Give Me More Monsters

I don’t usually talk about movies on this site. I mostly focus on writing, books, and comic books, but sometimes I see films that I just have to talk about. In this case, I watched the trailer for A Quiet Place 2.

I loved the first film. It was so exciting to see an original, threatening monster introduced in a big budget film. I feel like we haven’t had those in a long time, though they were a staple in many horror movies in the 1990s. Mimic and The Relic are two that immediately come to mind.

Often created with practical effects instead of flimsy CGI, the unique monsters that used to creep people out in theaters dwindled away in the box office. Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of incredible horror films. Get Out, Us, Midsommar, all of these have been incredible films in their own right. The horror genre in film has led to a horror renaissance.

So what happened to all the monsters?

Then A Quiet Place came out in 2018 and when I saw the first trailer, I was SO excited. This was a unique monster that didn’t hide details in the shadows like Lights Out, or be a human monster like in Don’t Breathe. These monsters were a constant threat, a true danger, and their strengths and weaknesses were well explained within the world. The characters had to modify everything they did to avoid them, and that’s honestly the kind of horror film I love.

Similar to Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, the world had to change to fit the monsters in it, and I feel like that’s a piece that is daunting to many writers. It’s difficult understanding how people would live differently, what choices they would make, what unique challenges they would have. I love that about those books, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoyed the first film despite its flaws.

The only question I had was how did the world get that way. That’s always the fantasy lover in me, that I seek answers to unanswered questions. I always want to know more about the world, though I admit that sometimes it’s fun to not know the answer too. I didn’t expect that explanation to be explored in A Quiet Place 2, and I certainly didn’t expect one of my favorite actors, Cillian Murphy, to pick up a major role in the film.

I’m looking forward to this resurgence of monster movies, of seeing unique monsters showing up in big hit movies, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Just based on the trailer it looks like practical effects are still favored just like it was in the first movie, and that’s the kind of film I love.

If you haven’t seen A Quiet Place yet, I highly recommend it. And I personally plan to go opening weekend to see the sequel!

Review: Veiled by Desire

Finished: 1/16/2020

Tavarra is a beautiful sea dweller cursed for life, forced to be a beast when the moon is bright. Rhona is a girl with the ability to control water, and her friend, Perin, is a warrior who bears a dark secret. Quil is boy with an easy laugh and a penchant for music. Finally Eza rounds out the main cast of characters as a bat-like creature with a sharp wit and a bit heart.

Together they must seek out the dark pyramid to rescue their village and find the mercurial Stone of Desire who may or may not grant a wish. This tale is filled with action, love, heartache, and mystery with a flair for the surreal and fantastic that I’ve come to love in Robinson’s work. The characters in this story are so lovable and flawed that I couldn’t help but fall in love with them.

But first, I have a confession to make.

I have a weak spot for werewolves. They show up a LOT in my books, even when I try not to let them appear. Tavarra is one of the most original werewolves I’ve read about. Her desire to go on land and leave behind the sea, staying out too long and bearing a horrible curse, and forced to roam the land with only her friend, Eza, at her side. Even her description with her bright orange hair and orange fur down her arms makes her unique.

The magic in this story is really fascinating too, mixing science with the fantastic in a way that had me very intrigued. I loved the dark forest, and how even when everything seemed safe, nothing really was.

I really loved this one because it felt so horrific, and it was refreshing to be in a completely fantastic world. Robinson knows how to keep you reading too, and at the end I had trouble putting it down! I honestly can’t wait to read Book 3 in her Laith series!

My Overall Rating: 5/5

Book Releases and a Cover Reveal, Oh My!

The year has barely just begun and already things are moving quick. March and April are going to be particularly busy times around here, so I’ve created a run-down of everything happening in about a two week time-span.

  • Friday, March 27 – The cover reveal for The Seeking!
  • Tuesday, March 31 – Release day for the Masks anthology!
  • Tuesday, April 7 – Release day for Broken!

See what I mean? It’s going to be back-to-back book releases and a cover reveal! I’m really looking forward to seeing the cover for The Seeking too because that book is going to be SUPER creepy.

Help with the Cover Reveal!

If you run a blog or a website and want to help me with the cover reveal for The Seeking, and to help with releases and cover reveals for other books from The Parliament House too, feel free to reach out on the Contact Me page! I know the secret handshake to get you in the door. 😉

Want to see what to expect within the pages? Check out the Pinterest board!

Screenshot of The Seeking board on Pinterest
Yes, there are monsters!

It’s all set around Halloween, so it’s the perfect read for Fall. I’m super excited for that book to hit shelves! (Have you added it to your Goodreads yet?)

Then Book 2 of the Stolen series, Broken, is coming out in April. And to top it all off, I’m going to be out of town that day so it’ll be extra exciting (and stressful) than normal.

Sometimes I think about where I was just a few years back. I remember working hard on my books and on my writing, hoping to someday publish my stories but never really thinking I would. Sometimes I have to stop and realize where I am and how I got here and take a breath.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed sometimes. It’s easy to worry that I’ve forgotten something or to fret that my writing isn’t good enough. Then I think back on myself from but a few years back and how pumped I would be to have these challenges then. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to feel this way, but that this is where I want and need to be right now.

The best way to remind myself that all this work is worth it? Reading amazing reviews. Hearing from people who loved Stolen. Knowing that there are many people itching to read the continuation. Reminding myself that someone out there needs to read my books, and that the only way to reach them is to keep on pushing.

That’s ambrosia for the soul right there, folks. I’m going to go roll up my sleeves and get back to pushing.

A Tribute to Middle Earth

Today I learned that Christopher Tolkien died.

He was the son of the renowned author J.R.R. Tolkien who many consider the father of modern fantasy. It’s strange because I feel like the world that both father and son built is such an epic legacy, both on the pages and outside of it, that his death feels like the end of an era.

So I thought it would be fitting to talk a little bit about one of my favorite places, and I think one of theirs: Middle Earth.

Map of Middle Earth

I think my first introduction to the world was when I watched Rankin and Bass’ The Hobbit when I was very young. I loved the animation style, the warmth of the characters, and I adored the songs. It’s still a film that I can go back and watch again and again. Of course I had to hunt down the book too and I read that front to back, loving Mirkwood, Thranduil, and Smaug the most.

Fast forward to high school in 9th grade where we were assigned The Hobbit to read for class. I was thrilled! Not only did we cover the book but we also touched on The Lord of the Rings series. It sounded fun, but it didn’t have a dragon in it, and that made me less likely to try it. I was really into dragons as a kid. And every time I tried to read it, the bickering of the hobbits in Hobbiton and the general air of elitism made me reluctant to continue. I knew the series was supposed to be good, but was it worth it?

It wasn’t until I sat down and watched the teaser trailer for The Fellowship of the Ring that I was hooked.

The original 2001 teaser trailer for The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

It had adventure, fantasy, romance, and incredible monsters too. I remember the whole theater going silent when it came on. Then they announced in the teaser when each of the films would be releasing – unheard of then, and still is now.

As a freshman college student, I was hooked. I ended up reading The Fellowship of the Ring after being blown away by the movie, and read The Two Towers and Return of the King before each of their films came out. This became my favorite fandom for the better part of a decade, and my house is still filled with statues and memorabilia from the series.

Life size cardboard cutout of Legolas from The Lord of the Rings.
Although this isn’t my photo, I do have this cardboard cut-out of Legolas staring over me in the study as I type this.

At bookstores, whole bookcases were dedicated to different collections of the trilogy, movie books, symbolism from the film, toys, etc. I remember seeing books by Christopher Tolkien mixed in too, and naively dismissed the books as him trying to capitalize on his father’s works. What I didn’t know was that he had taken all of the careful research and notes that his father had made and continued the stories where his father could not. I didn’t realize that he strove to match his father’s style in each additional release, and that these books were written specifically for the fans to help get his father’s work out there for them. The series and the fandom originally came out in 1954-1955, and I was a newcomer who didn’t have all the information. Of course, there were no cell phones back then or even reliable internet. Information like that was buried deep in forums or probably in one of the many magazines that featured the series.

J.R.R. Tolkien sparked a love of fantasy in me that today I try to share with others through my books. His son tried to honor his father’s legacy and continue the world as best he could. He protected the integrity of Middle Earth and the Tolkien Estate that he managed was known for having high standards for any adaptations of the books. In fact, it was well known that after The Hobbit trilogy, they famously determined that no more film adaptations were to be made. Now a brand new series is set to film soon for Amazon.

I just wanted to take a moment to thank both father and son for helping to keep this beautiful tapestry of a world alive, and for sharing it with the rest of us. Middle Earth will always be an inspiration to many, and will have a special place in my heart.

Writing a Trilogy: The Lessons I Have Learned [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

It’s a new year, a new decade, and here I am starting on book three of my Stolen trilogy, the first series of books I’ve written. As I ease back into the world and the characters that give this series so much life, I realize how very different it has been for me to write each book. I thought it might be helpful to share what I’ve learned in this month’s Author Toolbox Blog Hop.

AuthorToolboxBlogHop Title Image

This hop is made up of a bunch of authors all sharing advice and experiences to help out other authors. I’m always thrilled to be part of this, and I hope you’ll take the time to go check out some of the other author blogs!

Cover for Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series
Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series

Book one (Stolen – now available) had its own challenges, as I explained way back in 2013 when I struggled with drafting it. It sometimes baffles me when I look back on that post at how much I’ve learned since then, and how much more refined my writing has become. Somehow it was easy for me then to talk about how books ought to end, how stories ought to progress, and how characters ought to evolve. It’s really different when the blank page is staring at you and you realize that you’re the only one who can create those things and finish the story. When the stakes are higher you suddenly understand why writing series is so difficult.

Cover for Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series
Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series

Book two (Broken – coming April 7th) had its own set of problems. I thought I had handled all the loose ends in book one quite well. I thought the sequel would just continue the story, but then details came up during writing like they do, and I couldn’t remember a character’s eye color or the color of their hair. Where was that scar again? What was that background? I have the utmost respect for people who have written ten and twenty books in a series because I think I might need to write a reference book just for myself to keep track of all the details. Needless to say, it was a learning experience–though the end product was so very worth it.

Now here I am, finally on book three (Chosen – coming soon), and I have once again a whole new challenge. All those parts and pieces I dripped in those early books now have their calling. All those last minute scenes I want to include need to be written. And this is the last call for character development. It’s honestly daunting but also thrilling at the same time. As a pantser, I too want to see how these characters get to where I want them to be. I’m looking forward to wrapping up this series and preparing for new projects, but I’m also worried about the finality of this tale coming to a close. Of course I can write spin-offs and extended universes, but this will be the end of the main story for these characters that I’ve molded and directed for eight years. I want to do the right thing for them.

This will certainly not be the last series I write, I’ve already started gathering inspiration for the next one, but I’ve learned a lot during this time and wanted to share some of my takeaways with other authors who are starting their first series. Hopefully my experiences help you!

Lessons Learned from Writing 2/3 Books in my Trilogy

  • Use a comprehensive writing system like Scrivener if you can, or make really organized folders.
    • I know, I talk about Scrivener a lot, but being able to keep all of my writing in a single file has been so helpful to keep things straight.
  • Take the time to make those character sheets.
    • You’ll miss them so much if you forget to make one for your background character in book 2. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
  • Know generally where each book should start and end.
    • I know, it’s hard to do for us pantsers, but having a general cut-off point will help in pacing. Especially for the middle child if you’re writing a trilogy.
  • When in doubt, make a map.
    • I’ve made maps for the inside of buildings so I can make sure I can describe it properly. Just draw it out and take a picture of it to put it into your writing system so you can reference it later.
  • If possible, take breaks in between books.
    • I know for a fact this just isn’t possible for so many authors. Taking time off from a project or a world or series means it’ll take longer to get back into it again. However getting away from the world (if you can) will help enrich it. Remember to replenish that creative well!

Experimentation is of course the best teacher with these things. I’ll have to report back in a few years on whether it got easier with the next series. I would love to write very long series, but I can’t quite do it yet. I think I need to “level up” my author skills a bit more first.

I’ll probably come back and add onto this list at some point. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but I hope this helps. There’s a seemingly endless supply of advice on how to write books out there, but not so much is focused specifically on series. Hopefully this helps bridge that gap.

Have you considered writing a series? Why or why not? Any advice for those who have completed one?

Happy writing, everyone!