Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Final Reveal: Day 9



I've been waiting to tell you this since October, but finally, here's the day! The little story I wrote in five months four years ago called PLUNDER has been chosen to be published as part of the Hachette Audiobooks: Powered by Wattpad partnership. Out of over 400 million stories currently on the platform, my historical adventure was selected for audiobook publication and it's available NOW! 

PLUNDER is the story of seventeen-year-old housemaid Ana who is kidnapped by pirates in a case of mistaken identity. But playing the wholesome daughter of a Spanish admiral among rag-tag buccaneers soon becomes the least of her concerns. Battles, a shipwreck, mutiny, and most unexpectedly, love are what really turn her world upside down. When the truth threatens to end Ana's adventures, it's the secrets of the dashing Alestair Kincade, Pirate King of the Caribbean, that prove to be the most dangerous. Ana will need to use her wits and charm to not only stay off the gallows, but also to avoid a fate she now considers to be worse than death: being sent home to Panama to a hopeless future.

Audiobook titles to be released under this partnership this year will span all genres and will be sold digitally through major online retailers, including iTunes, Audible.com, Barnes & Noble, Downpour, eStories, Audiobooks.com, Libro.fm, and others. Physical audiobook editions on CD will be made available to libraries and on-demand.

Thank you to everyone who read Plunder on Wattpad. You helped this become possible! The audiobook is narrated by British voice actress Charlotte Wright and it's absolutely amazing to hear Ana come to life. It is now also professionally edited, and I also made several major changes in chapters 10-12 from the version that's available on Wattpad.

The best part is, there may be a way for you to get a FREE copy! Click on this image for more info.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Pirate's Life for Me

Guess who got to live out one of her own books in person? Yup, this girl! Well, okay I didn't exactly become a pirate in the last two weeks, but I did just spend that time on the high seas, traveling between some of the most beautiful islands of the south-eastern Caribbean.


Our ship - Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas - departed from Baltimore (Maryland) and spent  three days at sea before arriving at Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.



St. Thomas was ruled by the Dutch, Danes, and British at various times during its modern history. Since 1917 when it was purchased for $25M in gold (along with neighboring St. John's and St. Croix), it has been part of the US Virgin Islands. It has the horrible distinction of having had the largest slave auctions in the world for some years in the late 17th century. It also has the oldest synagogue in continuous use anywhere in the United States or its external territories.

Pirate connection: While we were excited to take a swim in the crystal blue waters of Sapphire Beach, you can visit Blackbeard's Castle a National Historic Landmark built by the Dutch in 1679 to protect the harbor, the Pirates' Treasure Museum, and Drake's Seat lookout with a panoramic view named after the famous sailor.


Sapphire Beach - amazing view and great snorkeling


Just watch out for the locals. They can be a little prickly!

Our next stop was Antigua, which is part of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies. It gained its independence from the British Empire in 1981 and has since become a hub of many financial institutions.

Pirate connection: As part of our 2.5 hour tour, we saw beaches, rainforests, as well as Nelson's Dockyard, which was built by the British in the 1740s and named after Horatio Nelson. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was used by the Royal Navy as the base of its Caribbean operations until 1889. It is now the oldest working Georgian shipyard in the world.


Nelson's Dockyard


One of Antigua's many beaches.


St. John's, Antigua

St. Lucia's first European settlers were the French before they began a two-century tug-of-war with the British. This volcanic island finally became sovereign (as part of the Commonwealth of Nations) in 1979. St. Lucia has rainforests, grows bananas, and it even has a drive-in volcano.

In spite of still nursing a sunburn, I think St. Lucia was my favorite out of all our stops. We signed up for a 5 hour tour that took us by a speedboat from the harbor in Castries to the southern part of the island, Soufrier. After taking a mud bath in a dormant volcano, we washed off in a waterfall, then finished with a stop at the beach at Marigot Bay.

Pirate connection: Local guides may tell you that parts of the first Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl were filmed on St. Lucia. It's true you can find a similar seaside arch/cave where Jack Sparrow sees the skeletons of the hung pirates, but Google tells me the real one is on St. Vincent and the Grenadines.


St. Lucia's Arch ('lady slipper') - locals will cliff dive for you for tips


The "Pirate Rock" in St. Vincent (not on our trip).


The PotC scene, for comparison.


The Pitons - two mountainous, volcanic plugs that are also a World Heritage Site.


Is that the Black Pearl? No, just a local booze cruise!


Marigot Bay, which did not stand-in for Port Royal in PotC. That was Wallilabou Bay in St. Vincent.


St. Kitts was claimed for Spain by Columbus in 1493. It was later also settled by the French and British. It is separated by a two-mile channel from its sister island, Nevis. Part of the Leeward Islands, they have been an independent country since 1983.  This island also has three distinct volcanic peaks, the last of which erupted in 1620.

Pirate connection:  We took another guided tour, this time from the harbor in Bassitere to the Wingfield Estate, the site of a 17th century rum distillery. In addition to the historical ruins, the adjacent rainforest is not to be missed! Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park helped the British defend their claim to the island for many years. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest fortress built in the Eastern Caribbean (and also one of the best preserved in the Americas).


They made rum here.


Local flora.


Local fauna.


Middle Island Anglican Church - oldest Anglican church in Eastern Caribbean, built in 1623. Per our guide, an ancestor of US President Thomas Jefferson (Samuel Jefferson II, his great great grandfather) is buried here.


Brimstone Hill Fortress - designed by the Brits, built by slaves, occupied briefly by the French and then retaken by the British, it was abandoned from military use in 1853.


Claiming the garrison for pirates everywhere!


Fire!

St. Maarten is the southern part of the island and is a constituent country of the Netherlands, while the northern part belong to the French. There are, however, open borders. Cotton, tobacco and sugar were all at one point grown on the island, but after the 1863 abolition of slavery, plantation culture suffered. Maho Beach is famous for its extremely close flyovers from landing planes.

Pirate connection: Everything it seems leads back to rum! Check out the label of local St. Maarten brew 10 Saints' Beer. It was aged in rum casks!


Beer aged in rum casks. 


View to my right: Maho Beach's famous fly-by landings with the airport runway starting at the fence line on the far right. 


View to my left: Maho Beach's tide pools.

After five days on five different islands, it was time to head back north again. This was an amazing trip and it has definitely solidified my love of pirates and inspired me to continue writing them. With that said, it's almost the end of this post . . . 


. . . but before that, here's a little teaser for what I have coming up next! It's in the form of a picture puzzle, which will be revealed bit-by-bit on this blog. Any guesses of what's behind the 9 tiles?


Friday, January 19, 2018

2017: A Year in Review or How the Plot Bunnies Overtook My Life

I learned a lot of lessons from publishing my first book, and the biggest one was to just keep writing. It may seem intuitive or even silly in its simplicity, but it's one of those things that (at least for me) was easier said than done. Because after finishing the final edits on THE LAST RESORT in the fall of 2016, I had no idea what I wanted to work on next.

 

You see, I have a really bad habit of indecisiveness.

I still had a half-finished sequel to my pirate adventure PLUNDER to get back to (MCs Ana and Cade above - aren't they adorable?). I also had a half-finished YA dystopian waiting for an ending. There were also four potential WIPs (works-in-progress) that I had developed on a very high level. One of them even already had one chapter written!

So what was the problem?

Plot bunnies. They were everywhere, yet none of them excited me enough to commit six to nine month to writing, and another half year to revisions and edits. I also couldn't figure out what mattered to me more: creating a book that could potentially get traditionally published or writing a story that would find success on Wattpad and build my base there.

And then it happened. I don't know what finally triggered that spark, but in February of 2017 I got a new idea. It was a YA contemporary with an 18 year-old female MC who competed in a traditionally male-dominated sport. I checked Goodreads and Amazon and didn't find anything similar (this sport is really overlooked in fiction!), which made me even more excited. I have personal (although tangential) experience with this "world", but I also did a lot of research and knew that this was the project I wanted to commit the year to.


I began writing in April 2017 with a goal of a 60K first draft by September. I chronicled some of my progress on Twitter with the tag #PLP and ended up coming in with nearly twenty thousand more two months later. Reasons for the delay other than the extra words and general life stuff? Wattpad had asked me to write a flash-fic to help promote Hulu's THE HANDMAID'S TALE so I ended up writing Glass Houses. I also pitched two stories for an invite-only opportunity, with one getting into the top 15 (out of more than 150 entries). And that is where I am today.

Well, not exactly.

In the next month or so, I'll have another update about something I've known since last fall.  Do you know how hard it is for a writer to keep secrets? Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Countdown to Release Day

It's now only nine days until THE LAST RESORT is officially available to the world and I've been busy doing the marketing hustle to give it the best possible chance for success.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are very important and my publicist Hannah at S&S has been doing a great job making advance copies available to bloggers and reviewers. Although a few physical copies have been printed, because the book is digital-first, NetGalley has been vital to getting e-copies out.


The ARCs (advance reader copies) are made in exchange for an honest review and some of that feedback has started rolling in on Goodreads.


Fangirlish has also already done a review and I'm also expecting a Q&A for Abigail Books Addiction and a feature on We So Nerdy.



Many authors often do Facebook launch parties to celebrate and promote their releases. I decided against this for THE LAST RESORT, but I will be taking part in Leah Crichton's party for her debut. Leah is also being published by Pocket Star and her book releases one week before mine. There are also similar themes of "going away to find yourself" in both books. I will be doing a takeover of the party from 4:00 to 4:30 pm EST on Sunday where I'll be asking three fun questions of participants to get some awesome conversations going. Anyone who answers will have a chance to win door prizes consisting of some free e-books!


The Wattpadres also invited me to join their joint Book Birthday Bash to celebrate all new releases from authors on Wattpad during the first half of 2017. That party will be on Facebook on March 18.

Although I won't have my own Facebook party, I already did an awesome Twitter chat with the Romance Sparks team from Wattpad on March 1 where I answered questions about my publishing journey, the book itself, and my upcoming projects.



All of this has been in addition to setting up the Wattpad Class of 2017 profile and taking part in the 17 Scribes group, both of which consist of authors with releases this year supporting each other with advice and cross-promotion. My incredible friend Michelle Jo Quinn also included info about the release in her March author's newsletter, which went out to 15K readers and I immediately saw an uptick on Amazon pre-orders.


Pocket Books has been tweeting promos twice a week for the last few weeks to their 62K+ followers, and I've also been doing some fun stuff on my Twitter profile using the #HotGuysDoingStuffOutside tag to post pics of . . . well, hot guys doing stuff outside!


On publishing day itself, I'm planning on sending out an email to about 150 close connections, asking for shares and retweets of my release announcement. My HeadTalker campaign has already reached the necessary 25 subscribers so on March 20, Tweets and Facebook posts will reach over 1M users with the news.


I feel like this is both a lot and not enough, but having a book come out in e-form only limits a lot of options. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Wattpad Star

As of last Friday, I'm now a Wattpad Star! What this means is that I'm part of a program that vets successful authors on the online writing site and gives them first priority in new opportunities.


By sheer coincidence, Wattpad rolled out a cool new badge on the site for members of the program on the same day I joined, so now I have a cute little, orange W next to my name on the profile page.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My First Author's Copies

There was a package for me when I got home from work today. At first I thought it was one of our (almost) daily Amazon deliveries, until I looked more closely at the sender.


When I saw it was from Simon & Schuster, I knew it was going to be good! And it was ...


They're the author's copies for Once Upon Now, which will be available for sale on October 11. I guess it's real and I'm now officially a published author. Anyone who is lucky to get an advance copy to read before then, can you please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads?