Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cover Reveal and FREE Books!

In August of 2012, I published my first novel, Into the Deep. My YA Paranormal Romance debut is about a high school junior who develops the ability to read minds and uncovers a dark secret one of her classmates is hiding. The only problem is, she doesn't know who's dark thoughts she's heard. Its sequel, Hidden Beneath, was published a year later. As the five-year anniversary of Into the Deep approaches, I decided it was time to update the covers, and to give some books away for FREE!

Into the Deep will be available to download for FREE on Amazon June 25, 26, & 27! Click HERE to check it out!

The old covers



The new covers!


About Into the Deep:

Awarded a 2012 IndieBRAG Medallion by the Book Readers Appreciation Group.

5 STARS “Well-written and emotionally charged, I found this book to be a total gem.” – Jen Naumann, author of Brooklyn Rockstar

5 STARS “This starts off as interesting, and gets more and more so.” – Lucinda Elliot, author of That Scoundrel Emile Dubois

4 STARS “…an interesting storyline, an original spin on the paranormal, and well-written.” – Jen Minkman author of Shadow of Time

Ivy Daniels is a high school junior still learning who she is. After an accident, Ivy finds herself with an ability she doesn’t want, an ability to uncover secrets which quickly begins to redefine what she thinks about the people around her as well as herself. Because of this ability, Ivy becomes the one thing that stands between an angry teen and the death of every student on campus. The only problem is she doesn’t know who wants everyone dead. Will she figure out who has this dark secret, or will she fail to find him in time?

Through her search to do the right thing, Ivy discovers that knowing the thoughts and secrets of those around her may just tear her apart. 

Into the Deep is a paranormal romance for mature young adults, that looks at how we define who we are, and what it means to feel alone. It contains minimal use of strong language and mild sensuality.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Review for Oblivion (Lux 1.5) by Jennifer Armentrout

4.5 Stars. Even knowing what would happen next, I was hooked on every word. The Lux series is one of my favorites and being able to revisit the first three books through Daemon’s POV was a great way to read Katy and Daemon’s story in a new way. I loved getting to see inside Daemon’s head in Origin and Opposition and this did not disappoint.

I also loved that Armentrout explored things that weren’t mentioned in the first three books. This book is more than just a rehashing of Obsidian, Onyx and Opal. It really is its own book. Through Daemon’s POV we get a better understanding of his relationships with Ash and we get to see scenes with him and the other Luxen that we didn’t get from Katy’s POV. I was really glad to see so much new material.

I did notice quite a bit of passive tense and some typos, but overall I loved this. It’s sucked me back into this series and I immediately picked up Origin after finishing it to continue revisiting the story.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A-Z Book Tag



I found this book tag at Heather's Reading Hideaway, and it was created by The Perpetual Page Turner. I love doing these tags, and this one seemed super fun.


Author you've read the most books from:
Stephen King. Before I started reading YA or romance of any kind I loved monsters and horror (and still do) and no one does that better than King.

Best sequel ever:
There are a few books where I think the sequel was better. Sometimes the first book has some work to do setting the scene, allowing the second book to dive deeper into the characters. I thought Scorched Skies (Fire Spirits #2) by Samantha Young was better than Smokeless Fire. And I thought Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) was the best out of the Shatter Me series.

Currently reading:
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Drink of choice while reading:
I would love to say something really "writer-ly" here like, whiskey on the rocks, but Pepsi or Lemon Tea are more realistic answers.

E-Reader or physical books:
E-books all the way. I love my Kindle. It goes everywhere I go, and is half the size of many of the books I read plus, I can highlight and take notes in it, which I love!

Fictional character you probably would have dated in high school:
I'd have to say Daemon Black from the Lux novels. My husband is snarky like he is, and I mean, who doesn't love Daemon Black?

Glad you gave this book a chance:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I don't read many books that don't have some kind of paranormal element. But this books was just so good! It's a twisted murder mystery that kept me hanging on every word.

Hidden gem book:
Red Fox by Lara Fanning. This was hands down an awesome indie read.

Just finished:
Oblivion by Jennifer Armentrout.

Kind of books you won't read:
I don't read much (any) contemporary romance. I don't want to say I "won't" read it, but it would take something really interesting to catch my eye. I love romance, but I love monsters or a good mystery more. I also steer clear of Erotica. Again, I love romance, but I don't need overly descriptive sex scenes. The plot is important too!

Longest book you've read:
I haven't read anything too ridiculously long. Maybe Bag of Bones by Stephen King. Awesome book. It was 730some pages.

Major book hangover because of:
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. The end of the Hunger Games was just... devastating. I don't think I picked up another book for like weeks after.

Number of bookcases you own:
One. I read mostly E-books. If I didn't I'd probably have ten thousand bookcases and I just don't know where I'd put them all. Eventually, I'd like to get paper copies of my favorites and a nice bookcase, but for now, I'm fine just keeping the digital copies.

One book you've read multiple times:
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. I read it once for fun and twice in college for different classes, but I really did enjoy it.

Preferred place to read:
I will read absolutely anywhere. Curled up on the couch is probably where I get the most reading done though.

Quote that inspires you/Gives you all the feels because of a book you've read:
“He's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” ― Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Reading regret:
Not reading the Harry Potter series when it came out. Now I'm older and I've seen all the movies and I know how it ends. While I still want to read it, I feel like it will have lost some of it's magic because of all of that.

Series you started and need to finish:
Isaac Marion published a sequel to Warm Bodies that's on my TBR list. I really need to read that.

Three of your all-time favorite books:
I can only pick three? Okay, Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins, Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout, and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

Unapologetic fangirl for:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love everything about that show and the comics.

Very excited for this release:
Ah, I actually don't have anything I'm counting down the days for right now. But, there are a few books that came out earlier this year that are on my TBR list like Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth and Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

Worst bookish habit:
I'm picky. I only want to read a book when I'm in the mood for that book. Which means I often have a hard time finding my next read because I get hung up on looking for something with a certain paranormal element or trope. And, sometimes I won't read anything for a while because I'm looking for the perfect next book. Really though, when I just randomly pick something out of my TBR list, if it's a good book I love it regardless of whether that was what I was looing for.

X-Marks the spot. Start at the top of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Your latest book purchase:
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

ZZz, last book that kept you up way too late:
Pretty much everything I read does this. I like to read before bed.


Want to take the A-Z Bookish Survey? Please do, and leave me a comment below so I can check it out!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

May Wrap-Up

Here's everything I was up to in May! I've got lots of fun stuff coming up this summer, and I can't wait to share with everyone.




READING:

Books Reviewed in May:

Persephone's Orchard by Molly Ringle - I liked this. It was a different twist on the Hades/Persephone myth, but I don't think I'll continue with the series.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - This was one of my New Years Resolution Books and I LOVED it! It was an awesome twisted mystery.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - This was incredible and heart wrenching.

Books Read in May:

Oblivion by Jennifer Armentrout - I loved the Lux series and this was an awesome way to revisit the series.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - Overall, I liked this, but parts were a little slow and it all wrapped up a little too easily at the end.

Books to read in June:

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting - The cover caught my eye with the one and the title makes me feel like there's a good mystery in this book.



WRITING:

With the good weather, writing got put on pause a bit last month. I still busted out some words, but I've spent a lot of time in my yard as well. I did send my editor an e-mail about starting work on Unearthed After Sunset. So, I'm excited to move forward with that book and hopefully get it out before the end of summer. *crosses fingers*

Also, those new book covers for Into the Deep and Hidden Beneath will be revealed this month! So, keep your eye out. I'm planning some free days as well!



BLOGGING:

I feel like I was a little MIA last month. I still got some posts out, but I wasn't as active leaving comments on other blogs or planning ahead for next month. This nice weather is just not conducive to finding solid laptop time.

My Favorite Blog Posts in May:

Favorite Post Written: Five Tips from Buffy for Writing a Book that Resonates with Readers - Simply put, Joss Whedon knows how to tell a story that just sucks you in, and with Buffy's 20th anniversary this year, I wanted to look at some of the things that made this show great, and how writers can incorporate those elements into their stories.

Favorite Post Read: Ah! I don't have one this month. Like I said, I was a little MIA in the blogging world in May. But, if you read anything that you thought was particularly interesting last month, please leave me a link in the comments!



PERSONAL:

My husband and I got the boat in the water for the first time this year. That was exciting. And, I spent a lot of time in my yard attempting to grow some plants and make everything look pretty.


How was your May?



Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review for Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

4.5 Stars.Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls. Before I Fall was both hilarious in parts and painfully serious in others. I loved and hated this book at the same time. It was beautiful and utterly heartbreaking all at once. I loved watching Sam's journey. She's not the most likable character in the beginning, but her journey is incredible and her relationships with the people around her are what make this book worth reading.I found myself comparing my own high school experiences to those in this book, both the times where I'd dealt with people like Sam's mean-girl friend, Lindsay, and times when I'd done things like Lindsay. Sam's perspective was incredibly real and thought provoking.

As usual, Lauren Oliver's writing was beautiful. She easily paint's a picture with words and perfectly captures the viewpoints of teenage girls, including their flawed perceptions and ability to be cruel. Sam goes on a journey throughout this book where she learns to see things from other perspectives. She learns to question things and to do the right thing.

The ending, however, is heart-wrenching. There are some books where I feel sad at the end but overall justified that things worked out the way they were supposed to. I don't know if I feel that way about this book. <Spoiler> Maybe I'm just a sucker for happy endings, but it just seemed like this book didn't have to end with Sam's death. And, I actually felt a little like her death didn't really change anything. I wanted her death to have more meaning. Yes, she saves Juliet, but Lindsay is the same person and even if Juliet saw Sam give her life for her, what's to stop Juliet from trying to commit suicide tomorrow. I feel like if this book was going to end the way it did, then we should have gotten a scene from Juliet's POV to assure the reader that Sam's sacrifice made a difference. Otherwise, I don't see why both Sam and Juliet couldn't have lived. Mostly, I feel bad for Kent. He didn't deserve to lose her after all that. </Spoiler>

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5 Tips from Buffy for Writing a Book that Resonates with Readers

Saturday marks the 14 year anniversary of the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With this anniversary coming up I've found myself thinking about that iconic, cult-classic show and wondering what about it captivated its audience. The same question could be asked of Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and a dozen other stories that have held audiences captivated decades after their release.

After a movie, sevens seasons on TV, a spinoff, and comics that are still being published today Buffy has not only entertained it's viewers and readers for over twenty years but has also spawned academic courses and inspired philosophers to write books discussing it's characters and content.

Buffy found a way to resonate with its fans. So, how do you write a book that resonates with your readers? I think for most writers this is the goal. We all want to write something that creates lifelong fans. I'd love to create a book that inspired fan-art and fan-fiction.

So what makes Buffy so special that 20 years after it first aired on TV people are still watching it and talking about it?

5. It was scary and funny. Buffy explored all kinds of serious life issues from surviving high school to the loss of loved ones, along with the fear of being in real danger and averting the apocalypse, but it still managed to be funny. Life is a rainbow of emotions. If you're writing a horror story it doesn't need to be scary every second. And sometimes comedies need a serious moment. Buffy worked because it found a balance between serious and silly.

“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” - Joss Whedon


4. There was always a secret you were waiting to be revealed: Whether it was finding out about the prophecy in season one, or why Jenny Calendar warned Buffy to stay away from Angel in season two, Buffy always had a question looming overhead that when revealed changed everything. Foreshadowing and secrets are super important, and so is having a big pay off when you hit the big reveal. If you're going to tease your reader with something, it better be good. The secrets on Buffy led to death, heartbreak, and sacrifice.

3. The monsters were metaphors: Buffy may have been about vampires and demons, but absolutely everything was a metaphor for something real that the audience could relate to. Everything had a purpose. Angel losing his soul was the ultimate metaphor for sleeping with a guy who turned out to be a jerk. The truth is real life can be more terrifying than monsters. So, if you're writing about monsters or characters with supernatural abilities think about what they can represent in your story.

2. Everything came back to the characters: Buffy, as amazing as it was, was also riddled with inconsistencies and plot holes. [Ex: How strong characters were would fluctuate depending on the situation, Sunnydale's geography was constantly changing, Spike knocked out Dru once by strangling her even though she was a vampire and didn't need to breathe,  Buffy got her butt kicked the first time she fought an uber-vamp then later her human friends easily took them out.] But it didn't matter because what the viewers craved was seeing these characters interact and overcome obstacles. Buffy was empowering. So, work on filling in all those plot holes, but make sure your focus is on your characters!

1. Joss never gave the characters what they wanted: Not giving your characters what they want is what drives them -- and your readers! Buffy wanted a normal life but she was chosen. Buffy wanted to be with Angel, but their relationship was star-crossed. Have your character want something then hold it just out of reach. And, if your character ever manages to get the thing they want it should backfire on them terribly [Ex: Buffy and Angel finally sleep together and he loses his soul and turns evil.]


If you liked this post, you might also like:

When to Ignore Your Outline

The Vampire Diaries just like Buffy?



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

5 Stars. An Excellent, Twisted Mystery. This book blew me away. It starts out as a murder mystery, then becomes so much more. There are a lot of little clues and red herrings along the way, leading you through an excellent mystery. The writing was great. There's some really awesome imagery, but I didn't like all the parenthesis.

I have to recommend not spoiling this book before you read it. Don't see the movie, just read the book. It's a mystery and the fun in reading it came from trying to figure out what was going on.

The beginning is a little slow. There's lots of backstory, and a lot of information to set the scene. There were things to keep me interested, things I noticed that I wondered about, but it wasn't until the half-way point that I couldn't put this down. Everything in the first half of this book it building to a serious turning point in the middle. Once I reached that part, everything changed.

I didn't like Amy at first because she sounded pretentious. You hear her side of the story, and get flashbacks of her and Nick's past through diary entries. As the first half of the book went on I started to like her and I started to believe that Nick had killed her. By the end, I was rooting for Nick.

The ending was satisfactory, but not entirely satisfying. <Spoiler> I really really wanted Nick to kill Amy in the end. It felt like she deserved it, but doing so wouldn't have given him a happy ending. There was a part of me that rooted for Amy at times, and there were even parts that wished Nick and Amy could have what they used to -- so a part of me was very satisfied with the ending, but at the same time, I know its all fake and so it's not really. </Spoiler> It's a very twisted book, but I loved it.



Saturday, May 6, 2017

April Wrap-Up

April was a busy month. So, in case you missed anything, here's everything I was up to last month!




READING:

Books Reviewed in April:

The Iron Queen (Daughters of Zeus #3) by Kaitlin Bevis - I liked this. The first two were my favorites, but it was a great book.

Ethereal by Addison Moore - There were some great ideas in this book, but it didn't blow me away like I wanted it to. Still, if you enjoy YA PNR you'd probably like this.

Books Read in April:

Persephone's Orchard by Molly Ringle - This was okay. I was still craving the Daughters of Zeus books, and this was really different.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - This was one of my New Years Resolution Books and I LOVED it!


Books to read in May:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - This is one of those books I don't know how I haven't read yet.

Normally, I list at least two books here, but I'm not sure what the next one will be. Big Little Lies is on my list, but I'm not sure I want to start that next.



WRITING:

I definitely got more writing done than last month when the plot-bunnies were hopping around my head. My muse is back, and I've been chipping away at the first draft of the third book in my Cereus Vampire Chronicles Series. I know I still haven't published the first book, Unearthed after Sunset, but I'm working on it! I promise it's coming soon.

Also, Into the Deep and Hidden Beneath are getting new covers! So, stay tuned for the cover reveal. I'm also thinking about doing some kind of promotion or giveaway alongside the reveal as well. [If you are a book blogger and are interested in participating in the cover reveal e-mail me at laurynapril@gmail.com.]



BLOGGING:

I'm glad that I've been able to stay consistent with blogging. I've been posting book reviews or writing related posts every Thursday, and my monthly wrap-ups post the first Saturday of every month. Also, I was really active on Twitter in April. If you don't already, follow me @LaurynApril and I'll follow back!

My Favorite Blog Posts in April:

Favorite Post Written: Psychology Tips for Better Writing (Part 1: Believable Characters) I have a BA in Psychology, so this was really fun to write. Thinking about what makes people do the things they do is part of why I love to write and it's really important to me to write believable characters.

Favorite Post Read: A-Z Bookish Survey on Heather's Reading Hideaway - I just discovered book tags this year after returning to blogging from a long hiatus, and I love them!



PERSONAL:

My husband and I spend the last week of April in Mexico. We had a much-needed vacation on the beach, and I'm missing the sun already!


How was your April?




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Review for Persephone's Orchard by Molly Ringle


3.5 Stars. Fascinating and new twist on an old myth. I loved the concept of this book. It mixed ancient Greek mythology with reincarnation and looked at the Greek gods more as immortal people than actual gods. I also liked that it explained how they became viewed as ‘gods.’

There were moments where I feel like the dialogue could have used a little work, but it was otherwise well written. I liked the plot; it was very focused on Sophie and Aidan’s relationship. But, there was a subplot involving a secret society, Thanatos, that was opposed to immortals and sought to kill them. I liked that both Aidan and Sophie made some smart decisions to avoid them and eventually overcome them in the end.

I liked the flashbacks to past lives, especially getting to see Hades and Persephone, but I felt like they took away from Adrian and Sophie’s story some. Much of Sophie’s time is spent remembering flashbacks and I would have liked a little more adventure in the present between her and Adrian – not that there wasn’t any. The story just felt a little heavy on the Hades/Persephone memories. Adrian and Sophie do spend a lot of time getting to know one another, but I would have liked the focus to be on their present selves just a little more.

One thing I really enjoyed was reading Adrian’s POV in the beginning while he waited for Sophie to remember him. He has a mix of longing and giddiness surrounding his thoughts that I loved. The sexy scenes between Sophie and Aidan and their memories of Hades and Persephone were well written, but I wanted a little more of that “build-up” feeling. They were very fun and free moments, but I wanted a little more intensity.

I also liked Sophie much more than Persephone. I really connected with Sophie, but not so much with her previous incarnation. I’m not sure why exactly, but I wished I had liked Persephone more, especially as so much of the story is in flashbacks.

I did start the second book of this series, but it lost me after about ten chapters. The story started to focus more on the other characters and less on Sophie and Adrian.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Psychology Tips for Better Writing (Part 2: Characters Who do Bad Things)

In Part 1 of Psychology Tips for Better Writing I relied on my psychology degree to discuss five tips to help create well rounded characters. In Part 2, I'm going to specifically discuss psychological tips that will help with writing characters who do bad things. This includes writing villains and antagonists, who should be just as developed as your hero.



5 tips to writing more believable bad guys based on Psychology.

1. Authority figures are incredibly powerful: The Milgram Experiment (1963) set out to test whether or not "just following orders" and obedience to authority figures was a justifiable defense for Nazi soldiers who helped commit genocide. The experiment showed that people are likely to follow an authority figure's orders even to the point of killing another person simply because an authority figure told them to do it. The reason for this is because we expect the authority figure to take responsibility for whatever it is they've asked us to do. When people feel like they are responsible for their own actions they're far less likely to listen to other people's suggestions. So, if you have a character that's going to stand up to an authority figure, make sure you take the time to show why.

Example: In Legend by Marie Lu June is a soldier who follow's the Republic's orders without question. She believes that Day is the criminal that the Republic tells her he is and follows their orders to hunt him down. June remains obedient to the Republic for most of the book. It takes a number of events for her to start questioning her authority figures. Lu also sets the scene to show why June is later able to break away from these authority figures by portraying June as a girl willing to break the rules to prove her worth to the Republic. She gives her a fierce independent streak which makes it believable when she later disobeys the Republic. At the end of the book, June learns new information that sheds lights on the Republic and she's reminded that Day is going to die because she turned him in. Feeling responsible for his situation she sets out to rescue him.

2. What we think we're supposed to do plays a big role in how we act: The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971) sought to explore the cause of brutality against prisoners by their guards. It tested how quickly regular people would conform to the stereotypical roles of prisoner or guard. This experiment demonstrated that though regular people were randomly assigned the roles of either "prisoner" or "guard" they quickly adapted the characteristics of their roles. Guards for example, began treating the prisoner's as criminals though they had entered the experiment the same as the guards had. The guards became more aggressive and the prisoners more submissive. A clear divide formed between these two groups simply because they were given specific roles. The experiment showed that much of our behavior is a result of conforming to social expectations based on the roles we play in our lives.

Example: In The Hunger Games the people of Panem watch a group of twelve teenagers kill one  another as a source of entertainment. Though this act is barbaric, it's considered normal for the people of Panem. It's expected that these twelve children will participate in the Hunger Games and fight until death.

3. People generally seek instant gratification: When given the option of receiving a reward immediately or waiting to receive it in the future, our instincts push us toward instant gratification. Delayed gratification, or holding out for a better reward is something we learn over time as we gain more self-control. Authors often like to have their villains be a few steps ahead of their lead character. This is, after all, what keeps the plot moving forward. Be careful not to have your villain planning too far ahead or your reader will find them unbelievable.

Example: In Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Amy has a ridiculous amount of self-control and sets up an elaborate (spoiler) ruse to frame her husband for her own murder. Amy is a sociopath and capable of looking ahead and waiting for delayed gratification. Most villains are not true sociopaths, and most people are not capable of planning things out to this degree. And, even Amy changes her plans at the end of the book when she decides she no longer wants to see Nick end up in prison. If your character is motivated by vengeance it will be more believable if they act quickly. The more time it takes your character to get their reward (vengeance) the more likely they are to change their mind before they receive this pay off -- whether that means they give up, come to their senses, or find forgiveness.

4. Villains should have a reason for doing the bad things they do. They need to be motivated by something.
 People justify the things they do. Basically, we want our how we act to be in agreement with what we believe. If we act in a way that disagrees with our beliefs we deal with a type of mental stress called cognitive dissonance. People generally don't like mental stress so, when our action and our beliefs are not in agreement we seek justification to remedy the disagreement. This would be like someone who insists that cigarettes won't harm them because their "grandfather smoked until he was 90 and died of old age." A person who says this probably knows that cigarettes are bad for them, but because they smoke they feed the need to justify it.

Example: In the Lux novels by Jennifer Armentrout Blake betrays Katy, handing her over to Daedalus. Though Blake cares for Katy and knows he's putting her in a position to basically be tortured, he justifies betraying her by believing that it was the only way to rescue his friend, Chris, and later it's shown that he believes it was for the greater good.

5. Discrimination, racism and hate are learned behaviors: The Stanford Prison Experiment does a good job showing how the power that came with being a "guard" affected the actions of the participants and even how the "guards" felt about the "inmates". Jane Elliot's Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Exercise also does a good job of emphasizing this point. Her experiment, where children were told that certain kids in their class were superior to the others based on the color of their eyes, basically showed how discrimination and racism are viewpoints we are taught the believe.

Example: There are many books that explore discrimination, racism, sexism, and class and you can check some of them out here. One novel that particularly demonstrates Jane Elliot's experiment well is The Selection by Kiera Cass. In the Selection not only are people's worth determined by the caste they're born into, but so is their occupation. One's are royalty and eights are "untouchable." The book's main character, America Singer, is a five and as such must choose to work in a profession related to the arts. Like in Jane Elliot's experiment, people look at others differently based on what they're told to think of them.


If you liked this post, check out Psychology Tips for Better Writing (Part 1: Believable Characters)






Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review for Ethereal by Addison Moore

3 Stars. The writing was beautiful and the plot was both interesting and engaging. But, this book left me feeling underwhelmed. Ethereal moves at a fast pace, but at times it’s too fast. Problems develop quickly, but are also solved quickly resulting in a lack of tension. I loved all the ideas in this book, but I wanted the stakes to be higher and the emotions to be better fleshed out.

The secrets kept me reading. I wanted to know more about Skyla’s dad and Chloe. The mystery surrounding Chloe and what happened to her were the best parts of this book. I wished there’d been more flashbacks to Skyla and her father. I wanted to feel her loss more, but what was there I loved.

The mythology was also something I liked. Logan and Skyla’s abilities were interesting and different. [Spoiler] The time-travel idea was interesting at first, but by the time I reached the end of the book I felt like it wasn’t handled well enough. Skyla easily goes back in time twice to retrieve something then a third time to return it, but she doesn’t even attempt to go back to get the one thing that would keep her safe. [Spoiler]

I had some issues with this book with the characters and relationships. Skyla’s romance with Logan is very insta-love, and what’s so disappointing is that it didn’t have to be. I found her initial attraction to him believable. He’s definitely hot. But, they never really get to know one another. I never felt like their relationship developed past looks. If they would have had just a few more “get to know you” scenes at the beginning I could have been really sucked into their relationship. Also, a love triangle develops almost instantly and it’s not really clear why both these guys are so into her.

Logan is a little pushy and at times I felt like all he wanted was to get in Skyla’s pants. Skyla was a little bitchy at times and too trusting. Logan talks her into things, Brielle talks her into things, but then there’s a part where Chloe warns her about something and she completely disregards it and it just irked me. She also came across as selfish. Usually I liked her, but she made a lot of choices that I didn’t completely understand. She’s a little too paranoid in some places and acts out unbelievably, and sometimes she just does dumb stuff.

Overall, I felt like this story had good bones. It had an interesting premise and mystery, but it didn’t feel fleshed out enough. Many of the scenes were underwhelming. The threats against Skyla weren’t very threatening. The people that were after her went about it in a way that confused me. First, they tried scaring her, then they tried to kill her, and then finally abducted her. Why bother abducting her when you already tried to outright kill her? And, the ending was anticlimactic. There were a lot of things I liked about this book, but I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Psychology Tips for Better Writing (Part 1: Believable Characters)

The best stories have well developed characters, and being able to write well developed characters involves being able to accurately describe human behavior. Characters need to make realistic decisions and react in ways that your reader can understand and relate to. A basic understanding of Psychology can go a long way to helping writers create believable characters.

There are a lot of things I blog about that are simply my opinion. I don't consider myself an expert in most things. However, I do have a BA in Psychology and currently work in Youth Services. So, this is one subject I'm excited to write about because I do have some knowledge and experience of it.


5 tips to writing more believable characters based on Psychology.

1. All characters need a backstory: Writing backstory for your character will help your reader understand why they make the choices they make. This may include deciding if your character has a skill that comes easy to them, like an artistic ability that runs in their family [Nature]. It might also include mentioning past experiences that affect how your character sees the world [Nurture]. Psychologists have been arguing for years whether Nature or Nurture affects a person more, but what's clear is that people (and characters) are a product of both their DNA and their environment. Your character's DNA, where they grew up, their family dynamics and things they've been through in their life all affect how your character behaves.

For example, look at Harry Potter. Harry grew into a humble young man who learned to live without under the Dursley's neglect and abuse. Once Harry enters the Wizzarding word he discover's he's basically a celebrity. There are people there who idolize him, and others who hate him, but because of his humble roots Harry remains a character the reader can relate to. Both who he is because of his DNA [the one person capable of defeating Voldemort] and who he became because of his childhood [a humble young man] are important to the story. Had Harry grown up in the Wizzarding world he may have turned into a very different person. Think about where your characters came from, and even if their backstory isn't discussed much in your book, it's important for you to know it as the author. [Keep in mind, however, that Harry Potter was a children's book and much of the Dursley's abuse comes across as comical allowing for Harry to become a humble young man. Had Harry Potter been written for an older audience the things the Dursley's did would have easily been considered child abuse and Harry should have turned out to be a far more traumatized young man.]

2. You must understand your character's wants and needs: Abraham Maslow theorized that people have a heirarchy of needs, suggesting that people need to have their most fundamental needs (like water, food, clothing and shelter) met before they will want to focus on higher level needs. So, how does this relate to writing? Well, your story should be fueled by your character's desires. If you're writing a murder mystery that may mean it's fueled by their want to find a killer. A romance is fueled by your character's want to find love. But, if your character is going to focus on say safety [finding a killer] they need to have their physiological [fundamental] needs met first. If your main character is living on the street they will probably be more concerned about where they're getting their next meal or finding shelter than finding a killer. Not to say they can't do both, but you can't ignore those physiological needs.

For Example, there's a reason why street rat, Aladdin is stealing bread in the beginning of the Disney movie. He's meeting his physiological needs, and later his safety needs with having the genie make him a prince, before seeking love and belonging from Princess Jasmine.

Source

3.  What characters think they're supposed to do plays a big role in how they act: Social norms set a huge precedent for how we act. There are things that are expected of people every day. If you have a job, you're expected to show up to work. There are rules of behavior for every area of life. Everything from what we wear, to our greetings, to how we interact with each other is based on a social norm. Do people break social norms? Yes, but not without reason. Your characters should behave in the way that is expected of them in their society, and if they act differently, you need to explain why.

For Example,  In Delirium by Lauren Oliver love is considered a disease and it's expected that at a certain age people have surgery to prevent them from feeling love. The main character, Lena, follows these social norms. She takes the tests she supposed to take. She believes the things everyone else believes. Over the course of the novel, she develops different beliefs about love than what society demands, but that only happens after a series of events that change her opinion. The Hunger Games is another example. Katniss accepted that the Hunger Games were a part of life in the beginning of the book, in fact throughout the story her main goal is to return to her life as it was. She accepted the social norms around her. She only became the face of the rebellion through circumstance.

4. Character's shouldn't always say what they mean: People keep secrets, they tell small lies, they keep things to themselves that they'd be better off sharing, and sometimes they just don't want to talk about things that are bothering them. We do this for different reasons. Sometimes, we hold on to things because of social norms. It's not always appropriate to share certain things. Sometimes, we keep things to ourselves because we fear being judged. Your characters should do the same. They may even display Transference, and take out their emotions on people or things that have nothing to do with how they feel. Secrets and inner thoughts can also add necessary tension to your story.

For Example, In Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout there's a scene where Katy comes up to Daemon at lunch and he's incredibly rude to her. Katy doesn't know this at the time, but Daemon doesn't actually mean the things he says and only does this to try and calm his ex-girlfriend, Ash, who's on the brink of lashing out at Katy. This secret also adds tension to the plot as Katy's feelings are hurt and she then dumps a bowl of spaghetti over Daemon's head.

5. Characters should justify the things they do: Basically, people want how they act to be in agreement with what they believe, and when our action and our beliefs are not in agreement we seek justification to remedy the disagreement. This is called cognitive dissonance. So, how does this relate to your characters? Well, there may be times that your character does something that disagrees with what they believe. Your hero may need to kill someone when they've fought to save lives, or your love interest may try to convince the person they care about most that they can't be together. In these situations it's important to show how your character justifies these decisions or your reader won't believe that they would make those choices.

For Example, In Sweet Evil (and Sweet Temptation) by Wendy Higgins Kaidan believes that he is damned to hell and has a certain life that he has to lead. As a lust Nephilim, he's been seducing women for so long he believes that he needs it and cannot choose to live another way. When Anna enters his life she suggests that he does have a choice. Kaidan finds himself acting differently because of Anna and deals with cognitive dissonance as his actions disagree with his long held beliefs. This comes to a point when he has the opportunity to have sex with Anna -- something he's been trying to do for basically the entire book -- and instead chooses not to. This causes Kaidan distress, resulting in him leaving Anna at the airport instead of continuing their road trip as he feels like removing her from his life will help him find agreement between his beliefs and actions.


Check out Psychology Tips for Better Writing (Part 2: Characters Who do Bad Things)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Review for The Iron Queen (Daughters of Zeus #3) by Kaitlin Bevis


3.5 Stars. Well written plot, but wanted more Persephone and Hades. This book was different from the first two because it’s not just told though Persephone’s POV, but alternates with Hades and Aphrodite’s POV. While I loved reading parts of the story from Hades’ point of view and even Aphodite’s, it felt like less of the story was about Hades and Persephone and more about all of the gods. I enjoyed getting to know more about them, but I wanted there to be more focus on Persephone and Hades.

I loved watching Persephone fight against Zeus and getting to see inside Hades’ head as he fought to rescue Persephone was awesome. The plot was well constructed and believable. Zeus’ mind games kept both Persephone and me guessing and the way she managed his abuse was believable.

Where I was a little disappointed with this book was that this concludes Hades’ and Persephone’s role as lead characters in this series. The next two books are about Aphrodite, and though I haven’t read them yet their blurbs don’t mention either Hades or Persephone. I wasn’t as interested in reading about Aphrodite as I was about Hades and Persephone. Also, the author left a few threads hanging that I really wanted to see resolved in another Hades and Persephone book. For example, <spoiler> now that Zeus has been defeated Persephone is super powerful and has claim to multiple realms, </spoiler> there was a point in the story where this concerned the other gods and I wondered how that would affect her? It was a plot point I hoped the author would tackle in the next book, but it doesn’t appear as if it will be explored.

Overall this was a worthwhile read, and if you’ve read the first two books I definitely recommend reading this, but I was disappointed that the focus veered away from Hades and Persephone.

Read my Review for Daughters of Zeus #1
Read my Review for Daughters of Zeus #2

Saturday, April 1, 2017

March 2017 Wrap Up

In case you missed anything, here's everything I was up to in March!




READING:

Books Reviewed in March:

Persephone (Daughters of Zeus #1) by Kaitlin Bevis - I am so hooked on the Hades/Persephone story after this book, it was awesome!

Daughter of Earth and Sky (Daughters of Zeus #2) by Kaitlin Bevis - I may have liked this one even more than the first book!


Books Read in March:

The Iron Queen (Daughters of Zeus #3) by Kaitlin Bevis (I'm really liking this series!)

Ethereal by Addison Moore


Books to-read April:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (This is one of my New Years Resolution Books!)

Persephone's Orchard by Molly Ringle - I'm craving more Greek Mythology after the Daughters of Zeus books.



WRITING:

I didn't get a ton of writing done this month. The plot-bunnies were running rampant so I set to appease them by outlining some new story ideas and setting them aside in my "I'll start these books later" pile. My brain is a crazy place. Which can be great. I can be really creative and new ideas come to me easily. But, sometimes there's just too much going on. I always have more than one book I'm working on at a time, and sometimes that gets distracting. Hopefully, April will be more productive.



BLOGGING:

I want to say hello and thank you to all my new followers! Traffic has been increasing every month since I've been back. My current favorite social media site is Bloglovin, so if you're a fan as well, follow me there and I'll follow back.

My Favorite Blog Posts in March:

Favorite Post Written: Canceled TV Shows: What Writers can Learn from Them. The blog posts where I get to tie something unrelated to writing (like TV shows) to the writing process are sometimes my favorites, and this post gave me an outlet to rant about some shows that I loved, but could have been so much better!

Favorite Post Read: The Pressure of Not Reading Enough by Alice at The Geeky Burrow I loved this post because it talked about a feeling I've had myself as a writer and book blogger and reminded me not to feel bad that lots of bloggers read A LOT more than I do. Reading should be fun.



PERSONAL:

There is mud everywhere! We got a lot of rain this month and my dogs are determined to make all my time sweeping and mopping the floors meaningless. I'm not sure I'll ever scrub all the paw-prints away.


How was your March?


Thursday, March 30, 2017

5 Reasons Readers Put Books Down

I've been posting book reviews for years, but I decided a long time ago that I'd never write a review for a book I didn't finish. That said, there's been plenty of books that I didn't finish. So, in this post I wanted to write about why I put those books down. Below are five reasons readers put books down with examples of books that I didn't finish for those reasons.



1. Your reader doesn't relate to your characters. Your main character isn't going to be like every  one of your readers, but there should be something about them they can relate to or root for. When reading Falling Under by Gwen Hayes I found  I just didn't connect with the characters. Theia is British, and moved to California with her very overprotective father. I liked her personality but I just didn't have much in common with her, and there wasn't anything about her that made me want to root for her. Her best friend was her polar opposite, loud, reckless, and the man from her dreams felt a little too proper compared to the first glance we get of him in one of Theia's dreams. Despite feeling like Gwen had an interesting concept for the book it just wasn't something I could relate to.

Another example is Poison Princess by Kresley Cole. I normally am a huge fan of paranormal as well as dystopian stories, but this book immediately sucks you into this extremely dark post-apocalyptic future. After reading the first few chapters I  found myself unable to keep reading. The main character Evie seemed well written, and this book certainly had a very unique style, but it was being told through the POV of a character named Arthur. Arthur was beyond creepy and I didn't like being in his head.

2. Your book reads like a first draft. Don't publish your book until it's really ready. Make sure you've taken the time to develop your characters, their relationship and tie up any plot holes. After that, edit, edit, edit. A great story will have a hard time keeping readers until the end if it's riddled with grammatical or spelling mistakes. A lack of editing is distracting, it's like watching a movie on your laptop with a poor wifi signal and every few minutes it cuts out to buffer. Make sure your novel's ideas are fully fleshed out and that you've gone through it with a fine tooth comb. After that hire an editor and a proofreader to do the same. When I read Miss Underworld by Racquel Kechagias I had a hard time getting sucked in to the story because it felt unfinished. The interesting combination of vampires and Greek mythology fell flat because I felt like I was reading an early draft of a novel that had yet to completely come together instead of a finished project. To be fair, I did finish this book (unlike the others on this list) but I didn't leave a review for the above reasons. This novel may have been updated since I read it years ago.

3. Your book opens with a scene that your reader has seen before. It's impossible to avoid all cliches. Everything has been done before, but if you can't show your reader something new in your opening chapters they'll wonder why they should continue. When I picked up Dark Lover by JR Ward I was really feeling like reading a vampire novel, but Dark Lover just wasn't what I was looking for. Ward seemed to be trying to create his own world, but there were just too many things about this book that had been done before. Ex: Main character, vampire, long black hair with a widow's peak. Ex: Main character, female, nearly gets raped in an alley. Ex: Vampire names like "Thorment" and "Wrath". I suppose for me the 'vampire' world of it was a little cheesy.

4. You don't have a good enough hook. You need to catch your reader's attention asap. Fill the beginning of your book with boring backstory or take too long to jump into the action and you risk losing your readers. When I started reading Existence by Abbi Glines I had high hopes that I would love this book. It sounded like it was right up my alley and had great reviews, but it just didn't pull me in. There wasn't anything in particular that bothered me, but also nothing that really hooked me either. After the first chapter or so I put it down and simply never picked it back up. It started out with a typical high school scene and a girl with an ability, but nothing stood out to me as different. Also, I hated the name "Dank," maybe a small thing, but it was a big turnoff. Your readers need to know from the beginning what makes your book worth reading.

5. Your story takes a left hand turn after a few chapters. Readers  go into a story with certain expectations based on your blurb and the first few chapters. Twists and turns are great, but change directions too radically and your readers will feel tricked. This is what happened when I started reading Seers of Light by Jennifer DeLucy. I loved the first chapter or so of this book. it had me hooked. It seemed different and, it was scary. I could tell that it was going to be a little darker of a read and that had me interested as well. But, what started out as a story that possibly revolved around ghosts or maybe demons and an eerie, mysterious forest radically shifted gears and went in a totally different direction. Suddenly, there were blue veined vampires and a handsome British character that was dragging my main character away from this wonderful world  Jennifer had created. Maybe it would have been a good read had I had a better idea of what it was about, but after having my hopes for what this book would be shatter I had to put it down.


It's important to keep in mind that what "makes a book good" will be different from one reader to the next. The books I listed above may not have been my cup of tea, but they could be someone else's favorites. That said, I think these suggestions to create relate-able characters, open with an exciting hook and set up your reader's expectations can help writer's keep their reader's reading.

Why did you stop reading the last book you put down?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review for Daughter of Earth and Sky (Daughters of Zeus #2) by Kaitlin Bevis

4 Stars. Well written plot and characters. I wanted to see more of Hades and Persephone’s relationship. But, the parts we do see are awesome. Their excursion to the beach at the beginning of the book was great, and the scene where Persephone <spoiler> broke up with him was actually one of my favorites, </spoiler>. The author really nailed their emotions and it brought all of their scenes to life. They grow a lot as a couple in this book and I really enjoyed seeing Hades open up.

There’s one really great steamy scene, but I was disappointed that <spoiler> when they do have sex for the first time the author fades to black a little faster than I would have liked</spoiler>, still it was a nice scene and fit well into the flow of the story.

The plot was well thought out and intense. I loved seeing Persephone fight and work to figure out how to overcome Thanatos, and when Hades does step in to help her it doesn’t feel like he just swoops in and saves the day. I think the author gave these two characters a nice balance of power. Even though Hades is older and more powerful he and Persephone feel like a team.

There were nice twists and turns and surprises and like the first book felt complete and also ended with a cliffhanger that sucked me right into the third book.

Read my Review for Daughters of Zeus #1
Read my Review for Daughters of Zeus #3