Survival part 2: How to Write Survival Stories

Last week, we discussed why I personally love survival stories. We talked about how they can showcase the ingenuity of humanity, the way they can make us as readers think and problem solve, and how they reveal the strength of the human spirit.

Today, I’m going to speak a bit closer to the writers in the room. What is it about a survival story that makes it strong, that pulls on a reader’s heartstrings? How do we create a powerful survival story? Let’s look at four key points of a good survival story.

There needs to be high stakes conflict

Survival is high stakes, so the circumstances in which the character finds themselves needs to be high stakes as well. There have to be heart-pounding moments of terror, moments when it’s really uncertain if the character will survive. Mild circumstances or when there is any doubt in the reader’s mind about the possibility of the character not surviving will kill the tension of the story before it even begins. So no long, slow, tedious walks in the forest – at least not without encountering something more immediate. But we’ll get to that in point 3. 😉

Don’t be afraid to cut your character off and make them suffer. I know that sounds horrible, but without it, the story falls flat.

Conflict needs to be both internal and external

It’s really easy in a survival story to focus on the conflict of person vs. nature, since that’s the main focus of most survival stories. But that is a superficial story structure, and without something more, the reader won’t connect or care about the outcome of the story.

Just like in any story, we need something to make us care, and often that’s the internal conflict. We learn about the bits and pieces of the main character’s life, the things they’re struggling with, and how it relates to the life-or-death circumstances in which they find themselves.

We get to know the character, and then we can care about what happens to them.

There needs to be urgency

It’s so easy to write a slow survival story. I know. I’ve done it.

But that’s boring.

I know, it might be plausible to see a person slowly starving or something similar, but it doesn’t exactly drive the story forward. (refer back to point #1)

But, if you give the character a deadline of some sort – a life-threatening injury, danger to someone they love that is imminent – it adds a layer of tension to the story that will keep the reader of the edge of their seat, begging to know what happens next, begging to know if they’ll make it or fail/die.

It needs to be plausible

Finally, your survival story needs to be plausible. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve seen that are grounded on faulty premises…one that comes to mind is a post-apocalyptic EMP story in which the EMP killed most of the life on Earth. Right there, that is not realistic, as EMPs only affect electronic devices. Not the health of a creature.

So whatever circumstances your character finds themselves in, it needs to be something truthful, believable, and scientifically plausible, or you’ll lose your reader.

Final Thoughts

So now that you’ve heard what I consider to be the key elements to a good survival story, I’m interested to see what you think makes it. Are there other components you can think of? Other conflicts you like to see in these stories? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet!

Happy writing, and see you next week for some of my favorite survival story recommendations!

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!

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! ❤

Curse and Consequence: Book Spotlight

Check out this awesome new release!

Today I have the absolute pleasure to share Savannah Jezowski’s newest release, Curse and Consequence. If the title doesn’t give it away, this is a regency-inspired fantasy perfect for fantasy lovers who also love Jane Austen!

Check it out:

Such a pretty cover!!!

When Love visits Ravenhead Hall, sparks fly…quite literally.

Miss Rea Abernathy only wants to honor the family who has taken her under their wing, rescuing her from a life of poverty. But thanks to two determined suitors, she finds herself in a state far worse than the one from which her benefactress saved her.

When Mr. Sedgwick Whitby sets his sights on his mother’s sweet-tempered pig keeper, his orderly life is thrown into chaos: Rea’s station is less–than-desirable, and another gentleman may be pursuing her. Hoping to get his annoyingly charming twin brother out of the way, Sedgwick purchases a simple curse from a disreputable faery which consequently plunges them all into a misfortune far more serious than troubles of the heart.

With time running out to break the curse and tempers flying high, can Sedgwick and Rea set things right and find love after all? Jane Austen meets dragons in this frolicking fantasy romance about a comely pig keeper, two wealthy gentlemen, and the curse binding them all together. Perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones and Gail Carson Levine.

Still need more? Here’s a taste!

This book just came out yesterday, in time for July 4th, so you can head over to Amazon to snap up a copy now, or add it to your Goodreads shelf!

About the Author

Savannah Jezowski lives in Amish country with her Knight in Shining Armor and a wee warrior princess. She is the founder of Dragonpen Designs and Dragonpen Press, which offers author services such as cover design, developmental edits, and interior formatting. Her debut novella “Wither” is featured in Five Enchanted Roses, an anthology of Beauty and the Beast, and is a prequel to The Neverway Chronicles, a Christian fantasy series filled with tragic heroes and the living dead. She is also the author of When Ravens Fall, a Norse Beauty and the Beast retelling. She is featured in several Fellowship of Fantasy anthologies, including Mythical DoorwaysTales of Ever After, and Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales. When she isn’t writing, Savannah likes to read books, watch BBC miniseries, and play with cover design. She also enjoys having tea with her imaginary friends.

You can find her online at:

Website— Newsletter— Facebook  — Facebook Group— Twitter— Amazon Author Page

More stops on the blog tour

Monday, June 1st

Tuesday, July 2nd

Wednesday, July 3rd

Thursday, July 4th

Friday, July 5th

Saturday, July 6th

Sunday, July 7th  Unicorn Quester: Blog Tour Wrap-Up

My 5 Favorite Books on Writing (and some honorable mentions)

Need some new books on writing? Check these out!

So this is going to be another one of those posts: a post where I discuss my favorite tools of the craft! And I think this is a fun one. You see, I keep a running list of non-fiction books that have helped me in my journey to become a better writer, and from time to time I like to update and share that list to help other writers. It’s been several years since my last update, and I’ve read some really good ones.

So here we go. My favorite books on writing.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

This was one of the first writing craft books I ever read, and honestly, I feel like every writer should read it. Maybe multiple times (speaking of which, I may be due for a re-read!). It’s considered one of the classic books on how to write, and for good reason. It’s packed with advice on writing (of course) as well as the life of a writer and life in general. And it’s also full of Stephen King’s voice and wit, which makes it an entertaining, as well as informative, read.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

This is another classic book on writing and another I think all writers should read. Anne’s voice is familiar and friendly and full of tough love all at once, and she really has so many quotable bits on inspiration throughout the book. It was a joy to read this. 🙂

Wired for Story, by Lisa Cron

Back when I was more active on Tumblr (in fact, this came up the last time I updated this list), a follower recommended this one to me. I was in grad school for neuroscience, also trying to write and query my first novel (which is now published), and this book hit all my check boxes for things I loved.

Friends. This book. If you want to know how to write a captivating story – and the biology that makes it so captivating – this is the book for you! It’s full of tips and tricks to engage readers, and there is so much to learn about why certain things work in stories. It’s a fantastic, fascinating, and fun read!

Unlocking the Heart of the Artist, by Matt Tommey

I actually read this one as part of a Christian artist Bible study group (yes, it is a Christian book on creativity).

It blew me away.

It was exactly what I needed at that point in my life, discussing the rich inner life of the artist, discussing the misnomer of “Christian art” (hint: art cannot be Christian, but the artist can. Christian is a description that fits a person and doesn’t need to be applied to objects. You can disagree if you like, but this is my viewpoint.), and discussing all the ways we can set up roadblocks for our creative selves.

This book will challenge you, break your heart, and uplift you all at once…clearing the way for you to become your best artist (writer) self. Highly recommend!

The Business of Being a Writer, by Jane Friedman

So this one I’m actually STILL reading, but it already rates high on my list! This book should be in every writer’s arsenal. It’s the most comprehensive look at the history, current market, and practice of being a career writer (or having any kind of writing career, even if it’s on the side) that I’ve seen yet. It looks at everything from traditional to indie publishing, small press, literary fiction, how to query…and so much more. Definitely a must-read.

Honorable Mentions

This section is all my also-loved books that I highly recommend. These are great to read and keep on your shelf, either as references or bits of inspiration for your writer self.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L’Engle

Much like Matt Tommey’s book above, Madeleine L’Engle’s book speaks to the Christian artist, also reflecting on her own journey as a writer. She has some powerful words to share, and it so interesting to see some of her ideas behind some of her most famous works!

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity, by Ray Bradbury

This book is a collection of essays that offer both encouragement and some tough love to get serious about your work. There is so much here, and every time you read it, I’m sure you will find something new to pull out and inspire yourself.

On My Own: How to Format Your Ebook and Print Layout in Microsoft Word, by Savannah Jezowski

This one is an excellent resource for indie authors ready to format their manuscripts. It is a step-by-step guide, written in Savannah Jezowski’s familiar and friendly voice, that will walk you through everything you need to get that manuscript uploaded to retailers. An incredibly useful tool to save some money!

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

This is another excellent tool to have at your disposal. It’s an in-depth guide to emotions and how to describe them in your stories, giving you tools to make your characters relateable and realistic, especially if you’re writing about some emotion outside your own experience. I unfortunately got this one right before they updated the edition, but this book is packed full of information on emotions.

~~~

That completes this edition of Selina’s Favorite Writing Books. Do you have any to add? I’m always looking for new ones! (Wonderbook is currently on my radar) Share your favorites in the comments below!

Heart of the Curiosity Cover Reveal!

H.L. Burke’s new book comes out soon…check out her awesome cover!

Today I have another upcoming release for you, this one from the very talented H. L. Burke! I’ve seen her talking about this so much over the past few months, and I am so excited to read it when it releases.

Anyway, before the cover, here’s the blurb:

The secret lies with the Heart.

Born with a magical knack for manipulating emotions, Leodora’s only dream is to ensure her talented little sister dances on the biggest, brightest stage in the Republic: The Curiosity, a grand old theater of tradition and innovation. After escaping a cruel carnival, Leo secures her sister a place in the Curiosity’s chorus line, and herself a job as a professional audience member, swaying the crowd’s mood with her magic. The girls have a home for the first time in their lives.

Then a tragic accident darkens the theater. A greedy businessman begins blackmailing Leo, and financial woes threaten to close the show forever. The Curiosity’s sole hope lies in a mythical power source hidden beneath the maze-like passages and trapdoors of the theater—the Heart. And Leo’s only friend Paxton, nephew of the theater’s stagemistress, is the key to finding it.

While Leo and Paxton hunt for the Heart, the blackmailer’s threats loom larger. Mysterious figures, cryptic clues, and deadly traps hinder the search at every turn. If the friends cannot recover the Heart in time, Leo and her sister will be cast out of the only home they’ve ever known, and the final curtain will fall on The Curiosity.

Enter a world reminiscent of The Greatest Showman, with a puzzle worthy of Sherlock Holmes and National Treasure, in this new Steampunk Fantasy from H. L. Burke.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for.

You can find this book in all your favorite places…including an autographed copy from the author herself! It will be out on June 27th.

About the author

Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic. 

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture. 

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

Where to find her

This Cursed Flame: First Chapter!

Hey all! Welcome to the first stop on the This Cursed Flame Blog Tour! I can’t wait for you to see all the bonus content leading up to the release on Saturday, and what better way to start than to share the first chapter with everyone?

But first, here’s the blurb!

Look at this gorgeous cover!!!

Sometimes we put ourselves in the bottle…

Six years ago, Janan was transformed into a genie by an evil djinn, ripping her away from her home, her life, and her humanity. She has been on the run from him ever since. Worlds away, high school honors student Laurelin just wants to get into the chemistry program of her dreams.

When Laurelin discovers a crystal bottle that sucks her into the djinn realm, the girls find themselves working together to escape Janan’s creator and get Laurelin back home. But war is brewing in the djinn realm-a rebellion led by the same evil djinn they’ve been trying to escape. And he is determined to rule both the djinn and the human realms. As his creation, Janan is the one person standing in his way.

But to stop him, Janan must learn to overcome the fears he instilled in her and embrace her own dark magic while Laurelin must accept that some things are more important than an A+. Now, they will have to trust each other, and themselves, to stop the encroaching evil. Otherwise, both the human and djinn realms will fall to the tide of death and dark magic this war will unleash.

You can now pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer! Also, if you prefer a paperback, those will be available through Amazon (insider hint: they’re gorgeous!) Also, be sure to head over to Facebook on Saturday for the Launch Party! (and your chance to win your own hand-painted genie bottle!)

And now, without further ado, the first chapter.

Chapter One: Janan

Fuego, Djinn Realm

Janan couldn’t breathe.

Tiny white dots floated in her vision as her heart pumped blood faster than her brain could use it. They obscured the beige and white masonry of the city, the multicolored throng pushing through the cobbled streets like strutting peacocks. All four types of djinn surrounded her: the ifrits with their fire magic, marids with their water magic, sila with their air magic, and ghul with their shapeshifting and electric magic.

And she stood here, alone in the crowd, unprotected, probably the only genie in the city. A half-breed of magic forever caught between worlds. Her human life still colored her memories, her behavior, but the djinn who had turned her into this had robbed her of her natural life.

And the djinn could tell, could sense her other-ness, as they gave her a wide berth or cast vicious looks in her direction. She thought eventually she would be used to it, but even an errand out to fetch groceries was enough to send her into a panic, even after six years.

She hurried to the side of the road, trying to hide herself from their prying eyes. Her breaths were shallow, and she wheezed as she tried to pull enough oxygen into her lungs. She could almost see his gaze everywhere she turned: the hate in that marid’s face, the same crimson tint in that ifrit’s skin. Like he was everywhere. Would she ever be free of this fear?

She drew her hood lower on her forehead and pulled her cloak tighter around her, trying to hide the raspberry color of her hair, a sure sign of her genie status, and her violet dress with the gold embroidery. She had loved it when her adopted father, Mahtab, brought it home for her birthday, but now it seemed like too much, too flashy, like it drew the attention of too many.

“Janan!” A voice rang out over the roar of a thousand voices.

Janan cringed, her head snapping toward the sound. Several nearby djinn craned their heads, also searching for the source of the voice. Her eyes landed on a small, beige feline with ebony spots. If she didn’t look directly at the animal, she could almost see the form of the woman beneath the spell.

“Safiyya!” Janan, still breathless with fear, pushed her way back through the people still separating them and knelt in front of her friend.

Safiyya of the House Grimalkin studied her face. “Everything okay?”

Janan almost laughed. No, everything was not okay. It hadn’t been for some time. Not since before, when she was still human, when she still belonged.

But he wasn’t here, at least not as far as she could tell. It was only her brain running away faster than reason, again, her terror resurfacing after months of dormancy.

Her terror had almost been gone when he returned only a few months ago, like an angry ghost from her past, wishing to exact some terrible vengeance on her for her very existence. Her Turning had been a mistake. And now it was a hurdle to him, to his plans, to the very future of the Realm.

At least that was what he had said. Right before attacking, driving her from her home to flee to Fuego with her adopted family. She had brought him down upon them, and now she saw him everywhere she turned.

“Yes, of course,” she found herself saying, rising to her feet and refusing to meet Safiyya’s bright emerald gaze.

She couldn’t tell her what was going on. Safiyya had her own problems. She was djinn, one of the shapeshifters, but she’d been stuck as an ocelot for as long as Janan had known her, much like the way Janan was stuck halfway between djinn and human. One day, maybe Safiyya would tell her what had happened, why she was stuck, but for now Janan didn’t see a reason to draw the cat into her imaginary nightmares. It was enough to share this unspoken bond.

Safiyya continued to study her, doubtful eyes traveling across the old scars marring Janan’s pale skin. There were no new injuries for her to see, but her friend’s gaze burned across her skin, and Janan tugged the cloak tighter still. If she kept pulling at it, soon she’d be a diamond from the pressure.

The cat dropped her gaze, returning her attention to the writhing mass of djinn in front of them. “Have you heard from the others yet?”

“No, nothing.” Janan touched the shining gem that hung around her neck, a simple piece of Torrebon technology carried by almost every djinn and genie in the Realm. It not only allowed them access to the human and djinn internets but also provided a simple means of communication with just a small spark of magic.

It was all the magic she could bear to use. She had almost convinced herself that if she didn’t use any genie magic at all, maybe she could be human again. Still seventeen, still awkward and scared, but human, with a family and a life and human problems. As it stood now, she didn’t really fit anywhere, and she felt the weight of it every time she set foot outside.

Safiyya nodded her head at the crowd, and they wove through the scores of temporary stalls lining the sidewalk for the weekly farmers’ market. Vendors on both sides hawked their wares: fabric bolts here, jewelry there, tiny carved statues from the ifrit city of Prinnyn, mechanical toys from the ghul city of Torrebos. The road had been blocked off from automobile traffic for the day, allowing the thousands of pedestrians to browse freely without fearing oncoming cars.

Janan tried to focus on the market and push her fear out of her mind. It was uncontrollable, arising unbidden and unwanted, but sometimes she could stuff it back down and ignore it for a while.

At least until the next memory took her.

Her bag bounced against her thigh as she walked. It held only a few coins and her single purchase of the day: a bright glass bottle to add to her collection. To her, it had become a joke, a way of coping with what she was. A genie collecting bottles. Some form of control over the prison of her existence. And this bottle had felt particularly special, but she couldn’t say why. Perhaps some subconscious ghost of memory. Heavens knew there were enough ghosts flitting around in her skull.

The sun was rising higher in the sky as the morning dragged on, but Janan still shivered with cold. He wasn’t here, she was sure of it—sure that her mind was just playing cruel tricks on her again—yet she couldn’t shake the way every djinn in a cloak, every turned back, every sideways glare made her feel like prey. What if he really was here, somewhere in this mass of bodies?

She glanced sideways at Safiyya. The ocelot was small, but she made a formidable foe. Surely Janan would be safe at her side.

Safiyya stopped walking and looked up at her expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” Janan said, blinking herself back to the present. “What did you say?”

“I just asked if you wanted a drink. I’m getting a bit thirsty.” They were stopped next to a vendor selling cold fruit drinks.

“Oh. Sure.”

Safiyya rubbed her head against a picture of a lemon below the counter. “This one, please.”

Janan pointed to the lemon drink and a grape drink in the displayed pitchers, trading a silver coin for the two glasses. They walked a few steps away before she placed the lemonade on the sidewalk for Safiyya, out of the way of trampling feet, and sat down on the curb. Her own straw halfway to her mouth, she suddenly froze, feeling the pressure of a person standing just behind her.

Her heart began pounding all over again. Sweat shone on her pale skin, and she wheezed for breath, unable to take a sip of the refreshing drink. No longer thirsty, she set the glass down next to Safiyya and turned to face the presence, ready to run or strike if needed.

A man in a cloak stood hunched behind her, eyes bright yellow against his pale blue skin, even shaded as they were under the hood. They seemed to glow with their own light, like a harvest moon on an otherwise black night.

As she saw the man, her heart began to slow its furious pace, and she forced a shaky smile. “Mahtab.”

Her adoptive father stood with his arms full of packages from around the market, grinning a sharp-toothed smile. She crossed her arms and pressed her hands against her body, willing the shaking in her fingers to subside. Her adoptive mother, Irina, reached a hand down to help Janan to her feet.

Irina, Mahtab’s wife of nearly a century, was the opposite of him in every way. Where he was blue-skinned and stood with a permanent bend in his spine, she looked like she was cut from the finest alabaster, her hair fine-spun gold and her posture tall and proud.

Janan allowed herself to be drawn up next to them. “Is it time to go home?”

“Did you find everything on your list?” Irina asked.

Janan blushed with guilt. In truth, she’d forgotten about the list after the vendor with the bottles. She had been so distracted with the bottle that she had missed half of the family’s produce, still on her list.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Mahtab said. He studied her, quiet for a moment. “But perhaps we can drop you at home and finish the errands ourselves.”

Janan closed her eyes. He had seen her fear, had made the decision that she had done enough for the day. She would remain a burden, unable to fulfill her duty to their small family.

She opened her mouth, intending to say no, to say that she could push through and finish their trip, but no words left her mouth, and she nodded in defeat.

“All right, then,” Mahtab said, nodding back. His face was kind, but Janan couldn’t bear to meet his eyes.

They turned in the direction of home, a small apartment on the west side of the city, and began pushing their way through the crowds. She was buoyed by the presence of Mahtab and Irina, feeling her confidence replace her fear with every step they took. Maybe she could make it after all.

She opened her mouth to say so when a small trio of smug-looking djinn leered at her.

“Filthy genie,” one of them spat.

“Don’t worry,” another snarled. “They’ll be gone soon.”

Then Safiyya was at Janan’s side, baring her sharp teeth. “Keep walking,” she growled low in her throat.

The third djinn rolled her eyes before following her friends. Her sighed words were soft, meant only for Janan’s and Safiyya’s ears. “Genie sympathizers. Just as bad as the genies.”

Janan dropped her eyes to the sidewalk and trailed after Mahtab, already several yards ahead of her. Perhaps going home was for the best.

~~~

Want to read more? Check out the masterpost of stops on the blog tour, or go ahead an pre-order your copy today! Again, you can pre-order this book on Amazon and any other major retailer. And don’t forget about the Facebook Launch Party on Saturday!

My Favorite Genie Books

Wait, you mean there are books with GENIES in them??? GIMME ALL THE BOOKS!!!

We are just over two weeks away from the release of This Cursed Flame (and only a week and a weekend away from the start of the blog tour, starting April 21). So for the next two Fridays, I’ll be sharing things related to the book!

Today I want to talk about some of my favorite books and series that deal with djinn and genies. Genies aren’t common creatures for authors to use, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some really great stories out there that have them!

So without further ado, let’s get right into it! Here are some of my favorite books with djinn and genies.

Weather Warden, by Rachel Caine

If you’ve been around a while, you’ve heard me mention this before (maybe back in February?). This series is one of my favorite urban fantasies, and it specifically deals with the relationships between magically gifted humans, the djinn they capture and use, and the tumultuous planet under our feet. I greatly enjoyed the elemental nature of the powers and the complexity of the interactions between each magical thing involved in the story. And having a vengeful planet underfoot, one that seems to be sentient, well, that’s terrifying.

If Wishes Were Curses (Steel City Genie Series), by Janeen Ippolito

This one just came out earlier this year. It’s urban fantasy, takes place in Pittsburgh, AND features a genie… yeah, this was an insta-buy for me. And I didn’t regret it. This book had a fresh flavor of urban fantasy with unique shifters, lesser-known and lesser seen magical creatures, and a genie with wish magic. I loved every second of the read, and I cannot wait for the next book to come out!

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

This book was one of those more lighthearted fantastic romps. It felt like I was listening to someone tell me a story, which always warms my reader’s heart, and it stars a genie (jinni) and a golem straight out of Jewish folklore. The story was deep and engaging, and it was such a pleasure to read!

Rebel of the Sands, by Alwyn Hamilton

This one is a young adult book set in a desert country full of legendary magic (that a friend of a friend has seen) and gunslingers. It was such an interesting blend of Wild West and desert culture, and then the idea of the magical creatures layered throughout, including genies, just kind of sealed the deal for me. It was a fun, magical read!

Bottled, by Carol Riggs

This one is about a teen who was changed into a genie a thousand years ago and has been on the run from a power-hungry man who wants to use her magic to become even more powerful. The main character has faced classic genie problems, such as horrible masters and inane wishes, and in this book, she gets a real, kind master who wants to help. This was another fun, unique story that I loved!

This Cursed Flame, by Selina J. Eckert

And, of course, how could I have a favorite genie books post without including my own??? This book, if you haven’t been paying attention to me lately, is all about a girl who was changed into a genie by an evil djinn… and now he finds that her very existence disrupts his plans. And then there’s the science nerd human. The two girls are accidentally thrown together, and it is only with each other that they can save their worlds, and themselves, from the reach of this evil djinn. This book is full of magic, worldbuilding, and strong female relationships. You can pre-order it on Amazon or any other major retailer, and keep an eye on Amazon for the paperback, coming soon!

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Have you read any other books with genies? Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear about some more!

Author Interview: Kandi Wyatt

Not so long ago, we had author Kandi Wyatt over for the cover reveal of her new fantasy adventure, An Unexpected Escapade. Now, we have her back to celebrate that same book’s release with an author interview! (PS, it releases today!!!)

Without further ado, here is my conversation with Kandi! (responses have not been edited)

1. Welcome! We’re so glad to have you back again! Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? When did you start? When did you decide you wanted to publish?

So glad to be here. I’m a wife, mom of five, teacher, author, artist, and photographer’s assistant. To say I’m busy is an understatement. I’m down to only one child at home, and he’s seventeen. The rest are out on their own.

I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was in high school, but being a mom, I didn’t have a ton of time to sit down and write. I read when I could and had other hobbies, but in 2006, after reading a young adult book by Timothy Zahn, I followed through with the discussion questions at the back of the book, and created a world of squirrel-like creatures and a little girl who was washed ashore. I wrote it for my kids, with the main character being patterned after my daughter. Another three years went by before I picked up another story.

On a family vacation my daughter jokingly said she’d been misnamed. She’s not a morning person, and her name’s Dawnya. I asked if she should be called Duskya instead. Several miles further down the road, we passed Three Mile Canyon Rd. I envisioned a dragon spewing fire down a box canyon. From that humble beginning flowed Dragon’s Future and the Dragon Courage series. Between December and July, I wrote four and a half of the six books. Then the muse went silent. I had said I’d not force the stories, so turned to drawing characters and scenes.

Fast-forward to 2015, my kids were now much older—one out of the house and three in high school. The middle son won a scholarship to a writer’s conference. I attended with him and my youngest daughter. While there, one of the presenters stated that her publishing company was accepting submissions. I immediately thought of Dragon’s Future. Returning home, I debated and debated acting upon the information. Finally, I hit submit without telling a soul. Three weeks later, I had to let people know and make another decision—should I publish it?

Upon careful consideration and discussion with family and other authors, I decided to publish. A year later, I had four books published and was working on the fifth, when the publishing company went out of business. That was another turning point in my career. I had the option of quitting or continuing as an indie or finding another publishing house. My choice seemed clear to me since I wanted control over my books. So, without any disruption in my publishing schedule, I went indie in June, 2016.

2. Is there anything in particular that often inspires you?

When I first started writing, it was my kids and students, but now more of my newer stories have been inspired by my husband. He’s asked “What if?” and posed ideas for a whole knew world. We also work together in creating photographs that tell a story. I’ve used several of those to write stories.

3. Do you have any favorite topics or themes to write about? What about to read?

I write about what interests me, but also what’s important. Many of my themes come from spiritual truths found in the Bible, even though they may be cloaked with fantasy themes or characters.

I love reading sci-fi and fantasy. Historical fiction, if well done, also is a favorite.

4. This new release sounds like a blast! What gave you the idea to write a unicorn-based story?

The bigger question is why did it take me this long to write a unicorn story. I loved unicorns from middle school and through high school, but then my husband introduced me to dragon stories. So, those are what came out first.

This trilogy is based on real-life. The town of Myrtle Beach, Oregon, isn’t based on Myrtle Beach, Virginia. It’s actually a blend of two town names in my area—Myrtle Point and Gold Beach. Several of my students inspired the main characters. While I was writing book 1, I had in mind book 2, but a student came up to me and said, “Señora, you should write a book about girls, horses, and the ocean.” She didn’t realize I already had in mind a story about girls, horses, and a unicorn with her as inspiration for one of the main characters.

Since book 1 had a dragon, I thought a unicorn would blend in well with horses. I wanted each book of the trilogy to have a different mythological creature. Little did I realize that the idea for book 3 would morph to include many beings from myth.

5. Did you have any favorite or least favorite parts to write?

Actually, yes. Book 2 took over a year to write as I tried to process my grief for the student who asked me to write the story. She lost both parents over the course of one year. In some ways she appeared to handle it better than I did! I didn’t know what I should do with the characters in the book—should I have them go through the same thing she did in real life, or should I change things? In the end, after a year of trying to write, I was able to sit down and keep some of the same things as the real-life person and adapting them to fit the story.

I loved how the character Will came about though. His character grew from book 1 to book 2 based on my own understanding of the student who inspired him. The quiet, steady personality of Will was what I saw in my student. I’m glad he became Ana’s friend and confidante.

6. Any hints about upcoming projects?

I don’t know about you, but this picture definitely makes me curious! Photo Credit: Eric Wyatt

Oh, wow! There are several, and if characters don’t be quiet the stories might not come out in the order they’re supposed to. I’m doing edits for book 3 which is to release in September.

Then the goal was to have an Ancient Egypt Biblical retelling trilogy ready for next January. I’m writing book 2 right now, but another story kind of took over this week. I thought it was a short story, but it’s all ready over 6,000 words.

I also plan to return to the world of Dragon Courage with a trilogy based in the Carr, one of the sections of that realm.

The short story very possibly will be a three story novella either published as three separates or joined into one long book. It looks like it’ll be the first in a new world inspired by my husband’s “what if” question.

7. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Or anything you’d like to share with aspiring authors out there?

The best thing I can say for aspiring authors is to stay true to you, keep writing, and gather a team who has the same vision you do. I love working with my team. They make the journey so much better.

Thank you for reading. Tosca Lee, author of The Line Between, said that there are three people who make a book—the author, God, and the reader. This is so true. The reader brings their own experiences into the reading and the story is all the richer for it. I hope you enjoy Myth Coast Adventures. I can’t wait for readers to see the conclusion.

Thanks so much!

An Unexpected Escapade is out now! You can grab your copy here. And be sure to check out Amazon and Goodreads for more books by Kandi!

About the Author

Even as a young girl, Kandi J Wyatt had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that’s her own five or the hundreds of students she’s been lucky to teach. When Kandi’s not spinning words to create stories, she’s using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.

You can find her at her websiteFacebookGoogleTwitterPinterestGoodreads, and Amazon.

Update:

Kandi notified us of an issue with her pre-orders on 16 April 2019. If you pre-ordered, Amazon mistakenly sent out the ARC version of the manuscript, instead of the final. To fix this, please go to your Content and Devices under your Amazon account and click Update Content. She apologizes for the confusion and mixups, but this is a quick fix to make sure you have the correct, final version!

Don’t Trick Your Readers

Today I want to talk about something I don’t think I’ve discussed before. How writers can fulfill the promises they make to readers… and just how they make those promises.

You see, every reader will enter into a story with some kind of expectation, whether it is regarding the genre, the target age, the tone of the writing, or the level of maturity (think gore, sex, and language). They form those opinions based on a number of things, and if we as writers do not fulfill those expectations, the reader is likely to become angry, feel betrayed, and walk away from our writing. Sometimes for good.

But what promises are we making? What promises are readers seeing? Let’s take a closer look.

The Cover

The first and biggest glimpse a reader will get into your story is through the cover. That’s right, readers DO judge books by their covers!

The purpose of a cover is twofold: grab readers’ attention and convey to those readers what they can expect.

First, we want our covers to be eye-catching. We want it to make readers stop scrolling through options and click on that link or that cover to find out more. It’s their first chance to learn about our story.

But the cover’s content will also determine which readers will stop on your book’s page. For example, a reader interested in clean fantasy is unlikely to stop on a book with two half-dressed people kissing on the cover. They will more likely stop on a cover with a castle or a dragon.

You see, the cover you give your book sets the mood for the story and, if it’s doing its job, tells readers about the genre. This is why it’s so important to be aware of what other authors’ book covers in your genre look like, because this is what readers are expecting. If you give them a cover that seems like it might be one thing when the story is really another, you may find yourself the not-so-proud owner of a one-star review. You will have unwittingly tricked the reader.

Your other work

While there are other ways you can make promises to readers, such as how you market the book, I only want to focus on one more today: your other work.

As an author, you may have already heard that your name is your brand. The things you write, the topics and themes you pursue, and the content and maturity level of your writing all influence what a reader will come to expect from your new works. This is why so many authors only publish in one genre… or do they?

Actually, this is one reason pen names exist. Readers will absolutely associate your name with the books you have already written. But if you want to write something completely different, they may expect it to be along the same type of work you’ve already done. Often, the solution is the creation of another pen name to associate with the new works.

Personally, I have one pen name, and that is the only name under which I share my work. But there may come a time in the future that I need to compartmentalize into another name, such as if I move from YA into adult or fantasy into fiction. And that is a possibility I know is open.

One good example of this is Mira Grant. Mira Grant is the pen name for an author who writes zombie fiction, specifically YA zombie fiction (The Newsflesh books). I found out a few years back that she is also the same author who writes one of the urban fantasy series I like, the October Daye series, under the name Seanan McGuire (who also penned some other fantasy reads). Readers have very different expectations from these two distinct names, and for that reason, she compartmentalizes her work into multiple names.

How do we fulfill these promises?

First and foremost, be cognizant of the way you present your work. Don’t misrepresent it, and do your research on how other authors in the same genre are presenting and marketing their work.

Second, make sure you aren’t breaking promises you’ve made through your other work. At a minimum, let your readers know when a book is different from what you’ve previously published. If it’s a minimal difference such as the level of maturity or how clean a read it is, you may not need anything else, particularly if it’s still in the same genre and age category. And if it’s very different, perhaps consider starting a new pen name and letting your current readers know, in case they want to follow along.

Finally, pay attention to your readers. If they are confused or you seem to be getting a lot of negative reviews along the lines of “this wasn’t what I expected,” then you may need to evaluate changing your target audience for the work or rebranding under a new name. Be open to the changes and listen to the advice of others (but of course, use that advice to make your own decisions).

Your Turn

These are the things I’ve come up with about times I’ve felt tricked by a cover or an author, but I know there are so many other examples, such as false advertising (Example: get this free book! Just kidding, it’s just a sample.).

Usually, it’s not intentional. Writers don’t want to trick their readers (except for plot twists!). But we still need to keep the possibility in mind and be sensitive to what our readers are telling us.

And now I want to hear from you. Was there a time you felt tricked by a writer or a book? How did it make you feel? What are your suggestions and other experiences for fulfilling promises to readers? Tell me below!