Happy Book Birthday!!!

IT’S RELEASE DAY!!!

Happy book birthday to This Cursed Flame!

This book is finally out in the world and touching people’s lives! It’s been such a long journey, and I am so so thankful for all the people who have contributed along the way. There is a full list of people who have helped me in the acknowledgements section of my book, but I absolutely want to take a minute to thank my husband, family, friends, and all the professionals who have worked with me since the book’s story seed in 2011.

And thank you, readers, so much for taking this journey with me. I hope this book means as much to you as it has to me! And I promise, now we are back to our regular posting schedule (until the next release!).

Don’t forget to jump over to Facebook for the party tonight from 4-7 pm eastern, and put in your entries for the giveaways! I have hand-painted genie bottles, signed paperbacks, and signed bookmarks, all just waiting for a new home. Giveaways will be open until Monday April 29th, and then I will be choosing winners!

And finally, This Cursed Flame is available on Amazon (search This Cursed Flame if the paperback isn’t yet linked) and any other major retailer!

And now, your final excerpt…

Janan and Safiyya appeared in a shadowed corner of a loud, crowded city. Cars sped by with alarming disregard for pedestrians. People rushed about, some intent on the sidewalk ahead of them, some entirely engrossed in their phones. No one seemed to take notice of their sudden appearance, and, oddly, Janan couldn’t see any of the other djinn pouring through the portal with them.

Had the portal dropped everyone in different sections of the city?

They plunged into the sunlight outside the alley, and finally people jumped back. It wasn’t every day that humans saw an ocelot and a purple-eyed girl covered in blood and dressed in what looked like a costume. For all they knew, she was a struggling actress in a remake of Aladdin in her loose violet dress, embellished with gold embroidery and gemstones.

Janan looked around, trying to find someplace quiet, somewhere away from prying eyes.

“Janan!” Safiyya said, drawing a few puzzled and concerned looks. They ducked back into the alley before she continued. “Do you still have that bottle?”

Janan placed a hand on the wall of the building to steady herself and opened the bag slung across her body, feeling around for the wrapped bottle. It felt whole, somehow unbroken. “Yes, I think so.”

“Good, I have an idea! Put the bottle on the ground.”

Janan pulled it out of her bag and placed the unwrapped crystal on the cement between them. Icy fingers of fear clawed at her heart—fear for her family, fear for herself. She would never be safe. Never.

Safiyya sat next to it, turning serious eyes on Janan. “We have to do the Binding.”

“What?” Janan exclaimed, unable to control her reaction. Too much had happened, and she was past her limit. Her stomach turned at even the thought of using her magic, and she wasn’t sure she was capable of such an extensive spell. And Safiyya certainly couldn’t do it alone. “Isn’t that too extreme?”

“Extreme, yes, but what choice do we have? The others will find us, and this is our best chance to evade Ahriman.”

“But… here?” Janan looked around the trash-filled alley.

Safiyya also glanced around, glaring at a stray cat. The cat glared back at her with dull yellow eyes. “I can add a protection spell. Move the bottle somewhere safe.”

“Yes, please,” Janan said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Safiyya reached a paw over the bottle, and Janan grasped it. They closed their eyes, focusing all their energy, all their magic, on the bottle between them. Then, they concentrated on weaving their own energy into the crystal lattice.

As the attachment grew, their bodies phased out of physical being, becoming a light vapor that swirled in the weak air currents, mixing lavender and green smoke where they had been sitting.

Finally, the attachment complete, they became physical again and opened their eyes.

“We just need to hide long enough for the others to find us,” Safiyya said. “And you can get some rest in here. As soon as we’re inside, the bottle will take us somewhere safe.” Janan gave her a small smile, and they vanished in a swirl of smoke, disappearing into the top of the bottle.

Blog Tour: This Cursed Flame!

One week to go! Here’s a list of the celebrations! 😀

Today is a very special day (also, happy Easter for those of you celebrating, and happy 1 year anniversary to my other half)!

My debut is less than a week away, and now we get to celebrate its release! Today marks the kickoff of the blog tour for This Cursed Flame. Some very kind bloggers/authors have agreed to help me celebrate with a number of posts that I hope you will all find interesting.

Here’s the schedule:

April 21

S. J. Eckert – Blog Tour Announcement
S. J. Eckert – First Chapter
H. L. Burke – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

April 22

Michaela Bush – Author Interview
S. J. Eckert – Character Interview (Janan)

april 23

S. J. Eckert – Bonus Behind-the-Scenes Material!

april 24

Michaela Bush – Book Spotlight

april 25

Kelly Jane – Character Interview (Safiyya)

april 26

Meg Dendler – Book Spotlight

april 27 (release day!!!)

Savannah Jezowski – Author Interview
Kandi Wyatt – Character Interview (Laurelin)
S. J. Eckert – Happy Book Birthday!
Facebook Launch party!

Be sure to tune in for all the festivities across the interwebs, and then head over to Facebook on April 27th for the launch party! We’ll have plenty of extras, behind-the-scenes, and giveaways for everyone (including hand-painted genie bottles, made by the author herself!).

Can’t wait to see you there!

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Are you excited? I’m so excited! Let me know what you’re most excited about in the comments below!!! Then, head on over to the first stop on the tour!

The Creation of a Story: This Cursed Flame Edition

Want to know the process This Cursed Flame went through? Keep reading!

Last week, to get us into the spirit for This Cursed Flame‘s release, we discussed some of my favorite genie books (by the way, I definitely missed The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross… so good, but not traditional genies. They’re called daevas, but they share some traits with mythological djinn.).

This week, though, I want to go over the development of This Cursed Flame, from story seed to the version that is up for pre-order on Amazon and all other major retailers now. Buckle in, folks. It’s been a long journey.

As you will likely notice in some of next week’s coming material, this book started as just an idea stemming from an old sitcom. I went through a major phase of loving classic sitcoms when I was in middle school, and honestly, I never grew out of it. Sitcoms were my own personal comic relief during school and at the end of rough days. They were light and fluffy and full of magic or imagination or simply characters and worlds (even the realistic ones) I loved.

One of those sitcoms I especially loved was I Dream of Jeannie, but you will have to come back next week for more on that. 😉 It inspired an idea in me in 2011, the summer after I graduated from undergrad. I loved the scenes where we got to see Jeannie’s world, inside her bottle, things from her perspective.

And I wanted more. I wanted a book from the perspective of a genie.

It started with an idea of a human girl stolen away from her life and transformed into one of the djinn… but as such, she could never be really djinn (or really human), and so she was thrust into a world not her own where she could never belong anywhere again.

That first version had extra characters, too. And boy did it make the book confusing! The first difference between early versions and the final version is that I had a sub-antagonist instead of the main antagonist, Ahriman. It made little sense, but to my baby writer brain (I was only just realizing what it took to finish a story, even though I’d been writing since elementary school) it felt right.

But the story felt complete to me, and I wanted to publish. I entered grad school and realized how much I loved writing and wanted to share it with the world. I initially wanted to publish this version myself, independently, but life changed during grad school in about 2014, and I suddenly couldn’t afford to hire the professionals who would help me.

So I queried it for traditional publishing. I got some interest, but no one wanted it after reading it through and through.

So I took it back to edits, and I removed that sub-antagonist, and I tried a little more querying with the same results through 2017. I shared this version on Wattpad as well, and got a few enthusiastic views, but I still wasn’t happy with it, and I decided to go back to edits again and head toward independent publishing again (in 2018), now that my financial situation had changed.

So I hired a developmental editor, who suggested a mountain of changes. I had another team member, Afya Sura, who I still love, even though I ultimately had to cut her out of the story. And then there was the human… you’ll see when you start reading that Laurelin is the main human character, and her boyfriend is Cody. Well, it became apparent during edits that Cody served no useful purpose in the story… but Laurelin had a pretty good one. And then there’s Safiyya. I bulked up her backstory and her role and it turned out so beautifully!

And, finally in January 2019, this was the story I wanted to tell, the story I needed to share. I had started 8 years ago with a theme of “Dragons can be beaten”, and eventually I realized that my theme was actually “Sometimes we put ourselves in the bottle.” It covers the story and the feelings I had for it when I started, even though I didn’t realize it yet.

And now, on April 27, 2019, it will be available as this final version as an independently published novel. And I couldn’t be happier!!!

It’s been a long journey, and I know you will adore it just as much as I do. I can’t wait for it to be in your hands in just one week!

So don’t hesitate; head over to the link and see just what I’m talking about. Again, it is on Amazon and all other major retailers now and will be sent directly to your e-reader next Saturday!

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the kick-off of the launch week festivities, and until then, let me know about your own story’s journey in the comments below!

This Cursed Flame Cover Reveal!

It’s time… to announce the cover!

Guys. I have the most exciting thing I’ve had to share in a while.

This Cursed Flame has a cover! It is beautiful and amazing and gorgeous, designed by the ever-so-talented Savannah Jezowski (also a super talented author!) over at Dragonpen Designs. You may remember my old cover from Wattpad (or my homepage), which I LOVED, but I can’t use it as my actual cover for numerous reasons. And this new cover! I am absolutely blown away! ❤ *allthehearteyes* (Also many thanks to Author Cheryllynn Dyess for the blurred cover I used in the promo image!)

But first, if I can draw out the suspense a little. How about an updated blurb to better reflect all the changes that came about during editing?

This Cursed Flame

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.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for… I present to you the cover for This Cursed Flame!

Janan, in all her beautiful fire genie glory!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

This project has been close to my heart since 2011, and I am both thrilled and terrified to finally be sending it out into the world. It has been added to Goodreads, and I will let you all know when the pre-order link is live! Publication is scheduled for April 27, 2019, so mark your calendar!

If you want to see more updates and be the first to know about all the upcoming launch day activities (including the launch day announcement!), be sure to subscribe to the newsletter. You’re always free to unsubscribe later if you like, but you will also get a free short fantasy story from me just for signing up!

Until next time, happy reading, and happy writing! ❤

ARC Etiquette 101

Whether you are a writer or a reader, you may have heard about these books called ARCs. ARCs are, quite simply, Advanced Reader Copies or Advanced Review Copies. But just what are they?

Whether you are a writer or a reader, you may have heard about these books called ARCs. ARCs are, quite simply, Advanced Reader Copies or Advanced Review Copies. But just what are they? These are books the publisher or author provides free of charge to reviewers and influencers prior to publication in order to spread knowledge of the book and gain some early reviews to encourage sales.

However, what may not be clear to both writers and readers is the etiquette surrounding the distribution and use of ARCs. I’m just learning some of this myself, so today I only want to focus on some basics. If you have anything to add, I encourage you wholeheartedly to leave a comment below. I’d love to have more material for a future post!

But until then, here we go. ARC Etiquette 101.

Reader Etiquette and Responsibilities

Hey readers! Interested in reading a book ahead of publication? This section is for you! Now, there’s plenty of information on requesting ARCs out there… but that’s a post for another day. Today, let’s focus in on what to do with an ARC you have received.

When you receive an ARC, it may be either a physical book or an eARC. Many indie authors choose to send eARCs to readers for a number of reasons. But no matter the format, there are a few simple guidelines to remember:

  • The author is not asking you to edit, proofread, or comment. This is often impolite, as most of the time the book has already been through this process extensively. You haven’t been hired to edit, and it can be offensive to send criticisms back to the person who gave you this free book. You may, however, ask if the author is open to proofing or criticism. If you are tactful and kind about it, they may say yes.
  • Don’t sell your ARC. They are not intended for sale, and the author is providing it to you as a courtesy.
  • It’s expected that you will review the book, but it isn’t required. It is polite to do so, particularly either before the book releases (like on Goodreads) or on or near the release day (like on Amazon).
  • Your review doesn’t have to be positive. It just has to be honest. But again, keep those comments of your thoughts on the book to your reviews… don’t send them to the author. That can just kind of be mean, particularly if you didn’t like the book. And some authors choose not to read reviews for very good reasons.
  • You must disclose you received a copy of the book for a review. Often, this can be as simple as leaving a line at the end (or beginning) of your review stating, “I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review,” or something similar.

Author Etiquette and Responsibilities

Just like readers, authors have responsibilities for the use of ARCs. Here are a few general guidelines.

  • ARCs are provided free of charge… don’t try to sell them. And don’t try to make reviewers pay for postage.
  • You may not require a review in exchange for an ARC. You can request an honest review, but it cannot be a rule that the reader must follow to get the book.
  • Don’t assume you will only send eARCs. Yes, physical books are more expensive, but some reviewers will require it.
  • Avoid commenting on your reviews. It’s best not to engage with them. I’ve seen far too many authors go off the deep end after reading negative reviews of their books. You may not even want to read your reviews.
  • Consider any comments you receive from reviewers. They may find typos you missed or a plot hole. Remember, ARCs go out before publication… while there is time to fix mistakes. But also, try to ignore the inconsiderate comments you may get from reviewers. Not all of them are nice.
  • Choose carefully. Find reviewers who are likely to read your book or have agreed to do so… and to review it. Don’t pick a reviewer outside your book’s genre or who has a schedule too busy to meet your timeline. Remember, physical copies can be expensive to send out, so you want them to make as much of an impact as possible.

Final Thoughts

As I’m approaching the release of my first independent novel, I am starting to consider how to best go about marketing, including the use of ARCs. So far, this is the information I have obtained on the etiquette and guidelines for readers and writers, but there is plenty more to learn and do. I look forward to sharing another post on ARCs as I gather more information! Until then, happy writing, and happy reading!

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Do you have experience with ARCs, as either a writer or a reader? What advice or inside tips do you have to share? Let me know in the comments!