12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop

Hey Squad! It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post, but I’m back. I hope to send out a blog at least once a month to begin, then weekly once my schedule frees up a bit next year.

This year, I have joined a 12 Days of Christmas blog hop! It begins December 1, so bookmark this blog and check in daily from December 1-12 to catch all the goodies!

Now, let’s dig into this blog hop, shall we? Oh, how does that work, you ask? It’s easy! Just click on the website link for the author each day to enter to win prizes, grab free books and swag, or sign up for their newsletter for freebies! It’s that easy. And if you love their books, show them the love and write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you usually review books!

Here’s the schedule to follow (don’t worry, I will send out daily blasts to remind you who is up next once it begins!):

Official_12DaysofChristmas.png

12/01/19
Yaasha Moriah – www.yaashamoriah.com
One paperback giveaway (US shipping only) + $.99 on all books

12/02/19
Verity A. Buchanan – www.verityabuchanan.com
One signed paperback giveaway + bookmark

12/03/19
Melissa Little – mllittleauthor.blogspot.com
One signed paperback giveaway + bookmark

12/04/19
J.D. Rempel – www.jdrempel.com
One personal signed hardback giveaway (US shipping only) + book swag

12/05/19
Claire Banschbach – www.clairembanschbach.com
Paperback giveaway (US only) The Wolf Prince x 1 – discounted ebooks for Adela’s Curse and The Rise of Aredor

12/06/19
Anne Wheeler – www.anne-wheeler.com
$0.99 on all books + 3 paperback giveaways of Asrian Skies

12/07/19
J.M. Hackman – https://jmhackman.com/
One signed paperback giveaway (Spark or Flare) (US shipping only) + related swag

12/08/19
Janeen Ippolito – https://www.janeenippolito.com/
Signed paperback giveaway (US only), super swag + sticker pack (anyone)

12/09/19
H. L. Burke – www.hlburkeauthor.com/blog
Paperback giveaway (US shipping only) Ultimate Nyssa Glass+Free ebook downloads for An Ordinary Knight and Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon

12/10/19
Laura VanArendonk Baugh – www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com
Paperback giveaway (single) plus a discount on Shard & Shield

12/11/19
Hans Erdman – www.gewellynchronicles.com
6 giveaways of paperback “Aerielands Christmas” (US only) plus a discount on all e-books

12/12/19
​M. J. Padgett – www.mjpadgettbooks.com
Two free e-books (first in each series) plus one download code for a free holiday-themed audiobook

 

 

How I Accidentally Became an Indie Author Series – Developing The Idea By Birthing Characters

Last week we talked about finding inspiration for writing and developing a general idea for your book. This week we’ll take a deeper look into developing the idea into something more tangible. Without further ado, here is step two (at least, the way I write):

Step Two: Developing The Idea By Birthing Characters

I used to just dive right in and start writing, and for the most part, is still do, but I have learned over time that the story flows a little better and requires fewer major rewrites if I do some basic planning. Now, I tend to think about how my character got into the predicament/catastrophe/position he/she is in. What would I do? What does the character think, see, feel, hear, etc.?

It’s important to note you should consider those questions at every stage of writing your story. Your character might change with the circumstances, or she might stay steadfast. It’s up to you, but make sure your choices make sense for your story and your character.

How do you know if your character is doing something, well, out-of-character? You get to know your character first. You should know him/her as well as you know yourself because, really, you are the characters.

For my own work, I usually have a clear picture of what my main and supporting characters look like, so I jot it down. Then I begin to develop other parts like personality, character traits, quirks, likes and dislikes—I might not use them all, but they’re available for quick reference if I want to. And that’s important when writing. No one wants to stop the flow of an idea to try to remember little details such as what color did I say her eyes were? It seems trivial, but readers will notice. If you don’t know your character, it shows.

I recently found a list on The Novel Factory, a website that offers structured writing “rules” and suggestions. I love their page The Ultimate Character Questionnaire. It lists over 150 questions you can ask yourself about your character (not all of which you necessarily need, but it’s great reference material.)

I recommend, as a minimum, to have the following details hammered out for your main character and primary supporting characters (pulled from the questionnaire):

  • Basic Questions
    • Name (first, last, nickname?)
    • Date of birth/age
  • Appearance
    • Height/weight
    • Hair/skin/eye color
    • Ethnicity/race
    • Distinguishing features (tattoos, scars, etc.)
    • Clothing style
    • Mannerisms/quirks
    • Disabilities
  • Personality
    • Catchphrases
    • Optimist or pessimist
    • Introvert or extrovert
    • Habits
    • Strongest traits
    • Weakest traits
    • Friendship qualities
    • Response to conflict/stress
  • Past and Future
    • Backstory ideas (birthplace, childhood incidents)
    • Social status (rich, poor, etc.)
    • Family situation (neglect, positive environment)
    • Memories
  • Love Interest
    • What is their love language (affectionate, standoffish)
    • Sexual orientation
  • Other Details
    • Work, education, hobbies
    • Favorite things
    • Possessions of importance
    • Spirituality
    • Values
    • Daily life (allergies, eating habits, home life)

It’s a long list, but it can easily grow! Having a thorough understanding of your character will go a long way toward helping your story flow, and it will tap into your reader’s emotions. Here is an example from my own work. Conor Hudson is one of my popular characters, probably because she is highly relatable. Most people liked her, despite a few moments of frustration and annoyance. And let’s face it, there isn’t a single person in our lives we haven’t wanted to shake silly once or twice, right?

For Conor, my character map looked a bit like this:

  • Basic Questions
    • Conor Hudson
    • 14-18 through course of the book
  • Appearance
    • Shorter than average, average weight
    • Brown hair and eyes, pale skin
    • Caucasian, Irish descent
    • Minimalist clothing style
  • Personality
    • Somewhat pessimistic
    • Introvert
    • Reads a lot
    • Highly intelligent, gifted
    • Afraid to step outside of her safety zone
    • Steadfast friend
    • Tends to avoid conflict, but grows in time
  • Past and Future
    • Born in Colorado, parents killed in a car accident
    • Middle-class life in Savannah, lives with grandmother
    • Loving grandmother plays a significant part in her life, positive
    • Remembers the night vividly her parents died
  • Love Interest
    • Wants love but is fearful, nervous
    • Interested in boys
  • Other Details
    • Westmore Academy, a private school for gifted
    • Religious, not outwardly mentioned in the book but implied through her thoughts about her parents
    • Values honesty and loyalty

These are only a few traits, and if you read The Yellow Note, you know there are many more!

Homework for this week: Spend some time getting to know your characters. Think about your story idea and what your main character thinks about it. Who are they? What do they see, think, smell, hear… Then check out the linked website for character development questions and work on your main character! If you feel like it, work on some supporting characters, too!

Next week we’ll take a look at developing your idea through World Development!

 

How I Accidentally Became An Indie Author Series – The Idea

One day I wrote a book. I had no idea what to do with it when I finished, but I was searching for an outlet, something to help me work through depression and anxiety, something that would develop a new, healthy habit—something better than worrying and stressing, so I just wrote another one. When that book was finished, I found a site called Wattpad and posted it to see what people thought. Turns out, the teens loved it!

What now? I decided I should try to publish it, but traditional publishing intimidated the snot out of me. I sent a few queries but heard nothing, which is a big downer even though I knew that didn’t mean my book sucked. Still, for someone battling depression, I needed a better way. Enter the world of independent publishing.

When I look back over my journey, I see a lot of mistakes I could have easily avoided if I had spent a little time following other Indie authors, reading their blogs, and researching marketing strategy. I spent a lot of money I should have saved, but in all, it has been a positive experience. I am by no means a hugely successful Indie author, but I feel it coming—someday. For now, I’m happy with my small following, and I strive to make them proud of the work I give them. Perhaps eventually my group will grow, but I’m in no rush.

After all, a goal is meant to be long-term, right? That said, I have met many other Indie authors who have all experienced the same headaches that come with going rogue. But there is also a lot of joy in running your business your way.

The upcoming blog series is geared toward the newbie-newbies, those who want to write and have dabbled with the idea of independent publishing, but don’t really know where to start. I’ve met a ton of people on social media who aspire to write, and they all ask the same thing. How do you do it?

First things first, you need to write a book.

Scary, I know. I look at some of my earlier work and cringe, and I know in coming years I’ll look at what I wrote today and cringe again (I’ll probably cringe after I post this blog and read it tomorrow.) It’s an evolution, but if you get a feel for your own technique and writing style right up front, it’s so much easier. I want this blog series to be conversational, personal enough for readers to comment and discuss their own hurdles, fears, accomplishments—whatever! So, I’ll begin with how I write, the things I do, and how you should completely ignore anything anyone says you HAVE to do. It’s your book. It’s your imagination. You do you your own way. Here’s how I do… me.

Step One: The Idea

This blog, the first in the How I Accidentally Became an Indie Author Series, will focus on the idea for a book. Of the many frequently asked questions I receive, this is the most asked: How on earth do you come up with some of the stuff you write?

Short answer, I have an extremely vivid imagination. But there is another way! Ask any author, and they’ll admit to writing something inspired by real events, song lyrics, a movie, another book—anything and everything you can see, hear, smell, touch, taste.

Let me give you a few examples from my own work.

The Love Project: This book is currently on Wattpad in a super rough draft format. Basically, it’s about a girl who refuses to believe love is a real thing. She’s seen it burn too many people she cares about and essentially writes it off as a made up emotion to avoid breaking her own heart. The entire book was inspired by Shawn Mendes’ song, “If This is What It Takes.” The MC, Wesley, meets her match in Oliver, the British guy she’s paired with for a psychology project who insists he will make her fall for him before the semester is over.

The Cupcake Criminals: Also in rough draft on Wattpad, this story is about a neurotic woman who can’t seem to win for losing. In a moment of desperation, she kidnaps a cupcake delivery van driver, steals his van, and runs amuck all over town. This story was inspired by a sticker on the back of a Krispy Kreme donut van that said, “No cash on board, just fresh donuts.” Well, I thought, I’d happily steal a donut truck just for the donuts.

That’s just two examples, but there are many more. My point is, you don’t necessarily have to sit around and think about what to write for hours at a time. Who has time for that? Look at the world around you. When you see something that makes you pause, like a bumper sticker, think a little longer about it. When I saw that sticker, I thought, what would stealing the donut truck entail? How would I do it? How would I act? What would push me to do something so silly? What would my friends do or say? How would I resolve that accident? How can I work a solid love interest in that scenario?

Once those details were solidified in my mind, I had a good idea for a book!

Another example, one that I pulled from personal experience, is The Text Message. This story is the fourth in a series called The Secret Author Series. When I was young, I lived in a small town where most people knew one another. When a teenage girl (who I happened to know) was murdered, it rocked the little town. That incident had a huge impact on me, and years later I thought about it and how it affected people. From that, the character Emily, whose brother was killed in a robbery gone wrong, was born. I dare say it’s one of my most heart-wrenching novels, but it also allowed me to let go of a lot of feelings I had about that incident. Cheap therapy, that’s what I call it.

Characters often end up looking a lot like people we know or knew, but we rarely think about how closely related to life ideas for novels can be, even fantasy novels. Your characters need something to drive them, a reason to do what you make them do. That all begins with the idea.

So, if you’re following this blog and you’re ready to start your journey, here’s your homework (oh, did I forget to mention there was homework?)

I challenge you to make a list of five viable story ideas. Think about events that shaped your life, funny things you’ve heard, song lyrics you love, or something you saw in your daily travels that made you pause for a moment. Choose your favorite, and think about how, what, when, where, and why? Hold on to that list and check back with me in a week for the next blog post!

Five Questions – This Time It’s About Me!

When I release a new book, I always write a short blog titled “Five Questions.” The blog focuses on the most-asked questions about the book and offers some insight into what the reader can expect. I decided to post five questions about me as an author just for fun! I hope you enjoy! If you have a question, you can hop over to my contact page (or any social media page) and ask away!

What inspired you to create a massive universe (in the Immortal Grimm Brothers’ Guide) in which there are evil princesses and epic mythical creatures?

I was bored. I’m kidding—sort of. When I wrote Snow Kissed it was supposed to be a one-time thing. I wanted to see what it was like to write in the fantasy genre, and since I love the Grimm Brothers, I decided to do a fairy tale retelling. When Calla’s story ended I was satisfied for about a day, then I thought the story itself just wasn’t complete. There was more I wanted to say, a bigger universe I wanted to explore, so the sequel Ashes to Ashes was born. That book took me on a roller coaster and birthed an entire series. And now, well, you’ll just have to wait and see what goodies I have in store for the Tales From The Black Forest franchise!

What was your inspiration to write the Secret Author Series and which is your favorite?

That’s a tough question because it’s very personal. I wrote the first installment, The Yellow Note, years ago. It was my first full-length novel, and it was so rough I cringe thinking about it. However, that little book amassed over three million reads on Wattpad where it was first posted. (I have since removed it, edited and reposted.)

When it was first posted, I kept getting messages from people telling me it changed their point-of-view or inspired them in some other way. Others said it restored their hope in relationships, particularly those between friends and family. Believe it or not, I have had THREE people start relationships thanks to inspiration from my book. One of those was so incredibly touching. I’ll share it here.

Without names, a girl’s male friend had feelings for her but was unsure how to tell her. She kept raving about this book where the boy wrote the girl a bunch of inspiring love notes. He had no idea what she was talking about, but he was determined to find out, so he went to his best friend’s girlfriend. She filled him in on the details, and he READ THE BOOK for her! He then went to considerable lengths to recreate the story for the girl he liked. Well, he snagged the girl, and the rest is history. Those stories make me feel great as an author. It’s what we hope for, to touch someone’s life in some small way.

When I wrote the book, I was grieving the loss of a friend who left way before his time. I remembered how he used to write little notes to me and put them in my locker, especially on bad days when I needed cheering up. While there was never a romantic relationship between us like there is in the book, I do believe he was one of my “people,” someone who was meant to come into my life, shake it up, and leave me with a lifelong lesson.

After that, I thought I would write about other events that shaped my life. Each installment of the series has a bit of my personal life in it, which makes them dear to my heart. If I had to pick a favorite book in the series, I’d say The Text Message. While The Yellow Note will always be special to me, The Text Message took me back to a time in my life when things were really hard, and I did a lot of growing up in a really short time.

Which Character in the Secret Author Series is your favorite?

That’s tough. They are all my kiddos, but if I have to choose I’d say… ugh, I can’t pick one. I have three favorites, and I’ll explain why.

Jacob Masterson (The Yellow Note) – the guy is about as perfect as one can get. He’s a bit of a doofus, but he’s so gosh darn loveable and dependable it’s impossible not to like him. His unwavering loyalty to his friends, especially to Delilah (which is investigated further in the spin-off Biology 101) make him the best friend anyone could ask for, not to mention the fact he becomes a war hero when he’s grown. I love an adorable doofus who’s actually the smartest person in the book.

Zara Scottsdale (The Letter) – Despite Zara’s horrific attitude through the first half of the book, she is actually a good person. She endured truly horrible treatment from her father, had zero influence from her mother, took care of her family in ways they never knew, and managed to turn her life around despite all signs pointing toward her being a failure. Of every book I’ve written, Zara’s redemption arc is my favorite.

Mason Alexander (The Text Message) – Mason was an accidental character. He was only supposed to show up, drive Emily home, lay some hyper-observant truth on her, and fade into the background. Instead, he grew into this rock solid character who knew exactly what he wanted but gave it all up for someone else. He was NOT a fan favorite because he was unexpected and messed with the flow between two characters, causing a lot of ruckus. In the end, though, Mason made the story so much better. I love him because he was my little brainchild who refused to give up, resisted getting shoved into the background, and basically told me to be a grown up and make the story messy for once!

Which of your characters is most like you?

I have written tons of stories that are not published. Some of them are on Wattpad (I warn you, they are all rough drafts and not all are good.) The Cupcake Criminals is a novella I wrote a year or so ago that centers on Abby, a neurotic nutcase of a woman who has a good heart, a smarty-pants sarcastic mouth, and can’t get out of her own way. She always takes the more difficult path and refuses to admit defeat even when all signs point toward imminent disaster. She has a strong network of loyal friends, is NOT afraid to let her freak flag fly proudly, and at the end of the day, all she wants is to be accepted and loved for the horrific mess she is. Yep… that’s me.

Why are most of your stories fluffy and so sweet? Everyone seems to get a happy ending, and it’s all tied up so nicely. That’s not really how life is.

Nope, life is rarely like that. That’s why I write the way I do. I love happy coincidences and sappy characters. I write the way I wish life happened. Sure, it alienates a chunk of readers who prefer realistic writing styles, but the followers I have are amazing. When they need a pick-me-up, they come to me. When they’ve had a bad day, and they just need someone to say it’s okay, it’ll get better—they come to me. Want to read a book you KNOW will take you on a roller coaster ride, but it’ll be okay because it will all work out in the end—COME TO ME MY PRETTIES!

Short answer, I like to make people feel love, happiness, sweetness, hope—all the stuff we don’t have enough of in real life.

As a side note, I rely heavily on the superhuman ability to forgive. The ability to forgive is the number one, most important trait for my characters. To forgive is one of the most challenging things a human being must do, and I have defended my characters many, many times for “forgiving too easily.” But I do it anyway because, as difficult as it is, forgiveness is a true test of who a person truly is at their core.

Just to Clarify: An Interview With George Elf

The Chimney Sweep released on November 23, just in time for Black Friday! If you haven’t read my comedic holiday novella, you can order the e-book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Paperback is available at Amazon and Lulu Publishing! I would highly recommend reading the book before reading the interview since there are some spoilers, but if you’re not one to care or you’ve already read it, please read on for answers to commonly asked questions from the book!

Without further ado, an interview with George Elf!

Hi George, and thanks for doing an interview with me.

 I literally had to. I had no choice. You’re writing me.

 Okay, George. What really happened with the pogo stick?

 Just gonna skip right over that part where you’re making me do this against my will?

 Yep. What happened with the pogo stick?

 Um… I’d think it’s obvious what happened with the pogo stick.

 It’s not. The readers want to know, George. So, what happened?

 Nosy readers you’ve got there. Can’t a man have an incident with a pogo stick and not tell everyone about it?

 You’ve gotta give the readers what they want, George. This wasn’t my idea.

 But it was. I was there in your head when you thought of it. This is all you, MJ.

 Would you just answer the question?

 Fine, but I’m not sure how it’s not obvious. Uncle Henry tried to get on the pogo stick and slipped. Then the pogo stick went straight up his a—

 Whoa, George! We’re keeping this interview clean, okay? Nice words only!

 Um, okay… I thought attic was a nice word, but perhaps you prefer the storage unit above a house? Anyway, it shot straight up into the a—the storage place, and out the window, bounced on the sidewalk and knocked down all his Christmas decorations before it bounced all the way to Elf Central and gave Fancy Nancy Elf a concussion.

 I… what? How did… never mind. On to question two—

 But you’ve already asked me, like, four questions.

 *sigh* Yes, George, you’re right. Next question, where does poo go?

 (shocked expression) Wow, your readers are very strange. Why would anyone want to know where poo goes?

 Look, I’m just the writer. I ask what the readers want to know.

 Well, we, ya know… poo, then it gets sucked down into this pipe thing. After that, it flows through a big grate where the bigger things are filtered out. Then, it goes to another treatment plant where—

 Wait, so it’s like a regular sewage treatment plant?

 I’m not done. Don’t interrupt, MJ. So anyway, the solids are collected, and the rest moves to another treatment where micro-organisms—

 George, this is just like a human sewage treatment plant.

 You’re annoying for an author, did you know

 I created you, George. I can erase you if I want to, so don’t be mean.

 Sorry, won’t happen again (wipes sweat from brow.) Anyway, once the micro-organisms eat everything, the broken-down solids are transported for use as fertilizer while the treated water is released into the ocean.

 *Blinking and annoyed* Yes, like I said, just like—

 Next question, please. I’m on a tight schedule.

 Fine. Can you explain the whole accidentally killing humans thing you mentioned your father doesn’t like?

 Uh… does your father like it when you kill people?

 I don’t… that’s not what… have you killed people, George?

 What?! No! Why would elves kill people?

 I meant by accident. Have any accidents lead to the death of a human?

No, who told you there were? Who? Nobody said anything about accidentally killing any humans, and if they did, they are liars! You can check the records, and you’ll see there have been no human-killing incidents.

 Right… okay, moving on. So, we’ve heard there are a lot of instructional videos you watch during Elf training. Can you tell us about them?

 Where were you when you wrote the end of my story? Were you not listening to yourself? You literally eliminated them from the curriculum when you made me Santa.

 I do not like your attitude, George. I made you Santa, and I can take it away and give the title to the other, less-awesome George anytime I want.

 Don’t be preposterous! We both know you wouldn’t… wait… would you?

 (Arches eyebrow and taps pencil on paper.)

 Heh… uh, well… this is awkward. Um, yes, the instructional videos. Well, there was one on avoiding fires in fireplaces, how to hide from drunk humans, what to do if a child sees you… all basic stuff really.

 So, in other words, you don’t remember because you didn’t pay attention in class?

 Precisely. You know me well.

 Well, what about TOD?

 What about him? He’s doing well. His wife just had a set of triplets and boy can they scream. Once, they screamed so loud folks in Greenland heard them. It was quite the ruckus around there for a while, earthquakes and—

 Wait, George, I meant TOD the reindeer communication system.

 Ohhhhh, yeah, well we had a lot of crashes, so we invented a way to hear the reindeer think. I mean to tell you the truth, I’m not sure why a reindeer would fly straight into a nuclear reactor just because an elf told them to. You’d think they’d have better self-preservation instincts.

 A nuclear reactor?

 Yeah, in Chernobyl.

 In… I have a feeling I don’t want to know what else you elves have done.

 Likely not.

 I’m too afraid to ask so we’ll skip ahead to the incident in Roswell, New Mexico. What happened?

 Oh, yes, the alien thing. I don’t get why humans believe in aliens. It’s silly, really, but anyway… Bob Elf, rest his soul—

 Wait, he died?!

 No, he’s just resting in front of the fireplace down at the North Pole Mall. What is wrong with you? You’re so morbid.

 But you said… never mind, just tell the story.

 Okaaay… so his reindeer was acting strangely, bucking around and thrashing in the harness but old Bob didn’t pay him any mind. Well, he flew right past the great big sign announcing the area was off limits and under control of the United States Military. Apparently, they take their no-fly zones seriously, and they shot at him! He crashed into a tree and the sleigh caught on fire. Bob and his reindeer, Zachariah, they got out okay, but boy did it cause a commotion on that base! To this day they think that old, burned up sleigh is a flying saucer—which is strange because it doesn’t look like a saucer.

 I see, so this along with the events of which we will not speak, all sparked the need for TOD?

 No, Tod’s mom and dad sparked the need for—Ohhhhh… you mean, ha, sorry. Yes, TOD was designed by Morton Elf to help us read the reindeer’s thoughts, so we don’t make any mistakes like that again.

 Nice. Can you tell us about the toy Jack in the Box?

 Oh, poor old Jack Elf. See, one time he decided to hide in a box to scare the Big Guy himself, only it wasn’t a box at all, not the packing kind. It was actually a casket for Santa’s deceased goldfish.

 Wait that must’ve been a huge goldfish?

 Well, it liked to eat. So, anyway, poor Jack had no idea he was inside the final resting place for Smiley the goldfish. When they lowered him into the ground and covered him with dirt, he finally realized he was getting buried alive! Then POP out came Jack to scare the bejesus out of everyone. Poor Santa… let’s just say my brother got the job the next day.

 That sounds ominous. What happened to the old Santa?

 He had a heart attack and died, duh. Where have you been?

 You… but you said I’m morbid for… oh, my gosh, just forget it. What kind of mileage does your sleigh get, the energy efficient ones that run on marshmallows?

 Oh, that’s easy. It gets 287x/619y(2.67xy)+9.9874x/3.225yz marshmallows per gallon.

 *blank stare*

 *eye roll* That’s about one hundred miles per marshmallow, the mini kind. Now if you use the large ones you get—

 Don’t! It doesn’t matter.

 But if you use marshmallow fluff, then—

 Ah! No! Next question. Please tell us about the excessive use of force against Henry Elf.

 Oh man, that was awful, just awful. He’s still traumatized by that. See, Henry went to deliver presents at a corporate Christmas party in New York City. There was eggnog left over so—

 Hang on, he was delivering gifts to an office building?

 Yeah, why not?

 But… no one lives there, George.

 That’s not the point.

 It is the point. If no one lives there, why would he deliver presents there?

 You make a solid point. I… have no idea. We just go where the list tells us to go, leave the presents, and get out.

 Who makes the list?

 I do, of course. That’s Santa’s job.

 If you make the list, then why do you send people to corporate offices?

 To deliver gifts, obviously.

 But no one lives there, so why are you delivering gifts to no one?

 I fail to understand your line of questioning. Can I just tell you the story?

 Go on.

 So, he drank the nog and got so drunk, like so, so drunk he was tripping everywhere when he got back. He knocked over the annual Christmas tree and was just acting like a doofus. He even hit on Mrs. Claus! We couldn’t have an inebriated elf running around, so Thomas Elf tackled him while Gregory Elf blew sugarplum dust in his face. Henry slept it off in the wrapping room and woke up with green polka-dotted paper stuck to his face. He thought he had some kind of strange pox and went running around again. Well, we had to dust him again, but this time we put him in sorting. Well, he woke up there and fell into a crate headed for—

 Does this story have a happy ending?

 Yes.

 Can we get to it?

 Sure. The end.

 Great, so the taffy making incident.

 I don’t want to talk about that.

 We must. People want to know. I get it’s traumatic, but this is a safe place to talk, George. I won’t judge you.

 But they might.

 They won’t.

 But they might.

 They won’t, George. They love you.

 *narrows eyes* Are you sure?

 I’m sure. Tell us about the taffy incident.

 There was taffy. It was sticky. The end.

 Nope. The whole story, George.

 *sighs* Fine. Annie Elf was… well, see… man, this is embarrassing. Annie Elf was trying to flirt with me and… do I hafta tell?

 Yep. If you don’t, I’ll just write about it later.

 Fine. She was flirting with me and accidentally walked between Carol Elf and the taffy machine. She got stuck in the taffy and when I tried to help her… the taffy got stuck and mlsdkadsdnfsdkf.

 And what? You mumbled nonsense, George.

 Grr… the taffy got stuck on my pants, and when the conveyor belt moved forward, it ripped my pants off. There, happy now. Stop laughing. Seriously, it’s not funny! How would you like it if your pants got ripped off and you got taffy stuck all over your body? It’s like a whole body waxing only with fruity flavored taffy!

 Still funny.

 Not funny. I have scars and emotional trauma from that incident. Not to mention we had to shut down production for two weeks to clean the mess. The whole time people just kept laughing at me and… hey… I’m Santa now! I can fire them all!

 You could, but then you’d have to do all the work.

 Oh yeah. Fudgesicles.

 Okay, we’re almost done. We all know how Camilla became an elf and how you almost died, rather than become human—

 You mean how you almost killed me? Right, ‘cause that’s what happened. You gave me three crummy choices, and you were all mean about it until the end. I really thought you were gonna kill me!

 Sorry, George. But can you tell us how many people walking around out there used to be elves?

 How would I know?

 You’re Santa. Don’t you keep a record?

 No! I thought that was your job? Oh man, was I supposed to keep records of everyone you tried to kill?

 No, I wasn’t saying—forget it, George.

 I’m sorry, but I cannot forget how you almost killed me. Impossible.

 I was never going to kill you. The plan was always for you to have a happy ending with Camilla.

 Well, you could have told me that to start with!

 I’m so sorry, George. Will it make you feel better if I tell you there will be a sequel?

 A whatwell?

 A sequel. Another story about you and your family, specifically Elanor.

 Wait a minute! You’re not going to hurt Eleanor, are you?

 Absolutely not. I would never hurt your daughter, George. Would you like to tell the readers what Eleanor’s story will be about?

 How should I know? You haven’t written it yet.

 I think you know what it’ll be about. Think about it.

 Oh! How could I forget? Yes, it will be about that time she accidentally flew her—

 No, not that. The other thing.

 The epic disaster in wrapping last week?

 No, the one with the boy.

 Oh, yeah… him. (rolls eyes) Yes, let me share the blurb with the readers (looks at me expectantly).

 Oops, oh yeah, here it is.

 Thanks. Okay here goes…

 Eleanor Elf has a legacy she takes very seriously. She’s the jolliest, merriest, happiest elf in all the North Pole. She kind of has to be, she is Santa’s daughter after all, but poor Eleanor finds it difficult to fit in. She hasn’t found her special talent just yet. Some elves are good at wrapping, others are great candy makers, some bakers, some are expert organizers… Eleanor can’t seem to do anything right, but she really, really wants to. One Christmas Eve, Santa discovers a boy who gave up. He stopped believing. His name disappeared from the Good List, but Eleanor doesn’t understand why. She’s determined to figure out what changed Simon Zane. He’d always been good, until that night. Eleanor steals a sleigh and heads to Simon’s house to find out what she can do to restore Simon’s faith and bring him back into the good graces of Santa Clause. There was just one problem with Eleanor’s plan. She never thought she’d fall in love.

Thanks for reading my interview with George! You can discover what his daughter is up to in The Chimney Sweep’s Daughter next December!

 

Ashes to Ashes – Five Questions

It’s that time! Ashes to Ashes, Volume Two in The Immortal Grimm Brothers’ Guide to Sociopathic Princesses is now available for e-book pre-order through Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble! Order now for the December 15 release date! The paperback should be available by December 20! Now, let’s answer the five most asked questions about the sequel to Snow Kissed!

How is Ashes to Ashes different from Snow Kissed?

So many ways! You’ll see a lot of similarity in the first couple of chapters. This is only to get you back into the groove, then Ashes shoots off in an entirely different direction with a surprising heroine! The battles are bigger, the twists are sharper, and there might be more than one villain in the story!

Is the family dynamic the same?

Yes and no. Calla was a lucky girl who found adoptive parents who were very supportive. She forged some tight family bonds with her siblings and many others. While the bonds are also tight in book two, there are some sad differences between Sierra and Cecily’s story and Calla’s that are made clear from the very beginning.

What big twists can we expect?

I don’t want to spoil it! I can say this, there is A LOT going on behind the scenes and Ashes will touch on that a few times. Where Snow Kissed introduced the ideas and set up the world, Ashes takes you deeper into that world and builds on the mystery of “the big bad.” Something major is coming in this series, and Ashes tees it up.

Who is your favorite character in Ashes?

I think my favorite will be a fan favorite. No question, I loved writing Jack Thomas. He’s about as lovable a character as I am capable of writing I believe. And *spoiler alert* shh… he’s also a primary character in Volume Three!

When we think Cinderella, her glass slipper comes to mind. Why fire and no shoe in this volume?

The burning question (lol)… Honestly, I tried. I did, but I couldn’t come up with a creepy, yet non-gross way of utilizing the shoe the same way I used the apple in Snow Kissed. In Snow Kissed, the apple is almost synonymous with Snow. It’s her calling card. When the apples rot, you know she’s somewhere doing something unsavory.

In Cinderella, the shoe grossness was carried out by her stepsisters in a pitiful attempt to fool the prince. Cinderella (unlucky for her) just so happened to fit perfectly into that bloody shoe. To me, it didn’t signify Cinderella’s power as a character. Her name, however, is a calling card in itself. Cinderella, or Cindersoot in some versions, was a nickname given to her because she was always sooty from cleaning the fireplace. It felt more like her. Besides, lighting things on fire was much more fun than bloody feet! So, that’s why there’s no shoe and lots of fire!

Don’t forget to pre-order your copy today for download December 15! And stay tuned for Volume Three announcements coming this spring!

Final Front Cover

 

New Collaboration!

Hello Squad! It’s been a while since I updated my blog. I have no excuse except to say I’ve been slammed with book releases, playing catch-up, and co-writing a book with a friend of mine. I have so much to update, but I won’t throw it all on you at once. If you’d like to get all the juicy details, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter, The Mindful Dramatist, on my website at http://www.mjpadgettbooks.com! The November newsletter will release on November 15, and will have a link for a FREE e-book just in time for the holidays so sign up soon!

Since most of my blog followers are Wattpad fans (If you found me through another avenue and have no idea what Wattpad is, you fan find it here: https://www.wattpad.com/) , I decided to focus on my co-written book called The Extraordinary Extraterrestrial Love Lives of Doppelgangers in this blog post. The book was written with my friend, Crystal Crawford, a fellow author I met on Wattpad. It will release directly to our Wattpad account @ConsiderateMalice on Thursday, November, 22. Yep, on Thanksgiving Day! So, while you wait for the turkey to roast, you can read the prologue and chapter one off our alien romance—which is not nearly as weird as it sounds. Okay, it probably is, but that’s okay! It’s fun and lighthearted, filled with awkwardness, a little brooding, lots of humor, and—most importantly—a sweet love story or two.

While you’re on Wattpad, give Crystal a follow @CCrawfordWriting, then follow our joint account @ConsiderateMalice (our lovely name is explained on in our biography.) Now for the fun part, the cover release and blurb! Read on for an interview with my co-author!

Cover

Blurb/Summary: 

What happens when two normal girls find themselves in the middle of an intergalactic conspiracy? Romance, of course… what else?

Grace and Alexia are two strangers who live in the same city and who, unbeknownst to them, share the same face. They also happen to be the targets of alien spies, who aren’t sure which girl overheard sensitive information. When two extraterrestrial hot guys from warring planets come to find out what the girls know and whether their planets are at risk, things go a little bit crazy on Earth. Grace and Alexia must come together to save themselves… and their planet… and the men they love… in this fast-paced, romantic suspense comedy co-written by MJ Padgett and Crystal Crawford.

Love triangles, tension, comedy, angst, suspense, mystery… this book has ALL the feels. Oh, and did we mention it has aliens?
Join Grace and Alexia for the adventure of their lives… if they can survive it!

Interview with Crystal Crawford of CCrawford Writing!

1. Have you always wanted to be a writer? When/what made you pursue writing as a career?

I cannot remember a time that I wasn’t writing something. I wrote my first “book” in kindergarten — a story about my dog that my teacher bound with a little fabric cover. I used to climb up in trees and spend hours writing stories and poems. But I never really thought of writing as a possible career, until perhaps college, when I decided to study it. It’s just been always something I’ve done, and the times I’ve gone months or even years without writing, I feel… frustrated. Like something is missing. I’m happier when I’m writing.

2. What are your favorite books/series? Why?

I love books that surprise me but also make me feel. Harry Potter is one of my favorites. Inkheart (and its sequel)… Ender Games (though I think I liked the Bean spin-offs even better), Wheel of Time series… oh, and Name of the Wind. Patrick Rothfuss writes almost like poetry.

I love fantasy, but also romance… preferably a mix of both. The Hunger Games left me with a book-hangover for days when I finished the series. I like that, even though it’s unsettling. I loved Jane Eyre and I developed a love for Shakespeare (it’s an acquired taste) and I haven’t read much Dickens but I love David Copperfield. As a kid I read more adventure/drama, especially animal-related books like Julie of the Wolves and Island of the Blue Dolphins. I love animals, always have. It was my other career.

3. If you had to choose one author to read for the rest of your life, who would it be?

Oh wow. That’s hard. Is the Bible an answer? Lol.

Other than that, I’m going to say MJ Padgett, because I learn a ton from reading and co-writing with her.

4. What do you like most about writing fantasy?

The discovery of it. Exploring an entire world, the freedom to make something completely new. In fantasy, whatever you can imagine, you can do… as long as you can figure out how to make it work. I love the challenge of that, puzzling it all out and that magical feeling when it all clicks together.

5. You mentioned once that the idea for your Legends of Arameth series came to you about ten years ago. What made you finally decide to write about Lex and his world?

A couple years ago, I did NaNoWriMo, and started a totally new fantasy story. It didn’t go well. Something just wasn’t clicking. And then suddenly I realized that the world I’d set up could totally be the same world I’d created for the other one, with just a few small changes. I combined the worlds, put all the characters in the same place — which I’d never planned on doing, at first — and suddenly it all made sense. This fantasy world I’d created ten years before but didn’t know what to do with had a purpose. And The Lex Chronicles was born.

6. What is the best piece of advice anyone had ever given you?

Just write. It doesn’t have to be perfect — it can even be bad, because you can always fix it later! — but it does have to be written. I was the worst at talking myself out of a story… it’s dumb, it’s not original enough, where are you even going with this, no one will want to read this. The advice to just write, let it be terrible if it needs to but write… that changed everything for me.

7. What advice do you have for new writers who want to publish their own work? Any advice for young authors who are just getting started?

This builds on the last one. It turns out, the more you write the better you get. So the secret to being a good writer is pretty simple, really — write. A lot. Write and read and write and read, as much as you can. Let it be an obsession, that’s okay, writers are weird anyway and you can use that excuse. Get feedback. Be okay receiving criticism, because we all get tunnel-vision and sometimes readers’ feedback is the key to unlocking exactly how to make your story better. Take what’s useful, reject the rest… but be humble. If everyone is saying the same thing, they may be right. Keep an open mind.

For young writers: Don’t think your current level of writing is all you’ve got. Whether you think you’re great (most young writers do) or terrible, the truth is you haven’t reached your max yet. You can always do better, and there’s no magic solution. Read good writing, pay attention to what those authors do and how, study the craft however you can and then practice it. Again and again and again. This has been said before, and it’s something that’s helped me a lot: most writers give up. If you refuse to give up, you’re already in the minority. If it’s really what you want to do, don’t let anyone — especially yourself — convince you it’s impossible. Treat it like a calling, like a job, whatever works for you… but commit to writing regularly, daily if you can, and then write. A lot. Til your eyes blur or your brain implodes. Writing is not for the faint of heart but there’s also nothing quite like finishing a novel that makes people cry. If it’s your dream, make it happen. It’s on you. No one else can write your story.

The Chimney Sweep – Five Questions

The Chimney Sweep is coming in November! Here’s what you need to know, and why you should absolutely read this novella!

 

Q:  What is The Chimney Sweep about?

A:  George Elf is sick and tired of stuffing gifts down chimneys. He wants a life of adventure, but he’s stuck repeating the same routine every year. One night, he makes a bit too much noise and wakes a human—a detective who’s pretty sure he’s a drug addict breaking into her home. After a night of misunderstandings and adventure, George finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place. He must choose between three options handed down to him by the Big Elf himself, Santa Claus. He only has a week to figure out what he wants before he disappears forever.

Q:  What genre is the novella?

A:  It’s difficult to categorize, but if I had to… romance? There’s a love story at the core, but it’s also a bit of a coming-of-age story for George as he learns about humans and where he fits in the grand scheme of life. It’s a comedic approach to something sweet and sentimental, with a touch of heart-achy sadness. There’s also a ton of fourth-wall breaking to be had, so get ready to talk to yourself regularly.

Q:  What rating is The Chimney Sweep?

A:  Probably a solid PG-13. It does deal with death and heartache, but there are no “adult” situations that are found in most romance novels/novellas. A few kisses, but nothing more. It’s a fun read that would probably be okay for 15 and up.

Q:  Why should I read The Chimney Sweep?

A:  Do you like to laugh? Yes? That’s why. On a serious note, it captures the sentimentality of Christmas, injects it with a bit of humor, love, and sarcasm, then presents it to you in a neatly-wrapped package with a bright red bow.

Q:  Can we expect a sequel, or another story related to The Chimney Sweep?

A:  Maybe! I haven’t ruled it out, but it would definitely be released closer to the holiday. Keep your eyes peeled November 2019!

(Psst… check below for an excerpt from the book!)

Front Cover

Excerpt from The Chimney Sweep!

She held the shotgun up, aiming at my chest. Oh, you thought I was short, didn’t you? That’s another misconception about elves. No pointy ears, normal height, normal weight, and we don’t always wear red and green. Okay, so maybe we wear red and green a lot, but the rest of that stuff is all made up.

“Who are you?” she demanded. Well, that’s a loaded question, no pun intended.

“G-G-George,” I stuttered. I’d never met a normal person before, definitely not one who aimed to take my head off, so I was nervous. Who am I kidding? I was wishing I hadn’t had that last mug of hot cocoa, because her domineering presence in the room made me want to pee my pants.

“Well, G-G-George, what are you doing in my house?”

My lips parted, but words failed to escape. I felt so pulled to her after the sarcasm fell from her lips, I almost forgot she was willing to kill me. She was a woman after my own heart.

And here’s where things started to get a bit dicey. I know it was already bad. She was holding a gun on me, but things could always get worse. We elves have a script for this kind of thing. We’re supposed to convince them they’re dreaming and get them back to bed, then make a mad dash for the sleigh and get the heck out of Dodge. But when I looked into those emerald eyes again, I knew she wouldn’t buy it. So, I went off-script, which is bad. Very bad. You see, whenever an adult human learns of the existence of elves, an elf dies a terrible, painful death.

I’m kidding. Had you going though, didn’t I? But seriously, she could have shot me and fed me to her dog, and not a soul would know because, you know, I’m a mythical creature. But I did it anyway. I mean, if I’m going to die it may as well be at the hands of a beautiful creature. Where was I? Oh yeah, shotgun.

“Uh, I’m not sure you’ll believe me if I tell you the truth.” I’ll admit, it wasn’t the best way to gain her trust, but it was all I had.

“I’m a detective. I doubt there’s anything you could say that would shock me,” she replied, never letting the gun drop.

I didn’t blame her, honestly. Who wouldn’t be terrified if someone dropped down your chimney one night carrying a bag big enough to stuff a body in? On top of that, I don’t look like most humans. I mean, I am human, we’ve already discussed that, but I am what my mother calls “devilishly handsome.” My hair is black, and my eyes are so deep a shade of brown, they appear black in dim lighting. My sharp features only add to the illusion that I am the devil himself. I swear I’m a nice guy, but to her, I looked like the devil come to take her to Hell.

“I… I’m an elf. I’m here to… uh, deliver presents?” It was meant to be a statement, but at that point, even I was questioning who I was and what I was doing.

Her green eyes took me in, top to bottom, several times. A wicked smile spread across her face before she erupted into a fit of laughter. She lowered the gun long enough to calm herself, but I suspected that she could easily prepare herself and shoot me in the gut before I could take a single step in her direction. She was beautiful indeed, but she carried an air of authority and dominance, and I dare not challenge it, especially in her own home.

“What are you on, idiot?” She maintained her relaxed frame, but her grip on the gun remained true.

“What am I on? I don’t understand? Um… on, what am I… oh! The floor! I’m on the floor!” I took a chance and lowered my arms to my sides, careful not to appear as if I were reaching for something. I learned that when I watched a western movie at the Elf Library.

“No, I meant, what are you taking?” she asked again, frustration lacing her tone.

“Oh, I see. No, no, I’m not a burglar. I’m an elf. I leave things. I do not take them,” I replied, quite satisfied with my answer and assuming she would be also. I wasn’t there to steal her things, so that should make her happy, I reasoned. She sighed and closed her eyes, took a breath and spoke again.

“Drugs, idiot. What drugs have you been taking?” she asked. “Methamphetamines? That has to be it. You’re hopping around like a meth addict.”

“Uh… elves don’t use meth. We tried it once, but it slows us down. We couldn’t meet our daily toy-making quota.” I replied, then she rolled her eyes and picked up her cell phone from the counter beside her, checking the time.

“It’s late, so the shelters are already closed. I’m sorry, I’ll have to take you to the precinct until I can get you to a shelter or something tomorrow.”

“You don’t understand. I’m not a criminal on drugs. I’m an elf and I’m…” I realized telling her would never convince her of the truth. I had to show her. “Okay listen, just go look on the roof where I parked the sleigh, and I swear you’ll believe me,” I begged.

“You want me to leave you alone in my house while I go outside to look for reindeer on the roof?” she asked, skeptical as all adult humans are.

“Precisely,” I said. Now she was getting the idea!

She stood staring at me for a long time before she raised the shotgun and waved it toward the door. “You first elf man.”

Psych Ward – Five Questions (Plus One For Fun)

Psych Ward is coming October 1!

Here’s what you need to know.

Q:  Why is Psych Ward different from other thrillers?

A:  Have you ever read a thriller and thought the characters were a little too put together? Especially the civilians thrown into the drama? Think of Psych Ward as a peek into how normal, non-violent, civilians might behave if suddenly tossed into the deep end with a dozen assassins and spies, bad guys around every corner, non-stop action, and nagging love stories that just won’t die. I think a lot of people will relate to Chase because he’s a normal guy who got royally screwed over by his girlfriend. He’s mad, and he wants answers. He’s dramatic, confused, and can’t quite move on until he’s satisfied his sweet tooth. Psych Ward has a little of everything: mystery, romance, action, loads of sarcasm, humor, and a lot of running (like, a LOT).

Q:  Is Psych Ward a fast or slow-paced read?

A:  There are a few slower parts to build the history and to transition between action sequences, but for the most part it’s go, go, go! They are in a fight for their lives, after all.

Q:  What can we expect from other books in the series?

A:  The second and third books are prequels to Psych Ward. Those volumes will bring the reader up to speed and offer a solid foundation for why the incidents in Psych Ward occur. You’ll learn a lot more about a few characters from book one, but the feel will be the same—a mix of trained assassins and a few bumbling civilians. The rest of the series picks up after the events in Psych Ward and dives deeper into—well, why would I tell you when you can just read and find out?

Q:  What rating would you give Psych Ward and the entire Assassin’s Memoir Series?

A:  R-rated, definitely. There are scenes with violence and mayhem, loads of adult language and situations, graphic depictions of murder, etc. I wouldn’t read this one to my child as a bedtime story for sure!

Q:  Why did you choose to write a thriller? You usually write YA or comedic romance.

A:  I wanted to try something different, but it turns out I’m a little too sarcastic for the thriller genre. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t turn off the sarcasm and focus on murdering people. That said, I thought “what the heck?” and added MORE sarcasm and sass, pushed the characters to their absolute limits, and threw in a touch of comedic relief. Voila! I wrote a thriller that portrays real people. Let’s face it. We’d all like to think we could Jason Bourne our way out of a hot mess, but, it’s just not that easy.

Q:  Why did you use a pen name for this series:

A:  Because I love my Young Adult readers, and I would hate to give them nightmares. I wanted to differentiate this series from my usual work. To do that, I chose to work under a different name, so it didn’t appear in the searches for my YA work.

Final Front Cover with Penname

photo credit to Zachary Jayden, Popwrapped

Cover model Daniel Rengering, RengerINC.

 

Snow Kissed – Five Questions

Snow Kissed
Five Questions

Snow Kissed is coming soon! Below are five of the most commonly asked questions surrounding my new series!

Q: What exactly is Snow Kissed?

A: Who doesn’t love a good retelling of a classic story? Snow Kissed is my imagination running wild with inspiration from the Grimm Brothers’ version of Snow White. But it’s more than a retelling. It’s taking the tale you know and turning it topsy turvy. Who knew Snow White was so mean?

Q: What is the series, The Immortal Grimm Brothers’ Guide to Sociopathic Princesses, about?

A: First, unlike The Secret Author Series, the books in TIGBGSP series must be read in order. Each book tackles a different fairy tale, all derived from the Grimm Brothers’ versions (though many originated long before the brothers were born). The series of six books has an underlying evil that is exposed in book six, but if you read carefully you might figure out what the root of all evil is before the final installment! Why the long series name? Why not? Ha, I struggled with a series name for a while, but this one made people laugh, so I went with it.

Q: What is the target age range?

A: As with The Yellow Note, there is no cussing and no overly adult situations. There are instances of kissing, but nothing more. There is, however, a decent amount of violence. You can’t defeat an evil queen without, you know, killing her. If you let your child read The Hunger Games or The Divergent Series, then this would be just fine. I would approximate the age range to be 12-18, but many adults have enjoyed reading it as well.

Q: When will the second book, Ashes to Ashes, come out?

A: Ashes to Ashes has been written and is in the first round of beta reads! I would love to say it will be out this year, but it’s more likely it will release early 2019. I have another book release soon and plans to release a Christmas-themed comedic novella by November, so those will keep me busy.

Q: How can I get an advanced reading of Ashes to Ashes?

A: You can request to be a beta reader, that’s how! Contact me for details.

Kindle Cover