Monday, May 29, 2017

Forget Me Not Cover Reveal

You're in for a treat with this novella! I've read it. I know you're totally jealous. 😉 This one made me laugh and cry. She broke my heart, as only Em can do, but stitched it back together. If you liked Blackbird Summer, you'll love this. And if you haven't read Blackbird Summer, what's wrong with you? Get a copy!

Before I show you the cover, here's a little bit about Forget Me Not to get your ready for its release:

Maybe falling for the good guy isn’t so bad?
When Rex Somersby’s family matchmaker sets him up with the famous Evelyn Cadeau, he can’t believe his luck. Evelyn is the woman with the perfect Gift—the woman every man wants—while Rex’s own magical ability leaves much to be desired.  He travels from Missouri to meet his dream girl in her rural Mississippi home, where Evelyn makes it clear that winning her heart won’t be an easy task. Good thing farm-boy Rex has never been afraid of a little hard work.
Evelyn Cadeau is used to getting her way. As the woman with the most powerful Gift, she knows she can have her pick of anyone she wants. And who she wants is slick, handsome, and off-limits Guy McCallister—not gawky, buttoned-up Rex Somersby. Yet, after an arranged date with Rex takes a dramatic turn, leading to a bottle of wine and sneaking to the creek for a late night skinny dip, she realizes there may be more to by-the-rules Rex than meets the eye.  
Just as the young couple start to think their family’s tradition of matchmaking isn’t quite so backward, Rex is drafted to Vietnam. With war threatening to tear them apart, will love be able to save them? Or will it take a bit of magic?

Without further delay, here's the beautiful cover for the upcoming Forget Me Not:

Isn't it wonderful?

When can you get your hands on it? Not until August. BUT, you can pre-order the e-book or a hard copyEm is donating royalties to military charity: Operation Homefront.

Here's a little more about this awesome author:

Em Shotwell is a cancer survivor, foster care advocate, and casual geek. Sometimes she writes books about misfits and the people who love them.

When she’s not frowning at her computer screen, Em enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, or indoors daydreaming and wishing she could play the banjo.

Visit her online at She hangs out on facebook at where she often hosts giveaways and posts witty memes.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Fell On Black Days

I'm heartbroken today.

My husband called at seven this morning to tell me Chris Cornell had passed away. I was still asleep and tried to wrap my groggy mind around the news. As I got my children ready for school, my thoughts raced. I'd actually had "All Night Thing" stuck in my head since five a.m. because I think I had a dream with the song in it.

Now that the children are off to school, it's sinking in. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and all those who loved him.

I don't usually do posts like this, but anyone who knows me understands how much I love Chris Cornell and his music. For me, this isn't just another celebrity passing away, it's like losing a friend. I've been a fan since Soundgarden's early days. Fell On Black Days was my high school theme song (even though it didn't come out until my second last year of high school). When I'm having a rough day, I often put on Cornell's music--Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of The Dog, solo, it doesn't matter--the music helps bring me back to centre. His music has helped bring me back from the edge more than once. I've found inspiration in some of his interviews, especially ones where he's talked about his own creative struggles. I've used many of his songs as soundtracks for my writing.

He's touched my life in many ways and his music has always been there when I've needed it. I'm upset that there will be no more and I won't get to see him perform again.

I saw him with my husband over a year and a half ago. It the the first concert we saw when we decided that we'd go to a concert every year for our anniversary. I was so excited that I didn't sleep for over a week before the show. It was ridiculous how excited I was. I'd blogged about my experience (here) and still wasn't able to fully capture what his show meant to me. And when I woke up to this tweet:

my mind was blown that he'd possibly took the time to read what I'd written. 

He was an amazingly talented singer and songwriter. His words and music helped so many people (I've been reading the Twitter feed all morning). No matter what I write here, it doesn't seem to do justice to the loss I feel.

I hope the initial reports are wrong with the talk of suicide. It's a good reminder to be kind to people. Everyone is struggling with something that you don't know. Sometimes a kind word or gesture is all it takes to lift someone's spirits. Depression is a very dark place, and those who haven't struggled with it will never understand what that pit is like. We all smile and put on our happy faces for the world, but behind those masks some people are having a hard time putting one foot in front of the other.

Thank you, Chris, for the amazing memories and music you left us.

Monday, May 1, 2017

#RWWChallenge - Week 5

This will be the end of the #RWWChallenge I took part in during April. I'd like to thank Round The World Writers for hosting it.

This past week was a little crazy again so I missed posting my answers on Twitter at the end of the week. You can see my other answers for week 1, week 2, week 3, and week 4. Below are my answers for this past week.

Day 25 - The best thing about my work in progress (WIP) is that it's fun. I've written a lot of darker stories but this one is a little lighter and fun.

Day 26 - The minor character I love the most is the main character's teenage daughter. She's sassy and allows me to explore the mother-daughter relationship.

Day 27 - This is one I missed on Twitter because my notebook computer wasn't turned on. My opening line at the moment: "Magic sizzled in the tips of my fingers."

Day 28 - My main characters' names weren't inspired by anything. I choose names based on the feel I have for the characters.

Day 29 - Honestly I haven't had much help as far as edits or they story goes yet since no one sees my first draft because it wouldn't make sense to anyone. As always Dea Poirier is my go to person for feedback on ideas. Tamara was helpful with some brainstorming my ending. I also want to give a shout out to the Pitch Wars '16 class for their encouragement and many writing sprints. Writing is not a solitary act.

Day 30 - Pitch my WIP...I'm not quite ready to share that one :)

I hope you've enjoyed the bits I've shared about my latest project. Hopefully it will be ready to pitch soon!

What are you working on right now?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

#RWWChallenge - Week 4

This past week was a busy one as I worked some odd shifts at work then went away for a writing workshop on the weekend. Though I may not have hit everyday on Twitter, I'll fill in the ones I missed on here.

For those who missed this series, I've been doing the #RWWChallenge  put on by Round The World Writers on Twitter. There's a question every day that writers answer about their WIP (works in progress). Here's the list and below, you can find my responses for days 18 to 24.

Day 18 - Three random things that are important to my WIP are: tea, patience, and magic.

Day 19 - I was asked to share an image that inspired this work...I shared two.

Day 20 - The three words to describe my antagonist are: sneaky, young, and deceptive.

Day 21 - See above pictures for two stories that I compare my story to.

Day 22 - My WIP doesn't have a theme song...Maybe Blondie's "One Way or Another" because of the stalking, nothing to do with love. I've been using Collective Soul as my sound track mostly, though that will likely expand as I enter edits.

Day 23 - I haven't deleted any scenes that I love...yet. I'm just embarking on edits.

Day 24 - Who would play the lead if my WIP was a movie...I'm not sure. I haven't given it much thought. I'd love Scarlett Johansson or Keira Knightly because they are both cool.

You can find week 1, week 2, and week 3 of the challenge on my blog.

One more to go! This has been an interesting exercise for sure. Hope you've enjoyed learning more about my work in progress.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#RWWChallenge - Week 3

I'm a day late posting because this long weekend has me all turned around.

For those of you just seeing this series, I'm taking part in a month long challenge on Twitter by Round The World Writers. Each day I answer a question about my work-in-progress (WIP) on Twitter and on Mondays (usually) I post a roundup of the answers on my blog. Week 1 and Week 2 are available.

So let's get on with Week 3!

Day 11 - My current WIP is contemporary and set in a city. I'm still undetermined as to which city. I worry about marketability if I make it a Canadian one.

Day 12 - No favourite line comes to mind immediately. I do like banter so there is some of that in this WIP. I haven't gotten my hands dirty in edits yet to know the MS (manuscript) well enough to choose a line off the top of my head.

Day 13 - My protagonist's biggest secret is that she's lonely. She's a window and a single mom who believes she's too busy with parenting and work to have a relationship of any sort.

Day 14 - One of the hardest scenes to write is when my protagonist is trapped in a house with someone she's trying to help and they have to fight their way out. I struggled for days with that scene since I just wasn't feeling it. I ended up taking it as far as I could and then wrote, "and they escape." I'll fix it in edits and probably curse my past self for not finishing it.

Day 15 - I don't have a daily word count since I finished the 0 draft of this MS last week. I'm getting ready to embark on edits.

Day 16 - I didn't get around to posting this one on Twitter unfortunately. I'd love for Anne Rice to do a blurb for my book one day. Though I'd be happy if any author took the time to blurb my book.

Day 17 - Planning? I laugh in the face of planning! Not really. Being a pantser, there's not a lot of planning that goes into my 0 drafts. I did make a few notes before starting and kept a document with some thoughts as I wrote.

That's it for this week!

Monday, April 10, 2017

#RWW Challenge - Week 2

So far I've kept up with the #RWWChallenge on Twitter. If you want to see my responses to week one, you can check them out here.

If you're interested in getting in on the challenge, check out Round The World Writers on Twitter.

Day 4 - I don't have a character in my current work in progress that I want to be BFFs with, at least not yet. I'm still working on connecting with the story and characters. Hopefully the time will come when I love them all.

Day 5 - I usually write in the evening once my imps go to bed so I have fewer distractions. I make a tea, maybe grab some chocolate, and write.

Day 6 - That day I didn't write because it was my night to work late.

Day 7 - I have such an amazing group of writer friends. I give shout outs to Dea Poirier, Em Shotwell, Ian Barnes, Gwynne Jackson, Kassandra, and Tamara Girardi. That was all I could fit in one Tweet. Honestly, the true list is long.

Day 8 - Sorry, no inspiration board...yet.

Day 9 - My favourite subplot is the main character's daughter developing her own magic.

Day 10 - I had intended not to have any romantic interest in this manuscript. Then one appeared, as seems to happen to me. The advice I was given was a) my manuscript needed a love interested and b) they needed to sleep together. Of course the writers who declared this were just teasing me but it's still fun to blame the whole appearance of a love interest on them.

That's it for this week!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

#DarkLitChat Special

Every month I co-host #DarkLitChat on Twitter with my friend and critique partner Dea Poirier. We invite writers of all genres who writer darker stories to join us for an hour long chat.

Before Christmas a conversation came up during a chat about short stories. There were many people who said they struggled with them and were unsure the best way to go about them. I happen to know a wonderful author who writes amazing short stories and invited her to join us to answer questions.

Rhonda Parrish will join us on Tuesday, April 18 at 8 pm (eastern) to answer questions.

Rhonda is driven by a desire to do All The Things. She founded and ran Niteblade Magazine, is an Assistant Editor at World Weaver Press and is the editor of several anthologies including, most recently, Equus and D is for Dinosaur.

In addition, Rhonda is a writer whose work has been in publications such as Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast and Imaginarium: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing (2012 & 2015). She also co-wrote a paranormal non-fiction title, Haunted Hospitals, with Mark Leslie.

You don't want to miss out on this #DarkLitChat!

If you want us to remind you...sign up for a reminder email here.

Any questions...just leave them below.

Monday, April 3, 2017

#RWWChallenge - Week 1

Twitter has all sorts of fun for writers. I've seen events where each day you share a bit about your work in progress (WIP). They always look like fun, but I often forget about them or find out about them after the fact.

Round The World Writers is hosting an April Writer's Challenge and I thought it was time to try one out since I'm working on a new story.

Though I'm sharing daily on Twitter, I'll do a little round up each week here of my responses. I don't have much to share this week since the event is only a few days in.

Day 1
My current WIP is an adult speculative fiction. It's based in our current time but has some fantasy elements, like magic.

Day 2
Three words I'd use to describe my protagonist are: mother, independent, magical.

Day 3
My WIP was inspired by the movie Mr and Mrs Smith and thinking about ways to twist it a little.

If you're working on something, feel free to hop on Twitter and share your responses under the #RWWChallenge.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

To Read or to Listen?

Last fall I decided to start listening to audio books while I sorted laundry, then it turned into listening while cooking or tidying up. I use a service provided by libraries to listen to the books on my tablet so I can take it around the house as needed. This has been a great way to absorb more books.

Last time I was choosing an audio book I realized there were some I didn't want to listen to.There are some I wanted to read. It was a strange realization and something I've taken time to ponder.

Audio books are the fastest growing book format as people try to cram more into their lives. It's convenient to have books to listen to while driving, working out, or doing tasks. When I listen to audio books, though I enjoy the story, I don't become as fully immersed in it since I'm buzzing around, doing whatever task while listening.

There's still something to be said for taking time out to read. We lead busy lives and sitting down to read is a treat, giving yourself time to focus on one thing, to relax, to let your mind wander and explore another life (if you're reading fiction).

I'm not putting down audio books, and I will continue to listen to them. I've just found the experiences between the two formats--audio and physical--more different than I thought.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the differences between listening to and reading books.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Always A Lesson To Learn

I'm stubborn and persistent, which means I don't give up on things easily. This includes reading books I'm not fond of. When I pick up a book, I usually finish it no matter what. It once took me a five years to finish reading an anthology. I have a friend who keeps telling me that life is too short to read books you don't like. While I do agree because there are so many books and never enough time, I find that I'm actually learning from those books as much as from ones I enjoy.

I don't want to call the books I'm not enjoying "bad" books because they aren't necessarily. Just because a book isn't for me, doesn't mean someone else won't enjoy it. That's why when I leave reviews for books I didn't enjoy I try to point out some positives.

Because I write and edit so much, I read much differently than I did before my brain became rewired to watch for things. I'm pickier about things, though I do forgive a lot when I'm reading for enjoyment as opposed to critiquing for a friend or editing my own writing.

But sometimes, there are things you can't get past in a story. Those are things I try to learn from so I don't do them in my writing.

I recently read a thriller that I didn't enjoy. It was mostly conversations explaining things. Mind you, it's better than just plain telling, but this one went over board. The story started with a murder (great way to get things off the ground) but the rest of the first hundred pages were mostly a conversation explaining things that could have been woven into the story better. The rest of the book was the same way, light on action, high on conversations explaining things. Lesson: Telling is telling, info dumps are info dumps, even if they are in a conversation and they slow your story. Hopefully I can note these better in my own work.

The same book also had graphic scenes, which I don't mind. Though when you're being graphic just for the sake of being graphic it stands out like a neon sign and is a turn off. Lesson: Make sure your violence, graphic scenes, etc. have a purpose and aren't there just for shock value.

If I don't like the main character, it's hard not to abandon the book. If I like the main character, I'll follow her/him through (almost) anything. I often try to figure out what about the character bothers me. Lesson: This one is really subjective but I think the lesson is to use beta readers. If you're hearing from lots of people that they don't like your main character, it could be time to tweak him/her.

I'm listening to an audio book that is an older fantasy and makes me realize how different story expectations are now. The backstory in this book seems to go on and on and I'm left thinking, Can we please get to the point of the scene? There are times where I've forgotten what the point of view character is actually doing. Much of the backstory isn't necessary, could be worked in more naturally, or could be condensed. This is probably why this audio book is about 20 hours long. Lesson: Backstory has it's place, but if it's jarring the reader out of the forward momentum, then cut it. We all love telling our characters' backgrounds, but too much will slow the story down and possibly lose your reader. If you have trouble judging in your own writing, this is again where beta readers and critique partners help.

These are just some things I've learned while reading books I didn't really enjoy. Though they may not have been my cup of tea, they've pointed out what doesn't work and how it affects someone's reading experience.

Do you often finish a book you start to read no matter what or do you put it down and move on?

Monday, March 13, 2017


Acts of kindness always inspire me. When my fellow Pitch Wars '16 mentee Tamara Girardi announced she was doing #KindWriters, I thought it was a great idea!

Tamara took time to answer some questions on how this idea started and its rapid growth.

Tamara, tell us about #KindWriters and how you came up with it.

#KindWriters evolved from a one-time Random Act of Kindness Day. On March 1, one of my best friends spearheaded the day to honor her daughter Gemma, who passed away at birth one year ago from complications of spina bifida. I was with her when Gemma was born, and the experience was, as expected, incredibly emotional. Throughout the Pittsburgh region, and more broadly around the country, people completed random acts of kindness in Gemma’s honor and posted about them on my friend’s Facebook page. The sense of community was strong, and everyone was so inspired by the power of kindness shared in the name of a small baby they never had the pleasure of meeting.

One of my random acts that day was to tweet that I would critique—for free—either the first five pages or the query letter for the first three people to respond. My Pitch Wars class retweeted for me, and within minutes, my Twitter exploded. I finally stopped at eight critiques, well beyond my plan of three, but I wanted to help everyone. When I got to the point that I felt I might not give them the best critique possible, though, I decided I really needed to end the offer.

However, the next day, I extended it for three more critiques. For a chance at them, writers had 24 hours to complete a random act of kindness and tweet to me about it. Nine authors participated, and their kind acts were amazing! Additionally, I received so much feedback and encouragement. People WANTED to hear more about kindness. They wanted to do good deeds. They wanted to spread love in the world—something we so desperately need in our political climate and especially on social networks where the negative tends to invade.

From there, I decided we needed #KindWriters. Everyone I’ve approached about volunteering or helping has been so supportive, which just goes to show, we truly, truly need this!

How do people participate?

So glad you asked! I hope a ton of writers participate. The more participation, the more kind acts being spread around the world! I haven’t decided on a regular schedule just yet. I think it will depend on how much time each round takes and how many volunteers we have, but I’m hoping to host once a month.

Writers should watch for the #KindWriters tag on Twitter. When #KindWriters is upcoming, participants should get their kind acts ready. Plan what they’re going to do and when. Have some fun with it. Or keep it simple. Whatever works. Really, to enter the contest, writers should complete an act of kindness that they might not have done otherwise. If anyone needs ideas, do some Googling. In the initial experience, one of the participants posted a web site with lots of ideas, so I know they’re out there (although that link escapes me at the moment…).

Every kind deed counts as a chance toward a critique. So the more kindness you spread in the world, the more entries you’ll receive in the contest. It’s really important that the entries include #KindWriters and also a preference for a critique. If you’d like your query critiqued, post #Q. If you’d like your pages critiqued, post #P in your tweet. This will help me match up the winners with the volunteers who are critiquing.

I’d love if the participants would also spread the word and encourage others to do kind things during the contest window (and all the time, really). The goal of this contest is to spread kindness in the world. Simple as that. I’m really excited about it!

How do the critiques work?

Winners will be randomly selected using a software program. Then, they will be matched with a volunteer from my database. Volunteers have designated whether they will read queries, first five pages, or both. Also, volunteers have noted how many critiques they’re able to do. I’ll match the winners with the volunteers on Twitter, and then they can coordinate the exchange of pages from there.

Volunteers will get feedback to the winners within three days of receiving their pages. The critiques should be honest and also encouraging, but so much in this business is subjective. I hope writers find that the feedback they receive resonates with them, but if they do not, they should disregard and chalk it up to subjectivity. 

Sounds like you have some great volunteers!

My volunteers are awesome. They are completing this act of kindness, too. It’s not about promotion for them. They’re just doing something nice for someone else, and that is so wonderful! :)

Why did you choose acts of kindness as the way to enter?

Service to my community is very important to me. I’m a Rotarian, and Rotary’s motto is Service Above Self. Rotary does so much good work in the world and has brought a lot of value to my life. Also, manners are crazy important to me. I find it frustrating when someone lets a door slam in another person’s face rather than holding it. Or doesn’t say thank you. Or, let’s face it, worse!

I realize that sometimes in life, we get caught up in all of the things, but I hope this gives people the time to pause and think about others around them. Kindness as a trait is undervalued and overlooked. I hope participating in #KindWriters reminds people of the unequivocal value of being kind to those around you.

Do you think it’s important for writers/authors to give back to the writing community?

I do! And writers do it all the time. Pitch Wars, which I was lucky enough to be part of, does this so well. But so do other online pitch contests—and there are several!

But more than that, I think it’s important for everyone to give back to their communities. It’s so, so, so important! I’ve been the recipient of kindness in so many ways throughout my life, which is probably a topic for a different blog post—lol—and it’s so touching when you realize someone is thinking of you, especially when you didn’t expect it.

People are frequent to say hate begets hate. I don’t disagree, but perhaps we might also want to remember every day that love begets love, and kindness begets kindness. So often, when someone does a random act of kindness for someone else, the recipient follows with his/her own act of kindness. And so on. Paying it forward is what makes communities strong.

This is the second round of #KindWriters, will there be more?

Yes! I have some great volunteers interested in critiquing as part of the contest, and I hope that list will only grow. I hope this is something that continues to grow and develop into even greater opportunities for kindness that I can’t even fathom right now!

Are you surprised with the reaction you received the first round?

I was, actually. I was most surprised with the kindness. In the first critiques, I explained why I chose to offer them, and the recipients, although not required to, all paid it forward in different ways. They told me about what they did and why, how my kind act inspired theirs. It meant so much to me, which is why I went back for more. :)

To spread love (and luck) for St. Patrick’s Day, #KindWriters will be held this week! The contest window will open Tuesday, March 14 at 8 a.m. and close Friday, March 17 at noon. Watch the tag for more instructions and other details!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Teenage Mind Blown

I've always been a big music fan. As a teenager my room was plastered with posters of the rock/metal bands I loved. I watched and made video tapes of music videos, award shows, interviews (which I actually still have tucked away somewhere). I'd run the the store each month for the latest issues of Metal Edge, Hit Parade, or Shout! I even traded with people around the world. I could tell you birthdays of members of bands, how bands got together...yup, that was me.

As time rolled on and other things took priority, I didn't collect quite so much. I sold off my collections, but I still tried to keep up with who was releasing new albums. Then kids came along and most of that stuff, along with my other interests, fell to the side.

Thankfully, in the last several years it's been coming back around. Not to the same point as when I was a teenager, I don't have that sort of time or head space anymore ;)

One things that's struck me is how much the internet has changed fandom. My teenage self would be in heaven. This morning I came across a radio station interview with Chris Cornell from a couple of years ago. This was the sort of stuff I traded for back in the day, but here I am, able to not only listen, but watch the interview! Music videos, appearances, it's all there for the taking.

What really floors me when I think about it compared to my hard core fandom days is the ability to interact with them. Like the day author Lilith Saintcrow responded to my tweets about her book, or the day this happened:

Yup. That's Chris Cornell retweeting my blog link and commenting on it. My teenage self still hasn't recovered.

Fandom really has changed since I was a teen. The communication gap has narrowed where people can reach out to connect with almost anyone or see pictures and videos that they wouldn't have been able to see before. It's pretty cool.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Interview With Jamie Zakian

Today I sit down to chat with Jamie Zakian, author of the Ashby Holler series and the upcoming Project Emergence.

When did you start writing? 

I spent most of my teenage years writing angsty poetry and horror shorts. It wasn't until 2012, after life settled down a bit, that I started writing novels.

What’s your favorite genre to write?

While I enjoy reading all types of stories, my favorite genre to write is thrillers. Some of my novels are romantic, others have SciFi/fantasy elements, but they are all high-octane thrill rides.

What do you do when you’re not writing or editing?

When I'm not what??? Honestly, there are not many occasions when I'm not writing or editing these days. I have three novels releasing in 2017 and two in 2018, along with a few sequels to write. So, writing and editing take up most of my waking, and sleeping hours.

Like me, you use lots of music while you write, what are some of your favourite songs or bands to write to?

I only write to dubstep (EDM). It puts me in a great mood, and there are very little words to distract me. Some of my favs are: Odesza, Hermitude, Ki: Theory, and Rogue.

What inspired Ashby Holler?

The inspiration for Ashby Holler is kind of unconventional. I was trying to think of something that hadn't been done yet, and drug trafficking Mack truckers in the 80's popped into mind. Since the topic was so grim, I wanted to go all out and make it as risque as possible.

I loved Sasha’s tough character, why write such a strong female that doesn’t fit into conventional roles?

For me, a strong female is a conventional role. My mother was a force to be reckoned with. She was my idol, the person I strive to be like, and I put her strength into everyone of my characters.

What does the future hold for Sasha?

Sasha's story is quite tragic, and unfortunately the future holds nothing good for that girl. She tends to run from her problems, or shoot them blindly, but she can't run forever. Everybody has to face their past, eventually.

You have a new sci-fi coming out...what inspired it?

Project Emergence is my YA debut novel. It tells the story of a group of teens escaping a dying Earth to start civilization on a newly terra formed Mars, and releases on March 14, 2017. I was inspired for this idea by the recent exploration of Mars, and my love for space set thrillers.

What do you love most about writing 

Writing sci-fi is extremely difficult, and incredibly fun! What I love most about the genre is a writer can only be limited by their imagination. Tech and science is boundless, much like magic, so you can push the limits on your character's abilities, within scientific reason of course.

Any advice for other writers?

The publishing industry is constantly changing. What may have worked five or ten years ago, probably won't work now. If you’re really serious about becoming an author, be prepared for a long ride down a bumpy road of rejections and always stay open to learn new tricks to improve your craft.

Find Project Emergence

Find Ashby Holler Series

More about Jamie Zakian

Jamie Zakian is a full-time writer who consumes the written word as equally as oxygen. Living in South Jersey with her husband and rowdy family, she enjoys farming, archery, and blazing new trails on her 4wd quad, when not writing of course. She aspires to one day write at least one novel in every genre of fiction.

Friday, January 20, 2017

When Dark Thoughts Creep In

Writer's doubt.

It's real. It sucks. It can be overwhelming.

I've been reminded of this lately. Someone beginning her writing journey recently told me how she starts writing a story but has trouble finishing it. She worries it won't be any good. She worries the idea sucks. I told her that we all get it. The important thing is to keep writing.

I told her that I've hated my Pitch Wars manuscript at times and wanted to set it on fire. She was surprised since she'd read the manuscript and liked it. Of course if my worries were true, I wouldn't have gotten into Pitch Wars, but that doesn't stop the doubt monster.

Now that I've began writing a new project, the writer's doubt is right there, whispering in my ear.

So how do you write or edit your way through writer's doubt?

1. Give yourself permission to write a dumpster fire first draft.
First drafts are supposed to suck. They aren't supposed to be pretty or perfect. This is especially important for those of us who aren't plotters. Throw it all out there, the good, the bad, the crap. My mantra is, "Write now, edit later."

2. Talk to your writing support group.
It's so important to have these people. These can be other writers, beta readers, or critique partners. Hop on social media to connect with other writers (Twitter is great for this). Talk to anyone who understands because they have been there and can lift you up. Through their support, you'll be reminded that you can do it.

3. Sometimes you need a break.
A day off can do wonders. Don't listen to people who say a real writer writes everyday. Everyone needs a break or a vacation. Does any other job force employees to work every day without a break? Give your mind time to rest by watching some TV or reading, or anything else you enjoy. When you come back, you may find that you are ready to tackle the words.

4. Have a treat.
Sometimes something as simple as having a favourite beverage or a sweet treat can get you out of your funk. Be kind to yourself.

5. Make a deadline.
If you work better under pressure. Set a deadline for your work. Even a daily word count goal could help you get something down or set a number of pages to edit.

6. Look at your track record.
Even if you aren't published or don't have an agent, you have successes. Writing a novel or short story is a huge success in itself. Have you made it into any contests? Is there a scene you wrote that you love? Positive feedback you received? Grab onto any success or positive thought to keep you going.

Do you have any other ways to deal with writer's doubt? I'd love to hear them.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Legendary is Out Today!!!

I love helping to bring books into the world. Today, I get to show off another I've been promoting at Pen and Kink Publishing.

Editor Laura Harvey has brought together five different and unique tales for LEGENDARY that combine urban legends and romance.

Urban legends. We’ve all heard them, we’ve all told them. They fill the role that fairy tales once held—morality tales meant to frighten us into sticking with the herd, obeying society’s rules, and not taking any chances. In most urban legends, once someone transgresses, we know things won’t end well for them. 
But what if the bright spark of romance also common to these stories refuses to be snuffed out? What if it bursts into a love that fights for its chance to burn? Can love triumph over evil? Forgive any trespass? Heal any wound?  
Set off into a dark wood with a young love that won’t go quietly into the night. Bait a vengeful ghost to find family, and love. Ride along with a hitchhiker who won’t vanish for long. Learn to love a touch that is not human. Find passion beneath the scars. Dive into five tales that speak to the heart of myth and find love that is nothing short of legend.  
Featuring new stories by Sara Dobie Bauer, Wendy Sparrow, T. R. North, Aisling Phillips, and Michael Leonberger.

I had the pleasure of interviewing each of the contributors, which you can see here.

Click here to order your copy today!
Add it to your shelf on Goodreads.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Cover Reval - Project Emergence

Today Jamie Zakian and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for PROJECT EMERGENCE which releases March 14, 2017! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

I’ve always dreamed of writing an epic sci-fi thriller. I knew I wanted it to involve a group of teens leaving a dead Earth to start new lives on a terra formed Mars, but I didn’t have any ideas on how to make the plot exciting. Then, a song I never heard before played on my Pandora app. Escape by Rogue. As that song blasted through my headphones, the entire story that is Project Emergence streamed through my mind like a movie trailer. So, I went straight to work. It took months of frantic writing, almost a year of editing, and a mini rewrite, but that moment of inspiration became my first YA novel.

Project Emergence is a fast-paced thrill ride across the stars. It shows the extent people will go to uphold their beliefs, and that love can overcome any evil.

On to the reveal! 

Author: Jamie Zakian
Pub. Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 292
Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

An ancient Hopi myth says people arrived on tiny silver pods that fell from the sky.

But the truth is far more terrifying.

Two-hundred fifty-eight teens are sent from a dying Earth to a terraformed Mars as part of the Emergence Program, mankind’s last hope before solar flares finish off their planet and species. Among the brave pioneers are sixteen-year-old Joey Westen and her twin brother, Jesse.

After only minutes in space, something triggers a total ship lock down.

With the help of their roommates, the Matsuda twins (notorious hackers and shady secret-keepers), Joey and Jesse stumble onto an extremist plot to sabotage the Emergence Program.

But Joey and Jesse didn’t travel to the deepest pits of space and leave their mother behind to be picked off in a high-tech tin can. They’ll lie, hack, and even kill to survive the voyage and make it to Mars.


Chapter One

Joey squirmed in the seat of a large, airtight van as it sped along an empty road. A cloud of red sand kicked up outside her window, and the van’s tires hummed against cracked pavement. Solar flares had done a fine job of destroying this once beautiful planet. She never got to see Earth in its glory days, as she had been born into a scorched world, but could almost picture the way it used to be.

In her imagination, the reddish tint that covered the parched countryside outside her window transformed to crisp green meadows. The piles of stone and metal reconstructed to form the buildings they once were, reaching for a sky that was blue instead of crimson.

Her daydream ended when the nose of a spaceship peeked above maroon-crested hills. That massive shuttle was waiting to carry two hundred and fifty-eight lucky lottery winners off this dying planet, and she was one of them.

“Whoa,” Joey said, her breath fogging the glass. A light crinkle drew her stare to the paper in her now tight grip. She loosened her stiff fingers, smoothing a crease from the official seal of the Unified Nations of Earth.

…The letter in her hand still mesmerized her. Selected … Terraformed Mars … New home … Those words knocked the bottom from her stomach every time she read them. Things were getting way too real. No more tiny lead-lined home, school at the kitchen table, Mom. She turned to Jesse, her brother’s smirk brighter than an X1 flare.

“You’re a crappy twin. I’m freaking out right now; you should be too.”

Jesse rolled his stare her way. “Fraternal twins don’t work like that.”

“That’s not true.” She read the letter again, making sure both their names were listed for the umpteenth time.

“I can’t believe this is happening.” Jesse grew tense. A frown swept his lips for just a moment before his perma-smile returned. “No one from G-Sector ever goes anywhere.”

“Did you see the look on Mom’s face when we left?”

“I know. Buzzkill.”

“What’s she gonna do without us?” Joey asked in a near whisper.

“Finally be able to feed herself.” Jesse snickered.

She shook her head, folding the letter. “Maybe she’ll win the next lottery and meet up with us on Mars.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

Jesse leaned close, keeping his voice low. “Didn’t you hear what that kid behind us was saying?”

“No. What?”

“He said the lottery’s rigged.” Jesse eyed the soldier stationed at the front of the van, then the other two at the rear. “That everyone is selected for a specific purpose.”

“But that would mean the U.N.E. is lying to everyone,” Joey said, a bit too loud. Jesse’s eyes opened wide, and she shrugged.

“You’re gonna get us booted from this ride before we even launch.”

“Whatever,” she muttered. “It’s a stupid idea anyway ‘cause look, we’re here. What do we have to offer? All you can do is fix stuff, and me … well, I’m just good at being cute.” She batted her eyes, flaunting a sly smile.

“Yeah you’re right. That’s real flippin cute.” Jesse slanted toward the aisle, glancing around the cab. “There aren’t any adults on this van.”

“There’s the soldier guys.”

“Geez, dummy. I mean the passengers.”

Joey pinched her brother, who wriggled away. “Dummy,” she mimicked. With a failed attempt to appear casual, she popped her head up and scanned the seats. Sparkly clothes and bright makeup captured her stare. “They look like A-Sectors.” She didn’t mean to gawk at the people seated around her, but she’d never seen such lavish clothes, such flawless skin.

“Please remain seated while the vehicle’s in motion,” a soldier thundered.

Jesse grabbed Joey’s arm and pulled her down into the seat. “Smooth, sister. Real smooth.”

She shrank back, deploying her trusty get-out-of-messes frowny smile on her brother. “Oops. In trouble already. Figures.”

Grumbles erupted from Jesse’s lips, and she turned back to the dusty earth outside her window. Crazy how one day and a trip to the mailbox could change her entire life. Yesterday, she was painting a mural of Mars on their bedroom wall. Today, she was going to Mars.

The parched countryside vanished behind a tunnel wall. She sagged in her seat. For sixteen years, she clung to Jesse. Every time dust storms pelted their windowless metal house, she curled under his arm. Mom worked late, so Joey’s hand became glued to his. And now, when she actually needed the comfort of his touch, her brain decided it was time to man up. Her eyes narrowed. She zeroed in on his cozy-looking hand, her fingers drumming a steady beat on her leg.


Sabrina poked her head around a corner. Her fingers tightened around the rifle’s grip as she peered down a dim corridor. Shadows danced along the concrete wall, and she backed up, pressing her comms button. “Stone to dispatch. Come in, dispatch.”

Static crackled in her ear, a garbled voice cutting in and out.

“Dispatch, do you read? Where the hell is my backup?”

This time, only the fizz of dead air replied.

“Damn underground bright-out dens,” Sabrina mumbled.

These missions twisted her gut every time. There were very few people left alive on Earth. Many couldn’t afford specially designed homes or the rising cost of oxygen, and it didn’t sit right to bust folks just for trying to survive the scorching sun. But she was Captain Sabrina Stone of the Unified Nations of Earth, a high ranking officer in the sector that controlled every aspect of the entire planet, and she had a duty to protect what was left of that planet. Neither a heavy conscience nor lack of backup would hinder that.

Sabrina held her weapon close, skulking down the stone passage. Two men strolled around the bend, then stopped short, and she popped off two rounds. No sound emitted from the gun’s muzzle, just a flash that lit the graffiti-stained walls in white.

The men slumped to the ground. Tiny darts protruded from their chests, and pamphlets spilled from their limp hands.

“Earth-heads,” she muttered, glimpsing anti-Mars propaganda. The bang of a metal door slamming shut echoed from the dark tunnel on her left, so she headed toward it.

Men and woman dropped as Sabrina skated through shadows, firing her gun. Their tranquilized bodies slapped concrete, a trail to a solid door at the end of the long hallway. She reached into her vest and extracted a small explosive charge. Just as the magnet clinked to the steel slab, a voice flowed through her earpiece.

“Captain Stone, we’ve breeched the airlock. En route to your position.”

“Bout time,” she said beneath her breath. Her thumb glided over the button of the wireless detonator, and spikes of fear burrowed into her gut. U.N.E protocol, and the whirl in her stomach, said to wait for backup. Pride, however, was a persistent little sucker, one that set loose a torrent of electric shocks in her veins. She scurried back, covered her head, and pressed the detonation button.

An explosion rocked her chest, slamming her against the wall. Hunks of concrete crashed down, and the door slammed atop the rubble. Sabrina swung her rifle dead ahead. Adrenaline perked her lips into a smile as she charged through wisps of smoke, firing upon everybody that lunged her way.

“This is a raid of the U.N.E. Get down on the ground.”

Soldiers flooded the doorway behind her, and she bit back her grin. A woman needed an iron-clad stare amid this troop of grunts. “Took you guys long enough.” She turned, stumbling back as the five-stars of a general gleamed in her eyes. “Sir,” she roared, standing up straight.

“Captain Stone, I need you to come with me.”

Sabrina glanced around, as much as one could without moving a single muscle in their neck. Her men cleared the room as the general’s elite soldiers crowded around her.

“Am I in trouble, sir?”

“Quite the contrary, Captain. You’ve been selected for an important mission. You’re going to Mars, Soldier.”


Joey grabbed her brother’s hand the instant he climbed off the van’s step. People shuffled all around the wide-open room, probably watching her act like a baby, but she couldn’t let go. Fear stole her will. It could have been the towering room of glass walls and silver beams that encompassed her, the barrage of strange faces, or the fact that she’d never see her mother again, but gloom tainted this moment. Holding her brother’s hand quelled a fraction of her inner-turmoil, so she planned to keep doing it despite her sissy appearance.

A soft voice streamed from a kiosk of video screens, repeating the Space Center’s famed slogan.

Three days on the state-of-the-art R23 shuttle, strolling through green grass, swimming in cool oceans.

Everything she memorized from the letter in her backpack.

“Look, there’s check-in,” Jesse said, tugging her from the display of white sandy beaches.

She inched through the crowd, close to his side. They filed into a rowdy line, her palm sweating against his skin.

“The Westen twins, I presume,” a high-pitched voice echoed from behind them.

In one swift move, Joey shook free from Jesse’s grasp and whirled around. An ultra-posh Asian girl leered down, and Joey stood tall. Her eyes wandered to the near identical boy at her side, bearing the same long jet-black hair. Another set of twins.

“How did you know our name?” Jesse asked. Joey nudged his arm, pulling his gaze from the low cut of the girl’s sparkly shirt.

“We know the names of all the twins on this ship,” she said, her hand hoisting to her hip.

“First and last,” the boy added.

Joey stifled a chuckle. Twins who finished each other’s sentences; this trip was going to be stellar. The line shuffled forward, and the small group edged up a few paces.

“How many twins are on this flight?” Jesse asked, glancing between the pair.

“Fourteen, including us,” she replied.

“Well, fourteen sets,” the boy corrected, turning to his sister.

“That actually makes twenty-eight twins.”

“But twins is plural, so it would be fourteen,” she argued, a hint of red flaring her cheeks.

“Yeah, but, you knew who we were,” Joey said. “We didn’t even know there were other twins here. Is there, like, a manual we didn’t get or something?”

The girl laughed, slapping her brother’s chest. A stealthy glare clouded her delicate features as she leaned close to Joey. “We hacked the database.”

“We hack everything,” the boy whispered.

“Cool,” Joey said through a smile, glancing at Jesse.

“So you must be Jesse,” the girl said, staring at Joey, “Short for Jessica, right?”

“Ah, no,” Joey said. “I’m Joey. Short for Josephine, which I hate so … just Joey.”

“I’m Jesse, which … isn’t short for anything.” Jesse shoved his hands into his pockets, lowering his gaze.

“Ahem. The line is moving,” a redheaded girl groaned.

They all crept forward again, and then Jesse spun back around. “So are we supposed to hack to find out your names?”

The girl giggled, and Joey rolled her eyes. Her stare landed on the boy’s annoyed face. Once their gaze connected, his frown lifted to a grin.

“Kami Matsuda.” A rainbow of colors reflected off the girl’s clothes as she slinked in front of Jesse, looking up into his eyes. “That’s Rai,” she said, nodding to her brother but keeping her deep gaze on Jesse.

Jesse gulped. His hands began to tremble, and it became painfully obvious at how fast his breath flowed.

“Next in line.”

“That’s us,” Joey said. She all but ripped Jesse from Kami’s leer. “We’ll catch up with ya.” It took quite a massive tug, but she finally got Jesse moving toward the registration table. “Now who’s smooth, dorkus,” she whispered.


“Let me get this straight, Mr. Winslow,” Sabrina said, only able to mask a fraction of the edge in her tone. “You want me to be a glorified babysitter for a bunch of teens in space?” She walked across the large office of the Space Center, toward Director Winslow’s desk. Her boots sank into lush carpet as she strolled past stone statues, one of which lost its arm somewhere along the way. Such extravagance. If it were liquidated and spread out, every sector could afford a giant dome to protect its people from radioactive air instead of just the A-Sectors. She tore her gaze from art-adorned walls, catching an impatient glare from the man behind a glossy wooden desk.

“The situation on our hands goes far beyond babysitting, Captain Stone. We’re under attack. The commander of the U.N.E. herself assured me you were the best of the best.”

“Commander Sun said that? Huh.” She stepped closer to the desk. The man before her strained to appear confident, but she glimpsed the beads of sweat that trickled between his dark wrinkled skin and white hair.

“You’ve got my attention,” she said, cupping her hands behind her back.

“Of course you understand every word spoken within this room stays within this room.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ever since the inception of the Emergence program, a group of fanatics have targeted us. Are you familiar with the Earthisum Movement, Captain Stone?”

“Yes, sir. I took out an underground lair of them this morning. They seem to be, for the most part, harmless.”

“Perhaps on the outside.” He pulled a brown folder from his drawer and placed it on his desk. “Have a look.”

Sabrina flipped through the file. When she read a handwritten letter, which appeared to be scrawled in blood, her fingers actually shook.

“The threats made in that manifesto were not empty.”

Her head snapped up, and she gawked at the old man before regaining her composure. “Are you saying the Earth-heads blew up your first flight to Mars?”

His finely manicured fingers massaged his forehead, a ghostly shade of white claiming his cheeks. “Yes. After only hours in space.” He lowered his stare. “The second and third flights as well.”


“Those maniacs sabotage every spacebus we launch. None have successfully made the voyage to Mars.”

“How could you hide this from the public? They think people are living, flourishing over there. You need to put a hold on this program. Now. I’ll need at least a week to investigate.”

He shook his head, and Sabrina slammed her hands on the desk. “That file says there are two hundred and fifty-eight children walking onto that shuttle as we speak, Mr. Winslow. Two hundred and fifty-eight lives you’re putting at risk.”

“If we stop the program, they’ve won. No! The survival of the human race is too important. This mission has to succeed, Captain Stone.”

“But why now with kids? If what you’re telling me is true, Mars is empty. There are no doctors, scientists, or security of any kind in place. They’ll eat each other alive out there.”

“It has to be them.” He rose from his seat, smoothed a crease on his pinstriped lapel, and strolled to the window. “Those young adults were born in the year of the massive solar flare.” While gazing out the lightly tinted glass, he motioned for Sabrina to join him.

“I don’t see why that matters.” As she approached, the doublewide spacecraft stole her focus. She allowed her stare to wander along the gleam of curved metal and sharp points of thin wings before she shifted her gaze to the man beside her.

“They’re genetically predisposed to elevated radiation. I handpicked each one of them—for their instincts, spark, and their odds of producing healthy offspring.”

“Look, I get that. But if you just postpone a few weeks I can—”

“Earth only has a few weeks left, Captain Stone.” His voice quavered. He cleared his throat, lifting his chin high. “The sun is set to flare in, approximately, ten days. The space program predicts its intensity will surpass our classification scale. Everything left above the surface will be eradicated. Not even the UV dome of A-Sector can deflect these waves.”

Sabrina gasped. She began to stagger back, but Winslow grabbed her arm.

“Captain Stone, Sabrina. Look at those children.”

Her legs wobbled for the first time in her memory, but she crept forward. People hurried along a glass-encased walkway, far below, like tiny ants marching into a trap.

“That’s the future of mankind walking onto that spacebus. If they don’t make it to Mars, our species will cease to exist. You have to get them to that planet safely. You’re the last hope of humanity, Captain Stone.”

Jamie Zakian is a full-time writer who consumes the written word as equally as oxygen. Living in South Jersey with her husband and rowdy family, she enjoys farming, archery, and blazing new trails on her 4wd quad, when not writing of course. She aspires to one day write at least one novel in every genre of fiction.

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