still needs a final proofread, final back cover copy and interior layout/design. I’m getting in touch with a proofreader this week to line that up for late October - it’s a minor cost and worth risking to set up. My cover artist can do interior design, but I still need to talk to her about a schedule. If she’s available, I think everything could be done for as early as the middle of November. So… no promises guys, but I’m thinking a holiday release could be a great idea!
Keep an eye out for preorders, and I’ve already had some enquiries from book bloggers and ARC reviewers, so feel free to get in touch at any time if you’d like to be added to that list. We’re nearly there!
In other news, I’m looking at local jobs, overseas jobs and more long-term remote/freelance work, so another round of travel may or may not be in my future. More news on that soon!
27 Aug 2017
…I know I’ve been babbling about it all over the place lately and I’ve only just finished switching over graphics and web presence to the new subgenre, but I’m seriously considering changing everything back to the previous (non) subgenre for BLIND THE EYES of “dystopian dark fantasy”. Which isn’t an official thing, and I know you’re not supposed to genre-blend, but… it just kind of is. The setting’s pretty dystopian. And it’s definitely future and sort of post-apocalyptic. And dark. And there’s fantasy and supernatural stuff going on. It’s also not a bad fit for urban fantasy, other than the future setting. So I dunno. Waffle waffle waffle. Angst angst angst. lol.
On thing in its favour, the freebie preview ebooks on Amazon got quite a bit stronger downloads when listed as dystopian. So I figure for querying, it should read urban fantasy, and if I end up going indie, dystopian dark fantasy.
But don’t hold me to that, because apparently continuously changing my mind and making work for myself is what I do…
26 Aug 2017
While I love research in a general sense, I more or less refuse to do it while drafting a book. I’m too addicted to that archaeological sense of uncovering another world to allow this one to consciously intrude. However, at some point I generally do have to pull out the books (hi Google) and go hunting for real world equivalencies, or at least reference points.
Enter the Mara. The story that has become BLIND THE EYES emerged out of an image or a scene wherein a girl is saved from monster attack by a hero. And diverged dramatically from there - the Wattpad story-in-progress THINGS GOT OUT OF HAND is closer to the original intent. All that to say, my sense of what the monsters in question were was vague to say the least.
But successive drafts did serve to nudge things along. Fairly early on, I knew the monsters were a waking nightmare, a concrete manifestation of a victim’s fears, though I intended this literally as depicted in TGOOH. Later, with the addition of THE FIRST DREAM (BTE Chapter 8), the nightmare-monsters were found inhabiting a separate plane of consciousness, killing victims in a sort of dreamscape, with only gradual crossover into the waking world.
Around the same time, I realized the monsters, the dream-eaters, had their source in the paranormal world of ghosts or malevolent spirits. Obsessed with mist, fog and boundaries, I envisioned them as hungry spirits of the dead, trapped within a closed city and cannibalizing the living inhabitants. Amorphously inhabiting and twisting victims’ desires or longings to attack, they manifest in the real world with considerably less clarity, little more than a sickly yellow mist.
But dancing around their identity, both named and visual, was adding confusion to an already vague and dreamy draft, and I hated every time I had to write “dream-death” or “nightmare”, feeling it too clunky.
More drafts, more careful excavating of a story world that I could envision but wasn’t making plain enough for readers. My monsters were hemmed in by a literal boundary, a city cut off by environmental as well as spiritual damage. The ocean had risen, flooding the edges of the city, and opening up identities for the monsters in the pantheon of water-monsters that I was most familiar with from Celtic legend. Time to pull out the books.
I started with a survey of aquatic monsters, with a quick turn through dream-eating and nightmare beasts, scanning through familiar Celtic sources as well as Japanese monsters and a brief, not particularly successful survey of Canadian and American First Nations spirits, legends and monsters, and came up with surprising results.
As it turns out, there wasn’t a single likely culprit that blended aquatic and dream attributes, but a Japanese dream-eating monster called the baku came awfully close to meeting my dream-eater needs. It seems to function in a mostly positive way, eating nightmares, but it has a darker side where it can go too far and eat the hopes and desires of a dreamer as well, leaving them hollowed out and empty…
…which as I write this, brings up some interesting implications for a historical angle on the story world’s current troubles. I chose to integrate the aquatic or marine element of BTE’s dream-eating monsters by calling them the Mara. In various Celtic/European languages, this ties in nicely to night’mares’ or nightmara, with, at least in my mind, some shadings of Kelpie and other water horses as well, but functions more like the Japanese Baku.
And there you have it, the not-so-well-researched anatomy of a monster, in which my imaginary demons turned out to have surprisingly connected real-world counterparts, confirming once again that human imagination has its limits. I think I’ll do a feature on the world monsters and their traits in my next newsletter (October) - keep an eye out for it!
20 Aug 2017
The August newsletter is out! Musings on the finer points of genre, book reviews (still debating whether to add that as a website feature - thoughts?) and a fresh downloadable for this round.
If you haven’t already, sign up for access to the freebie content, which is currently an extended preview ebook or audiobook of the first five chapters of BLIND THE EYES and an ebook-format downloadable preview of THE FIRST DREAM (currently chapter 8 of the manuscript), which is the first instance of supernatural goings-on in the draft and also the bit where I realized I was writing horror and not just fantasy, lol. I do newsletters roughly every two months with updates, insider content and book reviews. I promise not to spam your inbox endlessly!
In other news, I’ve been dreadfully sick for the last week and therefore have gotten a bit behind again, but I’m planning to pick up with the final nitpicky little changes next week and start the querying process. There’ll probably be an update to the preview freebies following this round, as the first chapters continue to tighten up bit by bit; keep an eye out for it! Also, enjoy the Instagram feed I finally figured out how to embed! Turned out to be way less complicated that posting journal entries with individual IG shots, and innit pretty? ;D
05 Aug 2017
Last query round for now. For the super publishing geeks in the audience, here’s the final Query I went with for Pitch Wars! If any of the mentors send back notes, I’ll be sure to post them for reference!
I’m pleased to introduce my YA novel, BLIND THE EYES, in which a not-quite alive girl and her not-quite dead ghost discover that authorities lie, allies have their own agendas and all monsters wear masks.
In a world where hope kills and dreams are deadly, obedience is the only way to survive. But when one girl learns her society’s absolute control and guarantee of safety are both illusions, she must figure out who to trust to bring down the state and stop the dying before the nightmares eat her alive.
BLIND THE EYES is a stand-alone YA urban fantasy novel for ages 14 and up, complete at 100,000 words, with series potential. A dark and dangerous journey of discovery fraught with monsters both traditional and of the human persuasion, BLIND THE EYES evokes STRANGE THE DREAMER and THIS SAVAGE SONG with the flawed, challenging voices of PLACES NO ONE KNOWS.
Thanks for your consideration.
K.A. Wiggins [+contact deets!]
04 Aug 2017
I may have used up all my luck before the submission window launched, but I was fortunate enough to win a query and first chapter critique from the awesome Lindsey Frydman. I’ve included the query with her markup/revisions for the writing/publishing geeks out there plus anyone thinking of subbing to Lindsey who really wants to do their research!
Lindsey’s comments are marked ( LF ).
In a world where hope kills and dreams are deadly, obedience is the only way to survive. (LF: A query really should start with the character, so I’d put her name in the sentence. “obedience is the only way for Cole to survive. When she learns her…” ) But when one girl learns her society’s absolute control and guarantee of safety are both illusions, she must figure out who to trust to bring down the state and stop the dying before the nightmares eat her alive. (LF: I think this should actually go at the end…after reading the whole query a couple times, I think it definitely belongs down there. )
All desires and distractions are forbidden in authoritarian tower-state Refuge. That doesn’t stop 17-year-old failed trainee (LF: Trainee for what? I think you should add that in here. Round it all out. ) Cole from longing to be accepted as a full worker. But, secretly obsessed with the dead and haunted by the ghost of a child, Cole’s one step away from being abandoned to the Mara, nightmares that devour souls. (LF: This should come after your very first sentence – in my opinion. Tell us about her, who she is, what she wants. 😊 I do love the creepy feel to this story! )
A surprise assignment offers Cole a shot at promotion, but when she succumbs to temptation and reaches out to a corpse, she learns her world is a lie and obedience to the state is no guarantee of survival. Shocked and angry at Refuge’s (LF: I don’t know who this is. It sort of pops up out of nowhere, so maybe a short explanation of them here? ) betrayal and the futility of trying to live up to its rules, Cole vows to expose its lies and sets off to find the allies she needs to take revenge and end the suffering.
BLIND THE EYES is a YA Urban Fantasy complete at 113,000 words. STRANGE THE DREAMER meets THIS SAVAGE SONG with the flawed, challenging voices of PLACES NO ONE KNOWS. It is one girl’s journey through a world of dreams and ghosts, monsters and magic as she learns to own her choices and transform weaknesses into power. BLIND THE EYES is a standalone with series potential.
I’ve been a crusader against the evils of corporate entropy, a mercenary word-weaver and a guardian of empty spaces. I convinced my classmates there were witches in the back wood of our elementary and my sister that faeries lived in the snow melt (‘cause they do…) and dreamed of growing up to be Martin of Redwall (because small animals with swords and battlecries), Frodo of the Shire (because heroes can be small and still do great things), a Fantasy or Manga Editor (because languages are magic), and a rock star (done). Still waiting for a wardrobe to open, but in the meantime I create my own magical worlds at http://kaie.space (LF: As awesome as I think all this information is, I think you should cut it from your query. It’s just not relevant enough. And you really don’t need a bio if you have no credentials. Not unless an agent specifically states it on his/her submission rules. )
(LF insertion: Thank you for your time and consideration.)
29 Jul 2017
I’m switching formats a bit to end the Journal segment and hopefully bring in Instagram and Goodreads feeds. When I started the journal, it was a great solution. It helped me frame my writing time, keep consistent records, continuously update with new content and hopefully provide value for writers and publishing geeks by chronicling in exhaustive detail the long slog of writing. Turns out I suck at updating the website and there’s more actual news these days, plus spending more time on Twitter lately has reminded me that transparency, while an important and meaningful value, is not good policy in today’s climate. So instead I’m planning to feature more pretty books. Journal archives are here for now.
23 Jul 2017
So this is apparently a tradition within Pitch Wars, an awesome online contest to connect with publishing industry peeps and get a manuscript query-ready.
I’ve been resisting making one of these because, really, who likes talking about themselves? But then I had to write an author paragraph for my query anyways, and… Here goes:
I’ve been a crusader against the evils of corporate entropy, a mercenary word-weaver and a guardian of empty spaces. I convinced my classmates there were witches in the back wood of our elementary and my sister that faeries lived in the snow melt (‘cause they do…) and dreamed of growing up to be Martin of Redwall (because small animals with swords and battlecries), Frodo of the Shire (because heroes can be small and still do great things), a Fantasy or Manga Editor (because languages are magic), and a rock star (done).
Still waiting for a wardrobe to open, but in the meantime I create my own magical worlds as (mostly) YA fiction and journal about it here.
Laini Taylor’s STRANGE THE DREAMER. Seriously, there’s nothing closer to a perfect book.
Unless it’s Brianna Yovanoff’s equally amazing but totally different PLACES NO ONE KNOWS. Her MC is me, basically. SO, so jealous I didn’t write it first.
& Kendare Blake’s work is amazing, particularly the masterpiece that is THREE DARK CROWNS…
…and I could go on like this all day, but to summarize, I wish I wrote thrillers as tight and creepy as Kelley Armstrong, dark fantasy as twisty as Holly Black and Melissa Marr, and worlds as big as Cassandra Clare and Scott Westerfeld. But instead I write like me, which means a lot of stuff about edges and boundaries and borders and about being not quite one thing or the other.
I write Pacific Northwest stories. And Canadian stories. And magical crossover stories, because where I’m from, most people aren’t that clear about where they’ve come from or where they’re going. And sometimes moving forward is less about understanding it all, and more about just accepting it.
So BLIND THE EYES is a Canadian story, and a Pacific Northwestern story, and a Vancouver story, and a blended-people-with-missing-identities story and a dark, broken future Urban Fantasy story that doesn’t know it’s any of these things (yet.)
And at the heart of it is Cole, who still hasn’t really learned who she is or what she needs to do, but is scared to death of getting it all wrong. She’s part of a generation who have been taught not to want, instead of being taught how to understand what they want. She’s not a great hero, or even a strong female protagonist, because she’s more about avoiding difficult things and hiding from herself and everything around her than she is about confronting injustice and defeating evil. But she’s not alone, and she’s not as helpless as she thinks she is, and she’s about to find out that her fears and flaws and failure don’t define her, they fuel her.
BLIND THE EYES has been about three years in the making, and for at least two of those I planned to release it as an indie publication, so it’s been through three rounds of editing and painful, painful rewrites to date. It’s not the first book I’ve written, but it is the first I’ve written properly and produced completely.
Other stuff I do/love:
music. Specifically playing music in bands, ‘cause why just listen when you can do?
making craft gin. And, of course, drinking said gin. BTW, best group activity ever (premake half so you have something to drink, then let everyone make their own mix!)
Scotch. Drinking, not making. That’s not a DIY sort of activity. But mmm. This was totally my MS fuel of choice. My one regret in Scotland was that I didn’t live near any distilleries. Oh, and Islay fantatic, all the way. Talisker’s ok too.
thrift shopping, vintage fashion & hats. Not necessarily all together. Actually, I hate shopping, but I love that you can get cheap clothes and put together unique, functional outfits while protecting the environment and contributing toward something good. Plus I love history, museums and other times/places so it’s fun to use styles to access a fantasy of another place or era, like taking that feeling of being in a story world out into the real world with you. And hats are mostly about me and the sun not getting along, and partly about me and my hair not getting along, and mostly just a convenience thing TBH.
and on that note, I adore historic sites. And museums. Although I get annoyed when the crowds are too big because a) hyper introvert and b) I just want to soak in the atmosphere and pretend to be from whenever and wherever the site originated. I love aquariums for sort of the same reason. Zero desire to go in or on the water, but I love pretending to be underwater without getting wet. And also marine mammals are adorable. I want to write a YA were-seal fantasy. Well, actually I want to write an X-Men meets fairytale creatures fantasy with a selkie trying to survive high school, lol. But were-seal sounds cooler. ;D I mean, imagine being a 15-year-old girl whose super power involves being furry and large and awkward on land. You’d feel like the world’s biggest klutz, and everyone else would think you were adorable. Oh the drama.
hyper-emotive, over-the-top media like teen shows (Shadowhunters, Supernatural, Vampire Diaries), kid movies and anime/manga are so up my alley. I’m all about the escapism, but bonus points if it’s dark, or works in incisive social commentary without feeling depressing or breaking the story world. But, like, happy stuff’s ok too. Howl’s Moving Castle is the ultimate animated film of all time and I will brook no debate on this subject. Tarzan & Mulan do ok too ;D OK, tbh any Disney or Miyazaki show makes the cut, lol. I’m equally on board with demon hunting and shiny princesses on a mission. Speaking of which, I really want to do a Tarzan inspired Celtic princess crossover world-hopping quest fantasy. But like, with jungle cats instead of gorillas.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets its own bullet point b/c although it’s an over-the-top teen show, it’s also my go-to brain candy. I seriously run this in the background any time I get the chance. Buffy’s got me through hours of chores, programming and some of my more tedious freelancing. Firefly’s pretty great too.
21 Jul 2017
Geek writing/publishing craft time: basically my first day after deciding to join this year’s Pitchwars, I won a (luck-of-the-draw) query critique from the amazing Alicia Clancy! Alicia’s an Assistant Editor at St. Martin’s Press, Pitchwars mentor for the YA group and happens to be on my on my shortlist of mentors to sub to, so score! But then I had to scramble to actually write a query and synopsis lol. I’ll post Alicia’s version first, a few notes on how it works better, and then my original last for reference if anyone wants to get that geeky with it!
In a world where hope kills and dreams are deadly, obedience is the only way to survive. But seventeen-year-old Cole isn’t like the rest of her authoritarian state Refuge’s citizens—no matter how hard she tries, she simply cannot follow the rules. being haunted by a ghost named Cadence certainly doesn’t help her situation.
When Cole once again fails her probation, Refuge abandons her to the Mara—nightmares that devour the disobedient. But with Cadence on her side, Cole flees her oppressive state, and falls into the hands of a Freedom rebel group. Ravel, the group’s charismatic leader, brings Cole into their underground world and their mission to topple Refuge’s control.
But Cole finds herself distracted by visions—visions of a silver-shrouded boy taking on the Mara. A boy that Cadence seems to know. And when people started dying in more than just her visions, Cole must risk her hard-won status, her home, and maybe even her life to expose the truth—that her society’s absolute control and guarantee of safety are both illusions—and that it’s up to them to defeat the Mara.
Combining the flawed, challenging voice of PLACES NO ONE KNOWS with the supernatural chills of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and the dark fantasy dystopia of THIS SAVAGE SONG, my debut novel BLIND THE EYES is ultimately a story about a girl who’s terrified of never being good enough and the lengths she will go to overcome that fear.
(Add in a 1-3 sentence author bio here)
So. For one thing, I obviously forgot to put in wordcount (shame) and skipped the bio paragraph entirely.
I’ve actually been using that first line forever, but one of the Pitchwars mentors made a point of saying how you should lead with the main character, so I pushed it to the extended syopsis. Love that Alicia brought it back to the forefront!
Another thing she does is really bring a more colloquial (younger) voice to it. I was really focused on trying to write tight and brief, to the exclusion of voice, so while the tone feels a bit off to me (because now it’s someone else’s voice, lol), it definitely gives me a push to make sure not to strip out all the tone from my queries.
And finally, Alicia really tweaked the focus on action and motivation. It got a little too far from the actual plot (which she’s never read, so of course,) but gives me a good push to both be clearer on what’s actually happening in the story and forefront motivation and stakes in my final query letter. Stay tuned for future updates, since I’m working with my editor on queries right now (see ‘hooks’ post) and will post further revisions/finals!
& Here’s my rough first version for the super geeks in the room!
Thanks so much for taking the time to look at this - I was so surprised to win the query critique after last night’s live video! It’s the first time I’ve really worked on query materials, so thanks for the motivation to get it together and start polishing.
Seventeen-year-old Cole hides a dangerous obsession with death from the repressive, authoritarian tower-state Refuge and Cadence, the ghost who haunts her. Cole has failed to obey in the past; if she can’t pass probation this time, Refuge will abandon her to be devoured by the nightmarish Mara.When Cole flunks her trial, she discovers Refuge has been lying all along. Obedience to the state never guaranteed safety from the Mara.
Fleeing, she finds an ally in the charismatic leader of the underground club and rebel enclave, Freedom. Ravel offers the power to expose Refuge’s lies - along with a hedonistic new way of life. But as Cole struggles to fit in and earn Ravel’s help, she finds herself drawn into visions of death - and to the silver-shrouded boy in them who fights back against the Mara, a boy Cadence claims to remember from her former life. In the waking world, Ravel is more focused on transforming Cole into his ideal consort than toppling Refuge’s control - and people are dying in more than just Cole’s visions.
BLIND THE EYES combines the flawed and challenging voices of PLACES NO ONE KNOWS with the supernatural chills of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and the dark fantasy dystopia of THIS SAVAGE SONG in a debut novel about a girl who’s terrified of never being good enough.
In a world where hope kills and dreams are deadly, obedience is the only way to survive. But when one girl learns her society’s absolute control and guarantee of safety are both illusions, she risks her hard-won status, her home and her life to rebel and expose its lies.
Probationary surveillance technician Cole is determined to cast off her reputation as a failure and pass probation in the ascetic, totalitarian tower-state Refuge. If she fails, she’ll be abandoned to the Mara, the nightmares that devour disobedient workers. But to be accepted, she’ll have to suppress her forbidden obsession with the dead, hiding it even from the ghost who haunts her, Cadence.
Cole’s fascination with death torpedoes her probationary trial when she touches a corpse and witnesses a vision of its final moments. Trying to hide her failure, she discovers Refuge has been lying; its endless regulations can’t protect anyone from the deadly Mara. Cole flees Refuge enforcers and follows the ghost Cadence to allies who will help her expose Refuge’s lies, recognizing that no one will ever listen to or follow a failure like Cole. But Cadence lied; there are no allies, and Cole is nearly taken by the Mara instead.
Cole turns to Ravel, leader of an underground club and rebel movement. He teaches her to reject Refuge’s programming. She struggles to earn acceptance in his alien society while suffering visions of Mara attacks. She’s drawn to the silver boy who fights back in the visions, Ash. Cadence claims to know him. When Cole tells Ravel of the visions, and the ghost who haunts her, Ravel blames them on Cadence. But Cole discovers Ravel’s rebellion is restricted to preaching radical self-indulgence. He has no plan to expose Refuge’s lies and abuse. Worse, the illusion of safety Ravel provides is based on a tithe of human sacrifice to the Mara.
Then the Mara attack in the waking world and Cole discovers Cadence isn’t the one lying; Ravel is. The visions are real. Cole finally chooses to stop looking for a leader to follow and fight on her own. She infiltrates Refuge to help Ash. Interrupted mid-mission by another Mara attack, Cole fights back with powers like Ash’s, powers Cadence claims Cole has been absorbing from her. Cole’s secret obsession with the dead has been a side effect of Cadence’s haunting and Cole’s growing powers. Captured by Refuge after the fight and high on her recent success, Cole tricks an enforcer, sneaks off and contacts Ash. She selfishly demands Ash join her mission instead of heading to his location. But the enforcer was watching all along, and shoots Ash on arrival. Ravel kidnaps Cole and drugs her to keep her docile. Cole realizes her priority has never really been on saving people, but rather taking revenge on the system that made her feel like a failure. Cole overcomes the drugs and her guilt-ridden despondency when she discovers Ash survived and sets off to rescue him from torture and execution.
When Ash’s escape is threatened, Cole sacrifices her own safety and hopes for acceptance to turn back and distract the pursuing enforcer. She uses her newfound powers to catch the enforcer in a Mara attack. But the enforcer is possessed by the Mara and Cole loses control of the fight. Then Cadence reveals a truth she’s only just realized herself; the ghost Cadence is what remains of Cole’s own memories and identity before Refuge captured her and wiped them. Cadence helps Cole recognizes her past failures and flaws as strengths that keep the Mara from twisting her hopes and dreams and devouring her. Teaming up with this part of herself she never knew she’d lost and owning her desires and wants, Cole defeats the Mara.
Cole is reunited with Ash, who helps her accept her fragmented self. He affirms her broken and flawed identity as Cole seeks healing and her lost memories while struggling with the implications of Cadence’s separate existence. Ash commits to partnering with Cole and breaking Refuge and Ravel’s abuses to free the people and save them from the Mara. Their journey isn’t over, but Cole has overcome her programming and learned to choose her own path and fight back. Series potential; could be tweaked to show an ultimate defeat of the Mara and destabilization of Ravel’s rule and Refuge’s supremacy for standalone publishing.
19 Jul 2017
Oh man, news, news, and more news you guys! I was trying to save it all up to release by newsletter first ‘cause I need motivation to keep up with that, but the thing with news is that you’re too busy doing newsworthy things to have time to shout about it! …and THAT doesn’t sound arrogant at all, lol. But moving on…
So I got final edits back from the amazing Lisa Poisso, which turned out to be a gracious and generous blend of Substantive and Line Edits ‘cause I couldn’t make up my mind about what I was asking for. Still some tuning up to do, but overall the manuscript is in amazing shape and I’m already working on the early stages of query materials with her… and then this happened.
Pitchwars. It’s a (mostly) Twitter contest to polish and submit your manuscript. In the first round you submit to industry insiders like published authors, editorial assistants etc. If one picks you, you have two months to work with them on refining your book and query materials, and then there’s the agent round. If magic happens, you get an agent! At the very least, it’s a great way to make connections and learn a ton - which I have. For instance: apparently BLIND THE EYES is Urban Fantasy, not paranormal or horror or dystopian or dark fantasy or all the various other things I’ve stumbled around thinking it was. Who knew?
Anyways, while it’s slowing down my final revisions (though, lol, we all knew they were going to take me longer than I expected because OF COURSE), I’m super excited to be participating in Pitchwars this year and getting BtE in even better shape for publication in whatever form that looks like! So, no newsletter this month, but I’m being hyperactive on Twitter & IG, so go ahead and follow me there instead. :)
28 Jun 2017
So I’ve been thinking about doing a prequel novella or short story to Blind the Eyes for the next round of newsletter bonuses. Which of these sound like something you’d like to read? Vote and comment on FB.
Teen sisters sneak off from the Tower to the underground club Freedom in its early days and things go sideways. One runs away after a relationship turns dangerous; the other starts up a secret counter-rebellion and stays in Freedom as a spy to save future innocents and atone for ruining her sister’s life. YA urban contemporary w/ dystopian, supernatural & romance. ~10 years prev. to BtE book 1. Cast includes: Ange, Morristu, Ravel & Cass, possibly cameos by Serovate, Haynfyv & Sam.
The future Mayor of the Tower was once an ambitious young professional climbing the ranks of corporate power with a jr. exec. husband, showcase baby and a secret mission. But when the rising fog threatens the safety of her family and she refuses to leave, she loses her child, her husband, and her chance at success. When she cuts a deal with the evil intelligence within the fog, she becomes a double agent, working on the side of evil for a shot at the power to keep it from swallowing everything. -New Adult urban thriller, tragedy. Antagonist/villain backstory. ~120+ years prior to BtE book 1. Cast incl. Maria Ashera, possibly cameos by Serovate, Ravel.
Cadence & Ash as kids up north; dreamwalker training, learning to fight, faction politics between their respective camps (displaced First Nations & Roma Traveller). Or Cadence’s family’s failed mission to the city & her capture. Or Ash’s (off the page) journey during Blind the Eyes up to the point where he makes it to the Tower. This one would give a lot of world-building context and background, but is light on encapsulated storytelling/plot. Kids or YA fantasy/contemporary, possibly thriller/tragedy. 10 years prev., 5 yrs prev. or 4 weeks prev. to BtE book 1. Cast incl. Cadence, Ash (protagonists, Ash formerly Itri/Silver), possibly Sam & Lily.
A young prince of the Tower as a preteen, coming to terms with his background and launching the rebel and counter-culture movement via the underground club Freedom. His rebellion against the Tower leader (/mom) & the deal he cuts with the enemy in unconscious imitation of his mother, gaining power at a terrible cost. YA dark fantasy, urban fantasy. 5+ years prev. to BtE book 1. Cast incl. Ravel, Maria, cameos by Serovate, maybe Ange, Morristu, Haynfyv, Cass.
Tower Investigator Haynfyv geeking out and making a name for himself by being a bizarro luddite and digging into historic practices instead of using Tower surveillance for everything. Mostly just a chance to hang out with the weirdest side character. Mystery. 5-10 years prev. to BtE book 1. Cast incl. Haynfyv, Serovate, Maria, Ravel, cameos by Ange, Cass, Morristu.
A Street survivor saving a refugee from the Tower & Freedom, helping her raise her child, forming a family with the child after the mother cuts a deal to be taken back into the relative safety of the Tower. Dystopian, romance, tragedy. 5 years prev. to BtE book 1. Cast incl. Sam, Morristu, Lily, cameo by Serovate.
26 Jun 2017
Freebies are live!
You can now download the free Limited Preview Edition ebook of Blind the Eyes, a YA dystopian dark fantasy, at your ebook retailer of choice:
OR, pro-tip, the Special Preview Edition ebook AND audiobook are over 20% longer and you can get them free by signing up for my newsletter
25 Jun 2017
So I must be overdue for an update; it’s been over a month! Cue gasp, nervous laughter.
Aaaaanyways… It’s about two weeks before I get the (hopefully last!) round of editorial back, and it’s been a busy month of book promotions and getting back in the freelancing swing of things. US exchange sucks when I have to pay my consultants, but rocks when I’m the one benefitting from it, lol.
Some cool stuff emerging on the book promo front; I’ve finally (!!) launched a newsletter. If you sign up you get the current freebie (extended preview of Blind the Eyes in Ebook or Audiobook formats), and any future freebies. I’ve got lots of ideas for supplementary novellas, so if I can keep those spoiler-free and under 80k words (lol), that’ll probably be the next freebie. Also doing extended updates and top recommended reads in the newsletter. A lot of indie authors in particular do cross-promotion or newsletter swaps, which is where you agree to promote someone else’s book in exchange for them putting it in their newsletter or on other platforms… which is nice and probably super effective, but I don’t like the idea of just upselling some product I don’t personally know much about, so I’m going to focus more on book reviews and if a handful of indies or Canadian authors make it into the mix, all the better. But no spam, I promise!
And once I’d made up the pretty ebooks and audiobooks for my newsletter subscribers, I realized it would be super easy and a great trial run to make a shorter version and toss it up on all the major ebook stores, so you can now get a (just) 3 chapter Limited Preview Edition of Blind the Eyes on Amazon, iTunes, Nook and Kobo as well!
So the other cool thing about doing that work, besides pretty, pretty files out there for you all, is that I was able to get all of it up on Goodreads, so you can now Follow me on Goodreads or on my Amazon author profile for notifications through those platforms whenever I publish something new. And, like, reviews n’stuff. Plus I’m pretty sure there’ll be some ARC copies coming along one of these days… So yeah, check it out ‘n give me a follow there!
25 May 2017
The audiobook recordings of Book of Curses and The Book of Wishes by award-winning Irish author Conor Kostick are now complete and live on Audible, Amazon Whispersync and iTunes!
The Book of Curses by Conor Kostick kids adventure fantasy with zombies! Get it on:
The Book of Wishes by Conor Kostick kids fairytale fantasy with dragons! Get it on:
20 Apr 2017
Quick news update; Blind the Eyes is still on hiatus while I wait for the next editorial report and the beta readers do their thing, but I finally got my ducks in a row (also known as my tech array implemented) for audiobook production!
I’m recording The Book of Curses and The Book of Wishes for award-winning Irish author Conor Kostick! Coming soon to an Audible store near you ;D
Predictably but disappointingly, it’s been a slow start getting all my freelancing up and running this month, so now that I’m nearly back into rewrites, of course there’s a wave of projects to finish, lol. I’m also doing some light business planning for that bookish chocolate store idea; seems like viable for producing my own swag, but I’m trying to figure out if there’s a larger market for pop-culture/book-themed chocolate products, perhaps for book boxes or other authors wanting a custom giveaway item… I’ll keep you posted, and people interested in custom artisan small-batch chocolate, drop me a line!
10 Mar 2017
Big news! I just hired a cover designer! There’s a contract signed and everything! Everyone, meet Maie I Design
I’ve got to get some materials over to her next week, and then should see new cover art mid April. Time to start planning the big cover reveal!
While I’m proud of what I’ve been able to pull together to market my book, serials and brand so far, part of being a professional is knowing when to bring in appropriate help to do the job right. Plus, I love that I can support other creatives and book lovers in the process.
So while it was a hard decision not to do everything myself (because control freak + bootstrap = DIY), I’m incredibly excited to see how far this crazy little dream of mine can make it out into the world.
Thanks for reading, following and supporting Indie, friends.
09 Dec 2016
So, lot’s of big stuff going on:
After a few awesome days in London (Camden Blues Kitchen - check it out!), I’m officially back in BC for Christmas… and a couple months thereafter.
The first high-level edit of Blind the Eyes is in. I’ve read it and put it away for about a week to… process. Yes, rewrites will be significant - and need to be done for March. The short version is that I’m a better writer than I am storyteller, and it’s a weird little story that breaks all the rules and needs some big shifts to conform. Which I should make it do, but don’t quite know how to without losing things I’m not willing to give up on. Like a protagonist that lacks motivation. Lol… So that’ll be interesting.
But in the meantime, I’ve been working on a couple other writing projects. I’m hoping to use web fiction/serialized writing platforms like Wattpad and Jukepop to get a better sense of what connects with readers, build a following and eventually market Blind the Eyes, while at the same time just getting in some more practice at different ways of storytelling. Providing free, value-added content is a major marketing move in self publishing these days, so I’m hoping to dovetail that somehow.
So far, I’ve got two chapters each of Flame of the Connarii and Things get out of Hand. FotC actually has a full draft that I wrote as a teen and uni student. It’s terrible, of course, WAY too much sermonizing speeches, but there’s a full cast, a hack-job of a plot and everything. So I’m editing and rewriting that on a chapter-by-chapter basis for Tuesday each week, hoping it’ll come out to something reasonable. At the same time, I’m dealing with my disappointment with the directions things went in Blind the Eyes by relaunching the original story behind the novel and trying to take it in a closer direction to what I originally intended. TgooH is kind of a snarky romance with supernatural stuff in the background (so far), and is a true serial, written day-of for Friday releases.
Of course, what I really need to do is sit down and plot out exciting scenes and character motiviations. Lol. Maybe one day.
Thinking about a significant website overhaul to zero in on the writing more, since that’s the only thing I’ve been keeping up with. That, or I really need to write a bunch of blogs on all the travel… But I’ve got to dive in to the rewrites for real next week, so we’ll see if any of that actually gets done…
11 Jul 2016
Why I’m terrified to get on a plane in 7 days… and why I’m going anyways.
First published on Medium
I relocate from Canada to the UK in 150 hours. I have a work visa for 2 years starting July 28. I’ve been working on this plan for over a year…
…and after an uncharacteristically emotional weekend, I’m realizing that it’s probably not hormones making me tear up at every little thing. As it turns out, grand adventure is all very well in theory, and stunningly intimidating from close up.
A little background: I’m a compulsive control-freak of a perfectionist.
A little more background: Just over a year ago, I’d worked my way up to business analyst in an international engineering firm. After years of scrambling to be taken seriously as a professional and valued for my work (female + working in marketing = basically a secretary, apparently), I was finally on my way to success and enough power to make a difference.
Except not. Politics, power struggles, poor communication, burnout… on the verge of finally making it, I walked away. I was done. Done sticking around and trying to make the wrong place be the right one.
It had been a decade of trying really hard to do all the right things in Vancouver. Get the education. Get the career. Get the money and the respect and the power. I’d been working away at doing all the right things so long, I’d lost sight of the fact that I’d never cared about any of it. And I was starting to realize that I’d become the sort of corporate drone of a grown-up that my 12-year-old self would have hated.
So I decided to do something crazy. I would move to Scotland. Where companies were better run and housing was (hopefully) cheaper. Have adventures. Travel. Be recognized for my skills and stop being punished for being a woman and not a nurturer. Make way more money with less pressure and lower cost of living.
And then someone asked me what I actually wanted to do.
Not what did I need to do, what did I have to do, what should I do. Not what was the next step on the road to more.
And to my horror, I had absolutely no idea. But I did have time to figure it out.
So I took a full year off from it all. I wrote a book. I obsessed. I read a lot of other books. I spent time with friends and family. I went for runs in the forest. I started to dream again. I got less desperate.
But now, I’m scared.
I’m scared to get on that plane next week. I’m scared that the real world, the grown-up, practical world will suck me in again. I’m scared that my book will never make it out into the world, and equally scared that it will have been a terrible waste of a year, and also afraid that I’ll never get to write again. I’m scared that I’ll run out of money and crash and burn. I’m scared to leave the comfortable, convenient little cocoon that I’ve been privileged to live in for the past year.
And I’m scared to leave people behind, because in the end, those connections were the things that mattered out of the last decade, the things that made any and all of that misery worthwhile.
But I’m not going to be that control-freak drone that takes all the right steps and hates every minute of it as all her dreams are lost and forgotten. I’m going to be the adventurer and artist and explorer and dreamer that I so admired. I’m going to publish a book and write, and publish more books, and live in beautiful places and take risks.
So because I can be brave, and I can be strong, and I can take risks and I can keep dreaming and keep creating, I’ll get on that plane next week. And I’ll be the person that the 12-year-olds in my life can look up to and feel like it’s worth growing up to be.
You can follow my journey of travel, writing, angst and indie publishing at kaie.space
01 Jul 2016
Thanks for voting! The title, with 71% of the vote, will be "Blind the Eyes". In other news, launching the first edition of #betareader copies today. I release in 5-chapter segments with limited edition covers. Still looking for a couple more #readers with willingness to give some #feedback to beta read for me. More info at http://kaie.space/gold. #ya #yabooks #dystopia #thriller #supernatural #dark #fantasy #romance #teen #writing #kaiespace
Thanks for voting! The title, with 71% of the vote, will be "Blind the Eyes". In other news, launching the first edition of #betareader copies today. I release in 5-chapter segments with limited edition covers. Still looking for a couple more #readers with willingness to give some #feedback to beta read for me. More info at http://kaie.space/gold. #ya #yabooks #dystopia #thriller #supernatural #dark #fantasy #romance #teen #writing #kaiespace
Thanks for voting! The results came in with a clear winner at 71.4%, so I’m moving forward with Blind the Eyes as the title, but keeping Gold as the webpage and series title (possibly ‘Gold & Silver’ as the series).
Books to check out NL3 | 04 Dec 2017
Books to check out NL2 | 27 Nov 2017
Books to check out NL1 | 20 Nov 2017
Book blog | 13 Nov 2017
BTE Targeting 2018 | 04 Nov 2017
Almost there | 21 Sep 2017
Confessions, retractions and other wafflings | 27 Aug 2017
On Monsters, Boundaries and Inspiration | 26 Aug 2017
Fresh Newsletter and New Freebies | 20 Aug 2017
Book Geek Time - Queries Round 3 | 05 Aug 2017
Book Geek Time - Queries Round 2 | 04 Aug 2017
Switching features | 29 Jul 2017
Pitch Wars Pimp My Bio | 23 Jul 2017
Book Geek Time aka Queries Round 1 | 21 Jul 2017
Pitchwars 2017 | 19 Jul 2017
Pick a Story | 28 Jun 2017
Ebook Freebies | 26 Jun 2017
Taking Over the 'Nets! | 25 Jun 2017
Kids' Fantasy Audiobooks Live | 25 May 2017
Recording for Conor Kostick | 20 Apr 2017
Cover Designer | 10 Mar 2017
Current Projects | 09 Dec 2016
Why | 11 Jul 2016
And the Votes Are In | 01 Jul 2016