As my new novel Tides approaches release day, I am hosting some giveaways to celebrate! This week, I'm sharing about the "why" behind the selections in my three hand-picked novel collections that make up the top prizes. 

Check out the SFF Comics Collection and the SFF Strong (& Unusual) Female Protagonists Collection, too!

The Classics Collection will go to one lucky winner from among those of you who join my ARC readers list to read a free digital copy of Tides and review it on Amazon in the first week of release, between October 31 and November 7.

This was a hard collection to select--the classics are classics for a reason, after all. The list of classic sci-fi and fantasy novels runs deep and holds major cultural implications.

Ultimately, though, I stuck by three that have stuck with long past that first read, and have influenced my writing as I build out The Chronicles of the Third Realm Wars series.

Here they are:

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

This incredible novel gave the world two truly incredible things: The archetype of the mad scientist, and also the tragic monster. I choose this novel for both of these gifts.

From Dr. Jekyll to Dr. Walter Bishop to Lex Luthor, the mad scientist is one of my all time favorite sci-fi tropes--and one of the most feasible. The lure of knowledge--and the power that comes with it--is just too great, and ultimately, I think we're all mad scientists at heart.

Then, of course, there are the consequences of that drive. Frankenstein's monster has grown a shadow in our culture even greater than his character on the page. Though capable of terrible things, ultimately he's sad, troubled, and lonely.

Adem emerged from my imagination out of the same dark corner where that poor guy lurks.

The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkein

I am not, by and large, a Tolkein fan--a statement that I know could get my "fantasy author" card revoked, but it is what it is. And while you could not pay me to re-read The Hobbit, Tolkein's collection of Middle Earth mythology bewitched me from the first page.

I've always had a great love for mythology, and I find Tolkein's writing style particularly suited to it. Personally, I have greater respect for Tolkein's creation of a complete mythology for his world than I do for making up his own language.

This collection is stunning. Will you lose track of who's who? Absolutely. Almost immediately. But the language and imagery is so lovely it doesn't matter.

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury

Now look, it's possible you have heard me rave over Ray Bradbury once or twice before, but I'm doing it again anyhow. The man deserves it, and this incredible novel double deserves it.

This may be my most-read book of all time, and I've got the beaten up paperback to prove it. I will forever say that this is Bradbury's greatest work, and that's saying a lot when the same man also produced Farenheit 451. 

This novel dances seamlessly between science fiction and fantasy, and artfully crafts an alien planet into a complex portrait of humanity. As rich in prose as it is in imagination, the short stories that make up this novel are etched deeply into my soul with its magical blend of wonder, nostalgia and strangeness.

Want to win this collection? Join my ARC reader list and get your digital copy of Tides--this is the last week to join! 

Share this post!

To say that  Greece had some of the most breathtaking, stop-walking-and-stare moments of my life would just be silly, because Greece is well known for this trait. (Just check Pinterest.)

But I have to say it, because I may never get over it--not just how beautiful scenes caught me off guard, but how frequently it happened. We're talking every few steps.

Nothing makes me relax like being near water. Water this incredilby blue and clear was awe-inspiring. If you ask me, as a writer, if you're not taking time to clear your mind and seek out inspiration, you're simply not doing your job.

From that perspective, I worked so friggin' hard on this trip, you guys. So. Hard.

So for today's Greek Week post, I wanted to share a few of those moments, even if my amateur no-filters photography can't come close to doing it justice. Enjoy!

Share this post!

Next week, I have a short story coming out as part of a collective called The Alvarium Experiment, around the theme of Masters Revisited. 

For the collection, each author is taking a classic work of fiction and putting a speculative fiction twist on it. I chose Jane Eyre.

Jane finally found her happily ever after. But can she remain content as the ghost of Mr. Rochester's first wife haunts her? In this reimagining of Jane Eyre, Bertha has a dark secret she must share, leaving Jane to choose between her independent mind and her soul's yearning for love.

Doesn't this cover just give you chills? The Alvarium Experiment's Charles Cornell really captured the story's tone perfectly.

Jane Eyre is more than a story to me. It's a mirror. Every time I pick it up, my assessment of Jane as a character, her life's events, and her unusual relationship with Mr. Rochester leaves me unsettled in a different way than the time before. Thus, reading about Jane also tells me how much I have changed since the last time.

Which made it all the more fun to play with for this story. What do you think of Jane Eyre?

More details to come as the release nears!

Share this post!

With a two-week trek through Greece the centerpiece of my month, I've got mythology on my brain this month. Mythology has always captured my imagination in a unique way. Something about those naughty, all-powerful gods and those incredible, larger-than-life monsters.

Greek mythology is the set of mythical stories I learned earliest in life, and it has a special place within my imagination (if you want proof, just read Mud). In fact, it was a major driver behind my desire to go to Greece in the first place.

I promise, pictures and stories from my actual trip are coming very soon! But in the meantime, behold this list of my very favorite contemporary novels inspired by Greek mythology, over at Book Riot.

Share this post!

Another BookRiot post up from yours truly.

This time, I'm talking about how I came to stop caring about reading the book before watching a screen adaptation of a story (sacrilege, I know!).

Here's a clip for you:

The more creative writing I do, and the more time I spend with other writers and creatives, the less high-minded I am about art and creativity in general.

I am less worried about holding onto that one new magical idea (they tend to come back to me, and I already have more than I can deal with); I am less concerned about making sure the words at the end of a chapter are utterly perfect (I’ll fix it in rewrites); and yeah, I’m a lot less precious about where and how I consume stories from the rest of the world.

Read the full article here.

Share this post!

My debut novel, Mud, turned a year old last week. I've been celebrating with my email subscribers all week long iwth a $.99-sale on the novel, and a series of secrets about the novel's sequel, Tides, which releases in August.
It's been a blast! And as it turns out, I'm a terrible secret-keeper, because as fun as it's been to explore these secrets one-by-one, I couldn't resist extending the sale one last day (buy Mud before midnight, ya'll!) and sharing a recap of the secrets:

7 Little Secrets about Tides:

1. Adem looks really different from another character's eyes.
2. Rona takes no shit on a good day ... and she has no good days in Tides.
3. Jordan may be grown up now (barely), but that doesn't mean he's ready for what's about to strike.
4. That thing in Adem’s box? Our crew of heroes isn’t finished with it yet.
5. Remember that border between the realms Adem shattered? All sorts of creepy crawlies are creeping into Terath through it.
6. The gods aren't as engaged as you think.
7. The Tides ... are about to change.
More awesome tidbits about Tides, including a cover reveal and more insights into my thought process as I wrote it, will come as that release date creeps closer.
But for now, get ready by reading the first book in the series. Again, ya'll it's just $.99 if you buy before midnight!

Buy it here:

Share this post!


You've probably heard by now, the movie Passengers held onto a secret in its promo trailers. And viewers are not responding well to it.

And this push back is for a good reason, as this plot secret makes one of the characters--Aurora, played by Jennifer Lawrence--follow a plot arc that seems designed for the convenience of the other character--Jim, played by Chris Pratt.

From a writing standpoint, this is just bad storytelling. Every character should have full agency. No character is a prop. Nothing should ever happen just because that’s how the writer wants the story to end.

But from a societal standpoint, there is an even more serious issue at hand. The issue of female characters being present for the convenience of the male characters. This is a widespread problem that fuels a mentality that women are present for the convenience of men in real life.

Ugh. It's just gross.

The truly grating part of this is that I am able to think of two very easy ways to solve this problem for the film.

I think this is worth talking about, because exploring how we create stories can help us create better stories. And science fiction and fantasy—movies in general—are in need of better stories these days.

So let’s talk solutions. And be warned--I’m not holding back at all here. If you have not seen the movie yet, severe spoilers ahead.

A Big Fat Spoiler

Before we dive into solutions, let's all start on what the big problem is.

So here is the secret in Passengers: Only one of them, Jim, wakes up by accident, as implied in the trailers. Aurora wakes up because Jim gets so desperate and lonely by himself after a year that he falls in love with her in her hibernation tube, digitally stalks her via the ship's digital records of its passengers, and then becomes so obsessed and so lonely that he finally decides to wake her up.

The loneliness in itself is understandable, in that it is so deeply human in its desperation.

The kicker is, of course, that in waking Aurora up, he dooms her to the same fate as himself--living out the rest of their life alone, with no one else, on the ship, never to see the planet they set out to reach, or reach any of the other plans they set out for themselves.

When Aurora finally finds out (due to a misunderstanding between Jim and an android ... just go with it), she is rightfully furious.

So what's the trouble? The plot bends so that she becomes okay with what has happened, and the conclusion of the film is that they have had this incredible private world all to themselves on the ship, and lived this epic love story, all by themselves.

I don't know a single love story that starts with one partner stealing the other's future. You?

Okay. So let's talk ways this plot could have been fixed.

Solution 1: Let Jim Die

There is a point in Passengers when Jim must go outside the ship and manually hold a guard door open while Aurora releases severe heat and flames into the atmosphere. You know, to keep the ship from exploding.

And for a moment, we think he really died. Because severe heat is not a thing humans do well. When he miraculously survives, this is the great turning point moment when Aurora forgives him for waking her up from hibernation and stealing her future from her.

He should have died. Scientifically, and also for the story’s best plot.

Prior to this moment, Aurora had been rightfully furious with Jim for waking her up from her hibernation, which robbed her of the life she had planned for herself.

But as Jim prepares for his heroic space walk, Aurora suddenly flips, realizing what it would mean to be left alone on this ship without him—total isolation for the rest of her life. The movie uses this moment to bring Aurora around to forgive Jim, putting her briefly in his shoes before he woke her up.

I really wish they had put her all the way in his shoes. Just kill Jim. Leave Aurora alone on the ship, angry and self-righteous, and see how long she makes it before she starts eyeing another hibernating passenger.

This is a darker ending, sure. But it says an awful lot about human nature, our need to connect, and how far we’ll go for our own survival.

Also, it’s just so Twilight Zone-y I can hardly handle it.

Solution 2: Gender Swap

Another way Passengers could have dodged the issue (at least the gender issue) is to simply switch the two characters’ genders.

First off, I’d love to see a mechanically adept, lower class woman save the ship, while a male, upper class writer does whatever she instructs him to as an assistant.

Given the gender politics in play, this turning of the tables does a number of good things for the plot all at once. It challenges gender stereotypes, empowers a female character, and turns the tables by making a male character victim of a female gaze.

Or hell, just switch one of their genders. Nothing wrong with that. Two female characters on screen in a movie with almost no other characters? Heck yes. Hollywood sorely needs to expand its definition of a romantic couple to include LGBT. Even a two-male cast would have been refreshing.

The one thing this solution does not do, is resolve the plotting issue of one character’s arc bending to serve the other’s. So this would be a less perfect solution than the first, but if you want to insist on a happy ending, it is still a hugely better way to tell the story.

Storytellers, Stop Taking the Easy Way

The solutions to these problems are often not so hard to come by. It just takes a bit of thinking.

And ya know, this thinking is really important. Movie creators need to be doing it. Authors need to be doing it. All creatives.

And all consumers of that art.

I can’t condemn Passengers the way some have. I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed the movie. I love the concept of being abandoned in space, and I love what Passengers did with it. I love that they are in an enclosed world that is supposed to offer technological solutions for essentially everything, and yet these solutions just keep failing them over and over. I even love the two characters (in part because I am a total sucker for both Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt).

But bending characters to serve a plot is like, I don't know, buying a pair of shoes, and then constructing your entire wardrobe around that pair of shoes. It’s just upside down. Create full, living characters. Then, listen to them. Let them tell you where the plot needs to go ... don't prescribe an ending and then force the pieces into the place!

Share this post!

Over the 12 Days of Books Giveaway, I’m sharing a little about my writing journey so far. And, of course, new ways to enter to win!

It took me five long years to write Mud.

It was the first thing I ever wrote, and I had no idea how to do it. I had no idea where to start, and I had no idea how to get the work done.

Heck. I had no idea just how much work it would take.

The whole 9 to 5 thing was just fine, but there was something in me that it wasn’t fulfilling. I needed something creative to fill it … something that was totally and completely mine, and did not have to be approved by a supervisor, did not have to be presented to a client, something to just be a playground.

I was already a writer, professionally. And I’d been reading my entire life. So, I decided, I would write a book.

I had no idea where to start, so I just started at the beginning.

The story came out one tiny drip at a time, forced into the edges of my life while everything else kept going at full force. Over time I learned how to harness some momentum by getting up a little early each day, and over time I expanded that time to about an hour.

Completing the story often felt like a task that had no end. Each day I’d get maybe another 200 words on the page—some of them okay, a lot of them that would need to be reworked or even deleted later—out of the hypothetical 75,000 it would take to craft a full-length manuscript.

The way it grew often felt so slow that I had to remind myself that it was, in fact, growing. After all, even if it was just another 200 words, it was 200 more words, 200 more than I had yesterday, 200 more to the finish line. Rationally, there had to be an end out there, and I had to be getting closer to it.

And eventually, finally, I did finish. And then the process starts all over again, with a new book.

And that’s really the whole point, when it comes down to it.

Writing is not the finished product. Writing—any art, really—is the process. You have to throw yourself into the process, for the process’s sake.

And that, right there, is the real point of creative work. It fulfills something unstoppable within us.

What do you create?

New ways to win, every day until Christmas Eve

Today's new way to enter: Follow me on Twitter.

Get More Ways to Enter the 12 Days of Books Giveaway:
Share this post!

If you're a writer--or any type of creative--you know that creative ruts just happen sometimes. You stare and stare at the page ... and nothing happens.

Over at Writers Digest, I'm sharing my tips to break free. Check it out!

Share this post!