The Isle of Never – ANNOUNCMENT

It’s finally live!

After months of tweaks and making sure everything was formatted properly, I am VERY excited to announce that my young adult fantasy, The Isle of Never, is available through Amazon. (You can check it out here.)

This is a lighthearted, standalone fantasy that offers a little different perspective on the Peter Pan story. When a high school senior finds herself cast down to the Isle of Never, or Neverland, she’s met with a motley crew of pirates – including a rather dashing Captain Jameson Hawk, a man better known by the name “Hook.”

This was one of my favorite stories to write, and I hope readers enjoy it as much as I do. Part adventure, part romance, it sheds a different light on the fanciful island as well as the rogue pirates destined to roam it.

It was based on a dream that I had years ago, where basically the entire contents of chapters 2 and 3 took place. The dream was so vivid and the emotions so real that I immediately ran to my laptop and began typing as fast as I could, trying to remember everything. The rest of the story just poured forth from there.

Thank you all for your patience during this. While self-publishing is very rewarding in its own right, it is also a LOT of work. Sometimes I get frustrated at how much time it takes to get things right, but when I see the final result and hold it in my hands, it all feels worth it.

I hope you enjoy!

Kendra

Update

Well, guys, I suck.

After several delays in getting my original proof, as well as some final tweaks that need to be done on the manuscript, I obviously did not get The Isle of Never out in the month that I initially wanted. However, now that things are starting to settle down a little bit, I’m able to shift my focus back to getting it published. I’m terribly sorry that there’s been a delay in this, but sometimes life spins around too fast, you know?

It doesn’t help that summer is one of my optimal times of year to get photos for my other business, Hawk’s Haven Photography & Design. While it’s still somewhat of a startup, I’m constantly working to build my portfolio, establish myself on social media, and create products that will hopefully sell. Unfortunately, that means that it takes up a lot of my focus during this part of the year, and I simply didn’t manage my time well when it came to the publication of my book.

It’s the curse of many creative people. We want so badly to make money doing the thing we love, but until we can get established as a business, we still have to pay the bills. For me, that means working part-time as a housekeeper for a hotel. I actually like the work, for the most part. It keeps me active, which helps me continue working towards getting my physique back to where it was, and it isn’t mentally exhausting, which was often a problem with my desk jobs.

However, it still takes time away from the things that I’m most passionate about. I know, I’m putting way more pressure on myself than anyone else does, but I can’t help it. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and that can often be my downfall when it comes to completing tasks. (I’m a 4 on the Enneagram, for those of you familiar with that. It’s a blessing and a curse.)

Anyway, I was feeling guilty for not updating everyone on the reasons for the delay, so I wanted to post and update and say that I will be getting the final edits done soon! Thanks to everyone who remains supportive of my little dream. You all mean a lot to me. ❤

Cover Reveal!

As you can see by the update of my header, I’m finally releasing the cover reveal of my newest baby, and I’m SO EXCITED TO SHARE IT WITH YOU.

This standalone story was actually written many, many years ago after I had a dream that I fell down to Neverland. Or, as it is properly known, the Isle of Never.

You see, Mr. J.M. Barrie mixed up a few details when he mistakenly traveled there in the early 1900’s. Turns out this island is nothing like the fanciful place of children’s dreams. And more importantly, the infamous sea captain Jameson Hawk, a man better known under the name “Hook,” is not the villain most people make him out to be.

I’ll be revealing more in the weeks to come, but for now you’ll have to be happy with a teaser. Also, please pardon my dust when it comes to my blog. They’ve updated the theme that I’ve used since the beginning of my blogdom, and now I have to readjust everything. Plus it won’t let me change certain colors, which just curdles my cheese. I used to be able to customize everything.

But I digress.

I can’t wait to share some snippets of The Isle of Never with you as it gets closer to the actual release date. This story has been a long time coming, and I can’t wait to see this thing in print. More to come!

Taking the Plunge

I’ve been hemming and hawing over a dilemma for months now. Well, nearly a year, if I’m honest. I’ve had the idea for my next novel, which as previously mentioned, will be more of a high fantasy. Not that I don’t love my YA or anything, but I’ve had a character who desperately deserves her own story for far too long. I’ve been working on this character’s book for a couple of months and am over halfway through getting the story on paper. But it’s still a long ways to go before it will be even close to gearing it for publication.

So I made a big decision. After making several (and I mean SEVERAL) queries to agents, I’ve decided to self-publish my standalone young adult fantasy to give readers something to satisfy them until my high fantasy is complete. My standalone young adult is already finished and somewhat polished, thanks to a couple of beta readers.

Basically, once I have an editor do a final go-through (and I’ve already contacted one for pricing), I’ll just need to hire a cover designer and it will be ready to be formatted for publishing.

To be realistic, my adult fantasy will likely not be out until next year at the soonest. The first draft isn’t completed yet, and it will have several stages to go through before it’s even close to being “publish-ready.” The sequel to Prince of Light is in even earlier stages than that.

As much as I would have loved to see this standalone young adult go through an actual publisher, I believe it’s a story that is worth getting out there. It’s been sitting in my computer for years. I’ll be honest, it’s a little scary. But it’s also exciting.

So all that to say, stay tuned for updates!

A Simple Suggestion

I had a memory pop up on Facebook the other day, from when I was just finishing the first ever draft of Prince of Light. Oh, I remember that draft. I was so proud of it, so attached to my characters, so convinced that it was the next Harry Potter.

Well, that was a learning curve.

Several years of interacting with other writers and rejections from agents taught me how to have a thick skin when it came to construction criticism. Honestly, my writing is much, much better for it. Yes, those years kind of sucked, because it felt like a huge landslide of rejection, but it made me stronger in the long run.

So when the memory of writing my first book came up, it soon followed with the proud feeling I had when I finally had it self-published several years later. That was back in 2012.

Then came my marriage.

Well, I technically published Prince of Light not long after I got married. The story was complete by then, and I tried getting the attention of many agents before turning to the route of self-publishing.

But then I endured 6 long years of verbal and emotional abuse during my marriage, and the spark of creativity that I had always had burning inside me came close to snuffing out. I never had time or energy to pursue any of my passions, much less continue writing a love story. I no longer believed in love. How could I write about something I had never really known?

I broke free from that situation almost three years ago. And as I healed up, I tried to get back into my story, because I adored my characters so much. I read Prince of Light with a fresh set of eyes, ready to tackle the next step of the story.

Once again, I found myself writing absolute drivel. It was so cheesy and sub par that I couldn’t even bring myself to continue at times. I tried to force my way through, because I knew that as soon as I could get to a certain point, everything would make sense again and it would be really good. But getting to that point was just shy of impossible.

Then, just the other day, I went to a very dear friend’s birthday party, and she introduced me to a couple of new friends. In the midst of our nerding out and writerly conversations, one of the new friends heard me mention that I was still having major writer’s block when it came to Prince of Light.

“Well, you could just do a time-hop,” he said casually. “You know, fast forward a ways in the future and then explain how she got there.”

The light bulb went on.

I suddenly realized that I didn’t have to actually tell the story of how my main character got to the next phase that I saw. I could just explain it through her memories of what happened.

I’m telling you, it’s like my life had new meaning.

I honestly don’t know why that never occurred to me before. It was the simplest suggestion, but it completely changed my way of thinking and opened up a whole new level of creativity that I hadn’t tapped into before.

All that to say, for those of you who have been here since the beginning, when I first published Prince of Light and created this blog for all things character and book related, get ready for book two. It’s finally coming.

For those of you who are new here, well, you’re going to end up seeing a lot more fangirling but still some pretty photos. Ye be warned. 🙂

Love you all, and thanks for being a part of my journey!

Dark Energy

Dark EnergyDark Energy by Robison Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Parental guide: Minor swearing, some violence, nothing explicit.

Holy moly, this book was SO GOOD. It’s a fairly quickly read, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Alice is one of the best protagonists that I’ve read about in a loooong time, and I felt that the author did a fantastic job of writing from a female perspective. Also? I loved the fact that she had such a great relationship with her father. I feel like too many times in YA literature, the parents are either absent for one reason or another, or they’re portrayed as idiots. All parents were teenagers at one point in time or another, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume that some of them remember what it’s like. Alice’s father was a good mixture of protective and supportive, which made their interactions that much more fun.

Anyway, if you’re in the mood for a quick sci-fi, give this one a chance. I’m off to go check out some of the author’s other books now, don’t mind me.

The Importance of Query Letters

For those of us involved in an art form, be it writing, drawing, painting, photography, music, etc., we are always perfecting our craft. I think that’s part of what entices us about these arts in the first place. We are always learning and always growing. There’s really no limitations to what we can achieve if we practice and work hard.

As an author, I can already see how much my writing style has changed over the years. I’ve made wonderful connections and good friends since I first published Prince of Light. Back then, I thought getting an agent and a publisher would be a snap. (Yes, I was that naive.) After getting nothing but rejections on all of my query letters for PoL, I felt pretty discouraged. That’s something I think we’ve all experienced: the rejection pile.

It’s a long, hard road to traditional publishing. While some small presses will allow for unsolicited queries to be sent, the major publishing houses (i.e. Random House, Scholastic, Penguin, etc.) require all of their “pitches” to come straight from a literary agent. So once you’ve written that super special awesome book and polished it to the best of your ability, you need to write and even more super special awesome query letter.

I’m pretty sure that the query letter is harder to write than the book itself. There are several amazing resources available to give you an idea of what agents are looking for in a query. Two of my favorite sites are Query Shark (written by an actual agent) and Agent Query Connect. Query Shark is a blog with multiple examples of both good and not-so-good queries. I found it extremely helpful in giving a lot of examples of what agents are looking for.

Agent Query Connect allows you to talk directly with other authors to get their feedback on your query, synopsis, first 250 words, etc. There are both published and non-published writers there, so you really get a broad spectrum of opinions. I had some great feedback when I was finishing up the query for my current standalone YA story. (Just a side note, AQC’s primary site, Agent Query, is a pretty good database of agents and publishers. You can search by genre to see which agents are interested in your specific story.)

The other day I went through a bunch of my original emails to agents, when I first tried to query Prince of Light. For some of them I literally wanted to crawl in a hole and die of embarrassment. For others, I just shook my head.

So just for fun, I decided to post one of my (not quite as humiliating) early query letters and critique it myself, based on what I’ve learned over the years. Not only can I give you a bit of a laugh, but hopefully this will give you a little inspiration and confidence in your own projects. At the time I couldn’t understand why no agent was interested. Now, I certainly do.

Here’s the original query I sent, italicized for better readability:

Dear Agent,

Celestyn: Master of every weapon he touches. Heir to the throne of the elven kingdom. Destroyer of any who dare get in his way. Alone for all eternity.

Seventeen-year-old Evanthe finds herself held prisoner in an unknown castle after an attack on her village renders her homeless. When the first living thing she meets is an imposing half-dragon, half-man beast, her only thoughts are how she can stay alive long enough to find her family. Strange and often frightening creatures seem to be around every corner (which actually makes having a dragon-man beast for a bodyguard come in rather handy). She is befriended by the handsome young mage, Delanor, knowing only that he is keeping her hidden from a dark presence that is shadowing her every movement. When she catches a glimpse of the man that is supposed to be so deadly to her, however, she finds her heart is full of conflict, for she is being sought after by the rogue elfin prince, Celestyn.

And he is by far the most beautiful being that she has ever laid eyes on.

Though she is frightened by his cold cruelty, Evanthe finds it very difficult to resist the ethereal, god-like prince. She will eventually have to choose between the two men that she has come to love and, even worse, between the few fellow humans that have also crossed into the land and the newly-made friends she has grown to care for.

PRINCE OF LIGHT is every fangirl’s dream book, containing everything from a hot elf and shapeshifters of every kind to battle scenes that would send even Percy Jackson into hiding. (Not to mention a love triangle worthy of any Twilight fan.) This medieval fantasy is complete at approximately 89,000 words in length.

While I have never had any of my works formally published, my short story entitled “Range of Vision” won an honorable mention at the 2009 Nature of Words Writing Competition and is included in their anthology. I also worked at a public library for six years, primarily with teens, which allowed me to be immersed in young adult literary fiction. I feel that PRINCE OF LIGHT would be a great addition to any young adult publisher based on the feedback that I’ve already received from both teens and adults alike.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Yup. That was it. Now allow me to critique my own work, based on what I’ve since learned about the industry. My comments are in red:

Dear Agent,
(Just as a side note, always personalize your query letter. This is just an example, so I didn’t put an actual name, but in a real letter definitely use an agent’s name and make sure you spell it right. Also? Only send one letter per agent. Don’t group send several agents at once; they really don’t like that.)

Celestyn: Master of every weapon he touches. Heir to the throne of the elven kingdom. Destroyer of any who dare get in his way. Alone for all eternity.
Ooooookay, problems right from the get-go. This doesn’t really work as a hook for several reasons. For one, it’s super generic and a little cliché. Secondly, the story isn’t even written from Celestyn’s point of view, so none of this matters. Always start your query letter with a good hook, usually just one or two sentences, that will immediately grab the agent’s attention.

Seventeen-year-old Evanthe finds herself held prisoner in an unknown castle after an attack on her village renders her homeless. When the first living thing she meets is an imposing half-dragon, half-man beast, her only thoughts are how she can stay alive long enough to find her family. Strange and often frightening creatures seem to be around every corner (which actually makes having a dragon-man beast for a bodyguard come in rather handy). She is befriended by the handsome young mage, Delanor, knowing only that he is keeping her hidden from a dark presence that is shadowing her every movement. When she catches a glimpse of the man that is supposed to be so deadly to her, however, she finds her heart is full of conflict, for she is being sought after by the rogue elfin prince, Celestyn.
This is character soup. Only main characters need to be introduced, and even then it should be kept to a minimum. Who is the main character? What are her goals? What stands in her way? None of that is really answered with this paragraph. The voice isn’t necessarily horrible, but it’s certainly not as strong as it could be.

And he is by far the most beautiful being that she has ever laid eyes on.
While perhaps an interesting factoid, this doesn’t actually bring about a conflict, so it’s kind of pointless.

Though she is frightened by his cold cruelty, Evanthe finds it very difficult to resist the ethereal, god-like (Ugh, why so many adjectives?) prince. She will eventually have to choose between the two men that she has come to love and, even worse, between the few fellow humans that have also crossed into the land and the newly-made friends she has grown to care for.
Too much description, not enough plot. And again, there isn’t any conflict until it’s mentioned that there are other humans in this world.

PRINCE OF LIGHT is every fangirl’s dream book, containing everything from a hot elf and shapeshifters of every kind to battle scenes that would send even Percy Jackson into hiding. No. Just…no. (Not to mention a love triangle worthy of any Twilight fan.) SWEET BABYBACK RIBS, NO. I am truly ashamed that I sent this to agents. And that I thought it was good. This medieval fantasy is complete at approximately 89,000 words in length.
All the final line should say is “PRINCE OF LIGHT is a young adult medieval fantasy complete at 89,000.” If you have some comp titles, that’s fine, but it’s not a requirement. Also, always round up or down your word count when writing a query, and do capitalize the title for this part of the letter. At least I got that part…

While I have never had any of my works formally published, my short story entitled “Range of Vision” won an honorable mention at the 2009 Nature of Words Writing Competition and is included in their anthology. I also worked at a public library for six years, primarily with teens, which allowed me to be immersed in young adult literary fiction. I feel that PRINCE OF LIGHT would be a great addition to any young adult publisher based on the feedback that I’ve already received from both teens and adults alike.
Honestly, I didn’t include any of this information when I sent out the queries for my newest project because none of it matters. Unless you have a previously published work, and sorry, most self-published books don’t count, just leave out any credentials. (I’ve been told the exception to self-published books is if you’ve sold 100,000 copies or more. But that’s SOLD, not just downloads.) If you have a lot of short stories published or the like, that seems to be semi-okay to send along, but in that case it seems to depend on the agent and their personal preferences.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
I think this is pretty much the only line that I got halfway right.

So there you have it. And as I mentioned, this is my so-called “improved” version. It’s just so…bad. Not because the writing is bad, because structurally it’s pretty sound, but because I didn’t know the business. Agents receive literally hundreds of query letters a day, so it is absolutely vital that you make your story stand out from the slush pile.

It’s helped to see how far I’ve come, which is why I sometimes go back and view my earlier writings. As I continue to work on book two in the Prince of Light series, I already have an idea for the description, which is light years ahead of where I was when I finished book one. (And yes, that book really will get finished at some point. I promise.)

To my fellow writers, I have to encourage you to NEVER GIVE UP. Your first book may never get published, traditionally or indie. That’s okay. Keep writing and keep reading. If this is your passion and it’s what you know you want to do, learn all that you can and just keep going. You will improve.

Best of luck!

10 Books That Stayed With Me

Just a tad bit past nearly forever ago, a friend of mine tagged me on Facebook with a fun meme. I thought it sounded great and started it…and then I became distracted and only recently discovered the half-finished product. Whatever the case, I have since completed my answers and thought it might make for an interesting blog post. These are the authors and books that inspired my own writing.

10 Books That Stayed With Me:

1.) The Bible – It may not be obvious to all, but this book has been the number one thing that has changed my life and my perspective over the years. I have indeed read it cover to cover and various translations, and every time that I read its passages I get something new from it.

2.) Beverly Cleary series – I’m kind fudging on this one, because it’s way too hard to narrow down which specific Cleary books spoke to me most. I grew up reading about Beezus and Ramona, Ralph S. Mouse and all the rest. They were instrumental in cultivating my passion for the written word, even in grade school.

3.) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – One of my best memories is the year that my mother read the story of Tom Sawyer to me while I ate breakfast every morning. I’ll confess that I was really hesitant to this at first, but Mom insisted and I am very glad she did. I got so caught up in the story that I quickly forgot why I hadn’t wanted to hear it in the first place.

4.) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – I read this one while I was in high school for a book report. Basically I just needed to choose something from the list that the teacher gave us. I picked it at random, thinking that the title sounded interesting, and discovered an amazing world. This story was part of what really piqued my interest in the fantasy genre as a whole. It opened up a whole different set of doors, as far as reading went.

5.) The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis – Probably not much surprise here either, but this is another series that I’ve always adored. I read The Silver Chair in high school (another book report project that turned out very well for me). While The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has probably remained my favorite of the series, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle are right up there.

6.) Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer – This still remains one of my all-time favorite YA series. I loved Colfer’s twist to both modern and ancient fairy tales, and the storyline, while not always what I expected, was fantastic. Great character development, great villains…in fact it’s been long enough that I’m probably due for a re-read.

7.) Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – Sanderson is a semi-new author to me, but so far I have loved each book that I’ve tried. This was the first story that I read of his, which also happened to be his first attempt at YA, and it’s difficult to pinpoint just why it stuck with me so much. I tend to be very character driven when it comes to movies and books, so all I can figure is that I loved the character of Steelheart so much it wedged in my brain and wouldn’t let go. Whatever the case, this was one of my favorite books of the year. And so far, the rest of the series hasn’t disappointed either.

8.) The Oath by Frank Peretti – It’s been a looooong time since I last read this one, but it was another book that always stuck with me. I originally read it in high school and loved it. This was the first book of Peretti’s that I had read, and while it was a little slow in the middle, the primary storyline kept a quick pace and kept my attention through it all. Not your typical dragon story, but still a well-crafted plot for an author of his particular genre. As a “Christian author,” he pushed boundaries with this book and might have even made people a little uncomfortable. Not necessarily a bad thing, in this case.

9.) The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – Yes, he gets to be on my list twice because he’s just that amazing. I won’t lie, The Way of Kings is definitely a commitment at nearly 400,000 words, but I can’t recommend it highly enough for those who love epic fantasy. The worldbuilding, the characters…all of it is just too amazing for words. It has become one of my all-time favorite stories ever. (It was one of the few books where I literally read the last sentence and wanted to go right back to the beginning and read it again because I loved it so much.) And Words of Radiance, the sequel, is just as fantastic as the first.

10.) The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis – This was the first non-fiction work of Lewis that I read, again while in high school, but it’s always stuck with me. Lewis really stepped outside the box of his time by writing this book, and it made you really think about your prayer life and the spiritual battles that continuously rage on everywhere. While definitely an older book, I can still recommend it. (Actually, it’s another one I need to re-read…)

So there you have it. This is a basic glimpse of my all-time favorite books and authors, and though many others have made impressions with me, these are the ones that I will never forget.

What are your top ten faves?

The Rule of Thoughts

The Rule of Thoughts (The Mortality Doctrine, #2)The Rule of Thoughts by James Dashner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While several things were resolved (somewhat) in this book, I felt that it dragged in the middle just a bit. I realize that Michael had to cope with a lot since the revelation of the previous book, but that also slowed the story a little bit. Thus why it took me so long to finish in the first place.

It picked up more towards the end, but that semi-cliffhanger at the end told me there is definitely still more to come. However, it looks very promising and I enjoyed the twists in the storyline. Just when we think we’ve figured out what might be going on, Dashner throws another wrench into the machine.

All in all, it was another enjoyable ride and I look forward to finishing the series.

Seraphina

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books where I was kicking myself for not reading this thing sooner. Seriously, why did I wait all this time? Holy crap. This book is AMAZING. As someone who adores dragons anyway, I loved how this spun a new take on them and told the story of a girl who loved music, cared for her family, and just so happened to be half-dragon.

I was immediately spellbound by the world Rachel Hartman created. Seraphina as a character is not without her flaws, but she is so relatable. She has genuine struggles, as she feels compassion for both species, and I loved how the dragons were depicted. Oh, and there was music! For me, Seraphina was the character that I had hoped Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles would be, and she did not disappoint on that end. I just adore it when I can have two of my passions woven together like this. So wonderful.

I lurve Orma and the relationship he had with Seraphina. He’s related to her by blood, yet as a dragon should not show any emotion. Some of the struggles he faced were so real, so difficult, just like Seraphina’s own dilemmas. You knew that he wanted to love her, but he couldn’t. Just as she could not help but feel love for Kiggs, though she knew it was futile and against her dragon nature. I kept wanting to yell, “JUST TELL HIM ALREADY! OMG!”

Oh, the feels. I just can’t praise this book highly enough. It is beautiful, heart-breaking and perfect in every way, shape and form.

Seriously, go read it now.