Launch Day!

First of all, it’s launch day for THE CURSE OF MOOSE LAKE! A lot went on today including the launch party in Moose Lake itself. I just wanted to say thank you to Joe Jitters for hosting the event and for everyone who came. I had a lot of fun (and some delicious cookies).

Also! The playlist for TCOML and Pinterest board have been made public so feel free to have a listen/look at some inspiration for the book.

Stay tuned for more information about upcoming events and the next volume in the series!

 

Updates

Current theme song: “Under Pressure” by David Bowie, Queen

Current stage in process: Preparing for book launch of THE CURSE OF MOOSE LAKE, finishing Book #3, prepping Book #4 for NaNoWriMo

Hello there! A LOT has happened recently and despite being tired, extremely busy, and running on caffeine, I’m so excited! Let’s run through the highlight reel, shall we?

I’m publishing a book!

Yes, that’s right! THE CURSE OF MOOSE LAKE will be released on October 18, 2016, and will be available all over the place. For more information on what it’s about and where to find it, you can go >>here<<. I’ve been running around getting everything ready and several teasers have been released for your enjoyment. In fact, the first three chapters are available for free online!

Chapter One     |     Chapter Two     |     Chapter Three

Several quote teasers released as well via Twitter which you can find >>here<<.

There is also a book giveaway going on from October 13-21 on Goodreads! Enter for a chance to win one of two signed copies of THE CURSE OF MOOSE LAKE.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Curse of Moose Lake by Bethany Helwig

The Curse of Moose Lake

by Bethany Helwig

Giveaway ends October 21, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I’m almost done with the first draft of IMS Book #3!

That’s right. The end is in sight! At least for the first draft. Then comes the revisions, then the editing, then the beta readers, then more edits…

NaNoWriMo is coming!

And I’m so not ready! Hahahaha.

helpme

Apart from that little fact, I still plan on trying to participate. My original goal had been to start IMS Book #4 and I’d like to stick with that goal if I can. I may not have an outline or done any of the research I wanted to, but hey! At least I generally know where the story is going. I know where it starts. I know where it ends. I know chunks of the middle. The rest will write itself, right? Or more likely, I will get even less sleep and try to do all of the above-said things before November 1 comes.

Stay strong my fellow writers! Drink all the caffeine! We will endure!

 

 

Announcing THE CURSE OF MOOSE LAKE!

I’m so excited to finally share this information with you! I’ve been hard at work for quite some time and, as you may have noticed, have been posting various updates regarding a young adult series I’ve been working on. I am now happy to announce that the first volume in the series, The Curse of Moose Lake,  is set to publish October 18, 2016!

The Curse of Moose Lake

 

Phoenix and her brother Hawk are professional monster hunters—well, nearly. Still in training with the International Monster Slayers, a secret government agency that both defends and hunts mythical creatures, they are sent on their first real mission to prove their worth. When things go awry and the IMS is nearly exposed, their future as agents looks grim.

 

Given one last chance for redemption, the duo are sent to Moose Lake, Minnesota where there’s a docile population of werewolves to keep in check. Their assignment is supposed to be dull, but Moose Lake ends up being anything but boring.

 

When a mysterious black wolf appears and the werewolves under their charge start to become aggressive, they must uncover the city’s dark secret if they are to save not only the citizens but themselves.

 

swanson

(This is literally me trying to be all professional while announcing this.)

This is the first novel in a planned series. You can find the official announcement here! And then you can add it on Goodreads here!

There will be numerous announcements and reveals over the next several weeks before launch day. I’ll be keeping you up to date here on the blog and on Twitter. Stay tuned! Things are about to get awesome!

 

Remember the Doom of the 30th of June

Current theme song: “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Current stage in process: Writing Book #3 of YA series; working on TOP SECRET STUFF

 

REMEMBER THE DOOM OF THE 30TH OF JUNE!

I suppose without any context this dire warning doesn’t make a lot of sense, but by the end of this story it sure will.

A couple years back I was in a gleeful writing spree for a week. I made some rather impressive daily word counts (actually setting a new record which I have not yet again broken). It was pure creative magic and the words just flowed.

magic

Then the 30th of June happened.

Me, being a complete idiot, only had my story (which was then getting close to 100 pages) saved on a single flash drive. I’d plug into my laptop and write away each day. Why did I do this? I have absolutely no idea. Some form of stupidity gripped me for whatever reason and I’ve regretted it to this day.

So what happened? The worst thing possible. I plugged in my flash drive on the 30th ready for more word magic when nothing happened. The flash drive wouldn’t register. I unplugged it, plugged it in again, and still nothing. Cue repeating this procedure multiple times in a growing panic. I tried plugging it into my desktop. I tried a family member’s desktop. I tried everything conceivable in the array of knowledge I had collected from working on computers since I was a wee lass.

*Cue dramatic drum roll* And SURPRISE! Nothing worked.

tumblr_m8nbzavylo1rdqhsxo1_250_by_fioree_arianator-d79xspl

Frantic to save my near 100 pages of inspired writing, I looked up companies that work with such problems and extract data from broken flash drives. My father and I did our research and picked the most promising one. Although groaning about the inevitable $200 fee I was surely to pay, I sent it in. I NEEDED my book back.

Turns out there’s more than one kind of flash drive out there and I picked the kind that’s vastly more difficult to extract information from. They had a special kind of technology but it would cost a heck of a lot more than $200, money which I did not have. I was faced with the mortifying prospective of losing all of that work and rewriting the book from the beginning.

So, what happened? I took the hard road.

Unable (and rather unwilling for the price) to pay to try to recover the data on my stupid flash drive, I cried it out and decided if I wanted to write that book then I’d just have to start all over again. So, while the beginning was still fresh in my mind, I made a very detailed outline of what I had just written. At the time I couldn’t bring myself to actually start writing again. It took me several months before I was able to get back to that story, sit down, and write a beginning which in my mind had already been done so spectacularly the first time around. It’s hard to recreate that magic.

But I wrote it. I rewrote that beginning I had worked so hard for and, by golly, I finished that book. Now I make sure to create regular backups of my writing and in various locations, dreading that the doom on the 30th of June will somehow come back to haunt me.

Moral of this story? BACKUP YOUR WORK. Trust me. You’ll thank yourself in the end. But if the worst does happen, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to that book. You CAN do it even if at the time it feels like the end of the world.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go backup my latest project. And REMEMBER:

1429646626-tumblr-n0bg3idagm1r5k9koo2-r1-250

Stressed Out

Current theme song: “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots

Current stage in process: Writing Book #3; waiting on beta reader comments for Book #2; on submission for Book #1

Things have been crazy lately. We got a new dog (the devil’s offspring, ugh), one of my best buddies is moving out of state, work has been hectic to the point I want to pull my hair out, and I got so wrapped up in writing Book #3 that I didn’t have time to sit down and read a book to post a review two weeks ago. Yikes! Needless to say, I’ve been pretty stressed.

tumblr_inline_mi31rcA3vd1r9trdm.gif

So! Book stuff. Book #3 of my YA series is coming along nicely! I didn’t manage to hit my 100,000 word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo this April but I did win the usual NaNoWriMo goal (50,000) so that’s something at least. I’m putting it on a short hiatus right now to give my poor brain a break, what with all the crap that’s been going on lately, and reevaluate certain plot lines in the story. Once I’ve had time to recharge, I’ll be jumping right back into it to churn out the second half. So, how does one recharge? Let’s just say there will be a lot of books from the library, Pinterest browsing, and a Supernatural marathon.

After I’ve had a breather, I hope to come back to writing and this blog with new enthusiasm! So, see me then! Changes may be coming.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo

Current theme song: “Wolf” by First Aid Kit

Current stage in process: Writing Book #3; waiting on beta reader comments for Book #2

Camp NaNoWriMo has begun and I’m in the thick of it.  Because of that, this post is going to end up relatively short.

I’m currently working on book #3 of my YA urban fantasy series and have been pushing myself to reach a daily word count goal higher than I’ve ever set for myself. I’ve been making good headway but I’ve reached the point where my mind hits the brakes. I’m incorporating new ideas and plot threads I hadn’t considered when I outlined but become apparent when I’m writing the actual book so it slows me down until I can figure it out.

I realize I keep mentioning this YA urban fantasy series but haven’t said much on what it’s about. The idea for the series came to me when I decided I had enough of YA stories that focused solely on romance. Romantic relationships are not the only inspiring and touching relationships out there. Family is extremely important to me and a cornerstone in my life. So I decided I wanted to write a story focusing on a sister and brother where their main goals aren’t looking for their soul mates but protecting each other.

Their relationship is the core of the story in which they work for a secret government agency to both defend and slay a plethora of mythical creatures. It’s Supernatural meets Men in Black. Out of all the novels I’ve written to date, I’ve had the most fun with this series.

BONUS PICTURE (rough concept art of the main characters):

Hawk_Phoenix-website

Well, that’s it for me. Time to drink an excessive amount of caffeine and keep on writing. To everyone else participating, keep going! You’re doing great! Who cares if you haven’t taken a shower in a while or have eaten nothing but Sour Patch Kids? Look at all the words you’ve written!

you-can-do-this

tumblr_mxjmc5MyA11t15xv3o1_250

 

The Monthly Review: Stars Above

Stars Above

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Published: February 2, 2016 by Feiwel & Friends

Pages: 369

Genre: YA Science Fiction, Fantasy

RATING:

5-stars

The enchantment continues….

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

 

I loved The Lunar Chronicles. I know other people had their issues with it, saying the world wasn’t as fleshed out as it could be or there were slow parts, but I really did enjoy this series. Stars Above is a collection of short stories that focuses on each of the different characters, and it was a great way to close out the series.

Each of the characters throughout this series were well-crafted, and I loved them all—except Queen Levana of course (Fairest was so perfectly twisted, by the way). I was especially intrigued to read the first short story on Scarlet’s grandmother, Michelle Benoit. After reading that, Michelle’s fate becomes so much more poignant. The story about young Carswell Thorne in school had me laughing constantly. Each of the stories just gave me more background to the characters and more depth to the series as a whole.

I must say, that final story with the wedding had me up and running around like a madwoman at the end. There have been so many YA stories I’ve read where the final chapter makes me feel exhausted or not all that happy with the conclusion (Mockingjay or Allegiant, anyone?). Not this series. This is what I want when I read a book to escape reality. I want the characters I’ve shared a tumultuous journey with to have their happy ending. I want all the struggles and hard work to be worth it. I want them to have the biggest win they possibly can. Because, dang it, someone’s got to have a happy ending around here!

So, say what you will about this series. I loved it and will continue to recommend it. Go you, Marissa Meyer. Go you.

 

Where’s Waldo? Author Edition

Current theme song: “Mountain At My Gates” by Foals

Current stage in process: Waiting on beta reader comments for Book #2; continuing to outline & do research for Book #3; preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo in April!

The edits for Book #2 of my YA urban fantasy series are complete! I’ve passed the torch and am waiting for feedback from my trusted beta readers. In the meanwhile, I’ve been hoarding books from the library for research and working on my outline for Book #3. While I usually spend more time in the brainstorm phase, I want to see if I can push myself this year. I’ve made the decision to write Book #3 during Camp NaNoWriMo in April. If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo before, I implore you to head there straight away and discover what you’ve been missing. It’s a wonderful month full of writing support and energy during November. There are also two months of ‘camps’ during the summer, one of which I will be participating in.

In preparation for April, I’ve been planning several vacation days at the beginning of the month so I can get off to a strong start. As long as I have a fairly solid outline, I should be able to maintain momentum throughout the month. However, I also need to consider the best place for setting up my little writing camp, which leads me to today’s post.

Where do authors sit down and work on their craft? Are they elusive beasts hiding away in their secret sanctums? Are they wanderers moving from cafe to cafe? Are they standing next to you on the subway jotting down words on notepads or iPads? Each writer is different and certain locations work better for some than others. For some examples of writer caves/sanctums/offices, Tor put together a gallery of famous author writing spaces. I’m a sucker for those kinds of articles. I’m always curious to see where other writers work.

As for myself, I’ve had my share of ups and downs trying to find areas that are right for me. When I started my first novel, I was in high school. I was a PSEO student at the time, so I was able to finish most of my homework at the beginning of the week and then would have loads of free time. I would write at terminals in the library, at the back of science class, in my notebook when I didn’t have access to a computer. At home, I commandeered the family’s computer and turned it into my own little workstation.

Author-Station-1

(Note The Lord of the Rings extended edition DVDs on the left; I would play The Two Towers on repeat on a laptop beside me while I wrote my second novel for the first series I ever created. Also, see that Dr. Pepper? It’s very important. That’s key writing fuel there.)

After high school, I went to college and as part of my degree (Digital Cinema—that didn’t pan out) I got my very own Macbook Pro. I wrote most of my third novel on that laptop in a comfy chair at the central campus building outside a Japanese restaurant while I waited for my next class to start. I loved that laptop. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I bought the latest model after I finished my bout in college and got a job.

But while I did a lot of writing on that laptop, the majority of my editing was done at my central command station.

Author-Station-2

(While the Dr. Pepper is strangely absent in this picture, I assure you there was still a high level of consumption. Also, I use a lot of Post-its. A LOT of Post-its.)

The layout of this setup hasn’t really changed over the last four years. Right now I face a wall when I’m at my computer and it makes me feel too closed in, which is why I do the majority of my writing on my laptop so I can move wherever I feel works best to get the creative juices flowing.

A couple of NaNoWriMos ago, my sister and I picked a day to jump around town to places I thought might have ideal writing conditions. We started in a Starbucks, wandered through the local college campus for awhile, left when the crowds got to big, ate lunch, and finally landed in an empty section of the public library where we spent the rest of the day. I got a lot of writing done that day and blew past the 50,000 word goal. My last NaNoWriMo was much less exciting. I took a week off of work and sat at home, moving between the couch, kitchen table, recliner, and back to the couch again. I beat the word goal within a week and a half and finished Book #2 of my current series. While I only had my dogs for company and it was much more low key, the important part for me was writing in a spot where I had a lot of open space in front of me. I think this year I’ll try to get a mix of going out to local coffee shops and staying at home.

No matter where I decide to park it and write, the pressure is on! Good luck to everyone else participating in Camp NaNoWriMo! See you out there.

BONUS PICTURE:

Author-Station-3

(This was the door outside my writing station. You have to watch out for those velociraptors, guys.)

 

The Monthly Review: Calamity

CalamityCalamity by Brandon Sanderson

Published: February 16, 2016 by Delacorte Press

Pages: 421

Genre: YA Science Fiction, Fantasy

RATING:

4&half-stars

When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David’s fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy.


David knew Prof’s secret, and kept it even when Prof struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Once the Reckoners’ leader, Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He’s disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there’s no turning back…


But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics—Megan proved it. They’re not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back.
Or die trying.

 

If you haven’t read the first two books (Steelheart and Firefight) I suggest you get reading straight away. Seriously. Run to your library or local bookstore and check them out immediately. I gobbled up this series and the last book, Calamity, didn’t disappoint.

Since I’m reviewing the final book in a series, this review will generally cover the series as a whole. This story follows David, a young man obsessed with taking down taking down Epics (humans with powerful abilities who turned evil) ever since his father was killed by one when he was a boy. David is perhaps one of the most fun characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. He’s impulsive, loyal, humorous, and intelligent yet so oblivious in certain respects. And those metaphors, guys. The metaphors. The series is worth it for David’s mind-bending metaphors alone. They are so specific, utterly hilarious, and strange but tend to make perfect sense once he explains them. (i.e. “I’m like…well, I’m like a room-sized, steam-powered, robotic toenail-clipping machine.” She cocked an eyebrow. “I can basically do only one thing,” I explained, “but damn it, I’m going to do that one thing really, really well.”)

David is joined by a cast of other memorable characters, both friend and villain alike, that you root for or despise (certain ones even both!). The action is excellent. The settings are so unlike anything I’ve read, but I mean that in the best way possible. The series starts in Newcago—Chicago turned completely to steel—and ends up in a city made of salt that moves. That’s right. A city that inches along like a snail as it continually builds up and collapses in a cycle. It’s bizarre and intriguing and genius.

Then we have superpowers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I love superheroes, or in this case anti-superheroes. The powers throughout the series have been imaginative, entertaining, and mind-blowingly epic (pun intended). The complexity of Megan’s gift got overwhelming at times, along with some of the abstractness regarding weaknesses and abilities, but made for some serious cool battles.

I laughed so hard at times that I scared people nearby, and the battle sequences had my heart pounding. The down times in the book were interesting but on occasion felt a little slow (probably because of how intense the high moments were). I thought it concluded well enough but not all of my questions were answered, and I desperately wanted more story at the end to explore certain transformations (you’ll know what I mean once you read it). I wanted to be more pumped at the end and feel a sense of true conclusion. For instance, I ran around my house shouting incoherently with joy when I finished The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. After finishing Calamity, I was left quietly contemplating what it all meant—not disappointed as I have been with other stories but not entirely satisfied either. For these reasons I docked half a star.

In conclusion, The Reckoners series was a fun, fast-paced, beautifully written adventure of normal people fighting terrible powers and prevailing against all odds. Don’t be a slontze. Please read this series.

 

Finding Inspiration

Current theme song: “Here it Goes Again” by OK Go

Current stage in process: line edits of Book #2 of YA Urban Fantasy series; detailing outline for Book #3

The revisions for my current work in progress are complete! Woo-hoo! I have officially moved onto the line edits. I’ve got a thick stack of paper on my desk now because it’s always easier to handle edits when I’ve got a hard copy in hand. My brain treats it differently than when it’s on the screen. Don’t ask me why, because I have no idea. It just does.

While edits are underway, I’m also simultaneously working on my outline for Book #3, which leads me into this post’s topic: finding inspiration! A lot of authors get asked “where do you get your ideas from?” Well, to be frank, everywhere. Inspiration is everywhere you look, you just have to pay attention. As my good friend Sherlock would say:

sherlock-observe

For instance, who knew that a random conversation with your family about the consistency of caramel could trigger an ‘ah-ha!’ moment, creating the basis for a character’s personality? Then lead to multiple new scenes and plot developments? True story. (I’d like to give a shout out to my brother-in-law for the in depth discussion about cooking caramel.)

Watch people (and try not to be too creepy). Pick up on the little things they do, catch snippets of conversation, observe how people interact with each other, how they talk to their children or people they don’t like, how they laugh, what’s in their grocery cart. What seems like insignificant details can spark creativity. Sometimes it’s easy to let the world pass you by. Stop and soak it in.

Art and photography are also big inspirations for me personally. When I browse through Pinterest or Deviantart, amazing pieces of art can set a scene in my head, lead to a character’s creation, or inspire a plot. In this vein, I have created a board on my Pinterest account for DARKEST LIGHT with images that correlate with the book. Take a look >>here<<! I’ve gotten into the habit of adding images to boards I’ve created for each of my books and I will open them up when said books come out.

And last but not least, one of my biggest sources of inspiration is music. Who hasn’t been inspired by music at one point or another (or over and over again)? In fact, before I even write a book I put together a playlist that guides the story. I’m constantly shifting around and adding songs as I develop new ideas. I’ll keep doing that until the book is complete. Other authors have done the same. I would recommend taking a look at the playlists Sarah J. Maas has shared. To give you insight into what songs have propelled my stories, I have uploaded my playlist for DARKEST LIGHT onto Spotify! You can listen to the playlist >>here<<. I would note that the playlist on Spotify is not all-inclusive because some of the songs on my list are not available on Spotify. As with my Pinterest boards, I will release playlists in time with book releases.

So, go out into the world! See what you can see. Be inspired. Then come back on the last Friday of this month because I’ll be reviewing Calamity by Brandon Sanderson. I’M SUPER PUMPED, GUYS.