Survival Part 3: 5 Survival Story Recs

It’s time for some book recommendations.

Hey there, word nerds! I know I missed last week, but I’m back now with those promised book recommendations.

Last month, I shared reasons why I love a good survival story as well as what makes for good survival story writing. We discussed the perseverance of the human spirit, ingenuity, and hope as successful elements of the story, as well as the need for tension and layers of conflict. All the stories I’m sharing with you today have bits and pieces of those things, and they range across genres…including a nonfiction selection that’s light on the tension but high on the page-turning!

Let’s dig in. 🙂

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

I just recently read this, as it only just came out this year. It was a bit shorter than I expected, but that just meant I could consume it in a sitting…and honestly, I wasn’t able to put it down once I started. It’s got the self-discovery, the high stakes, and the ingenuity. Seriously, I couldn’t believe some of the things this girl thought to do in order to survive! And it ended on such an interesting note, including some crushed dreams while rerouting to new ones. It was a story with real consequences and had me questioning the whole time if she’d make it or not.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

This is by far one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read (and if you’ve been around a while, you’ve definitely heard me talking about it!). Set just after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, it follows the journey of a kid named Alex, separated from his family just before the eruption and trying to survive and find them again in a world devastated by volcanic winter. There are intense highs and lows in this trilogy, following the best and the worst that humanity has to offer, and it has one of the best, most hopeful and inspiring endings I’ve ever read in a trilogy.

The Martian by Andy Weir

This book, if you haven’t heard about it or seen the movie yet, is a near-future sci fi adventure following astronaut Mark Watney after an unfortunate series of events leaves him stranded on Mars, alone. Much like Be Not Far From Me, it showcases both ingenuity and the perseverance of the human spirit, but in a new setting on another planet. The voice is entertaining and full of gallows humor, and ultimately, this book left me with such a warm fuzzy at the end that makes me fall in love with it every time I think about it.

Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle

This one is probably a lesser-known book, but it is a young adult novel following Sophie and Finn, a couple of teens reconnecting after years in different schools and thrust together after Sophie is separated from her family and stranded during an evacuation. Together, they must survive a hurricane in the Outer Banks and get Sophie back to her mom.

If there’s one thing that can make me love a survival story even more, it’s throwing in a nice, big storm. 🙂

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

And for the nonfiction pick, though I could pick a few (see the lightning round!), nothing quite compares to Bill Bryson’s tale of his attempt at the Appalachian Trail. It’s got his own experiences on the trail, good and bad, as well as a bunch of the history and science of the trail and everything along the way. I also enjoyed that one of his stops was Palmerton, PA…just a stone’s throw away from my own hometown! I won’t give away any spoilers, but I also appreciated the thoughtful ending with unexpected events.

Lightning Round!

Finally, I’ll give you a few more bonus picks that I personally enjoyed, but with less info (I will give you the genre, though).

Antarctic Tears by Aaron Linsdau (nonfiction)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (nonfiction)

Stormsurge by Shawna Lynn Brooks (Romance novella)

No Safe Haven by Kyla Stone (Post-apocalyptic)

Labyrinth of Shadows by Kyla Stone (fantasy Minotaur retelling)

Final Thoughts

Thanks so much for coming with me on my survival story kick! If you love or hate these kinds of stories, I’d love to know why. And if you have any more recommendations for me, please let me know! I’m hungry for them.

Let’s chat in the comments or over on Twitter!

PS: I have a new reader group just for you guys! Head on over to Facebook if you’re interested in talking about all things fantasy or my books specifically. Also, this is where I’ll be sharing links to eARCs, so if you’d like a chance to read one of my books for free, you’ll need to be part of this community!

Let’s chat in Readers of the Realms!

Survival Part 1: Why I Love Survival Stories

Let’s talk books!

This week I’m going to start a 3-part series on survival stories. Why? Well, I’ll get into that this week. But the background is three-fold: I am a longtime lover of the survival story, the novel I’m querying right now is a fantasy survival story, and I just finished reading a new one (which I loved!).

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but right now is not the time I’d necessarily expect I’d want to read survival stories. We’re in the middle of weird times (yes, I am also getting tired of people calling it “unprecedented times”) that feel a little too post-apocalyptic. Personally, I’ve noticed a split between those who want to read ALL the post-apoc and those who want nothing but fluffy. At first, I did want those post-apoc books. Then I wanted fluffy. And now, as things are starting to stabilize again, I’m good with reading slightly more survivally stories.

There are several things that really appeal to me about this kind of story.

First, these stories showcase ingenuity in a way nothing else does. There’s something to be said for dropping a person in a seemingly impossible situation only to see them come up with solutions like MacGyver with nothing more than a shoelace or their own hair. Yes, that really did happen in the book I just finished. As someone who’s never had to fight for my life in a life-or-death struggle, I never would have come up with that. Amazing to see the things a person can come up with when the situation arises.

Next, these stories make us think, but in good ways. They remind us that we really don’t have it that bad, but beyond that, they make us think what we would do if thrown into a situation like that. They are books for critical thinking wrapped up in a pretty package of drama and edge-of-your-seat excitement. They show the raw sides of humanity and let us consider both the good and the bad.

Finally, there is nothing like a triumphant survival story to showcase the human spirit. It can show us the lengths we can go to in order to make it through a difficult situation. And they show us the pure determination and grit, the hope. They show us how people come together in impossible situations to take care of each other, like in The Martian (we’ll go through some specific recommendations in a couple weeks). They show us how people can rise above the terrible things that could happen.

And honestly, that’s the biggest draw of the survival story: the triumph of the human spirit.

Next week we’ll discuss five important elements to writing a survival story, and the week after that I have some good recommendations, but for now, tell me what you think. Do you enjoy this kind of story? Why or why not? What is it about them that make you feel that way? Let’s chat in the comments, or tweet me @selinajeckert!

Fae Bargains and New Beginnings

Spring stories! Yay!

I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like we all missed spring this year.

Today, I went out to the grocery store after being on full quarantine for two weeks. It was sunny…and very, very hot. And all the trees are in full summer leaves.

I missed all the gentle spring air and flowers.

But in a way, today felt like a fresh start after weeks of working from home and a completely destroyed sleep schedule. I got sunshine, ate some vegetables, and have renewed energy for my writing, no matter the other things going on in my life and the world around me. It’s a great feeling.

And another new thing happened yesterday: All That Glimmers released! AND I now have a BookBub!

This novella is the first spring installment of Seasons of Magic, and though it deals with the heavier topics of grief and guilt, it’s also a contemporary fantasy set in the same world as Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks. So if you liked Fae in that story, this is the next one for you. 🙂

Three things you’ll find inside:

  1. A deer Fae, complete with antlers.
  2. Friendship.
  3. New beginnings.

Here’s a little more about it (and keep reading for a sneak peek!):

Hallie just made the stupidest mistake of her life. Twice.

After the loss of her longtime friend, college student Hallie just needed a win. Too bad she got rejected from the only graduate program she applied to. But when a mysterious Fae appears offering to change that rejection to an acceptance, her choice seems clear. And all she has to give him is her first discovery—her academic firstborn.

But when the time comes to pay up, Hallie can’t go through with it. She never counted on a discovery that could bring her friend back to life. So she offers a new bargain: she keeps the knowledge, but she must figure out who this mysterious Fae is…or stay in the Spring Court forever. Now she must race the clock to investigate the Court, solve this mystery, and find out how to bring her friend back. Otherwise, she can forget about fixing her mistakes and say goodbye to her human life for good.

This retelling of Rumplestiltskin is a powerful story of loss, acceptance, and new beginnings. How far would you go to fix your worst mistakes?

You can get it on Amazon here or anywhere else here!

And now…a sneak peek!

Hallie crumpled the paper between her fists as the first tear hit her desk.

Of course she didn’t get in. Sabine University’s folklore program was only the most competitive in the country. And of course she didn’t apply anywhere else. And of course she had already told her parents—who already told everyone they knew—that she was a shoo-in.

And of course Kat had tried to tell her.

Stupid. She should have listened to Wyn. To Kat. But Kat was gone now, and it seemed she’d taken every good thing along with her.

Hallie rubbed at the fresh red scar across her collarbone. Even if she wanted to forget it all, she couldn’t.

After the accident, she had nearly failed her last literature class, missing the deadline for the biggest paper of the semester. Luckily, the professor had been understanding and let her turn it in late. Even a C was better than a 0.

And she got nothing done the entire week of the funeral.

And now this. Hallie sincerely hoped it was true that bad things came in threes. Maybe this meant the bad was finally past, like the spring shower pelting her windowpane.

How was she ever going to explain to her parents?

She tossed the crumpled paper onto her crowded desk where it was lost amidst her notes and books for finals. None of it seemed to matter now. She might as well skip her last final tomorrow and start packing up her dorm room. She stretched her arms over her head and leaned back in the chair, taking a shaky breath.

“You could always ask for help,” came a voice from behind her.

A male voice.

Hallie’s chair hit the cement floor with a thunk, and she spun to face the intruder without standing. A boy about her age stood in the door, his hair shaggy and storm-tossed from the wind outside. His black frames almost hid his eyes behind the glint of the fluorescent light, and behind him, her dorm’s door was definitely still closed. And locked.

“How did you get in here?” She swiped at the tears on her cheeks.

“The more important point is that I’m here,” he responded with a toothy smile. “After all, this is what you wanted, isn’t it? Don’t you want to know how I can help you?”

The air seemed to shimmer around the young man. There was more to him than what she could see, she knew that. Yet, in this moment, it didn’t seem important that she remember why she should care. Why she might worry. Wyn, as a Fae, had taught her something, but Hallie’s brain was fuzzy, like this boy radiated something to make her forget.

Her locked door was concerning. But she had summoned a Fae, any Fae, in the hopes that she could still fix at least one thing in her life. She just never thought one would actually appear.

And then she was speaking before she even realized it. “How can you help me?”

His grin grew even wider, were that possible. He took another few steps into the room. The crumpled rejection letter rolled from the pile of notes and smoothed itself in front of her. She snatched it up and held it to her chest as if she could hide the painful words from him.

“I can make that rejection…” He thought for a moment, looking up into a distant corner. A sharp tooth glinted in the artificial light of the dorm. “Transform.”

“Transform?”

“You want to get in, right? To be a student at Sabine? Well, I can make that happen.”

Hallie’s breath caught in her throat. He could get her in? How?

“I have ways,” he said, as if reading her thoughts. “But it won’t be for free.”

Her heart dropped. Of course. No magic was ever free.

“What do you want?” she forced from her wooden lips.

He smiled again. “Not much. I just want your first discovery. Your academic firstborn, if you will.”

“What?”

“I get the credit for your first discovery, my dear. That’s all.”

That was it? Her first paper would belong to him, whoever he was? That didn’t seem so bad. Her mind scrambled furiously, trying to see a downside to the offer, but nothing came to mind.

She should stop here. Think on it. Sleep on it. Wasn’t that what Wyn had always told her? Don’t trust the Fae too easily?

But why? She could change her fate. And all it would cost was a single piece of research. Didn’t she have a whole lifetime ahead of her, anyway? Her entire life to learn folklore, to find out where story and truth intersected?

She nodded slowly. “Okay.”

“Wonderful!” he said.

The boy stepped forward, extending a hand. She rose from her desk chair and took it. Vines of golden-green magic wrapped around both their arms, and the air hummed with energy. She could feel it sinking into her skin, a warmth like the first breath of spring air.

He released her hand and gestured at the letter, still clutched against her chest. “Look.”

She pulled it away, her eyes scanning the page quickly.

Congratulations, it said in place of We are sorry to inform you

Hallie caught her breath. So easily? Could it really be that simple? She looked back up at the boy.

“It is done,” the boy said. And then he was gone.

ONe more time…here are those links: YOU CAN GET IT ON AMAZON HERE OR ANYWHERE ELSE HERE!

~~~

News!

As I mentioned briefly above, if you’re on BookBub, I’m there now! You can find me and my recommended reads here. See you there! 😀

8 Books to Celebrate Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month. How about a list of reads all about it?

Hello again from quarantine! If you didn’t know, May is mental health month, and honestly I think we could all use a little help there, especially right now. Mental health is something I’ve been passionate about for a while, both as a neurobiologist and as a person who has struggled with mental health issues. And one great way to see through someone else’s eyes, especially if you’ve never experienced any mental health issues, is to read other people’s stories.

So, to celebrate and spread the word about some of my favorites, here are ten books with strong mental health themes that I enjoyed. Disclaimer: just because I enjoyed them doesn’t mean everyone will. If you loved or hated them, let me know in the comments! And if you want even more recommendations, here is a list of 40 great YA books that deal with mental health.

1. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

This is a book I read within the last few months, and I was absolutely blown away by the beautiful, fantastical storytelling. This book tells the story of Leigh, a teenage girl who recently lost her mother to suicide after a long battle with depression. Unlike many mental health stories out there, this one focuses on the people left behind after suicide and depression and is a deep look into one girl’s grief.

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

If you’ve followed me for a while, you may know that Fangirl is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s emotionally intense and ends on a warm, fuzzy note. But for this list, I’d like to highlight what this book brings to the table: it tells the story of two sisters moving into college and growing apart, a father with mental health issues, and a main character who deals with severe anxiety.

3. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Okay, so this one is really similar to Fangirl…a shy, anxious girl in love with a world she built, and no one knows she’s the author. But this one focuses on what happens when her anonymity is broken and suddenly everyone finds out who she is. So, so good, and if you like Fangirl, you’ll like this one, too!

4. Something Real by Heather Demetrios

This one is a little different, as it deals with the aftermath of growing up in the spotlight. The main character was a child on a reality show that went off the air – something she was all too happy to leave behind. But after she’s finally learning how to cope with life as a normal teen, her family suddenly wants to bring the show back. A very interesting and unique take on child stardom.

5. The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

This is definitely a bit more difficult to read, particularly if you’re dealing with depression, but if you’re able, it’s so good. This story starts after the main character attempts suicide and follows her journey through recovery. And it doesn’t lie about how hard it is to get through something like that, which is one reason I love it. This book also happens to have one of my all-time favorite covers.

6. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

My last three picks are all by the same author, but she writes many well-done mental health books. This one in particular grabbed me for its dive into what it can be like to be family to an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD. Like The Astonishing Color of After, it’s nice to see a book where the main character is family to someone who is struggling, a good reminder that family of a struggling person need just as much support.

7. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

I will admit that not everyone likes this book as much as I do, but this is an interesting intersection of issues: eating disorders, hallucinations, and grief. I think it does a really great job at showing how multiple issues can be interconnected, and like The Memory of Light, it offers a realistic view of therapy while still ending on a hopeful note. I really appreciate that in my mental health fiction.

8. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

I can’t end without mentioning this classic, award-winning book. Speak is the story of a high school girl in the aftermath of sexual assault and the way she must cope with what happened and with her classmates and the adults around her. As I said, this is definitely a classic, and it’s won its awards for a reason.

BONUS: All That Glimmers by Selina J. Eckert

This novella, releasing on May 15, is an exploration of grief and moving on, set in the fantasy world of contemporary Fae. Hallie is two years out from her best friend’s death, but she is determined to bring her back…especially when she finds a Fae secret that could mean putting her world back together again.

You can get it on Amazon or any other retailer.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’ve struggled with mental health before or not, I hope this list gives you a strong set of reads for the month of May. If you’ve read any of these, please feel free to let me know what you thought of them in the comments. And if you have any other recommendations, let’s chat about them!

See you in the comments. ❤

Awesome Books for Writers

Looking for some great books for writers? Look no further!

If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for a good craft or business book to grow your knowledge. This week I took a look over all the writing and art books I’ve consumed since I started seriously writing, and I figured why not share my up-to-date favorites list with all of you?

So without further ado, let’s dive in!

Writing Craft, Business, and Life

The first category is my favorite books on writing craft, books that teach elements of writing itself or what’s involved in the writing life and business. And boy do I have some excellent (and classic) favorites!

On Writing by Stephen King

This one is, of course, one of the biggest classics! King tells it like it is, in a relateable, down-to-earth voice. In fact, I might be due for a reread!

Bird by Bird by Anne lamott

This is an encouraging and entertaining look at how to write a book. Definitely one of my favorites, and it’s so quotable!

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

This is another classic, a collection of essays by classic writer Ray Bradbury. Definitely some interesting food for thought here!

Wired for STory by Lisa Cron

As a neuroscientist and a writer, I’ve loved this particular book. It delves into the neuroscience and psychology behind elements of a story and why certain things work so well…and how to improve your own writing with those ideas in mind!

THe Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman

This is an excellent overview and must-read for any author looking to make a career from their writing. Friedman goes through things like how publishing works, your publishing and career options, platforms, and more resources for delving deeper.

For Christian Writers

This section is specific to Christian writers, but the books are packed with so much to think about regarding spirituality, mental health, and art and creativity.

Walking on Water by Madeline L’Engle

This is another collection of essays by a classic author. It discusses what it means to be a Christian artist and how faith and art are related.

Unlocking the Heart of the Artist by Matt Tommey

This is an incredible look at how to deal with your issues to become the artist God created and to help you create as best you can. It also does some work to dispel the myth of the starving artist. It’s such a powerful read!

For Encouragement

There are also a couple short reads that do such an uplifting job of encouraging writers to keep going and dream about how what they do affects readers. If you need a lift, pick one (or both) of these up! It won’t take long, and you’ll end up feeling validated, appreciated, and, hopefully, excited to keep writing!

Dear Author: Letters from a Bookish Fangirl by Laura A. Grace

This book is a collection of letters from a hypothetical fan to you, the author. It covers a range of scenarios and is so heartwarming!

For the love of a word Ed. by Annie Louise Twitchell

Disclaimer: I have a couple pieces in this anthology. But it’s such an encouraging and motivating collection of essays, poetry, and art. Definitely give this one a read if you need a bit of a pick-me-up.

My Upcoming Reads

Finally, I can’t complete this list without addressing a bunch of books on my list that I’m either currently reading or excited to dive into next. I won’t have too much info here, but feel free to follow the links to learn more!

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making

Romance Your Brand: Building a Marketable Genre Fiction Series

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream

Writing the Other

The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

Closing Thoughts

There are so many good resources out there for craft, business, and life of a writer! I’m always on the hunt for new, good titles to consume. If you know of some not on my list, feel free to drop them in the comments.

Or, if you’ve read any of these, what are your own thoughts? Did you find them helpful? Let’s chat about it!

See you in the comments. 🙂

The Best Books I Read This Winter (2020)

Read any good books lately? I have!

I don’t know about you, but my e-reader is filled to overflowing from the generosity of so many authors out there! And so far this year, I’ve managed to complete 29 books ranging from contemporary to nonfiction to fantasy. So I figured why not have a recap of which books I’ve really enjoyed so far?

And by the way, I am offering my Rapunzel novella, “Of the Clouds,” free to newsletter subscribers, along with a contemporary fantasy short story titled “Queen of Mist and Fog.” You can pick those up here, and don’t worry…you can unsubscribe at any time.

Now on to the books! (And you can see EVERYTHING I finished this year here!)

Fantasy

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

This is a young adult contemporary magic realism that takes place largely in Taiwan and follows the aftermath of the main character’s mother committing suicide. It’s a beautiful exploration of depression, suicide, and the people left behind . One of the most beautiful books I read this year for sure. You can learn more here.

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

This is another young adult fantasy, and it is also beautifully written. It’s a debut for a duology that’s finishing in October 2020, and it’s a unique world where two sisters are torn apart by the customs of their people: one who is desperate to redeem her healer father’s reputation, and one who was chosen to die with their leader and accompany him into the afterlife. It’s amazing lore, great intrigue, and fascinating worldbuilding…and the author is also pretty nice and will chat with you on social media. 🙂 You can pick up a copy here (and take note of the AMAZING cover).

The Earth Magic Rises Trilogy by A.L. Knorr

I finished this trilogy this year, though I read book one last year. It’s a fantastic expansion of the Elementals world starring Georgie and the beautiful Scottish landscape, and it’s a nail-biting adventure of magic and discovery. Scary, atmospheric, and intense…I loved every minute!

Contemporary Young Adult

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

This was such an amazing book of friendship and PIZZA. Sydney is learning who she wants to be after her golden-boy brother is incarcerated for hitting someone when driving drunk one night. Now her parents’ attention is all on her as she copes with the guilt over what her brother did. A beautiful coming-of-age story. You can check out more here.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

This was a really well-done story…and might I just add that it’s worth listening to the audiobook? This book bounces back and forth between Sadie searching for her missing sister and tracking down the man she KNOWS is responsible for her disappearance and the podcast exploring the disappearance. And the audiobook really does this justice. You can learn more here.

Manga

Hakumei & Mikochi by Takuto Kashiki

This year, hubs bought me a new manga to try for my birthday. And he picked so well! Hakumei & Mikochi is an adorable story of two forest-dwelling spirits. It has everything I love: cute things, food, and all things tiny! You can learn more here.

Children’s

Floral Frolic by Cari Corene and Amanda Coronado

I don’t read too many children’s books, but I’m on the lookout for good ones now that I have a nephew and hubs and I are thinking about starting our family. This is a gorgeous book with watercolor art and foxes (two of my favorite things) and tells a really cute story involving flowers. Definitely a pretty, pleasant read for the young ones AND you. You can learn more here.

Nonfiction

Dear Author by Laura A. Grace (Illustrated by Hannah S.J. Williams)

I read a few different nonfiction already this year, but this one is definitely the best! It’s an encouraging and inspiring collection of letters written to their favorite author in a way that any writer can relate to. I found it to be so motivational, heartwarming, and inspiring for my own writing. Every author needs a copy of this book! You can find out more here.

~~~

So what about you? How are you doing on your reading goals? Do you have any standout favorites for the year yet? Share below! 😀

Urban Fantasy: A Closer Look

Let’s talk urban fantasy!

Welcome back to Fantasy Month! As a reminder, you can find out all about this event over on Jenelle Schmidt’s blog.

Previously, we’ve discussed some of the subgenres of fantasy, but today I want to delve more into urban fantasy, its own subgenre of fantasy. Why? Because urban fantasy has a lot of subtle nuances that tend to be used interchangeably, and there can be a lot of disagreement about what exactly urban fantasy is.

But first, a note. Even though this is how I define urban fantasy, you don’t have to agree with me. Not everyone does! But I encourage you to share your ideas in the comments so we can chat. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Urban fantasy is not contemporary fantasy

I feel like this is a common misconception. Many people equate urban fantasy with anything set in modern time. However, it’s a bit more nuanced than that.

By definition, urban fantasy (UF) must take place in a city setting (urban). It could be historical urban fantasy, but the most likely, and the most recognized, is modern day city settings.

Contemporary fantasy, on the other hand, isn’t restricted to a city setting. It can be rural, under the ocean, on the moon…though there may be other overlapping genres there. 😉 But the key is that it takes place in current times without specifying location.

Contemporary and low fantasy aren’t the same

Low fantasy, similar to contemporary fantasy, takes place in our world. However, similar to urban fantasy, it does not have to be modern time. Contemporary, by definition, does take place during modern times.

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are similar…but not the same

This one is still fuzzier to me. Urban fantasy is similar to paranormal romance (PNR), but it tends to focus much less on romantic elements. PNR centers on romantic relationships, though it shares many other characteristics with UF. As I had mentioned last year in the fantasy subgenres breakdown, paranormal itself tends to center on another specific characteristic, so I’d say that PNR is just paranormal with a romantic twist.

Do you have a good definition of PNR? Do you love it? Hate it? Tell me in the comments!

So what are some hallmarks of urban fantasy?

Many people will overlap urban and contemporary fantasy, and there are a lot of book series that fall into this category in bookstores and online. Many of them tend to share some of the same features (but these are by no means inclusive and UF doesn’t have to contain all of them):

  • Brandon Sanderson once described urban fantasy as “chicks in leather fighting demons”. This can be accurate for some.
  • Many main characters (not all) are female.
  • Main characters may be human or not. But they become deeply immersed in supernatural culture.
  • There are often slow-burn romantic elements, but it is not the focus of the story, and romance isn’t a requirement.
  • Books are often long-running series.
  • Each book in a series is self-contained, but overall character arcs continue to develop from book to book.
  • UF may contain the following (or more!): shifters, fae, werewolves, vampires, ghosts, mages, demons, angels, any magical creature you can think of.

Do you have other characteristics you’ve seen in urban fantasy? What are they? Tell me in the comments!

Final thoughts

Personally, I LOVE urban fantasy, but I know it isn’t for everyone. For me, I love that idea that magic could be just around the corner, that we just don’t see it around us. It’s an idea I became almost obsessed with over the past several years, starting with when I read the Mercy Thompson books in grad school. And because of my love for it, I tend to write quite a bit of it.

This Cursed Flame is a YA contemporary/portal fantasy. It doesn’t take place in a city, but it is set in modern times. It includes many, many djinn. And a genie.

Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks is also contemporary fantasy, but it doesn’t take place in a city, so again, just contemporary. It does, however, have fae all over it.

And my newest release (out today!), Freeze Thaw, is a blend of contemporary and historical fantasy, as it combines magic in the Ice Age with magic in the modern world. But it’s set at an archaeological dig rather than a city, so I say, again, contemporary.

I’d love to tell you of all my upcoming projects, but it would simply take too long. So instead, do you have any favorite UF (or similar) reads? What are they? Why do you love them? Let’s chat!

~~~

New Release Announcement!

As I mentioned, Freeze Thaw is out today! It is novelette length and a Sleeping Beauty retelling…in fact, it’s the same story that started all the Seasons of Magic stories! It was a Top Ten finalist in the Rooglewood Press Five Magic Spindles contest, and I am still in love with my story.

Click on the picture or the link above to find out more!

Five Ways my Reading Changed (After I Published)

Ever since I started seriously writing, my reading has transformed. Before, I could sit and read just for enjoyment, but when you start aiming for a career as an author, you begin to also read for your job. And sometimes that means reading things that you wouldn’t just pick up for fun…but it also means you read things you wouldn’t read if you weren’t a writer, such as nonfiction books on craft. It expands your understanding, your knowledge, and your capacity for new stories (at least for me).

But you know what else? There are also attitudes that change when you start reading as a writer. In fact, for me, there are five big attitude shifts I had after I began publishing my own work. Let’s break them down.

Writers are people, not figures

Yeah, I know this one sounds weird, but as a reader with no connections to the publishing world, it’s really easy to forget that there is a person behind that author name on the cover. They’re real people with real emotions and feelings who may even read your reviews.

But once you are one of those names yourself, you remember everything that goes into a book and the struggles of the people writing them. It becomes more human, beyond the humanity you might see in the pages themselves.

The writing world is small

I know this doesn’t sound like an attitude, but let me dig a little deeper.

The writing world is small. Especially within your genre. You are likely to meet many of these people at least once in your life, particularly if you attend conferences or spend a lot of time on social media.

And people will see what you say about other writers or even agents. Both writers and agents talk to each other, so your comments and interactions will not be forgotten easily and may spread throughout the community.

Before I published, as a reader I felt entitled to say whatever I wanted about a book (not attacking the author, of course). But now, I know that my reviews can potentially damage my relationship with other authors, depending on what I say.

Before, I had no problem posting a one-star review on Goodreads. Now, if I don’t like I book, I mark it read and do not review or rate it.

I even went back and edited old bad reviews so that, while I was still being truthful, I wasn’t being mean. Because…now I remember that authors are people too, and my obligations are not ONLY to the readers.

They’re to all of us book nerds.

You see all the errors more

I was a grammar fiend before, and I’m an even bigger one now. I notice when the writing style is poor, when the plot is lacking, when the characters are flat, when a book has too many problems. I can pick out ways the writing could be improved. I find books more predictable than I used to.

But a lot of people still like those books with the problems (including mine). Every book has its audience. And now I understand that not every book is for me.

And that’s okay.

But you’re more understanding when they happen

Now that I know all the work (and money) that goes into publishing a book, especially independently, I am a lot more forgiving of editing errors than I used to be. It’s easy, even in trad books, for typos and inconsistencies to fall through the cracks. Just like every other job, publishing is performed by humans, and humans can make mistakes.

And you know what? Those mistakes are okay. I have learned that stories can be less than perfect and still be wonderful.

I read more…both for pleasure and for education

One of the features I love on Goodreads is the Reading Challenge. I love setting goals and being able to see how my reading habits have changed over the years.

And guess what? I may have less time, but I read more than ever before (at least in my recorded history).

The first year I did the Goodreads Challenge, I had a goal of 45 books and read 65. Last year, I set a goal of 70 and read 92. This year, I set my goal at 80 and expect to clear it easily (I’m already 6 books in).

But the volume isn’t the only thing that’s changed. So has the variety.

You see, where I used to read exclusively novels, now I listen to audiobooks, read short stories and novellas, read more nonfiction, read manga and graphic novels, and read both indie and traditionally published works.

My reading horizons have grown, and with it, my dreams.

And honestly, what more could I ask for?

~~~

Writer friends, what things have you noticed about your reading since you began writing? Readers, do you have any opinions on these attitudes? Let’s chat in the comments! ❤

Cover Reveal: Freeze Thaw!

It’s time!!!

Guess what? It’s time again! The next Seasons of Magic is coming!

You may have seen this one floating around on the home page of this site for YEARS, and I kept promising to release it. It’s a story I wrote as part of Rooglewood Press’s Five Magic Spindles contest (Sleeping Beauty retellings), and it hit the top ten finalist list! Of those ten, five were chosen for the anthology…mine wasn’t picked because it didn’t quite fit with the others.

But that one thing inspired the entire Seasons of Magic series. We’ve already seen Rapunzel in Of the Clouds and Hansel & Gretel in Pumpkin Spice Pie-Jinks.

Now meet Talia, my Ice Age Sleeping Beauty, waking in the middle of a glacier archaeology dig.

Here’s the blurb:

An archaeology student, an Ice Age princess, and an undead sorceress…

Talia was meant to be her clan’s greatest leader. But when her parents fail to invite a powerful—and very dangerous—sorceress to her birth party, the clan’s long-desired blessing becomes their final curse. As Talia comes of age, the power of the sorceress finds her, and she is lost in a blizzard.

Millennia later, archeaology student Owen is on the field trip of his life to a glacier dig. But what begins as a routine dig soon becomes much more when he discovers a perfectly preserved mummy in the ice—a mummy that returns to life and drags him into a millennias-old dispute.

For deeper in the glacier, dark magic is at work, waking the sorceress known as the Shadow Woman, and she will stop at nothing to end Talia’s life and destroy the clan once and for all. If Talia and Owen can’t stop her, she will destroy not only Talia but also Owen and the rest of the team. But if they can survive, they may just re-discover more than they could have ever hoped for.

This was a Top Ten Finalist for the Five Magic Spindles contest by Rooglewood Press.

And now, without further ado, what you’re all here for: the cover!

Isn’t it beautiful? (Image shows the cover for Freeze Thaw, mostly black with an Ice Age woman standing in the foreground and an aurora and waterfall in the dark background. The title looks like it is made of ice, and green sparkles surround it and the girl. The text around the title reads “Cover Reveal”, then “An archaeology student, an Ice Age princess, and an undead sorceress…” followed by the title, the author Selina J. Eckert, and the designer Dragonpen Designs. Surrounding text is on a backdrop of green ice.)

And, as promised, this was a finalist, so I HAD to share my finalist medal on SOMETHING:

(Image of the cover again, this one including a medallion that says “Five Magic Spindles Top Ten Finalist”)

Convinced?

You can preorder this beauty, or it will also be available through KU…this is my first book ever available through the program, so take advantage of it!

If you’re not quite ready to order, you can also add the book to Goodreads.

The story will be available on February 14 (just in time for Valentine’s Day). I can’t wait for you all to read it! 😀

~~~

PS: If you have read any of my previous books, I’d love it if you could leave a review on either Amazon or Goodreads (or your favorite book seller’s website!). It doesn’t have to be long and can say whatever you want! I’m so, so grateful for every review I get (even the critical ones), and I’d really appreciate any additional reviews. But even if you choose not to, I hope you continue to enjoy my stories! ❤

My Year in Books: 2019 Edition

It’s that time of year again! The time to discuss all the wonderful books I read and loved this year! If you want to see everything I read this year, hop over to Goodreads and check it out.

First, some stats.

This year my goal was to read 70 books. I blew that goal away! As of the writing of this post, I’m at 89 books and expect to finish at least 1 or 2 more before the end of December.

Of those books, I believe 25 (possibly more) were indie authors.

Three were my own (surprise!), which technically I read at least 3 times each.

One was a book I beta read.

Eight were graphic novels or manga.

Six were nonfiction (including an anthology I participated in).

Four were poetry.

And now, without further ado, my picks for favorite reads of the year!

Young adult

The Siren, by Kiera Cass

Yes, I know this is kind of an old one, but I adored this standalone! I especially loved how the ocean was its own character.

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

This was an incredibly inventive fantasy that I became completely immersed in. If you’re looking for something well-written and just a bit different, this is a great pick!

General Fiction and Adult Fiction

Sourdough, by Robin Sloan

Oh my word, I loved this book! It’s all about an engineer who discovers a love for baking bread…and who inherits a pretty awesome sourdough starter that may or may not be alive? I mean, beyond the usual yeast-alive that bread starters have…

Fantasy

The WAy of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

I can’t believe it took me so long to finally dive into Brandon Sanderson, but I finished this book early in the year and still can’t get over the magic and worldbuilding in this series. They’re long, but so worth the read!

Daughter of Sun, Bride of Ice, by H.L. Burke

This is an indie book that was absolutely fantastic. I really loved the worldbuilding and the fiery characters in here!

Sand and Storm, by Stella Dorthwany

Another indie I read in the Fellowship of Fantasy book club this year, this book has some awesome high fantasy worldbuilding, sand magic, and archaeology, all things I loved wrapped together so beautifully!

Garden of Lilies, by Eli Constant

Okay, so I read a lot of indies this year! This was an adult urban fantasy I just could not put down…even though I didn’t love what happened in the ending. Despite that, I found that by the end of November, I was craving the world and characters again, and I purchased and devoured book 2. Definitely worth the read, but not for those of you who like clean fiction!

Lake Silence, by Anne Bishop

And finally, of course Anne Bishop is on this list! I was a little skeptical when the new The Others book wasn’t following Meg and Simon, but I quickly fell in love with this book. Let’s be real, I just love this world!

Graphic Novels

Monstress

This is such a beautifully created art style and interesting fantasy. I highly recommend this!

Over the Wall

Another gorgeous fantasy with an awesome storyline. I can’t wait to get the next books by this creator!

Delicious in Dungeon

I discovered this one at Katsucon in February, and I just can’t get over it. It’s basically a group of adventurers who need to return to the depths of a dungeon to save their friend from a dragon, but because they have no money to supply themselves, they eat their way through the dungeon. Hilarious, and an awesome treat for fans of DND!

Nonfiction

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

I have a soft spot for adventure nonfiction. In previous years I enjoyed A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and Antarctic Tears by Aaron Linsdau, and this book felt like it was in the same vein. It was a story of discovery, perseverance, and nature that I loved!

Resources for Writers

The Business of Being a Writer, by Jane Friedman

This is definitely a must-read for anyone who wants to write professionally, whether that’s indie or traditional. It covers a range of topics including the basics of writing jobs, online tools, and the ins and outs of the industry, both indie and trad.

Concluding Thoughts

I read so many awesome books this year, and if I shared every one I loved, this post would be more like a novella! So if you’re interested in seeing everything I read, don’t forget to hop over to Goodreads!

There are also a bunch of books on my TBR that I wish I could have read this year but unfortunately won’t make it until next year (thinking of you, Dear Author!). I look forward to sharing them next December!

In the meantime, what did you read and love this year? I’m always looking for new reads, especially in fantasy, urban fantasy, YA, and writing! Let’s chat in the comments!