Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Back to Playing

I get to play again!

Its been months of editing and re-editing, proposal and query shaping, and all around UN-FUN writing chores. But now with The Tremblers safely in my agent's hands and NaNo just around the corner, I am Happy Dancing and Celebrating as I start a new book.

I enjoy the planning, the research, and the anticipation of diving back into the sheer fun and fulfillment of just writing.

Photo by p049979
There's a special kind of homecoming when you begin a second or third book in a series. Your struggle and stretching to world-build pays off and you can just grow your universe as the story dictates. I really love that!

This is also the time where I begin to paw through the piles of papers on my desk for my Style Sheet. Because as much as I love the Trembler-verse and all the inhabitants of The Peaceful Union...I sometimes forget name spellings and dates.

I also peruse my PINTEREST page for inspiration and to revisit old designs, locale pics, and character stand-ins.

What do you do to get back into your book universe?

By +Raquel Byrnes 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Rapscallion and Other Useful Insults

Even though it is Shakespearean, I fully embrace the concept...as should we all, I say!

I was amazed at the number of fantastic insults I learn during my research for my Victorian Steampunk novel.  I mean...surely we should bring these back into use!

Quackery (of course)

Mental Floss has a list of 56 Victorian Slang Terms we should seriously consider bringing back.

So as you head into the weekend...

Throw on some gaspipes and paste on your giggle mug. Its going to be nanty narking!

Have a lovely weekend, my lovelies!

by +Raquel Byrnes

Cover Reveal - BLOOD ISLAND

Release Date: 2015
Cover Designed by: Najla Qamber Designs

Summary from Goodreads:


With Elizabeth on the loose and Byron free to roam the halls of headquarters, the Siren community is on edge, waiting for the impending first strike.
And it comes when three Elders are found dead after they go out for their monthly hunt.
Now, for the protection of the soon to be heir to the throne, Raya and her friends are sent to an unmarked island where Sirens walk in the sunlight without fear. It's their island.
And it might just be the key to a dark plan.

Sequel to:
(cover linked to Goodreads)

Available from:

About the Author
Samantha Coville is an editor and literary critic at her website, Sammy the Bookworm. She’s been writing short stories for six years and has appeared in magazines, both in print and online. When she’s not doing something book related, she is singing in her church choir or enjoying one of the theme parks in her home state of Florida.

Author Links:
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Cover Reveal Organized by:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"Waiting On" Wednesday, A Murder of Magpies

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. 

This weeks WOW is:
A Murder of Magpies by Sarah Bromley

I am so excited for this book. Its set to release, October 28th 2014 and I can't wait.  So far I'm hearing great things about it...

Here is what GOODREADS has to say:

Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see.

No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it's not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk. 

Until someone quiets the chaos inside her.

Unwanted. That's all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can't explain the hold she has on him--inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn't know what her powers can do. Yet.

Just as Vayda and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn't so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.

A Murder of Magpies

About the Amazing Sarah Bromley...

Sarah Bromley drinks too much coffee, likes her music loud and off-key, and has loved spooky things since she first saw “An American Werewolf in London” when she was five years old. She currently lives in the St. Louis area with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-heroic-husband, three children, and three dogs. You can find her on Twitter and at her blog. She also writes under the name Sarah Jude. She is represented by Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cutest Thing EVER!

So Rebecca Enzor has an annual event that is so amazingly fun and cute that I can't...even!  This year's #PonyFest14 encourages authors to custom build a My Little Pony that depicts the character, place, or theme of their book.  

There are prizes and everything. The winner gets their pony made into a real one! I know, right?

So you go on this Pony Creator and you customize your very own book mascot.  Love it!

Pony Description: This is Charlie and she is a steampunk pony. She is beautiful and refined like the society lady she is, but with the tinkerer cutie mark because she is a mech-magician.

She would totally fit into the world built around The Tremblers, the YA Steampunk novel that I'm just finishing.

One sentence tag-line for book: Debutante or Dissenter...Charlotte holds the fate of a nation in her hands.

This is such a whimsical idea. I hope you vote for mine or any of the other adorable creations over at the #PonyFest14 site.

By +Raquel Byrnes 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

They've Got the Right Idea

So I am knee-deep in revisions AND I am currently teaching a creative writing course for teens. The thing that I like so much about teaching is that it forces me to systematically explain what I do in my head at my computer.

So plot points, opening scene, triggering incident...I have to show that to young writers that are basically pansters. They sit and start writing without even caring where its going.

Thing is...

Its kind of a good thing.  Don't get me wrong. I'm a thorough charter, outliner, index card writing planner to my core.  But these go for broke, just get it out, teen writers don't ever seem to suffer from something older writers seem to grapple with.  They FINISH their stories.

They don't care that their first draft is wildly meandering and full of plot holes. Or that their main characters are given to colloquialisms and metaphors too often.  That can all be fixed in edits.  

No, I think they're on to something...

Too often we are so concerned with perfecting what we're writing before we're even finished that we don't in fact, finish.  I've had so many fellow authors start several books and not actually get to the last page because they don't give themselves the room to just...well, to just PLAY.

Writing is hard work. Yes.  It is technical and you need to hone your craft. Yes. It needs to also be fun. Because if you aren't enjoying the story. How will your reader?

So while I edit... 

I will plug away at my commas and make sure my threads are weaved, but I am also going to remind myself that I write because I love it.

What are your thoughts?  

by +Raquel Byrnes 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gatherings and Cons

Calculating Engine

So the Gaslight Gathering is taking place here in San Diego on the 18th-20th and I am so trying to go!  It looks like a lot of fun and its STEAMPUNK!  I don't know about you, but when I find a group of people that like the same thing I do...I get happy.

I'm not only an avid reader of the genre, I also write it, so I love seeing all the inspirational cosplay ideas and creative twists on favorite characters.

Attending these events can be a shot in the arm if you're struggling with a current project or if you just want to geek out.

Some more cons to consider this next year are Dragon Con which focuses on fiction/fantasy as well as comics and gaming.

Anime Expo of course has manga, anime, and other graphic novels. If you write for these genres you don't want to miss this one.

And finally, the biggies...Comicon and Wondercon are both great places to both fangirl (or guy) out AND get your writer fix for pure creativity.

The reason I bring these conferences up now is because you should start now if you plan to attend any of these as a vendor or a fan.  Particularly the big ones, you need to get a member ID as soon as...well, now.

What do you do to get back in the creative groove?

EDIT: Some of you have pointed out that I overlooked Scare-A-Con. It focuses on horror, movies, and pop culture. They have a "Massacre-ade Ball" complete with zombies. You can be a vendor there or go as a fan to hobnob with horror movie writers and actors. Sounds fun!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cheap Secrets...

I am so excited to announce that my gothic romance, SECRETS AT CRESCENT POINT, is on SALE TODAY for only $1.00!

Just hop on over to Christian Book.com to enjoy the discount.

Leaving Noble Island amid scandal and accusation, Raven vows never to return, but when her sister’s fiancĂ© goes missing, Raven has no choice. Shunned by the island, if she is to unravel the mystery of Niklos’s disappearance, she must rely on the only man she’s ever loved, Siyah Cavaler.

Siyah was devastated when Raven left Noble Island, but as the clan’s heir apparent, he has a responsibility to keep the families from falling into ruin and crime. To preserve the island’s future, he agrees to a bride from a rival family, but Raven’s return stirs his heart and jeopardizes his position in the council. Giving in to his love for Raven would mean turning his back on all he’s ever known.

When Raven’s investigation uncovers a grisly discovery, a darkness is unleashed that threatens them both. Bizarre accidents, unexplained deaths, and strange apparitions shroud the island. Raven and Siyah struggle to save the families and their love as they race to stop another death and unveil the Secrets at Crescent Point.

READ the first chapter here...

Chapter 1
Crescent Point
Shadows shifted in dark corners along the deserted boardwalk. These black shores, once my home and a place of fear for me as a child, hadn’t lost their strangle-hold on my imagination. Screams from the tragedy I witnessed here flashed through my head even after all these years. Low fog swirled around my sneakers, and I shivered with the wet chill of it. Hesitating for a moment, I hopped the wrought iron gate that barred entrance to the carnival grounds and tore my palm on the rusty spires as I dropped down. I barely noticed the pain as my gaze passed over the abandoned rides and rotting wooden booths. The thumping beat in the distance urged me forward.
I should face him before I come to my senses. This is such a bad idea.
Faded red striped popcorn bags and cotton candy cone handles skittered in the wind and caught on the edges of turnstiles. A low squeak sounded, and I caught sight of the Crescent Point Boardwalk sign overhead. It dangled on rusty hinges and swayed with the unseen push of the night breeze. Long ebony strands escaped the loose bun atop my head and floated on the wind. I smoothed them with a shaking hand.
In the distance, large arches of the rollercoaster and Ferris wheel loomed out of the dark mist. I waited, straining to remember the sound of excited screams and thumping wheels as the cart sped over warped tracks. The Titan had been a favorite of mine as a teen. I flashed on those days when hysterical laughter tore from me as I sailed, arms raised, at break-neck speed. Days when he was my whole world and nothing could stop us from taking what we wanted.
Farther into the carnival grounds, the milk bottle throw and balloon dart booths came into view, their ripped canvas covers snapped in the wind. I walked slowly, running a palm along the counter. It was pitted with carved names and cigarette burns from generations of visitors. First dates, anniversaries, summer celebrations all happened here.
A steady beat thrummed through the wood beneath my hand and I squinted into the night at the source. There, shrouded in mist, a familiar rectangular building stood butted against a tree line I couldn’t see, but knew from memory. Once a skating rink, the building now thumped with the rhythmic music of a night club. The Black Adder.
I swallowed against the lump at my throat and stood staring at the lights flashing from the building. My fingers found the scar at my elbow, a reminder of a hard childhood, a poor one spent amid the plastic and painted gaiety of this place. I stood still, debating. What if I saw him and everything had changed? Or worse, what if nothing had?
Despite my misgivings, I wasn’t turning back now. Not without answers. A soft flutter overhead pulled my gaze to the sky. Nearly silent wings spread wide across the August moon. An owl soared across my vision, its plaintive cry echoing along the empty carnival road. Dry leaves crunched under foot as I made my way to the side of the nightclub. The music, louder now, trilled through me like a current. Years ago, I used to sneak into the rink with my sister, Sonja, via the basement storeroom door. Feeling along the rough wood hatch, I found the handle and jerked it, freeing it from the latch. It was open.
A puff of machine-generated smoke floated out of the basement opening, lingered next to me like a specter in the moonlight,  and then was gone with a gust. I shivered, gripping the rough handrail on my way down the steps. Overwhelming darkness engulfed me, and I felt my way past rickety shelves and metal canisters to the opposite door, going more on feel than sight.
I pushed through and found myself in the hall. Doors with dark blue signs depicting a silhouetted male on one and a female on the other flanked me. The bathrooms. Up ahead, the entrance to the lounge let off a dark glow. Red lights fell over me as I approached. My heart paced up.
It wasn’t too late to turn and go. No one had seen me yet. Siyah hadn’t seen me yet. Running a nervous hand through my curls, I wished for courage which wouldn’t come.
“Just go, you pansy,” I whispered. “He won’t bite.”
A yellow rivulet of incense smoke curled through the bead curtain hanging in the doorway and fluttered past my nose. Memories hit me with the force of an angry rhino to the gut, erasing five years of absence from him in a moment. Hands shaking, I parted a portion of the beads and walked through the gently clicking cascade.
Red light bathed the space like a darkroom, and I squinted to see. Couples clustered in corners, on couches, and along the damask covered walls of the room. Persian rugs, fine glass, and lush fabrics muffled the music from the dance club above. Hot air oozed around me as I wandered the dark lounge. Small lamps lit circles of floor here and there. They gave glimpses of people in hushed conversations or mid-kiss. My heart raced, and I half hoped he wouldn’t be here.
“Raven?” Siyah’s low voice hit me, and I froze. Turning, I saw him lounging in a wingback chair in the corner. Lamplight etched out the angles of his muscled arm and shoulder. He tilted his chin up, his brow furrowed. “What are you doing here?”
My gaze flitted to the couples in the room. Their whispered conversations went uninterrupted. No one looked up, pointedly not noticing Siyah’s words. A culture of secrecy, our Romany ways favored discretion above all else. But the news of my being here would spread, especially because of how I’d left.
“Can I talk to you, Siyah?” I took in a steadying breath. “I – It’s important.”
“It must be or you would not have shown up here.” His eyes, the blue of the darkest ocean, held me in their gaze. I couldn’t tell if he was angry or just hiding his surprise at my sudden return. “What brings you back to my island?”
The feel of his arms, warm around me, flashed in my head, and I swallowed against the lump in my throat. I leaned against the cool wall and balled my fists at my sides. I’d thought I was strong enough to come here, but seeing Siyah again threw me into doubt. My new faith wavered inside my heavy heart.
Please help me to do this, Lord.
“I won’t be here long,” I said.
“You look well.” His gaze danced along my body and back up to my face, a sad smile pulling at his lips. “I guess the East Coast suits you after all.”
“I seem to remember you saying you would never return. You said, if I remember correctly, that ‘I would never lay eyes on you again.’” When I didn’t answer, Siyah clicked his tongue and rose to his feet, his gaze lingering on me. He wore charcoal slacks and a jet black crewneck sweater, so different from the jeans and T-shirts when I knew him, and I wondered what else had changed.
“I – I know what I said, but…” Reaching into my back pocket, I drew out a postcard and handed it to him. From my sister, it was what had sent me back to this island from across the country. “I’m worried about Sonja. There’s something wrong.”
He leaned away, took it, and then held me with his dark gaze. “Because she sent you a card?”
“It’s plain. It’s something you get in the village from a tourist shop.”
“Why are you so worried?” He studied my face.
“I know it doesn’t seem strange to you, but she’s my sister. She writes to me, or did, every week. Pages of what goes on at her job, what the tourists are saying, how my parents are doing. Three weeks ago, she wrote that she had something important to tell me, that she was going to get away and call me from the village. I never heard from her, and then I get this card with, ‘Please come home, I need you,’ and nothing else.”
“And your parents?”
“My mother wrote that she was ill, that it was nothing and not to worry.” I shrugged. “But I can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong.”
“And your father?”
“You know—” My voice broke. “He hasn’t forgiven me. I’ve not heard his voice since I left.”
Siyah glanced back at the card and then leaned against the wall next to me. His gaze wandered the room before finding mine. “I do not know how she is doing, Raven. When you left, our families broke from one another. We don’t speak.”
Guilt poked at my gut. I’d made such a mess and left others to deal with the fall out. Nodding, I took the postcard from him. “I shouldn’t have come here. I’m sorry if you get back lash from my visit. I just thought that with your connections…” I faltered for a moment, “that maybe you’d know what my parents aren’t telling me.”
“There is a lot of –,” he hesitated, like he used to do when choosing his words carefully, “–unrest in the families. It’s probably nothing.”
Low light held his square jaw in angled shadows. When we were together, a smile from him would make my heart race, but it was the trouble in his gaze that made me pause today. The years had given his eyes a depth not there before; a dark burden. I wondered if he knew how striking he was. His easy laugh and mischievous smile were gone. I knew my leaving here had hurt him, but there seemed to be something more than discomfort at my sudden visit. I wish I could ask what troubled him.
“I shouldn’t have bothered you, Siyah.”
“It was not a bother to see you, Raven,” he said quietly. “I’m glad you are well.”
Formal, cordial, and achingly guarded. What did I expect? Running through a field of flowers towards each other with violins playing in the background?
“I better get going. My mother is sure to hear that I’m on Noble Island by now. She’ll be hurt if don’t go see her right away.”
He nodded and stood with his arms crossed, gaze on the couple by the door. His quiet stillness unnerved me. So different from what I remembered. I noticed that even conjunctions had snuck their way into his speech here and there. I watched him quietly. When he spoke again, it was with an even tone.
“I’ll see what I can find out.” Again, his tone was even, and when he looked back at me, an unreadable mask had dropped over his gorgeous features.
“I’ll be at the inn if you need to talk to me…I mean, about my sister. If you want to talk to me about her, I mean.” I cringed. “Not that I’ll only speak to you if it’s about that…” Why was I so nervous? I’d expected anger, but this was worse. This tore my heart out. I knew how to fight with Siyah, how to love him. I didn’t know how to be a polite stranger. I took in a breath, bit my tongue, and let out a slow sigh. “I’m just going to go now.”
“I’ll get word to you if I learn anything.”
“Thank you.”
“It was nice to see you after all this time, Raven.” A familiar warmth crossed his features, but it was gone in an instant. He cleared his throat. “I’ll see if there is talk of this.”
I nodded and slipped away, my head pounding as I headed for the door. Passing the furtive glances of familiar faces as I strode up the stairs towards the club, I tried to keep from letting the whispers bring heat to my face. I burst through to the night, and I breathed in the frigid air with greedy gulps, shaken.
“It’s just that you hadn’t seen him in so long,” I said to the empty night. “That’s all this is.”
I left the carnival grounds and trudged along a path that took me through the woods. High branches of the surrounding trees opened up, framing the moon and casting the hovering fog in shifting shadows. Shivering, I thought I heard foot falls in the leaves somewhere to my side and I stopped, listening. Nothing. I quickened my pace; a sliver of worry needled its way into my consciousness. Old ghost stories from my youth floated to mind reminding me of the darkness that surrounded this place. A death here had closed the carnival more than seven years ago. The child of a wealthy tourist, whose grisly plunge from the Ferris wheel resulted in the boardwalk’s closing. The shocking tragedy gave birth to legends of haunting and cursed ground. Some even swore to hearing a ghostly scream on certain moonless nights.
I shoved the thoughts away, determined not to let old memories and guilt cloud my judgment. Still, more movement, a scraping close by came from the depths of the surrounding forest, and I froze. Out of the corner of my eye, a form slipped behind a large trunk obscured by the misty dark.
 “I – Is anybody there?” I struggled to find my voice. “E cineva acolo?”
Sudden stillness sent my heart pounding. A flash of white flitted past. A screech echoed through the trees, and I gasped. The owl clicked and banked away; on the hunt like a specter in the sky.
I stood trying to control my breath. The postcard from Sonja cut into my fingers, and I looked at it in the moonlight. My sister’s strange lack of communication and the troubled look in Siyah’s gaze told me that despite what my mother had told me, more than one thing was wrong here on Noble Island. I could feel it in my bones.

I hope you enjoyed the sneak peek of Raven and Siyah's story. And don't forget to hop on over to grab your copy of Secrets at Crescent Point!

by +Raquel Byrnes 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Gates of Thread and Stone is a YA Dystopian Fantasy written by Lori M. Lee. 

The Pros:

The world building is done beautifully. The walled city is creepy and decrepit and you absolutely feel the desperation the characters feel living that existence. Lee does a wonderful job of fleshing out the intricacies of the different districts, the slum-like labyrinth, and the menacing White Court.

Kai, the main character, is a strong-willed young woman with an iron clad loyalty to her brother, Reeve. This love and dedication really plays into the reader's connection to Kai.

Avan is her friend and love interest. He is charismatic and protective and you find yourself hoping something develops between the two. It is Avan that goes with her in search of her brother when he dissappears.

The void and the gargoyles are menacing and you find yourself anticipating journey ahead.

The Cons:

Because of the cover and the fantasy genre I expected Kai's ability to manipulate time to be a central force in the story, but it is not. They also have to travel through a forest and I expected something to make their journey difficult, but they ride right through.

The only other thing is that I found myself a little lost after the initial world building at the beginning of the book. I know that it is hard to balance story pace and description so I understand. I just wish I had a better sense of the outlying places that encompass the story.


In all, I found this book quite enjoyable and a fun adventure to read. I tore through it in a couple of days. The twists and bombshells kept me turning the pages.

I gave it 4 Stars on Goodreads and Amazon.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hartline Blitz...

A special thank you to all the supporters of the Hartline Blitz for their encouragement and participation. 

These bloggers have some great posts for authors and lovers of books!

A big thank you to Anne over at My Mommy the Writer for her amazing review of Gothic Romance, Secrets at Crescent Point.

Caroline over at Sunny Bank Secrets has a book trailer for the Noble Island Mysteries Series and a FREE first chapter to Dawn Crandall's wonderful book, The Hesitant Heiress!

Jill Richardson has generously featured both Secrets and Heiress over at her blog, Brave.

Jenny Carlisle created a great post on her road to publication. She is a supporter of inspirational fiction.

A shout out to Caryl McAdoo for her feature of Secrets of Crescent point here. And a beautiful post highlighting The Hesitant Heiress here.

Sandra Ardoin added to her TBR stacks and gives a great reason why at her blog. She has a feature called Trailer Tuesday and its a great way to check out upcoming releases.

For family and hometown stories, check out Linda Massucci's blog. Thanks to her support!

And finally, C. Kevin Thompson, author of great science fiction, hosted Dawn and I on his official blog! Thanks!

It has been so encouraging to connect with these amazing bloggers and authors. I hope to take a moment to visit their pages and say, "Hello!"

by +Raquel Byrnes

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pulling Them Into Flesh

Whenever I am fleshing out a new lead in one of my books I always seem to go back to that childhood image of Han Solo frozen in Carbonite.  Inside that cold stone is a flesh and blood man struggling to emerge.

That is what your characters are in the throes of becoming real to you and eventually your reader. They alread exist...in your mind, as part of the world you're creating, ingrained in the words you type. You just have to dig them out. 

Ask yourself these things...

  • Can you 'see' them? Not the color of their hair or what they wear. I mean really SEE them. How do they walk...with a swagger, a limp, with measured movement? Why? What made them walk this world that way?
  • If you were to meet them, what would be their first words to you? How would you feel reaching to shake their hand or get into their car? Now make the reader feel that.
  • Define the qualities that make them the focus of your story. Are they brave, ruthless, selfless...or driven and cunning? Why would we follow them over the other characters? What makes them MORE?
  • Figure out your antagonist -- make them better or stronger or more capable of something than your lead. Make the adversary a true test for your hero.
  • You know how your lead begins the story...now imagine how they are at the end of the journey. How have they changed? See them in the midst of your story's climactic moment. Do they win? How? Write out what they do, think, and feel at that moment.  Now  you have a trajectory for them.
  • What is the ultimate cost for them in your story? Is it their life? What would happen to them if they didn't overcome what they face? Can you define it...and is it bad enough to motivate the reader to care?

Asking yourself these things will help you wrap your mind around the more abstract elements of your lead character.

For a concrete worksheet to add to your understanding, author Jody Hedlund has a great one on her author blog found here.

What about you? What are some writing hacks you've developed to flesh your hero out in your mind?

by +Raquel Byrnes