Time to go on a journey, booknerds! Today I’m transporting you to the new world I’ve crafted for my Eerden novels. That’s right! Today I’m bringing you into this new world, specifically to the continent of Erhard where the first book takes place. Eerden is a massive world with several continents, but I’ll be showing each continent one by one as the books move to new locations. I worked with the super talented Sarah with The Sketch Dragon in order to bring Erhard to life, and it’s my pleasure to introduce you to this continent, and some of the cities the first book in the series visits.
So let’s start with the continent itself, Erhard, and the city the book starts off in--Euria. Fun fact: the shape of Erhard was inspired by Australia, and that’s roughly the size of the continent too, just to give you some perspective. Erhard is a dead continent though for the most part. The resources are drained, regulated to the cities, big and small, as those with natural magical abilities unknowing form a symbiotic relationship with their home areas. Their magic drains the land, bust sustains the place where they live, making an oasis of sorts. In between the cities there may be a few forests, fields that can support grass, but the soil is dead, nothing grows there. Then you get these long stretches, such as the Saxa Desert, where monsters dwell, hunting people with magic, making these areas even more of a no-man’s land. I’ve just always loved the idea of these big lands with lots of cities, but with such clear borders in between where there’s almost nothing between them.
I live in a sprawling city currently, so the idea of things ending in nothing appeals to me personally, mainly because it’s not a reality I currently have. But, I do live in a major city so being cramped with lots of people and high rises is something I am intimately familiar with: the noise, the long shadows of high rises, the areas you avoid at night because of crime, the pollution, the ability to get lost in a crowd surrounded by strangers even in the place you live. So those are the kind of cities that populate Erhard. Massive, bustling cities with skyscrapers so high they punch right through the skyline so people at the bottom can never see the top, let alone the stars.
Euria is such a city. Think of New York City, Downtown Los Angeles, and Bangkok all combined together just to give you a sense of the 1. Scale of this massive city and 2. How metropolitan it is. Euria is one GIGANTIC city that tappers out at the edges into farmland that makes it self-sufficient, before ending abruptly in dead, uninhabitable land. Euria thrives off capitalism where people are always struggling to move up (sometimes literally) and to get out of the ground levels that are polluted with the exhaust from the aerial and other ground vehicles. Euria is constantly growing up, as it can’t grow out. And while it has senators and lobbyists, an elected governor, and police that keep the peace alongside their android guard bots, there is a constant struggle between the legitimate government and the underground crime lords. The most powerful crime lords in Euria, and most places in Erhard, are casters with extreme elemental magic. Often these types combine their magic with technology with devastating effects. The government outlaws this magitech, but that doesn’t stop it. All the government can do to keep control is to have better emporiums, better technology and bio-tech and regulate the hell out of everything to various degrees. But, if they are powerful enough, the crime lords always find a way around those regulations and hide behind legitimate business, or help the elected officials with their casting ability, so they remain relatively untouched. Which is the case in Euria, whose underground crime boss is an earth and fire caster; his abilities help with the farmland so allowances are made to overlook some of his other criminal activities.
The other major locations the first book takes place in is Amaru and Anzor. Anzor, being a major city-state, is similar to Euria in many ways, though they survive mainly on their industry and therefore trade for food. As all the cities on Erhard are city-states, they are all run pretty independently of one another with loose agreements with the other governing bodies on travel between locations, and laws that keep the continent from constantly waring with other city-states. But not all city-states are the massive centers that Euria and Anzor are, case in point—Amaru. While still massive by today’s standards for a city, places like Amaru are not nearly as large or as built up as its bigger brethren. The luxuries are not as prevalent, there are more ground bound vehicles and people, there’s more of a gap between the poor and the rich, as the casters that dwell in these places aren’t as powerful as those in places like Anzor. There’s a reason for that: most casters cannot leave the city of their birth without their natural, elemental abilities being significantly weakened. A less powerful caster may want to go to another city and try their hand at operating there, but then they risk being completely powerless, which kind of defeats the point for them. In Amaru, the most powerful caster there, who also happens to be a criminal (absolute power corrupts absolutely and all that jazz) is nowhere near as powerful as the ones in Euria or Anzor, so it’s probably best for him to stay where he is, as he wouldn’t survive anywhere else!
So there you have it, friends! A little peek behind the curtain at the world that will be on full display in my upcoming books. It’s been such a fun world to create, a cyberpunk far future world but full of magic and incredible technology. The world of Eerden is ripe for adventure, conflict, and wonder, full of powerful, broken people all just trying not to be crushed under the weight of industry. Tell me what you think, and I hope you enjoy the map Sarah made as much as I do!
Have you ever considered doing the big National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), or maybe even one of the smaller camps like they have in April and July? Not sure how to handle it alongside your job or side gig (like, maybe a professional dog wrangler)? Then never fear, booknerds and aspiring writers, I’m here to help! Maybe. I’m going to do my best, anyway. I’ve been asked a few times how to prep for NaNo, and before I’ve always answered on Instagram, which limits word count and what not, so hopefully this “guide” is a bit more helpful, and early enough to where you have more than enough time to get ready for the next NaNo, whether that’s a smaller camp, or the big one in November.
First, in case you aren’t familiar, the differences between the two NaNo’s: The November one is where you write an entire novel in the span of one month. In this case, a novel is based on 50k words, so you can technically achieve the goal without finishing your book, which is what usually happens to me. My first drafts’ of novels all hover around 90k-110k words, so while I can “win” the November camp, I never actually finish a book in that time—which is ok! The second type of NaNo are the smaller camps that happen a few times throughout the year. These camps are where you can set your own goal, whether it’s a certain word count in a month, researching, revising… you determine what kind of project you want to focus on, and then put in your measurement for success. These camps are much more relaxed then the November one, and I tend to like them best, but the November one is great if you just really need that kind of pressure to get you rolling on a novel.
Prepping for these NaNo’s can be vastly different, mainly because the pressure for each one is vastly different. So let’s talk about how I prepare for the smaller camp’s first because those are by far the easiest. Personally, I love doing the smaller camps when I am in between projects because it helps keep me focused and moving things forward when I’d rather procrastinate like a boss about starting something new.
So, for prepping, I pick two projects that need attention, a bit of refining, or need to be outlined. I still pick a word count as a goal for these, but I keep it pretty low, between 10k-20k words. You can set your goal as time spent researching instead, which would also work for this. But the word count holds a type of accountability that I find helpful. Before starting the camp, I look at my monthly schedule, see what I need to do outside of writing (let’s say, it’s dog walking because I do walk a lot of puppers), and I figure out about how much time I need to devote to that on a daily basis. That gives me a good idea of how much time I have left for writing. From there, I skim through the two projects I’ve selected and see what they need, what will make me feel like, once I complete it, I am over that hump and ready to put these babies to bed to start on something new. It could be polishing a character’s personality, beefing up the fight scenes, or adding in name pronunciation guides. I make a list of the things those projects need and assign a word goal. If it’s small, like polishing, the word goal stays small, but if it’s more about elaborating on certain scenes, my word goal is a bit higher. Having those goals in mind before I start is key though, even with the relaxed nature of the smaller camps. Knowing what I am going to do ahead of time, and how much of my time I can devote to it, helps me figure out what’s not only doable, but gets me excited about the things I CAN do to improve my work. The good thing about the smaller camps is that I don’t have to write every day either, which is perfect for when I’m between projects and a little burnt out.
November’s NaNoWriMo is another beast entirely. I recommend starting to prep for this at least a month ahead of time, as November is already full of interruptions with holidays. In order to really do this one, make sure you know WHEN you can write, as well. Are weekends your free days for writing? Evenings? Or maybe just early mornings? Whatever that time is, guard it fiercely because you’ll have to write AT LEAST 1,700 words a day to really finish on time (it’s a little less than that, but rounding up helps create a bit of wiggle room). I tend to be a really fast, over writer. When I’m focused, I can write about 1,500 words in thirty minutes, so generally I know how much uninterrupted time I’m going to need in order to write 50k words in 30 days. Knowing that helps manage what you can and can’t do in a day.
But, and this is the big one, knowing what story you’re going to write ahead of time is huge! Have all your outlining done, your world building, know your characters names, all of that, before starting so you aren’t losing time in November to things that don’t count toward that larger goal. See why I recommend starting your prep work a month early?
But in the throes of November Camp, the best thing to help focus and keep you going (because trust me, some days are HARD when it comes to writing and the pressure feels a bit much) is to do writing sprints with friends. Even if your buddies aren’t participating, and they are just writing blog posts or beta reading, having people who are dedicated to doing one task alongside you for thirty minute sprints, and then checking in at the end of that time to see how you did, is a life saver. Not only does it keep you focused, it also adds accountability to make sure you work, and then after, you get to share your accomplishments, which is amazing! Personally, I really need that when I am feeling unmotivated, or that my words aren’t “pretty” yet. It’s also important to remember that this is just going to be the first ugly draft of what will eventually be something great. Giving myself that freedom to just vomit words out on a page, knowing full well I’ll fix it later (like at the smaller camps!) alleviates that personal pressure I feel for perfectionism.
Each year I’ve participated in a camp I have “won” because I go in with clear goals, and all my homework done ahead of time. I know how much time I have in between the demands of the dogs I take care of (I don’t have kiddos) so I can set realistic goals, and know how much time I need to guard from others, because that is my writing time. The prep work is a bit boring and cumbersome, but honestly, it makes the camps so, so much easier. And, if you need a buddy to keep you accountable, friend me on NaNoWriMo! I’ll be your forever cheerleader. Hopefully these little tips help you, but if you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help!
One of the questions I get frequently, booknerds, is how to write a “good” book review. The simple answer is: I can’t tell you how to make anything good since it’s subjective and I barely know what “good enough” is. I just know what I like. But! I do have some tips for you if you want to up your book review game. Book reviews are the lifeblood of the book industry no matter what level you’re at as a writer, which is why I always make a point to write a review for every book I read. But it can be time consuming and daunting if you don’t know how or where to start. So, hopefully, this will demystify some of that for you.
Let’s start with the simple book review. This is one that is maybe a few sentences in length and doesn’t go into detail about what the book is about or the character development. These are the fastest to write too, and the most common book review you’ll encounter outside of the “professional” book reviewers: people who get advanced copies of books from Netgalley, have a BookTube channel or book blog, or paid reviewers, for example. If you’re struggling for what to say, here are some really easy bullet points to cover in your review when you’re done reading: share your favorite character from the book and why you loved them (i.e. “I love Tomas because of how smart and shy he is”). Then maybe share your favorite line from the book (i.e. “I laughed when Rosslyn said…”). And end with if you enjoyed the book (i.e. “I flew through this book, really enjoyed it!”). The end! That’s like 3-4 sentences and a perfect book review!
As I mentioned, longer reviews are usually ones you find from people who talk about books semi-professionally. Like me! The in-depth reviews can take a while to write, so unless you really, really want to start a blog or there was just one book series you adored and want to dissect bit by bit, don’t feel obligated to write multiple paragraphs on a book. But if you want to give it a shot, here are some thought starters for crafting those in-depth reviews: start with the broad strokes of what the book was about without spoiling anything (i.e. “this dystopian coming of age story follows a cast of 4 to save the world”). Then you can once more dive into those favorite characters and why, maybe even still share a quote or two that stuck out to you. Then, look at the story structure—did everything flow between one chapter to the next, was the action heart racing, the romance swoon worthy? Was the writing prose filled and beautiful or concise and a page turner? Was there something that bothered you about the story or characters? Then, once again, end on if you liked the book and if you were to recommend it to someone, what kind of person would enjoy this (i.e. “Perfect for anyone who likes The Hunger Games or Divergent”). Broken out, that can easily be 3-4 paragraphs and is also a perfectly awesome book review.
My method is more like the second option, obviously. When I read I take bullet point type notes about the story, or if certain parts grabbed my attention. It’s easy to fall into a trap where you promise yourself you’ll remember this really awesome part, or this little thing that seems weird, but if you’re like me and enjoy reading before bed or also read more than one book at a time, it can be easy to forget something, or mix up plot lines. So I take notes on my computer first thing in the morning before I start other work, but use whatever works best for you—a journal, send yourself text messages, just whatever is easiest and natural for you. Taking these bullet points is free form, I don’t look for specific things, just parts that capture my attention, for better or worse. I, personally, don’t find reviews that just list out a book’s synopsis to be helpful, since I can read that on my own. So I usually don’t mention that outside of very broad strokes, which frees up room for me to dive deep into all those things that tickled me enough to take special note of.
I make it sound stupidly simplistic, I get that. The hardest thing is honestly making it a habit, because then you don’t have to force writing a review, and it feels natural. I also don’t write one star reviews, I’m not into trashing an author (which you should never do either, that author is a person so disagree with their work all you like, but don’t make it personal). Writing negative reviews isn’t fun, and I’m kind of anti this hate culture that seems to gravitate around some of the book review community, where it’s just fun to crap on books you were never going to like anyway. So not pressuring myself to write those reviews helps a ton. There is one exception to that rule for me: problematic content. If a book contains really triggering content that is used dangerously, or inappropriately, I will give that book a one star because that content has to be depicted carefully, and should be treated with the respect it deserves.
Hopefully this was at least semi helpful? But if you have specific questions, just pop it into the comments. Writing reviews is hard, but much appreciated! And remember, you never have to justify why you felt a book was 3 stars when everyone else is giving it a 5. Tastes vary, and sometimes a book isn’t wowing you at that particular moment as it is for others and that is 1000% fine and valid. As long as you don’t attack an author personally, you are allowed to say and feel however you want about a story, and rate and review it accordingly, my friend!
If you get my newsletters, you saw that February was a big month for me. I finished the first draft of the second book in my new, unreleased, adult fantasy series. That’s huge! But now I’m back on the revising train for the first book, getting it in the best shape possible for all you incredible booknerds, and in doing so, it brings about this incredible excitement, this rush of creative energy, but also a dark, crippling fear about what comes next. The things that come next aren’t things I can control, but that fear and panic is blinding compared to all the good stuff. I realized recently that I am, in fact, not a unique snowflake when it comes to these emotional extremes. Most creators experience something similar. So, allow me to bring you in on this crazy, crazy train of ours because I HAVE to work this out of my system, too, in order to get back on track.
So here’s the real talk about what it’s like to write something, but not just write it and shove it in a file on your computer to never see the light of day, but writing something you WANT the world to see. You go through this intense back and forth between wanting, desperately wanting, everyone to read it and love it. That’s the goal, right? To produce something that the whole world devours and sings your praises. That’s the day dream, and night dream, and the thing that we all want but don’t talk about because we feel like we have no right to desire something so big. But along with that need to be a massive success, whether for our own ego or financial reasons, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of negativity because the reality is: not everyone will like what you do, and those negative reviews will feel bigger than all the good ones. Which sucks. But I haven’t met anyone where that reality isn’t true for them as well. You want everyone in the world to read and share your work, whatever that is, but you also don’t want ANYONE to see what you made because that’s the moment you lose control. You can’t control how others will feel about this thing you birthed into being. Someone may love it. Someone may hate it. And that’s their right to feel however they want about your work, their feelings are not wrong, whatever they may be (unless they attack you as a person, that shit’s not cool or acceptable, ever). Sometimes, for some people, that fear is enough to never let their creative spark see the light of day. Which is sad, too. I have this fear and I’m pushing through it, so I encourage you to do the same!
It can, unfortunately, be very easy to look at all these famous artists and authors, or just creators that you admire and see their finished product and compare yourself or your first draft to them and their work. Don’t do that. You only see the polished version of what they want you to see, not all the sacrifices they made before you got to see the finished product. But it is easy to look at their process and get down on yourself because the way they create isn’t how you create, and they are famous so clearly their way is superior to yours… I know, I do it too. But it’s wrong and I have to remind myself of that constantly. What works for them may only work for them, and that’s great! But that doesn’t mean your process is any less valid. Especially if your end result is the same: you created a piece of art you are proud of.
Despite being so new in my career, I am happy with the things my book series has taught me about publishing and the craft of writing. I’m excited to apply those things to my new series and learn from where I was three years ago to today, because that’s ultimately what I can control. I am a better writer than I was when I first started, and I will be a better writer in 10 years than I am today. I am constantly growing and my craft is maturing and refining as I go and learn more and more. That doesn’t make the early work shitty, it just means that you (and me) take our work seriously and always want to do better. There will be no peak. No moment of “this is it, this is the best I can do. I am at the top.” Because the top is a mountain that, even if you reach, the next book still has to reach that peak, too. It’s moving and changing and that makes it exciting! And only part of that is in my control, and so those are the parts I am striving to focus more on rather than that crippling fear, and I encourage you to do the same.
Be passionate about the things you can control. Write your truth and make the best book you can. Make it just as beautiful on the outside as the inside with your cover art. Research and edit and polish your work until you are in love with it, the characters, the world you’ve made, all of that. Stress that stuff. Because even with the biggest marketing budget in the world you can’t control how many people do or don’t purchase your work. You can’t control how they feel about what you produced. But their negative (or positive!) feelings or opinions don’t take away from the hard work you put into this piece of art. It doesn’t erase the hours you spent agonizing over proper comma placement or the 18 revisions you requested for your cover art to get it just right. Just as their feelings are valid, whatever they may be, the reality of what you did behind the scenes to bring this piece of work to life is just as valid and wonderful, so stay passionate about it and take the leap with me on getting your creative passion out there! It’s worth being seen! I don’t know if you needed this reminder, or this level of encouragement today, but since I have to constantly remind myself of things like this, I figured it may be worth talking about. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk ;)
I’ve made no secret of my future plans, of the book I plan to self-publish this year. Things are getting real, my favorite booknerd. How real? It’s only February and I’m already planning out June levels of real. Which means I’m looking for ways to not only get you more involved in the process, but I’m investigating ways on how I can make myself more available to YOU! The solution? A street team! “A book street team? Wtf is that?” Fear not, friend, I have answers!
“A street team is a group of volunteers who band together to promote an author and his or her book. Members of a street team are motivated by their love of an author’s work to promote it to as many people as possible.”
So, in a nutshell, that’s what a street team is, and if you subscribe to my newsletter and/or happen to like my Facebook page and the special reader group, you’re already a member! Surprise! Really, street teams are old names for reader groups, so nothing is changing, and you don’t have to do anything. Unless you want to. And, if you want to do more, then sit on over here by me and let’s have a chat!
Word of mouth, much like reviews, are vital to books and authors, more so if you self-publish. But that also feels pretty one sided. I don’t want that. I want to have a direct line of communication with people who aren’t just passionate about my books (though that does help and makes me feel all warm and tingly inside) but are passionate about books in general and want to talk to me as much as I want to talk to them! That’s the real beauty behind these reader groups/street teams: access to someone or something you are passionate about that others don’t have. That’s what the member’s only section on my website is. That’s what the Facebook Reader Group is. That’s what this is. But with a new launch coming out, it also gets kicked up a notch. So what does that mean?
Simply put: I am looking for people who want to help me share my new book and series with others. Who will post about it on Facebook, take pretty pictures of my book on Instagram, leave a review when it launches, request it at their local libraries, tell their mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend about it, you know, the usual! You don’t have to do all of those things, you can, of course. But even just telling the dude on the subway reading a book about my series is incredible and so appreciated!
“But how can I do all that?!” You may be asking. Again, simple: I’ll be sending you things. Early! “Ooooo what things?” Oh, you know, you’ll get to see the cover first, get early copies of the book, and I’ll even be hosting little (re: easy) challenges to get you even more delicious swag, like character art or Amazon gift cards. Reader groups are not a one way street, you’d be helping and supporting me in a tremendous and amazing way, so of course I want to thank you, and encourage you, on top of being able to have exclusive online launch parties and Q&A’s with me after the book comes out. We’re building a relationship, but a chill one. One where I promise to never message you constantly at 2:43 AM semi drunk like your ex, and you can drop in and out whenever you want, that level of chill and cool.
Interested? Let me know by either messaging me, requesting to join my Reader Group, or signing up for the newsletter if you haven’t already. Let’s do something amazing together, friend!