Coloring Contest Winners

Thanks so much for everyone who entered the Dagger’s Sleep Coloring Book Page Contest. The winners were chosen via Random.org, so it wasn’t skills based. I loved seeing the variety from pictures colored by six-year old to a few professional artists! Each person had a different take on the pictures from fair skin to dark skin from blond hair to purple hair to side burns. Each picture was unique and special and I hope you all enjoy scrolling through them as much as I did!

The winners are:

Rebecca R. – winner of the $10 Amazon gift card

Zoe B. – winner of the Dagger’s Sleep themed book box

Devorah B. – winner of the Dagger’s Sleep hardcover

Thanks so much to everyone who participated! It was so much fun seeing what you came up with, and I hope everyone enjoys being able to scroll through and see your artwork!

And make sure you scroll all the way to the end of the post for a big announcement. Many of you might already know, but I’m now making it official and telling the world.


Coloring Book Page Entries

Rebecca R.’s 6 yr old daughter
Rebecca R.’s 8 yr old son
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Rebecca R.’s 10 yr old son
brendan-van-maanen-9.jpg
Brendan V.M. age 9
colby-van-maanen-6.jpg
Colby V.M. age 6
Megan V.M. age 13
Deborah OC
Zoe Z.
Ava Z.
devorah-bynes.png
Devorah B.
Jessica D.
june.jpg
June
Sam M.
Zoe B.
Hannah R.

Tricia Mingerink (because of course I did one too, even if it didn’t count as an entry).

 


Oh, you scrolled all the way down here wanting an announcement? Well, here it is:

My next release is going to be Decree (The Blades of Acktar #5)

Yes, you read that right. There’s going to be another Blades book. This one is a collection of 4 novellas and 6 short stories. Some of the stories will be back story, but most of the stories pick up only a few months after Deliver and follow the characters until about 8 years after Deliver ends.

The best part is that my planned release date is December 18, 2018. Yep. That’s only two months away!

I will be releasing the cover for Decree, links to preorder and add on Goodreads, more information, and an official blurb later this week.

What’s up with the Title of Book 4?

All the previous titles in The Blades of Acktar are four-letter D words. Dare. Deny. Defy. All of them have a punchy, raw feel to them.

And then there’s Book 4. Deliver. It’s a longer word. A little weird and outdated. Why would I pick it for the title of Book 4?

To be honest, when I came up with the titles for the first three, I wasn’t planning a book 4. I only needed titles for three books.

But I chose those titles very carefully. They are all commands. In some way, shape, or form, the characters are commanded to dare, deny, or defy throughout each of those books. They are also the theme of the books, both each individual book and all the books in the series. Finally, all three of those words can have dual meaning. Leith daring to stand up to King Respen is a good thing, but Respen daring to stand against God isn’t. Denying self is good. Denying Christ isn’t. See what I mean?

Trying to find a word that started with D, was a command, captured the theme, was present in the earlier books, and had dual meaning was a bit of a challenge.

Finally, I settled on Deliver.

Criteria #1: Starts with D. Check.

Criteria #2: A command. Check.

Deliver isn’t a word we use often, even though it is used a lot in the Bible (or at least, in the KJV that I use), especially in the Psalms where the writers routinely beg for God’s deliverance from enemies. In this context, it means save.

Even though the word deliver wasn’t used often in the books, it is essentially the prayer Renna prays A LOT. She wants God to save her (read: deliver) her from her enemies. Leith needs deliverance from his sins and his enemies. Pretty much any time the word save is used, you could substitute deliver.

I also noticed that the word deliver was used in a few of the verses from Daniel that I choose to begin the books with. Another tie in.

Criteria #4: Present in all three books. Check.

Remember I mentioned the word deliver is used in the Psalms? Especially in the Psalms written by David. The Bible stories about David continue to play a role in the theme and shaping the characters in book 4.

Criteria #3: Captures the theme. Check.

Now to the tough one. Dual meaning. The cool thing is, the word deliver has the most complicated dual meaning of all of them. Dare, deny, and defy have the same meaning that can be directed in two different ways. Deliver as a word has two different, and in many ways, opposite meanings.

On the one hand, it means to save or to be taken out of. Saved from enemies or sin or bitterness, etc.

On the other hand, it means to surrender or to be handed over. (like delivering a package or delivering oneself to the enemy).

See what I mean by opposite? This one word means both to take away from and also to hand over.

But in a way, these two definitions work together. To be delivered from bitterness, we need to surrender our own pride and hurt. To be delivered from our enemies, we surrender our need to rescue ourselves. Because of God’s deliverance from our sins, we surrender our lives to Him. There’s also the negative. There are those who surrender their lives to their bitterness and hatred. They are delivered into the hands of their enemies.

I’m already having fun using this duality in the book so far, and I’m brainstorming ways it will come out into the ending. The word deliver might not be as noticeably used in the book the way dare, deny, and defy were, but any time you see the words save or surrender, that’s what I’m thinking about when I write it.

What do you think about the title? Love it? Not so sold on it yet?

 

Why Defy isn’t The End

*Warning: This Post Contains MAJOR Spoilers for the end of Defy. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED*

DO NOT KEEP READING IF YOUR HAVEN’T READ DEFY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Okay, you’re still here? Either you’ve read Defy or you are ignoring all the warnings.

As many of you have heard already, I’m currently writing The Blades of Acktar book 4. Some of you might be a little confused. After all, the big bad guy got defeated at the end of Defy. What more is there left do to?

Well, here’s my four reasons for why I decided to write a book 4:

  1. Martyn didn’t die. In my original plan for Defy, he was supposed to die in the end battle saving Leith. But when it came time to write that scene, Leith realized what was going to happen and shoved Martyn out of the way. So I now had a live Martyn on my hands that I had to deal with.
    • After thinking about it for a while, I realized my characters were smarter than me. After all, the whole, ex-best friend makes a last minute decision to turn good and saves his friend before dying is a little cliche. (See Harry’s death in Spiderman 3)
    • Besides, an alive ex-best friend is a whole lot more complicated than a dead one. Having Martyn die would’ve been the easy way out. He and Leith wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of their decisions throughout the first three books. Leith could simply move on. But with Martyn alive? Let’s just say the tension between everyone is SO much fun to write!
  2. Leith needs to figure out what happens AFTER. One of the main questions throughout the series has been “Can Leith move on from the Blades? Can he do anything else? What does he do after the war? Where does he fit in a peaceful Acktar?”
    • I could’ve ended it with Defy. You know he’s going to figure something out, but it would leave that question unanswered. I know some readers love unanswered questions like that in an ending. Personally, I’m one of the ones who wants to know the answers to things like that, especially if the author has made a big deal about it.
  3. Leith and Renna’s relationship still has a long way to go. If you add up the time they actually spend together during Dare, Deny, and Defy, you’ll realize that that week in the dungeon counts as their first real, quality time together. Due to the circumstances of thinking one or both of them would die, their relationship progresses quickly in that week. BUT, they are just BEGINNING their relationship. They have pretty much agreed to finally start dating at the end of Defy.
    • Once again, I could’ve left it as is. You know where they are headed. But, they are the main couple of the book. Defy ends with more obstacles in their path than they even realize (she’s still a lady and Leith doesn’t fit with that world. He’s still an ex-Blade. They both have no clue what they are doing when it comes to a relationship). I felt their time building a relationship also needed to be told.
  4. Acktar is a mess. Most of the time, books don’t show what happens after a major war tears the country apart. We don’t see the rebuilding of Hogwarts. We don’t see Panem trying to build a new government. There’s so much hurt and bitterness in Acktar and in its new king. I wanted to explore what it takes for Acktar to either begin healing or tear itself apart, whichever comes first.

Healing and restoration is really the theme of book 4. All of the characters (Martyn, Keevan, Leith, Renna, Brandi) have some healing to do. The whole country needs healing.

Over all, my planned ending for Book 4 will bring the characters and the country to a place where they are truly ready to begin the next chapter, even if the series comes to a close.

What do you think? Are you excited for Book 4? Or do you honestly think Defy should’ve been the end? Don’t worry, I won’t get mad if you do. 😉

Defy Blog Tour – Conclusion

Defy Blog Tour Header

I can’t believe Defy has officially released and all the blog tour and party stuff is all over! As you can probably tell, I’m still playing catch up since the blog tour ended five days ago, and I’m just now getting around to posting a conclusion. *sigh* That’s the way things go. It’s Wednesday, and I’m still trying to finish my to-do list from last Saturday.

So here’s a recap. You’ll want to keep reading to the bottom of the post where I have a bit of an update/news for all of you guys. 😉

All good stuff, though. The launch went amazing! You all were so enthusiastic! A big thank you to everyone who participated! A big thank you also to Jaye L. Knight for being a guest author at the Facebook party!

The live character chat at the Facebook party went really, really well. So well, in fact, that I’m leaving the Facebook accounts I set up for my characters open. A few of you have even had Facebook recommend them as friends, which is cool. You might see them pop onto my Facebook page occasionally, and I might set up a live character chat again down the road.

I’m glad it went well, since it was a total experiment. I half expected to have it fizzle out after the first half hour. Instead, the whole hour and a half flew by. A live chat has a much different dynamic than the blog post character chats I’ve done before. Shorter sentences, more small talk, little conversations going all over the place.

Defy is currently available in both kindle and paperback on Amazon. The paperback is still in the process of being uploaded on Barnes & Noble, but I do have my personal copies in stock in you want to buy a signed copy directly from me.

Here’s a recap of the blog tour:

Reviews

 “I couldn’t stop reading it and basically breathed the book in. (read it in a day people. All 359 pages)” – Soleil from Reviews by Soleil

 “There were some dark moments, but there’s always hope, always the promise that God is in control. It’s a simple message and nicely woven in.”- Claire Banschbach from The Overactive Imagination

 “Plus, our favorite villainous king is plotting something villainous (go figure).” – Hope Brockway from Stitches of Freedom

 “Come on peoples! It’s a book series about assassins, why aren’t you reading this?” – Rachael Steele

 “If you like heartfelt adventure with deep-rooted characters in a meaningful, well written story then this entire series is for you!”- Mandy Fender

 “Finding out who “The Leader” is was just … ahhh!!!! I was so not prepared for that!” – Jesseca Wheaton

 “Leith went through so much, I mean, so much just to protect Renna. It was very torturous to read, but I think it was vital to the story. He is no longer afraid to defy Respen.”- Gabriella Paige from A Heart Redeemed

 “Guys, I’m serious when I say this, I can’t pick a favorite book in this series!” – Alyssa Van Fossen

  “It is one thing to profess faith, it is another to need it.”- Jessica Dowell

 “Renna, a healer, is one of my absolute favorite characters of all time! AHH, I just love her so much!”- Hannah Rodes from My Bookcase and I

 “Lots of twists and turns in the book that I wasn’t expecting—I was glued to the Kindle. It was sogood! Lots of fangirl squealing happened while reading.”- Ivy Rose from Lakeside Publications

 “Tricia clearly knows the way of a good story” – Hannah Williams

 “You know, those all time favorite characters you want to hug and place in bubble wrap and take them away from their author until said author learns to play nice? Leith is one of them. And it’s terribly ironic considering Tricia and I are basically evil author twins.”- Jaye L. Knight

 “Third in the series, peaking with an intense climax, and full of…well, everything, Defy most certainly didn’t disappoint!”- Abby Cashen

 “It was fantastic. It was also daunting and heavy. Made me giggle hysterically. Melted my heart. Strengthened my soul. In short, it’s a thought-provoking novel exploring perilous and even terrifying times; yet there are lovely moments of humor and sweetness – and the characters that experience them have quite captured my heart. I loved this book!”- Shantelle Hannu

 “I. LOVED. IT. SO. MUCH. You have to read this series!!!” – Bethany Reinstedt

 “Also more battles = more action = more awesome.” – Jonathan Trout

 Book Spotlights

Gabrielle Nadig

Micailah Cialella

Faith Potts

Mandy Fender

 Oh, you’re still here reading and waiting for your update? Some of you may have seen in the back of your Kindle or paperback copy of Defy that yes, there will be a book 4. I know Defy really seems like the end. It was originally planned to be. But things didn’t turn out that way. I’m about 60,000 words into book 4 and I’m hoping it’ll be published sometime this coming winter.

  Deliver Mock Up Cover
 About the Book (preliminary)
Can something broken ever heal? 
Martyn is broken. After betraying and torturing his best friend, he doesn’t belong anywhere in Acktar. Yet he can’t seem to make himself leave.
Leith is broken. While healing from the torture he received at Nalgar Castle, Leith struggles to find his new role. But can a Blade ever truly move on?
The country is broken. Bitterness divides town against town, neighbor against neighbor. Will they heal or deliver themselves to chaos?

Defy’s Cover Reveal

I’ve been promising to reveal the cover for Defy sometime this week. I was holding off on sending out the ARC copies, hoping I’d get the cover in time to include it on the ARCs.

Last night, I broke down and sent out the ARCs. An hour after I sent them out, I finally got the cover. It’d my own fault it was so delayed. I’m the one who based Nalgar off a ruined castle.

If you signed up to review Defy as part of the blog tour or as one of the review copies, you should’ve received an email from me last night. If you didn’t, you might want to check your junk mail. If the email is still missing, please email me.

Oh, yes, you’re waiting for the cover reveal, aren’t you?

Once again, my cover designer did an amazing job. Click here to check out her website. She had to digitally recreate Nalgar Castle based off the ruins of Raglan Castle in Wales and my own tweaks. I’m amazed at how it turned out!

Without further chatter from me, here is the cover for Defy!

Defy_Cover

Character Interviews #3

I watch as Shad, Leith, Renna, and Brandi file back into the room and take their seats. Leith still has a wary look on his face. Shad glances between him and me, as if trying to figure out what questions I might have asked to set Leith on edge. I do my best not to wince. The questions I had for Leith today weren’t much better.

I sit taller in the chair, but I still can’t rest my elbows on Lord Alistair’s desk. I sit on my foot to boost myself up a few more inches. There. Much better. Or, at least, until my foot falls asleep.

I smile at my assembled characters. “All right, guys. Thanks for coming back. Let’s start with an easy one. I have a question for all of you: what is your favorite food?”

Brandi grins. “Aunt Mara’s maple sugar cookies.”

“Probably the same.” Renna shrugs.

“Venison steak slow roasted over a campfire.” Shad closes his eyes as if he can taste the steak that way.

Everyone glances towards Leith. He shrugs. “Any food that isn’t moldy or stale, I guess. Food is food.”

Brandi snorts. “You haven’t had Aunt Mara’s maple sugar cookies yet.”

“Anyway.” That was supposed to be an easy question. “Renna, if you could learn one form of self-defense, what would it be?”

“Self-defense? Like sword-fighting?” She wrinkles her nose. “I’m a healer. I don’t go around hurting people.”

“Not even to defend yourself?”

“I mean, I guess, to defend Brandi, I might try something, but I don’t think I’d be very good at it.” Renna’s frown deepens. “I don’t know what it would be.”

I nod and turn to Brandi. “Brandi, is there a situation that you never want to find yourself in?”

“Separated from Renna.” She crosses her arms and glares at me. “That would be horrible.”

“Yes, that would be.” I keep a straight face. “Shad, what is your fondest memory?”

A slow grin spreads across his face. “The day we were visiting Sierra, and I asked Jolene to go on a walk with me. She said yes.”

“I can see how that would be a very fond memory.” I take a deep breath. Now for the worst question of the morning. “Leith, if you could erase one memory, what would it be?”

Leith stiffens and sucks in a breath like I’d just stabbed him. “Why couldn’t I be asked about my fondest memory?”

“Go ahead and answer that one too if you wish.”

“Brandi naming Blizzard.” Leith grips the hilt of one of his knives. “I still have to answer the other question, don’t I?”

“Yes, I’m sorry. I’m sure Hope would be more than happy to give you a hug to apologize for asking the question. Actually, I think the whole Goodreads fangirls group would be more than happy to give you a hug.”

Leith hangs his head, his fingers flexing. When he draws in a deep breath, his shoulders give a tiny shake. “The first time my father hit me. That’s the memory I’d erase. It was the moment I realized my father hated me. I was six.”

Brandi jumps to her feet and gives Leith a hug. Renna stares at him, a soft look in her eyes that told me she would comfort Leith too if there wasn’t anyone else in the room.

I clear my throat. Best to move on past this quickly. “Shad, how would you describe your friendship with Leith? Did you ever expect to become friends with an assassin?”

“No, I can honestly say, I never expected to be friends with an assassin.” Shad’s mouth quirks a little at the corner. “But now, he’s pretty much like my brother.”

Leith’s head jerks up. “A brother?”

“Yes, a little brother who’s always getting into scrapes that I have to rescue him from.” Shad’s grin appears for a moment before he’s serious again. “My brother Jeremiah is nearly ten years younger than me, and we don’t exactly share similar interests. Maybe when he’s older we’ll be closer, but right now…” Shad shrugs.

Both he and Leith were starting to get I’m-a-guy-and-this-is-way-too-much-sharing looks on their faces. “Renna, what do you like to read?”

“Old legends, mostly. Stuff about the early kings of Acktar and all that. I don’t get to read all that often, and Stetterly doesn’t have the collection of books the way Walden does.”

“Speaking of legends and stories, I have a question for both Leith and Renna. If you found a genie in a bottle and were granted three wishes, what would you ask for?”

Both Leith and Renna blink at me with blank expressions. Finally, Leith raises an eyebrow. “Genie? Wishes? What’s that?”

“In my world, we have legends about these creatures who live in bottles who can grant wishes. They aren’t real.”

“Then why are you asking about them?”

“It’s a hypothetical question.” I sigh. “Skip the genie part. If you could have three wishes, what would they be?”

Leith shrugs. “I guess, I could wish for a lot of things, but isn’t that kind of what prayer is for? Putting your desires into God’s hands and trusting that His decisions on what to grant you are better than yours?”

“A very wise way to go about not answering that question. And Renna?”

“What Leith said.”

“It’s a good thing I’m running out of questions, because you guys are getting better at not answering them.” I flip to my last couple of notecards. “Leith, if you could wear any color besides black, what would it be?”

“Green, maybe. Tan. Something that would blend into the prairie.” Leith glances down at this black clothes. “Anything but black.”

“Anything?” Brandi cocks her head and smirks.

“Maybe not anything.” Leith eyes her.

I flip to my second to last notecard. “What was it like growing up with Vane, Leith?”

He grimaces. “Not pleasant. He enjoyed controlling the rest of us, and if we didn’t join him in bullying the others, then he made life especially difficult.”

I can tell he wasn’t going to say any more than that. I pull out the last notecard. “The last question is for Martyn, but it would cause a whole manor-full of problems if I brought him in here, and he can’t answer it anyway without giving away spoilers. So, I guess that’s it then. You all are free to go.”

Leith bolts for the door as if he’s worried I’ll change my mind. Renna tiptoes after him with her I’m-invisible-you-can’t-see-me hunched shoulders.

As she stands, Brandi raises her eyebrows at me. “You’re going to do this again for book 3, aren’t you?”

I shrug. “Probably. The fangirls really like it.”

“I’m glad. They come up with some interesting questions. Maybe next time, I’ll have to come up with a few questions of my own.” Brandi smirks and waltzes from the room.


Well, that’s all for the character interviews! Hope everyone enjoyed them!

Deny is officially out into the world! It’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle.

I’m still working on getting a Paypal buy button on my website for signed paperbacks and getting it uploaded as paperback to other online retailers.

There’s still a few more stops along the blog tour the rest of the week, and this Friday is the Facebook party. You won’t want to miss out on the fun!

 

 

Character Interviews #2

The Blades of Acktar Blog Tour Header

After Leith, Renna, and Brandi file into Lord Alistair’s study, I stroll over to the window, bolt it shut, and jam a bobby pin into the lock. Crossing the room, I turn the key in the door’s lock and drop the key into my pocket.

When I turn, Leith is staring at me, a hand on the hilt of one of his knives. He had reason to worry. I’d locked the door and window to keep him from bolting once I started asking this next round of questions.

I settle into the huge leather chair behind the desk. My feet dangle several inches above the ground. Seriously, if I’m going to keep doing these character interviews, I was going to have to write a footstool into the room.

“All right, you three. This round of questions is to satisfy the curiosity of the Goodreads fangirls.”

“Fangirls?” Brandi’s forehead scrunches. “What are fangirls?”

“A fan girl is a girl who obsesses over something or, more often, someone with a whole lot of overexcited squealing. They sound a lot like Brandi would if she were given a whole stable of horses for her very own.”

Leith’s knees bounce like he is debating jumping from his chair and making a run for it. Renna scoots down lower as if to make herself invisible.

Brandi cocks her head. “They sound like girls I’d like to meet. Whose fangirls are they?”

“Leith’s, mostly.”

Leith’s grip tightens on his knife. “I’m not going to like these questions, am I?”

“Nope. Sorry, that’s the price you pay for having fangirls, especially ones who are excessively shipping you and Renna.”

“Shipping?” Leith’s forehead wrinkles.

“Believe me, you don’t want to know.” I pick up the first notecard. Considering the line of questioning on these, he’d figure out soon enough. “Just a reminder, you all have to be completely honest. Don’t worry, you’ll forget this conversation as soon as the story launches.”

By this point, Renna’s face has taken on a decidedly green color while Leith keeps glancing at the door. Brandi still bounces in her seat.

“Let’s start with an easy one. Leith, when you’re free, what will be the first thing you’ll want to do?”

“When? Don’t you mean if?” Leith shakes his head. “It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever be free.”

“We were over this last time. Assuming you don’t die and don’t stay bound to Respen forever, what would you want to do?” I grit my teeth. If he was stalling already, then the rest of the questions were going to be like pulling teeth. With a monkey wrench. In the mountains with no painkiller.

“I’m not sure.” He meets my gaze. “Honest. I’ve been a Blade for half my life. I don’t really know a whole lot about being someone else.”

“Okay, that is a valid answer, I guess. Though, I doubt your fangirls are going to like how vague it is.” I let a little bit of my grin to show on my face. “Leith, when you’re free, do you intend to marry?”

“What?” He shoots to his feet, the tips of his ears going red. His eyes flick towards Renna before going back to me.

Renna squeaks and slides lower in her chair. Brandi presses her hand over her mouth, but even that does nothing to hide her grin and giggles.

“Like I said, you have fangirls.” I point my stack of notecards at him. “Now answer the question.”

“I don’t know? Maybe. No. I don’t think so. I mean, I’m a Blade. Who’d want to marry me?” His shoulders sag. “I watched my father destroy my mother’s heart bit by bit. I don’t want to do that to anyone.”

“You’re not your father.” I heave a sigh. It always comes back to that with him. “But let’s assume you did decide to marry. If you did have a wedding, who would be your best man?”

Leith looks relieved that I’d asked him that question instead of who he would marry if he could. Then he frowns. “Shad, I guess. I’d ask Martyn to stand with me too, but if I were free, then Martyn…”

“Martyn might not be your friend anymore.” I finish for him. “Wish I could tell you what happens with that, but that’d be a spoiler. Last question before we move on to the others: have you had a crush on any girl besides Renna?”

His ears go red again, but he answers quickly. “No.”

“All right. Renna.” When I turn to her, she hunches her shoulders as if to make herself smaller. “Your turn for questions. What’s your opinion of Leith?”

She swallows, glances at Leith, then stares down at her lap. “I don’t know. He’s safe, I guess.”

I decide it isn’t worth it to push her farther on that subject. Getting information from her is worse than from Leith, and that is saying something. “If you were to have a wedding, who would be your maid of honor?”

“Brandi.” She glances at her sister and smiles.

Brandi grins back.

“Okay, now for the most important, burning fangirl question of them all.” I pause, and both Leith and Renna tense. Brandi leans forward. My grin widens. “Brandi, would you like to see Leith and Renna get together as a couple?”

Renna makes a choking sound in the back of her throat and stares at Brandi. Leith crosses his arms, but his foot makes scuffing motions against the rug.

Brandi grins and rolls her eyes. “Duh. Of course. Leith is already like my brother, but it’d be nice if it were official.”

Leith and Renna gape at her. It is probably a good thing they are all going to forget this conversation otherwise Brandi might be in for a stern talking to from Renna.

 

 

Character Interviews #1

The Blades of Acktar Blog Tour Header

I settle into the large, leather chair behind Lord Alistair’s desk in Walden Manor. I tap my pile of questions into a neat stack. On the other side of the desk, Renna, Brandi, Uncle Abel and Aunt Mara sit in the chairs Lord Alistair helpfully provided for this interview. Shad leans against the book cases to my right while Leith paces behind the chairs.

“All right, everyone. Let’s get this interview started. I know a few of you want to get it over with.” I hold up my stack of notecards. “We’re going to do this in several sessions over the next little bit. I have a lot of questions from some of the people who’ve read your story so far. You have to answer honestly, but without spoilers. We’re going to start with questions that relate to the first part of your story, called Dare.” I make a note to warn everyone who would read this interview that the below questions and answers might contain a few spoilers for Dare.

Renna laces her fingers together. Brandi bounces on her seat. Leith shoots a worried glance in my direction. Then again, he has good reason to be worried.

“Brandi, let’s start with you.” I pick up my first notecard. “Hannah wants to know what made you choose the story of Daniel to tell to Leith?”

She cocks her head. “I guess I’ve always loved those stories. They all have happy endings. It’s why it’s my favorite book in the Bible, well up until the confusing prophecy stuff at the end.”

“Renna, what’s your favorite book of the Bible?”

Renna doesn’t even raise her head. “Psalms.”

“I’ve got a question for Shad this time.” I meet his gaze. He raises his eyebrows at me. “What was your first thought when you caught Leith reading the Bible the first time?”

Leith’s head jerks up and he glances between me and Shad. The corners of Shad’s mouth quirk like he is trying to hide a grin. “I didn’t see what he was reading at first, so my first thought was that I had an opportunity to sneak up on him. Probably not the wisest thing to do with a Blade, but I wanted to see how he’d react. When I saw what he was reading, I wasn’t too surprised. He’d gone to all the trouble to steal the Bible, and Father had let him borrow it. It wasn’t until later than I realized he was reading for more reasons than just curiosity.”

“While we’re on the topic of how you and Leith became friends, I’ve got a question for Leith from Claire.” I suppress a grin of my own as his eyes widen. “When did you decide you could trust Shad?”

Leith rests a hand on one of the knives strapped across his chest. “I guess I knew I could trust him when he let me keep my weapons. If he trusted me that much, then surely I could trust him too. Turned out to be a wise choice.”

“Yes. The two of you make a great team.” I shuffle the notecards to the next question. “While we’re on the topic of trust, Abel and Mara Lachlan, how did you know you could trust Leith? How did you feel about Leith recovering at Stetterly Manor?”

Abel and Mara share a look before Abel turns to me. “We didn’t. Not entirely. But his general politeness helped ease some of our fears. And there’s a certain…history that also swayed our opinion.”

Renna, Brandi, and Leith all stare at the Lachlans.

Mara pats Abel’s arm. “I’m afraid we can’t say any more than that without spoilers.”

“Nope, you can’t. You’ll all figure out why in Deny.” I tap the notecards on the desk to claim everyone’s attention again. “Brandi, the last three questions are for you. How were you so optimistic about having a Blade recovering at Stetterly? Everyone else was worried.”

Brandi shrugs. “I don’t know. His horse was nice, so I guess I figured he had to be nice too.”

“What’s your favorite thing about Walden Manor?”

Brandi rolls her eyes. “The stables, duh. At Stetterly, we only had Stubborn, our mule. Walden has a whole stable full of horses.”

That’s your typical, horse-crazy thirteen-year old girl. I grin. “Final question: when is your birthday, Brandi?”

“That’s kind of a spoiler, isn’t it?” Brandi wrinkles her nose. “So I guess everyone will just have to read the story and find out, won’t they?”

“Yep.” I make a note on the next notecard. “That’s all for today. Thanks to everyone for coming.”

 

The Grip of Cliff Hanger Endings

cliff-hanger

I’ve been told the ending of Dare is a cliff hanger. When I was writing it, I actually didn’t intend for it to be a cliff hanger. I saw cliff hangers in the traditional sense where in the last couple paragraphs or line someone runs up and reports “so and so has been kidnapped/captured by pirates/about to be executed” etc. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that cliff hangers are more than that.

So here’s my thoughts on cliff hangers from what I’ve observed. This is not meant to be a how to on cliff hangers or a set of writing rules. Just something to think about.

A cliff hanger is a promise.

It’s as simple as that.

There is a slight difference between the cliff hanger at the end of a chapter and the cliff hanger at the end of the book. With chapter endings, the promise to the reader is vague. The cliff hanger promises that this action or question or emotion will be resolved somewhere in the book, but the author isn’t going to say when. The reader keeps reading to find out.

The cliff hanger at the ending of a book almost always is a promise about the next book.

What do I mean by that? It means the cliff hanger more or less spells out the plot of the next book. While a reader is left really wanting the next book, they still feel satisfied with the current book. They know the cliff hanger will be dealt with once the next book comes out.

This can be very literal (warning, minor spoilers). For example, in Mary Lu Tyndall’s Charles Towne Belle series, the first book ends with the main character finding out that her sister has run away. Guess what? In the second book, the sister is the main character and the whole book is her adventures after she ran away. That book ends with her being reunited with the sister from the first book, only to find out that the third sister has been kidnapped by pirates. Can you guess what the plot of book 3 is going to be?

in another example, the cliff hanger can be more of an determined resolve on the part of the characters rather than a literal action. In the Lord of the Rings movies (sorry, switching to movies), The Fellowship of the Rings ends with Aragorn’s determination to rescue Merry and Pippin and Frodo’s determination to keep going into Mordor. The plot of The Two Towers is thus the battles Aragorn and friends end up joining as part of trying to get Merry and Pippin back and Frodo’s quest to find a way into Mordor. That movie ends with Aragorn realizing the main battle is yet to come and Frodo and Sam finally thinking they have a way into Mordor. The plot of The Return of the King is Aragorn fighting the final, big battles and Frodo finally making it into Mordor.

Sometimes the cliff hanger promise at the end of a book is simply a question or a concern. The plot of the next book is usually that question or concern playing out.

But no matter how a book cliff hanger is done, it is always a promise for the next book. It is not a lack of resolution in the current book. The cliff hanger ending usually happens after the main plot of the book or movie has been resolved. If the plot hasn’t been resolved, then the cliff hanger should be a chapter ending cliff hanger, not a book ending cliff hanger.

This is why the ending of the movie The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug bugs me (Sorry Hobbit fans. Also, spoiler alert for those who haven’t watched the movies). Don’t get me wrong. I like the movies and I’m not one of those people who is going to rant about the changes they made or that kind of stuff because (for the most part) they made them into good movies and stuck to the book fairly closely.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ends with a more traditional cliff hanger. It shows the bird banging on the rock and Smaug’s eye opening. There. The promise of the plot for the next movie. We know that Smaug is awake and defeating him will be the plot for the next movie.

Only, it wasn’t. Not entirely, anyway. The dwarves get to the Lonely Mountain and fight Smaug, then he flies away and makes his “I am Death” speech and Bam! The movie ends.

This bugs me for two reasons: 1. It promises to the viewer that the plot of the next movie will be Smaug carrying through with his promise and 2. The plot of The Desolation of Smaug is not resolved since Smaug is not defeated.

#2 would be all right if #1 were the case. But, Smaug is knocked off before the opening credits of the next movie.

And it cheapens his death. Instead of building up from the tension of the whole movie, Smaug becomes a minor bad guy to knock off quickly in the beginning of the movie so the real fight can begin. We no longer fully care about Smaug’s desolation because we happen to know this movie isn’t about that. It’s about the Battle of the Five Armies that is coming up.

The tension is killed. The cliff hanger is a waste of a cliff hanger.

That “I am Death” scene was a chapter ending, not a book/movie ending. And before you argue that it is one book and couldn’t be broken up easily, I’ll counter that Lord of the Rings is technically one book and that one was broken up just fine. Plus, they managed to get a good plot arc for An Unexpected Journey. They could’ve done the same thing for The Desolation of Smaug.

Really easily, actually. The Desolation of Smaug should’ve included the final battle against Smaug in Lake Town, using the tension that had been building throughout the whole movie so that when that arrow is shot, everyone is curled in their chairs biting their fingernails hoping it will strike true. Then, the movie could’ve ended with the scene of the dwarves watching Smaug fall from the sky when Bilbo turns around and sees that Thorin is starting not to act like himself.

There it is. The promise for the next movie’s plot. Because this time, it actually is the plot of the next movie. The Battle of the Five Armies is about the big battle, but it is also Thorin’s struggle with dragon sickness, his fall, and his redemption in his heroic death.

I know it would’ve thrown off some of the movie lengths and some of that kind of stuff, and I know a lot of people really like where The Desolation of Smaug ends. But from a purely story-writing look, it wasn’t the place it should’ve ended. If a writer ended a book that way, their fans would be all kinds of mad because the story wasn’t truly over. Nothing was resolved.

It is a little better now that all the movies are out and I can watch them pretty much in a row because that way I can pretend the ending of The Desolation of Smaug is simply a chapter ending. In a way, that’s what The Hobbit movies are. They are extended chapters of one story. Still, if you make three movies you are still essentially making three stories and thus each should have their own arc and resolution.

Okay, I’ll stop my mini rant now.

What do you think? Any thoughts on cliff hangers?

7/7/7 Writing Challenge

Power of Words

I was nominated by Lauren Gunter to participate in the 7/7/7 Writing Challenge. It looks like fun, and I think you all will enjoy it!

The rules of the 7/7/7 Challenge are:

  • Go to page 7 of your WIP
  • Scroll down to line 7
  • Share the next 7 sentences in a blog post.
  • After the excerpt, tag 7 other writers to continue the challenge.

I’m actually working on three works-in-progress right now. Um, yeah. Not doing too great on my whole stick to one project until I finish it resolution. In my defense, all the projects are at least in one series. That’s an improvement from where I was at a few years ago.

Currently, I’m editing Deny (Book 2), writing the first draft of Book 4 (title yet to be released), and *drum roll* I started on a prequel short story that I hope to release as an ebook sometime in August (to tide you guys over until Deny releases).

I’ve decided to give you guys TWO sneak peeks: a seven-line snippet of Deny and a peek at Deal, the prequel short story.

First up, seven lines from Deny: 

Jamie stretched out, keeping his feet planted as far from Leith as possible, while he helped Leith remove the bandage. Jamie bit his lip only once, as if puzzled. Had he realized the bandage was neater than Leith would have been able to manage by himself with only one arm? Was he questioning how Leith had gotten the bandage on if he couldn’t get it off without help? Thankfully, the boy was only a trainee. He wouldn’t dare say those questions aloud, especially not to the First Blade.

As they reached the final layer, Leith gritted his teeth.

Anyone excited yet?

Next up, a sneak peak at Deal: 

Orn turned to the dealer, but the man just shook his head. “Sorry, Torren. You’ve already used the limit on your tab tonight.”

The stranger’s fingers drummed a rhythm on the table and the inside of Orn’s skull. “Do you call or do you fold?”

“No, I…” He scanned the crowd for someone—anyone—who would loan him some money.

The fingers stopped tapping. “You have a son, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Worthless brat that he was. 

Can you guess what is happening in this sneak peak? 😉

My nominations for the challenge:

Shantelle Hannu

Claire Banschbach

Angie Brashear

Jaye L. Knight

Kim Moss

Jason Hein

E. Rawls