Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stranger's Release Date

If you guys haven't noticed the link on the right side of the blog, let me just remind you that STRANGER releases today!

Because I decided to go with self-publishing, I chose this date for a very specific reason.  If you're a follower of my blog, you know the number 22 is very influential in my life.  September 22, my uncle passed away.  I still remember being in first grade, listening to my mom get the call and being told the news.  I remember the pastor smiling at me from the pulpit (I was in the first pew).  I remember trying to cry because I knew I should be, but I just couldn't get the tears out.  I remember my grandfather, stoic and strong.  And I even remember my uncle Mike, someone I barely knew, chasing me through my grandparents' house before his untimely passing.

I dedicated this book to my two cousins, Dylann and Fieffer, but I released it on a day that would honor my uncle. 

I am 22.  Today is September 22.  Tough things happen on the 22nd, but I'm a firm believer in making your own luck to go with the innate luck you already have.  I'm in control.  I get to decide how to react to things.  Today, September 22 isn't going to be a sad day.  Instead, it's going to be the day I publish my first novel.

I hope you all enjoy it.  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The awkward guy friend: Does he or doesn't he?

We all have that guy friend we're not quite about: Does he or doesn't he like me?

I recently went through a situation like this (try: yesterday).  Back in summer, out of the blue, my old friend from high school asked to hang and catch up.  I hadn't seen him in years so we exchanged numbers and met up at a cafe and talked.  On my part, I wasn't feeling the chemistry.  Don't get me wrong: He's good looking, intelligent, and sweet, but it just wasn't there.

Throughout the week, he texts me wanting to hang out again.  I'm super-busy with friends and my new job.  I don't mean to continuously blow him off, but I simply don't have time for him and since I don't feel it, I'm not going to move things around to make room for him (don't I sound awful?). 

At one point, I think he gets the message since I finally agree to go out (but to a Starbucks close to my house for an hour instead of "somewhere quiet we can go to talk" or swing dancing), but then I get another text from him yesterday.  I'm the type of person who doesn't like to play games and I don't like coming off like a jerk because I keep claiming to be too busy to hang (even though that's true, for the most part).  So I decided to say something.

It's tricky to be a girl because even if you know a guy is interested in that way and you call him out on it, he can turn it around on you and claim he just wants to be friends and you're conceited for thinking otherwise.  So what I did say is something along the lines of: "I'm going to be blunt with you: I'm seeing someone and I'm really happy.  I'm not saying that was why you were hanging out in the first place but I just wanted to tell you where I'm at so there wouldn't be any miscommunication between us.  I still don't mind hanging out with you as just friends, however."

Guys usually appreciate the directness (and if they don't, you don't want to be around a spurned tool, so let him cool off and realize how lame he's being) but sometimes, they just don't get it.  Hawke texted back that he appreciated me telling him and that he wasn't hanging out with me for that reason, but he would be lying if he said he wasn't interested (um, what?).  He said that he was happy I was happy and would still like to hang out if it didn't make me and my guy uncomfortable.

Yeah... no.  I don't think so.

If you're not seeing someone - and this has happened to me when I haven't been - I always claim I'm too busy with school (or a job) to devote the time he deserves in a potential relationship and that isn't fair to him.


With the potential lockout looming tonight, I want to send one last prayer to the hockey gods:  Please.  Please.  Please.  Hockey is one of the few things I'm passionate about and this is the only year I can devote to season tickets.  I'm begging you: Please let there be a full season.  Please.  For Teemu's sake and my sanity.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Taking a break

No, not from the blog.

From writing.

You know when you're in a long-term relationship and while you love the person you're with, the spark has just, well, fizzled?  And you know that this person is The One, the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, but if you force yourself to stay, you'll grow to resent them and it won't be as good unless you take a step back and... breathe?

It's okay to do this.  You've made a commitment, yes, but no one can force you to stay with someone if it's gotten stagnant.

I know you have to work hard and make things work as a couple.  But sometimes you just need to take a break.

So that's what I'm going to do.

I'm not sure if it's my job.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm about to start my senior year of college this year.  I'm not sure if it's because I have a thing for a guy, and a lot of times, when I like someone, it's more exciting than writing about love, about something that's not real.  But something is wrong here, and the last couple of days, as I've written, the spark just wasn't there.

So my week is going to mine - for working and reading and doing school work.  My weekends will be dedicated to my social life and my writing.  Yes, it'll take longer to finish, but I'm certain my writing will be better for it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

There's just something about Michael Keaton

I am ridiculously, incomprehensibly, obsessively attracted to Michael Keaton.

It's not my fault.  Go watch him in Batman and Beetlejuice.  You'll see.

Look, logically speaking, I know he's not typically defined as handsome or sexy or hot.  But I've never been the type to listen to definitions.

But wait, Heather.  What does this have anything to do with writing?

Two things: Number 1 - many times, we are attracted to more than just a pretty face, and pretty faces can even turn us off.  Number 2 - chemistry: We can't explain why we're attracted to people, we just are (I'm actually going through this at the moment with a guy at my work - I know, I got a job, say what? - we'll call Poncho).

When I write, I want to be as realistic as possible.  My heroine is smart and pretty and therefore, she's attracted to good looking, intelligent guys.  I have to keep in mind that my readers are living through my heroine, which means not only does the hero have to win her over, he has to win my readers over too.

A lot of the times, my heroes are interesting looking rather than typically attractive.  It's more than just his looks my heroine is attracted to.  For example, in STRANGER, Jane is a smart girl who thinks she's pretty but doesn't know she's beautiful.  Her hero is Nikolai Depogare, a man who is known for being unattractive.  But the more Jane falls for him, the more attractive he becomes.  If I can win you over with Nikolai, get you to be attracted to him, I've done my job as a writer.

What does this have to do with Michael Keaton?

Well, let me just say this: As a reader, hot boys in books start to blur together.  A lot of the times, they're accompanied with bland personalities and even though I get why the heroine falls for him, there's no chemistry between me and him.  The writer didn't win me over.  As such, I'd rather read about a girl falling for an interesting looking guy like Michael Keaton than some faceless hottie.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Stranger: First Chapter

Given that STRANGER comes out in twenty days (twenty days!), I've decided to post the first chapter of the novel here.  I hope you enjoy reading it, and if you have time, your thoughts on it would be lovely!


Chapter 1

She dusted off her hands, wondering what to do with the body.

Sophie hadn’t meant to actually kill the guy.  Her insides churned with guilt but her mind was too focused on trying to figure out her next step.  Sometimes she underestimated her own strength, which was just silly because she should know better by now.  She had this strength the moment she was born.  Possibly while in the womb.

That didn’t mean, however, that she knew what she was.  She wasn’t sure if there were people out there who were like her, who had this super-human strength that she – a five foot seven teenage girl – shouldn’t possibly possess.  She knew from a young age that the power – curse? – she was afflicted with was wrong, unique, and just plain weird.  After all, her parents abandoned her when she just a year old after they found out what she was.  Apparently they didn’t want to keep explaining to the neighbors why a one-year old could lift their car in order to retrieve a Barbie.  As such, Sophie learned not to advertise that she was different which was how she managed to survive various foster homes for the past sixteen years of her life.  At some point, her secret would come out and she would subsequently be placed into group homes, waiting for another family to take a chance on her.  Until she decided she was through with foster homes and decided to live on her own.  Still, she attempted to keep mum on her strength – though she was quite certain she could get paid a lot of money to exploit it – because, as far as she was concerned, it was nobody’s business.  More than that, Sophie liked being underestimated, liked being able to fend for herself if the situation called for it. 

And this situation most definitely had.

She had finished eating breakfast at a local diner and, after paying the bill, left, preparing for a long trek down to Southern California.  It was September, and winters in Tahoe were freezing.  As much as she loved the snow and mountains, she couldn’t afford to wander around the rural community in merely jeans, a worn pair of Converses, a plain blue t-shirt, and a thin zip-up hoodie.  Not if she didn’t want to lose a body part thanks to hypothermia.  No, Costa Mesa was her winter destination.  It was where she had been born and though she barely remembered anything when she was a year old, she remembered the warmth.

It wasn’t too cold this morning, but there was a bitter breeze and a thick fog that nipped her pale cheeks and turned them a bright shade of red.  Sophie didn’t want to think about what her nose looked like.  Out of nowhere, a guy grabbed her wrist and spun her around.  With a smirk, he muttered something cliché about her being by herself like Little Red Riding Hood and asked if she was afraid the Big Bad Wolf would get her.  Sophie had already been on her guard thanks to the fact that the diner was surrounded by forestry – something quite common in Tahoe – and was pretty much a dive.  Cheap, yes, but skeevy.  However, Sophie was desperate and knew that beggars couldn’t be choosers. 

When the stranger touched her, it was like she didn’t even have to think.  She just reacted.  In that moment, reacting meant jamming her palm sharply upward so it connected with his nose, making a satisfying crunch.  He reacted as expected: shouting obscenities and then threatening her life, her virtue, blah, blah, blah.  He came at her, and she tried to warn him.  Tried to tell him not to mess with her.  But he laughed at her and then came at her again. 

As he circled Sophie, her eyes quickly took him in; the five foot ten height, the curly blond hair, the red lips.  He had blue eyes hardened like snow on a rock, and a lean if a bit skinny physique.  Relatively attractive, maybe a few years older than she was, but a redneck was still a redneck and Sophie had a strict no-redneck policy.

This time, though, she wasn’t quick enough to dodge him.  She was on her back now, and he was mounting her rather clumsily due to the fact that she was struggling.  The next thing she knew, Sophie reached up, placed her hand on the back of his neck, and snapped.  He was gone.  She threw his body off of her in order to stand.  She needed to figure out what to do – and fast.  Someone could walk out of the diner at any moment.  Though she was already immersed in some of the wilderness, her red hair made her stand out like a flower among weeds.  And once they saw her, surely they would notice the man lying at her feet.

She couldn’t let that happen.   

It was moments like this one that Sophie wished she had taken the time to make friends.  She could really use some advice right now.  But keeping her secret would have been excessively difficult and she was tired of making excuses.  Plus, trusting people wasn’t easy for her, and instead of trying and wasting her time on something that was bound to fail, she kept to herself.  Which actually worked in her favor because no one depended on her and she didn’t depend on anyone else.

Just the way she liked it.

Except now, obviously.


There was a good chance they would have abandoned Sophie to her fate, maybe go to the point of turning her in.  This wasn’t lifting a car for some doll, it was murder.  It was probably better this way, being alone.

Her eyes looked at the body.  Burying it sounded like the smart thing to do, and if anyone ever managed to find him in this wilderness, she’d be long gone.

“Are you waiting to get caught?”

Sophie’s head snapped up.  She thought she had been alone out here – despite the nearness of the diner, trees managed to obscure a good view of her, and she made sure to keep her ears open to any possible cars or people coming and going – but apparently not.

The man who had spoken looked to be in his early-twenties, probably twenty-three at the latest.  He was under six feet, with thick but short chestnut brown hair styled in such a way that it looked like he had horns.  Or pointed ears, like an animal.  With unruly sideburns that practically grazed his chin on top of a five o’clock shadow, he looked like one of those lumberjacks that inhabited the woods from time to time, and he dressed like one too.  He was wearing a worn leather jacket, a plaid dark blue long-sleeved shirt, jeans, combat boots, and a belt with a distracting belt buckle.  Definitely a working-class type of guy.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said, hoping her voice didn’t sound as frantic as her insides felt.  She thought it was pointless to hope he didn’t see the body considering he was only six feet away from her.

“Of course not.”  He took a step towards her and raised a brow, giving Sophie a look that told her he didn’t believe her.  She didn’t care.  He could think whatever he wanted.  “He deserved it though.”

“I didn’t ask,” she retorted, glancing upwards.  Did that mean he had seen what happened?

He gave her a dry look.  “I don’t care,” he said, taking another step towards her. 

There was a tense moment between the two; Sophie wasn’t sure why he didn’t threaten to call the cops or why he didn’t start screaming in the diner’s general direction for help, though the latter idea probably wasn’t too smart.   She knew she could take on a group of people as long as she knocked each individual out without too much fighting.  Fighting wasted time she didn’t have, especially not now.  Not with a body at her feet.  And this guy in front of her was currently wasting what precious moments she did have.  If she had to knock him out, she would do it just as long as it didn’t attract any attention.

Before she could do anything, however, he said with a knowing glint in his eyes, “I know what you are.”

A shiver slid down her spine at the sound of those four words, and Sophie felt herself swallow.  He couldn’t possibly know what she was unless he was either a conspiracy theorist, worked for a classified section of the government specializing in what she was – if such a thing even existed - or he had similar capabilities she did.  While he had broad shoulders and a well-built frame, she didn’t think he was one of her kind simply because she had yet to meet someone else that was strange.

“I don’t have to explain myself to you,” she said.  She couldn’t think of anything else to say.  She just wanted him gone as quickly as possible.

“I can help you control it, kid,” he replied.

Did he just call me kid?  She might not have been his age or anything, but she sure as hell wasn’t a child.

“Who do you think you are?” she asked, narrowing her eyes.

At this question, he smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes.  She couldn’t tell what color his eyes were just now; it was too foggy.  Sophie had come to find that the eyes told more than the lips ever could and they always gave her a good read on people.  If she needed to read anybody, it was this guy, some lumberjack who didn’t even blink an eye seeing a girl like her kill a guy with no weapon, no injuries on her person, and a body to dispose of.  If he was so comfortable around this type of situation, the least he could have done was offer to help her find a place to bury the body.

“I can teach you how to control it.”  His voice was low, a gravelly sound.  It was like he was perpetually angry even though his body looked relaxed, maybe even calm.  Hers, on the other hand, was tense and ready to fight.

“I don’t think this is any of your business,” she snapped.  She could feel herself start to get frustrated that he wasn’t offering anything about himself all while hinting at knowing her dark secret.  She had never seen this guy in her life and it was like –

“Can you read my mind?” she asked him, and while the question itself was ridiculous on human standards, if a girl like her could kill a guy twice her size, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to assume particular people could read minds.

His lips curled up again, but he wasn’t smiling because he was happy, and he didn’t seem to be laughing at the ridiculousness of her question.  At least that was what she garnered from his eyes.  Hazel, she decided.  A golden-green hazel color.  They were surprisingly pretty but Sophie didn’t have time to check him out, not when she had a body to dispose of.

“No,” he said, shaking his head.

Well, that was good to know.  It didn’t seem as if the question perturbed him or anything though it was entirely possible that he thought she was crazy.

“But I know people who can,” he continued.

Sophie clenched her jaw and felt her brow furrowed on their own accord.  It was her turn to ask, “What are you?”

“You’re running out of time,” he said, evading the question just as she had evaded his.  “I’m sure your friend there has friends back in the diner waiting for him.  And if he doesn’t show up soon, they’ll come looking for him.”  He took another step towards her so that somehow they ended up being only a few centimeters apart.  She had no idea why she wasn’t backing up, why she wasn’t running and leaving the body with him.  Probably because she knew she wasn’t as fast as she was strong.  That, and she didn’t have anywhere to go.  She could feel warmth radiating from his body.  “But I’m sure you could take them, couldn’t you?”

“Stop it,” she told him.

“Stop what?” he asked, his voice testing her.  Sophie wasn’t sure if he was annoyed with her abrupt command or if he was amused.  After a quick peek at his eyes, she’d say he was getting frustrated with her.  As if she was responsible for his quick temper.  “You know what I think?  I think you’re in denial.  And that’s going to leave you very vulnerable.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  That much was true.  Sophie wasn’t sure what he was referring to anymore.  All she knew was that she didn’t have time to sit around and find out.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” he replied, and oh yes, he was very frustrated.  She couldn’t fathom as to why.

“Who are you?” she asked him again.  She poked his chest.  “Where did you come from?  You don’t know me so stop pretending that you do.”  With that, she turned.  Sophie made up her mind to leave him responsible for the body and head off towards town to think about her next plan of action.

He grabbed her wrist and yanked her towards him.  She managed to lose her balance and stumble into him.  Her force knocked him off his feet and before she knew what happened, she found herself on top of him.  Because he pissed her off, Sophie made sure to push into him as she landed.  She smirked upon hearing his sharp exhale; she had managed to knock the air out of him.  Good.

She stood, hoping to get up and make do with her plan, but the stranger actually reached out and grabbed her ankle, yanking her back down.  Before she could land on him again, he moved with such speed that she didn’t realize what had happened until her back hit the ground and she was looking up into a pair of green-gold hazel eyes.  He didn’t look too pleased, she decided.

“I’m only going to tell you one more time, kid,” he said through gritted teeth.  “You don’t have much time.”

“I don’t think you realize just who you’re dealing with, pal,” she retorted and placed her hands firm on his chest in order to push him off of her.  He ended up flying a few feet in the sky before landing a good deal away from her.

Maybe now he would take the hint and back off.

She turned and looked down at the body.  After a moment of thinking, she knew there was a good place to bury the guy another mile into the woods and it would be a cinch to just leave him.  The trouble now was shaking this stranger – she still had no idea who he was.  Hopefully he was unconscious so he wouldn’t bother her any time soon.

She would have to carry the body, Sophie realized.  Dragging him would leave marks.

Suddenly, a siren pierced the morning’s heavy, foggy silence, and Sophie’s heart jumped in her throat.  There was no way she could run as fast carrying the body and the sirens were only getting closer.

“Miss Harper,” a different, accented voice said, coming from directly in front of her.  She saw a silhouette heading toward and she tensed.  “I understand you won’t trust us.  Perhaps if you hear us out, you might feel differently.”

A man emerged from the fog.  He looked as though he was in his forties, with a friendly face and warm blue eyes.  He offered her a smile.  His entire demeanor seemed trustworthy, but Sophie still wasn’t certain what he –and his angrier cohort – wanted with her.

“As Will said, you don’t have much time,” he continued, stopping a few feet from her.  At least he seemed to know boundaries.  “I promise to get you out of here if you’ll listen to what we have to say.  I promise we won’t harm you, but you probably don’t believe me.  However, I’m sure you’d be able to defend yourself quite admirably if anything were to go awry.”

The sirens were only getting closer.  The body was still at her feet.  Even Sophie knew she really had no choice.

“Okay,” she agreed with a curt nod.  “I’ll come.” 

Before she knew it, the man smiled and led her through the forest and back on the main road where a town car was waiting.  The sirens were only getting louder.  Sophie didn’t think twice before sliding into the back.  She had completely forgotten the original stranger she had pushed off of her until he took a seat next to her.  The older man sat up front, in the passenger seat, and the driver – whoever he was – started driving.

“You realize,” Sophie began, “that town cars aren’t exactly common around here.  I’m sure that somebody will remember a shiny black car idling on the side of the road.”

“That might be so,” the man sitting next to her said in his deep, gravelly voice, “but it’s not you those sirens were after.”  And then he smirked.

She wanted nothing more than to punch that stupid smirk off of his chiseled face.

“What?” she asked, deadpan.

“I’m afraid that what Will said is true,” the older man said, turning his body so he was facing the backseat occupants.  At least he had the decency to look regretful.  “You killed that man in nothing more than two seconds.  Besides Will and me, I am quite certain nobody else saw you.  The sirens are not for you.”

Sophie’s heart started beating at an accelerated rate.  She could even hear it drumming in her ears.  “You tricked me.”  It was a statement, but it would seem the older man felt compelled to answer it.

“Yes,” he agreed, “but it was necessary in order for you to listen to what we’re about to tell you.”  He paused, expecting Sophie to interrupt.  When she remained quiet, the man continued.  “My name is Ethan Curtis and I run the Academy for Peculiars.”

Sophie made a face.  “I’ve never heard of you,” she said.

“No, I’m sure you haven’t.”  He smiled that warm smile and Sophie hated to admit it, but she felt her muscles start to relax.  “My academy is geared towards people like you, Miss Harper.  Whether you can read minds, move things with your thoughts, or transform into an animal, like Will.”

Sophie shifted her eyes over to Will, taking in his strong, hairy profile.  “Animal, eh?” she asked.  “How surprising.”

Will’s eyes immediately snapped to her and she didn’t bother attempting to hide the amused grin on her face.

“Let me guess,” she continued, feigning deep thought by rubbing her chin with the length of her fingers.  “Lion?”

“Wolf,” he corrected.

“Although,” Ethan said quickly, “Will is technically a lion – a Leo, to be exact.”

“Oh my God,” Sophie said with a roll of her eyes, “please do not tell me you’re going to ask me my sign.”

Will had an annoyed look on his face as he glanced out the window but Ethan laughed.  Sophie couldn’t tell if it was because he actually found her statement funny or if he was just being nice.  Probably the latter.

“Actually,” he said, “we already know your sign: you’re an Aries, the Ram.  A fire sign.  Which is exactly why Will is here.  Should you choose to attend the academy, Will would be your resident hall director.  Your residence hall being Ignis.”

Sophie furrowed her brow.  “I don’t understand,” she said.  “How do you know so much about me?”

“I make sure to keep tabs on particular people who exhibit peculiar tendencies,” Ethan explained.  “It is quite common for a peculiar’s nature to show up when they’re young and, as such, there are many different reports of strange behavior to sift through.  It only comes with much practice and determination, as I’m sure you are well aware, for peculiars to blend in with panpi.”


“It’s our word for people unlike us.  Humans.  However, I firmly believe that we – including peculiars – are all humans, so to refer to those different from us as humans would mean that we are not human and would draw a line between our species and theirs.  That is the last thing I wish to do.”  He shifted his shoulders so he would be more comfortable in his awkward position.  “As I was saying, because of how easy it is to blend in, I have people everywhere who take that information and sort through what they believe are credible reports to those that are coincidences – a word I hate to use considering I do not believe in it.  The ones they believe, they send to me.  I narrow the list down even further, and those I deem as credible are visited by myself and the student’s potential RH director.  We discuss the academy, the curriculum, and everything else with the student and their family.”

“And what finally inspired you to seek me out?” Sophie asked as the car slowed to a stop at a red light.  Tourists riding rented bikes began to cross the street.

“It’s not every day a baby lifts up a car in order to fetch a doll, Red,” Will said from beside her.  He didn’t even look at her.

“Red?” Sophie asked dryly.  “I haven’t heard that one before.  And it wasn’t just a doll, it was a Barbie.”

“A Barbie is still a doll,” Will pointed out, shifting in his seat and giving her an annoyed glare.

“I have been interested in you the moment I heard about you, Miss Harper,” Ethan said, interrupting them.  “In fact, I was hoping to get to you earlier than our usual recruitment age - which is around twelve - just when sixth grade in the United States is finished.  But after your parents…”  He let his voice trail off, uncertain of how to finish the thought.  Sophie nodded abruptly, indicating that she understood what he was trying to say.  She crossed her arms over her chest and looked out her window.  “Well, it was more difficult to keep track of you, and then you just vanished.  When I finally heard word of your appearance here in Tahoe, I knew I had to act as quickly as possible in case I lost you again.  I grabbed Will and had Jared fly us here.  And now here we are.”

Sophie glanced back at Ethan.  “I’m sure some parents refuse to let their kids attend this academy,” she said, maintaining eye contact with the dean.  “Why is it so important that I attend your school?”

“Miss Harper, I don’t think you realize just how important you are,” Ethan said, a serious glint in his blue eyes.  “I have been alive since the year twelve-hundred and twenty-one.  I have only encountered two other physicals beside yourself in my lifetime, and one has long since died.  You are a rare species in an already rare species and that it why it is absolutely imperative that you attend the academy.  You need to learn how to control your strength and learn about not only what you are, but who you are.  Our curriculum focuses on subjects that teach us just that, ranging from astronomy – our position on earth and how that affects us – to history of peculiars – what we are and how we came to be – to palmistry – what the unique lines on both palms actually tell us about who we are – as well as extensive training based on what type of peculiar you are.  There are three different peculiar classifications: physicals, like yourself; shifters, like Will; and mentals, which breaks down into two subcategories: animus – someone who can read minds – and physicus – someone who can move objects with their thoughts.”

Palmistry and astronomy?  Sophie couldn’t quite believe it, and without fully realizing it, her eyes descended to her open palm.

“If I did decide to attend your school,” she began, not looking up, “what, exactly, do you expect of me in return?”  Her eyes jumped up and locked with Ethan’s.  “I’m not an idiot.  I know nothing comes for free.”

“If you do decide to attend,” Ethan said, his confidence never wavering, “the only thing you will need to provide in return is allowing me to examine you every once in a while.  Like I said, physicals are rare amongst peculiars and that means information about them and what it means to be a physical is sorely lacking.  Such information I can only get from a physical, from you.  You will not be required to do anything you are uncomfortable with, merely answer questions and allow me to run noninvasive tests.  But, like I said, I require nothing more from you.  Your tuition, your books, your food and board, and since you seem to be without a bag, your clothes – including your uniform – will be taken care of.  This, I personally guarantee.”

The stare Ethan gave her was so intense she had to look away.

“It just seems too easy,” Sophie murmured more to herself than to anyone else in the car.

That, of course, did not stop them from overhearing the comment because Ethan said, “I’m afraid, Miss Harper, that it will be far from easy.  Should you decide to attend, you’ll be put in Year Six, which is the year anatomy-physiology is taught, as well as astronomy.  You will also have to narrow the four core classes – Astrology, Numerology, Palmistry and Tarot – down to the two you wish to specialize in for your degree.  Because you’re coming in late, your free periods will be spent with Jared, who will tutor you in the basics of the core subjects.  Instead of physical education, you will be with me, learning about the history of our kind.  And during your study breaks, you will be training privately with Will, who will help you control your strength and learn how to use it properly.”

“Will?” Sophie all but yelped.

“Trust me, I had no say in the matter,” Will muttered.  He really did have a knack for making her feel welcome.

“He’s not a physical,” Sophie pointed out.

“No, he is not,” Ethan agreed.  “But he is the strongest on my staff, and he knows what he is doing.  I trust him impeccably, Miss Harper, and you should too.”

The following pause was interrupted by Jared, who murmured to Ethan, “I’m turning in now.”

Ethan turned back to Sophie.  “I don’t mean to rush your decision, Miss Harper, but time is rather pressing at the moment.  We’ve reached the airport, you see, and our private jet is scheduled to leave in twenty minutes.”


Sophie wasn’t sure what to say.  But she had twenty minutes to figure it out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Yesterday, I finished a book I had been looking forward to reading ever since I first heard about it.  The concept was intriguing, the book cover was eye-catching, and the author seemed cool - at least from the posts she wrote on a writing blog.

Then I read the book.

And I was... disappointed.

I didn't hate the book, like I have hated YA books in the past.  I'm just... indifferent to it.  I just don't care.  I'll probably read the rest of the trilogy, but I won't be engaged with the story.

And that's the difference.  At least with the series that I've hated - whether it's the writing, the characters, the plot - at least it's gotten a reaction out of me.  (I threw a book across the living room because how frustrated I was with a character, no joke.)

This book, on the other hand, was just so bland.  At the beginning of it, I was really annoyed with the character.  One of the things I can't stand is when people feel sorry for themselves publicly.  I get that everyone goes through pain and handles it differently, but when a character feels sorry for themselves in front of a guy who's supposed to be her romantic interest, I want to slap her.  But the character is so dry that I don't even care, despite my annoyance.

I cared about none of the characters.  Even the hero was boring.  I didn't love him and didn't understand how she loved him, and he, her.  She was overly defensive and he was infinitely patient.

To me, that equals boring, and that equals utter disappointment.

Now, I realize not everyone is going to like my books.  They might hate the characters or the plot, or even the writing.  But I hope I don't disappoint you.  That's even worse than inflicting uncontrollable rage where you throw your Kindle across your living room (which I'm not responsible for, by the way).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stranger's cover reveal

Well, everybody, the day is finally here!  My first cover reveal.

I'm actually so excited to share this with you, and if your curiosity is insatiable, I don't blame you if you choose to forego the story of how I came up with the design in order to look at it.  However, since there may be some of you who are interested in self-publishing and might someday have to create your own book cover, I want to tell you what I went through.

At first, I had an incredibly complex cover in my mind.  I talked about it with my step-mom - a graphic artist who helped me with the cover design - and she pointed out that it just wasn't possible with our resources.  Instead, I took a few weeks to think about it and then went to some stock photo websites to look through some pictures in order to find ideas.

And then I found the picture that would be my cover.  It uses one element of my original idea, which I love.  It's simple but poignant, and illustrates what the book is about without throwing different elements at the reader.  I sent it to my step-mom and she loved it.  We both worked on toying with the font and the placement of the title and author, and managed to finish the entire cover in a few hours.  I sent it to my beta, Leighann, and she loved it too.

All it cost me was $19 for the photo.  Now, if by some miracle, my book sells 200,000 copies, I'll have to repurchase the more expensive photo because of distribution restrictions.  It's more expensive, but I figure if I can sell 200,000 copies of my novel, I can spend a couple hundred bucks on a book cover.  Luckily, I have someone who's good with Photoshop and can help me put covers together.  If you don't, I would ask for recommendations from people who self-published their own books.  Make sure you get your money's worth and get as much information as you can about a graphic designer so you don't get ripped off in the end.

If you have any questions about the self-publication process or specific questions about book covers, feel free to ask me in the comments or shoot me and email at  Just make sure you put something in the subject line relating to writing so I don't think you're spam.

Now, enough with talking.  Here is the cover for Stranger:

I'd love to know what you think of it.  If you have time, drop me a comment, and have a wonderful Sunday!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Music Monday: Overexposed Edition

I recently bought Maroon 5's new album, Overexposed.  I know the critics are mixed, but I actually really love it.  I love Adam Levine's voice and the lyrics can be both sweet, clever, and endearing with a hint of sexy thrown in just to mix it up.  Not all songs on the album are great, but the majority of them are.  Below, I've listed my top three as well as some honorable mentions.

1.        Wipe Your Eyes  It's one of the sappy songs, but it's catchy and I adore the line: At night before you fall asleep I run my thumb across your cheek...

2.       One More Night  Another catchy one, but more uptempo than the first one.  Definitely something that stays stuck in your head and makes you want to dance, even without the song actually playing.

3.       Love Somebody  I like the meaning of the song - everyone just wants to love somebody.  And I definitely relate to the line: If I fall for you, I'll never recover.  If I fall for you, I'll never be the same.  It manages to capture the feeling of stepping off a cliff but before the actual fall. 

Honorable Mentions:  Payphone, Daylight, Fortune Teller

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Writing and work

When writing is a hobby, it's fun.  It's fueled by passion and inspiration and excitement.  When it's a job, it's fueled by the same thing, but instead of being able to put aside a current WIP in favor of a new idea or taking an impromptu two week break or just deciding to set a WIP aside, you can't.  Because it's your job.

One of the biggest fears I have is that when I start the second book for the three trilogies I'm writing, I'll lose that spark that made me love it in the first place.  Kind of like getting over the honeymoon phase in a romantic relationship.

Even as I write this third book in my third trilogy, sometimes I just want to stop.  Not because I don't think it'll be a good book (how many YA pirate novels are there?) but because I don't want to get up early to write.  Because I'd rather be reading.  Or sleeping.  Or watching television.  Or going to a movie.  Or Tumblr.  Or doing anything except writing.

It can get tedious to write every.  Single.  Day. 

As a Sagittarius, I get over routine really fast.  But it's that routine that triggers my creativity.  It's a muscle you have to work constantly so muscle memory builds and when I sit down, ready to write, the ideas come because I've built up that muscle memory over time.

When I write, I'm excited but there are times when it feels like work.  But when I type up my manuscript, I reread my words and I realize they're good.  I might not realize it when I write, but when I read it, it reminds me that this is what I was born to do.  And I'll continue to do it, especially when it feels like work.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Important dates!

Sorry for the lack of updates everyone!  I just got back from England and am still getting over the time difference.  It was such an amazing experience and I learned so much, both academically and about myself.  It literally changed my life.  It was a lot of hard work and I didn't get a chance to write while there (though now that I'm home, I'm right back on schedule!). 

With STRANGER coming out in a month and a half, I've still got a lot of work to do, but I've accomplished a lot in the past few days.  Here are a few dates you should pay attention to:

August 5 - If all goes well, those who requested advanced copies should be getting them this day.

August 19 - Book cover reveal!  (I absolutely adore it - it's simple but symbolic and captures the essence of the story!)

September 2 - First chapter will be posted!

September 22 - STRANGER is officially released.

I can't believe this is really happening.  Thank you so much for joining me on this journey and I can only hope you think it's worth it.  :)

(These dates are tentative.  If I have to change them for any reason, I'll let you know.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One, two, three

I am currently working on my third manuscript.  No, it's not the sequel to STRANGER or the sequel to AWAKEN.  It's a completely new manuscript that will be the first of it's own trilogy, completely unlike the previous two stories I've written.  I promise I'll tell you more about it a little bit later.  Right now, I just wanted to give you a quick update of what's going on as of right now.

I am editing STRANGER for the fifth and last time while simultaneously formatting it for Amazon's ebook program.  It's not as tricky as I expected it to be, especially since Amazon lays it out really well and it's easy to understand.  My step-mom, a graphic artist, is working on the cover as we speak so expect the reveal some time over the summer. 

I edited AWAKEN and sent it to my amazing beta, Leighann, and expect it back some time in the next couple of months.  I'll be posting a summary and release date later this year.

I can't believe the amount of support I've received from each and every one of you.  Thank you so much.  You make me excited to write and excited to share with you.

I hope everyone is having an amazing summer!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Because it's the Cup

If you've been following my blog for a while, you're probably aware that I'm an avid hockey fan and an even more avid Anaheim Ducks fan.  If you've been paying attention at all to what's been going on with the Stanley Cup playoffs, you're also probably aware that the Los Angeles Kings, the Ducks biggest rival (I'd say the Kings surpass the Sharks now) won the Cup yesterday against New Jersey in Game 6.

I'm not going to bash the Kings.

I'm not going to say anything, really, except congratulations to real Los Angeles fans.  We had our time and now it's your time.  Revel in it.  Please don't riot (although I'm sure people already have.)  Winning the Cup is a huge accomplishment.  Bandwagoners, we'll see where you are next season.  This is a HUGE win for hockey in California and the West.

Just remember that the Ducks did it first and we did it in 14 years, not 45.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Huge Announcement!

Hello everyone!

I have an announcement I am so excited to share with you.  I will be self-publishing my first novel STRANGER through Amazon September 22, 2012.  The summary is below.

Seventeen year old Sophie Harper is different.  Not just different, peculiar.  Though her petite frame reveals nothing, she has superhuman strength that allows her to lift up cars like they were pillows, throw people twice her size across a room, and even kill a man with her bare hands.  She’s accepted to the Academy for Peculiars, an isolated school on Catalina Island for other teenagers like her.  As she settles into her new home, she makes friends with her dorm mates, stresses out about catching up with schoolwork, and starts dating one of the most popular guys at the academy.  But as normal as Sophie wants to be, she can’t change the fact that she her strength is rare, even among peculiars.  She starts falling for her trainer, a rugged shifter named Will, who frustrates her to no end, and finds out there is someone else who shares her ability, a man everyone refuses to talk about.  The more she learns about him, the more she realizes that just because her mysterious counterpart is probably the only person in the world who understands her isolation, doesn’t mean he isn’t a threat.

Jane Cabot’s life turns upside down when she moves a book with her mind.  Her ability is reading thoughts, not telekinesis.  In fact, she didn’t know a peculiar with two simultaneous abilities existed.  Now, instead of focusing on maintaining her 4.0 GPA and getting into shape in preparation for soccer, she is forced to take private lessons with her least favorite professor, Nikolai Depogare, who also happens to possess the same talent as she does.  He emphasizes the importance of keeping her new self a secret, even from her friends, leaving her isolated from all that she knows.  If other peculiars found out about her, they wouldn’t hesitate to run experiments on her and force her to do their bidding.  The only person who seems to understand her predicament is Depogare.  Trying to ignore her conflicting feelings for the man, Jane puts herself and her friends unknowingly in danger, and in order to save them, she must reveal what she really is.

As I have stated, it will be self-published.  I have been querying agents on and off for the past four years.  After getting a pile of rejection letters for STRANGER, I decided that instead of setting the manuscript aside and starting a new one like I normally would, I wanted to find a different way to publish it.

I love this story.  I love the characters and the plot and just because agents weren't interested in it didn't mean I was going to give up on it.  I want to share it with you all.  Whether it makes a lot of money or not doesn't matter.  I want to write.  I hope more than anything you enjoy this story.  That is my main concern.

I am new to the whole self-publishing industry but I'm learning.  I plan to document my experience here at this blog.  I was inspired by S. R. Johannes and her story, which you can read here.  Please be sure to check it out because it's incredibly informative.

But I do need your help.  S. R. Johannes did this for her ebook UNTRACEABLE and I liked the idea so I'm doing it here: If you are interested in reading an advanced copy of STRANGER, I would be happy to send you one.  All I ask in return is that you write your review somewhere - your blog, Amazon, wherever.  I'm not going to check so we'll be going on the honor's system.  Please write whatever you think.  You don't have to say you like it if you didn't.  If you're interested, please email me at and put STRANGER Advanced Copy in the subject line.

Check back here for updates and news.  I'll be posting the cover and the first chapter in the upcoming months, blogging about my experience with the self-publishing industry and, of course, my upcoming time in England, Scotland, and possibly France.  Again, I can't wait to share this story with you.  I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Snow White and chemistry

I saw the midnight showing of Snow White and the Huntsman.  It was much better than I thought it would be, actually.  There was a portion of the movie that interested me as a writer, and I thought I would share my personal thoughts on the subject.  Just to be safe, I'm going to say there are spoilers for the movie so if you don't want to be spoiled, come back when you've seen the movie.


Okay, ready?

There's a love triangle in the movie.  Let me give you a moment to get over your shock.


Are we good?  Okay.

I liked all three characters - Snow White, The Huntsman, and William - and didn't have too much of a preference who she ended up with.  Both men liked her, but interestingly enough, it was never clear who she preferred.  At one point, she initiates a quick kiss with William but it's the Huntsman's kiss that awakens her after taking a bite of that poison apple. 

I'm not sure about you, but if there's a love-triangle in a book, I hate when the heroine has two great, different guys but she's confused about which one to choose.

I hate it even more when the readers aren't sure who the heroine is interested in in the first place.  The heroine is who the reader connects with.  If your main character is going to end up with someone at the end of the book or the end of the trilogy, the readers need to be given clues about who that is.  We also need to believe it.

There's a reason why there's a huge debate in The Hunger Game fandom about whether or not Katniss truly loved Peeta at the end of Mockingjay or if she was just settling because she felt she owed that much to him.

I'm not saying be obvious about it.  Chemistry is tricky, especially in writing.  But it's little things.  Chemistry is subtle but it's the most important thing - in my mind - between two characters.  As cliche as it is, I love when the hero looks at the heroine in a way she can't decipher.  I also like when she notices things about the hero before the MC realizes she likes him (or her).  For example, his collarbone or his long fingers or the way his Adam's apple bobs up and down when he swallows.

My favorite tactic?  I love flaws.  To me, it makes a face look lived in, experienced.  So I make my heroine notice his flaws and notice them as flaws but still be attracted to them.  Maybe it's a mole on his face or a thick brow, maybe it's thin lips or a long face, maybe it's a broken nose or a scar.  It doesn't matter but it makes them who they are, makes them more well-rounded, and, to me, more attractive.

That's why chemistry is so important.  I want to believe the heroine likes him.  There are too many books where the hero is so hot and the heroine is immediately attracted and/or in love with him based solely on that.



Where's the chemistry?  Where's the depth?

I still like the characters in Snow White.  Maybe if I knew who she had feelings for, her character would have been more interesting to me.  Then again, if she wasn't interested in either of them, that should have been more obvious too.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Je parle un peu francais

So I'm in the process of teaching myself French due to my trip to England (and subsequent side trip to Paris).  Not to generalize an entire country's population, but every person I talk to that's been to France says they're not too fond of Americans.  Am I going to hold that against them?  No.  But if I'm visiting their country, I want to be as respectful as possible and try to learn the basics so they know I've put an effort into this.

Here's my plan of attack: Every day, I'm reading one chapter of French for Dummies on my iPad and reading the French conversations in the book out loud.  I'm going to watch one movie a day I'm familiar with (or, if time is too restrictive, four movies a week) in French with no subtitles, I'm going to download some French music and I'm going to read fan fiction in French.

Now, I've taken two French classes before.  One was in eighth grade and one was my freshman year in college.  I have a pretty good grasp of the language and can read it relatively well.  It's the speaking part that gets to me.

I'll let you know my progress.

This should be interesting.

So far, I've watched: She's the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You.  Today, I'm hoping to watch Legally Blonde (since I know the entire movie by heart).

I've listened to:  Vanessa Paradis.  You might know her as Johnny Depp's long-time love (and no, they're not over).  I love her, but I'm going to need more.

I have yet to read fan fic.

We'll see how this turns out.

What do you guys think?  Have you attempted to teach yourself another language?  What did you do and did it work?


In honor of Memorial Day, me and my family went up to the LA Veteran's Cemetery yesterday in order to avoid the hoopla currently taking place (and I don't mean any disrespect by my choice in diction).  We like to avoid crowds and traffic and have time together with my grandparents and great-grandfather without worrying about being in the background of the news or being interviewed by a personality.

Please take time out to remember the fallen, to remember those who came back, and to remember those who are still out there, fighting for us.  Thank you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

International study

So this summer, I'm studying at Cambridge.  Cambridge.  In England.

I've never been out of North America before, and to say that I'm excited would be a thorough understatement.  I remember when I was in middle school and watched the second Harry Potter movie multiple times in theatres because I had the biggest crush on Tom Felton.  I wanted nothing more than to go to a boarding school in England.  Being the nerd I am, I actually researched boarding schools, made a pro-and-con list, came up with a packing list and presented it to my grandfather.  He listened to me and told me he would think about it.  (One of the best thing about my grandfather is he was never condescending and took me seriously, even when I was a kid.)  Obviously, that didn't happen but before he passed away, he promised once he got out of the hospital, me and him would travel all over the world.

Sadly, that never happened.

But this is happening. 

I leave in less than a month.

Sometimes, life doesn't work out the way you expect it to.  Sometimes, you get what you want in a different way when the time is right.

I am so grateful to explore England, Scotland, Ireland and Paris.  I am so excited to study at an amazing, historical, wonderful, timeless university.  I hope I represent the United States, California, my university, and me in the best, classiest way.

Most importantly, me and Papa will take our trip together.  It might not be the way we planned, but it's happening.  And this way, he'll be with me always.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Running dry

So, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, I finished my second manuscript on Sunday.  After a I finish something as massive as a manuscript, I tend to give myself a couple of weeks off to relax, take a break, and start over again with something new.  However, that doesn't mean I don't think about the next story and normally, I tend to outline during this time too.

Except, the story that I planned to outline just won't come to me.  I have the first six chapters covered, but then I'm stuck.  Of course, I have a feeling it might have to do with the fact that this is supposed to be a trilogy and perhaps the story is to narrow to span three books.  I want to add a third heroine too, but I'm still trying to fine-tune the details.  I'm hitting a wall right now, and I don't like it.  I'm going through what Natalie Imbruglia sings in her wonderful song "Torn": My inspiration has run dry... for this story, for now.

I still have a couple of weeks before I need to start writing again.  And, as someone who doesn't necessarily believe in writer's block, I have faith that my heroines' story - all three of them - will find me.  Soon.

It's just difficult when the story plays out in your head but the words won't come.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lessons Learned

It's been over a year since Goatboy and I decided to stop seeing each other.  Up until April, there wasn't a day that went by where I didn't think of him without missing him, longing for what we had, and wondering if we would ever be together in the future.  I wound up finding him on Facebook and we had a couple of chats through texts but we haven't seen each other in a long time.  It was like we didn't have to try.  We still had that casual banter I missed so much and I was happy to have him back in my life and hoped that maybe, just maybe, we might get a second chance at being together.

I was talking to my guy friend about it - let's call him Lawyer - and he made me realize something: What I missed wasn't what we had but what I thought it might be if we had more time.  In other words, the reason I stayed with him for so long and why I continued to miss him when he was gone was because I was waiting for what could have been rather than seeing what we were.  Because what we were was fun, but not enough.  And that's okay.  That wasn't his fault or my fault.  It just was what we were.

It took me a day to let the words sink in, but when they did, I was immediately over Goatboy.  I can now look at it with fondness and I won't ever say I didn't love him - I loved him as much as I could with what was given to me - but I can't long for what I never had.  I can appreciate it for what it was: two people who liked spending time together, who cared about each other, who had fun being in each other's company.

Just because he wasn't The One, just because I never met his friends or family, just because he never told me he loved me (if he ever did) doesn't mean the time I spent with him was wasted or inconsequential.  Thinking about us now makes me smile because he taught me what I want in a guy, what I want in a relationship, and more about myself.  I feel lucky that I learned these lessons with someone like him, and even though my heart was smashed into a thousand pieces, I've managed to put it all back together.

Except I couldn't find a piece.  It's small but it's still a piece of my heart that will always belong to him.  Not because he took it from me, but because I gave it to him.  The small hole left will remind me of him, of our time together, and that's enough for me.