Monday, May 1, 2023

Introducing The Tournament of Princes


Hello, everyone. I'm having an interesting year as I learn to balance my writing schedule with caring for a baby. I've been releasing one chapter each week of The Spectra Crown Tales in kindle vella, which means one full book every six months or so. In quieter moments (I love naptime!), I build up episodes for a second project. Since The Captain's Dowry is now out in the world, it's time to start a new second project.
So, I would like to introduce you to...

The Tournament of Princes 
Impersonate a prince. Win a crown. Stop an Empire. If Collis can enter the emperor's tournament to become his heir, he could create his own legend and stop the war for good. But the legends he loves never mentioned dust or blood, and the heroes had useful companions, not a child without fire abilities, an escaped slave, or his mother. Yet Collis will need them to cross the desert, survive the tournament, and beyond.

The Tournament of Princes started, as most of my stories do, as a daydream--or rather, a series of daydreams. The Vliek Empire is harsh, inside a harsh desert world, and I've set many of my own private stories there. When I first began planning to write it down, I knew that my favorite main character, Trissali, would be the mother of the YA hero of this story, and that she would play a major role (forget damsels in distress, mothers have it even worse, narratively speaking). It may be a bit grittier than my fairytale retellings, but I'm still aiming for a PG-13 rating, if it were a movie.

Inspirations for this story include everything from Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors to Avatar: The Last Airbender (more for plot and pacing than worldbuilding). In the Spectra world, this story takes place between Mira's Griffin and DreamRovers. Some of the six kingdoms have been fully established, but people are still learning and defining their abilities, so some of the politics and magic terminology are different than later books. The Tournament of Princes could be seen as a origin story for the Cole Kingdom.

You can read the first chapter completely free here (though you do have to sign in to your amazon account), and I'll also include the beginning below. The Tournament of Princes is currently exclusive to kindle vella, though I will probably publish it as a full book at some point. I'll be uploading one short episode every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I hope to see you there!
Sneak Peek:
As promised, here is the opening of The Tournament of Princes:

Dust rose over the desert. From the hills, Trissali saw it coming, and knew what it meant. At long last, the Vlieks had come for her tiny village.  

She could have stayed where she was, hidden in the rocky hills in the desert, but Trissali could not abandon her people.  

She raced down cliffs so quickly she seemed to fly. The cloud of dust spread across the entire sky behind her. The first stone houses came into view. Trissali rushed straight to the village center and rang their warning bell, again and again, until the whole village had gathered. 

Her father was the first to come running, holding two spears. He handed her one of them. “The innocents can escape into the hills,” he said, “but they need time.” 

Trissali accepted the spear, and she and her father alone charged the oncoming horde. 

*   *  * 

Collis let the dramatic pause linger. His audience, all children, waited eagerly. He’d loved these stories at their age too, but now they were the ones who needed protected, and he was old enough to help—as long as they were sufficiently distracted. He lifted a toy wooden spear and, for good measure, summoned a ball of fire. The tip of the spear burst into flames.  

Twelve-year-old Tuya bounced where she stood. The girl’s pale hair, so different than the black and brown of the others, flipped into her eyes. “Awesome!” 

“I can’t wait ‘til I learn fire-shaping,” a little boy said. 

Collis grinned and swung the spear. The fire danced, creating glowing orange light on the drab stone walls of the schoolhouse, a major improvement. The kids laughed and cheered. 

The next oldest after Collis, a fourteen-year-old baker's daughter, glared at the spear, and the fire went out.  “Really, Collis? You’d tell them a story like that at a time like this?” 

He hesitated. “They’re having fun.” 

She pointed to the back wall. Some of the children gathered there, pressed close together. “Our parents are going to fight a real battle.” 

“Some of us don’t have any,” Tuya said. She swallowed her sadness and looked desperately up at Collis. “What happened next?” 

The distraction clearly helped some of the kids. Collis edged further from the ones cowering in the back while the baker’s daughter hurried to them. She was only a year younger, but a lot better than he was at minding the younger ones. 

Collis pulled out the box he’d brought with him and opened the lid. Eleven carved weapons, with details outlined in black, charred wood. “I made you something.” He chose a sword and handed it to Tuya. “Why don’t you act it out and see who won?” 

With whoops and cheers, the small horde descended on the box. 

His collection might not survive, but Collis had bigger priorities. The baker’s daughter had everything in hand. There was no reason he couldn’t slip out. 

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Shall I compare thee to a Shakespeare play?


How do you feel about Shakespeare? I was always indifferent when I had to puzzle out the meanings in high school. Then in college I took a class that focused on the comedies, and I fell in love, so to speak. Funny story: when one of my sons was little, my husband gifted me an omnibus of the works of Shakespeare with a big picture of him on the cover. My toddler would cry "Achey Bear!" when he saw it. Once or twice, he said it about a picture of Jesus at church.

My favorite play is As You Like It. The main character, Rosalind, is courageous and witty and powerful, taking charge and driving her own story. While she falls in love at first sight, she stops and gets to know him before making any major life (or death) choices.

My new book, The Captain's Dowry, started as a daydream about a girl disguised as a boy, a marriage of convenience, and an attractive sea captain. A few chapters in, I noticed the similarities to As You Like It and incorporated the retelling into the story (I was almost done with the rough draft when I realized that some of the subplots could fit beautifully if influenced more by King Lear.)

The Captain's Dowry just came out today in ebook and Kindle Unlimited (it was already in paperback and kindle vella).

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Book Recommendations March 2023


Here are a few books I've enjoyed this month that you might find interesting:
My brother-in-law gifted The Wild Robot to our family, and we loved it so much that we read the sequel as well. They're middle grade, with short chapters that made them perfect to read to our kids each night (although I enjoyed them myself as well). The animals in the first book especially appealed to me, as I studied wildlife in college.
This is my new favorite kindle vella story. It's super cute so far, about a human girl who has to marry a fae prince. The author also wrote another favorite vella of mine, The Assassin Bride, and the two stories take place in the same world.
Here's another kindle vella I've been enjoying lately: Suerhero Saga 1: Trials, Tribulations, and Trust Issues. The teen protagonist has a great sassy voice as she analyzes different superpowers for a corrupt government entity. 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Poem: Cuddled


My baby cries,


or scared,

or just alone.

I cuddle, keep her warm, 

check what she needs.

I play, sing along to my favorite lullabies,

songs that lift and encourage and comfort,

and at last I realize

I have hidden hurts, fears,

sometimes just alone.

I need the cuddles, the warmth and the comfort,

and to check my everyday needs.

We need the darkness,

so in clinging together, we find light.

She needs me.

I need her.

I need me.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Book Recommendations February 2023


Here are a few books that I've read recently and recommend:

There are two books out in this series now, and I love both. It's an exciting paranormal adventure, but the main hero is the middle-aged mom! I know quite a few of us who still love the YA book style, even if we aren't the target audience any longer, so it was so much fun to be represented in a book like this! Not to mention the action, how seemlessly the fantasy world fits into our reality, and a hero who can be protective and secretive, yet also respectful. 
I laughed out loud. I grinned while reading most of this book. I read snippets to whoever happened to be nearby. Funny, heart-felt, exciting, full of literary allusions, clever, and oh so human, I love everything about this book.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Story Behind the Story: The Dream Realm


A princess with a forbidden power.
A man asleep for a hundred years.

My 12th book baby has been born! The Dream Realm is a YA fantasy retelling of Sleeping Beauty.
The story behind The Dream Realm starts with my very first book series, Keita's Wings. Mostly for the fun of it, I decided to figure out the children of all of my characters from the series, assigning them gender, name, and abilities. I've always thought it would be fun to do a big set of fairytale retellings where the main character of each fairytale could react with each other. I combined those two things to make The Spectra Crown Tales, where each volume features a different royal heir in a different fairytale.

The Dream Realm was originally going to be somewhere in the middle of the list. I moved it up to second because of fan interest in Sleeping Beauty, and because it ties in to the DreamRovers trilogy, which I'd published most recently before this series.

The Dream Realm follows Princess Lilac, second daughter of the Muse king but heir to the throne. She has dreamrover abilities, but her kingdom has looked down on dreamrovers for almost two centuries, so she keeps them secret. You'll also meet Vireo, who has been trapped in sleep for a hundred years, and Lilac's siblings, as powerful as any fairy godmothers. Perrin and Allee, the main characters of the first Spectra Crowns Tale, make an appearance as they try to integrate Spectra (with elemental abilities) and humans. Perrin and Allee were the heroes of Beauty and the Beast, while Lilac's siblings will all have a future story too. Have fun guessing who is who! This list might help.

Sneak peek:

Somewhere out there, Perrin cried out. A moment later, Lilac felt his dreams. She gasped. He was unconscious, probably in danger. 

“No!” Allee’s voice was part shout, part roar. “No more playing nice!” 

Lilac almost felt sorry for the guards. Allee and Perrin had both been holding back. 

The mist cleared. Lilac glimpsed Allee, charging at two figures. The lump beneath them must be Perrin’s body. 

Just before Allee reached them, the attackers vanished. 

Lilac gaped. Dreamrovers? She didn’t want to believe it, but she knew of no other way that Muses could vanish. She rushed forward. She’d been outclassed in the fight, but she was the only one who could follow them. She just needed Perrin’s dreams... 

But Allee reached him first. His dreams faded instantly. He leapt to his feet and waved his arms. The last of the mist vanished. The other guards stood nearby, rubbing their eyes. Lilac studied them warily, but these ones seemed trustworthy.  

One guard ran up to Allee. “Where’d they go?” 

“They ran when they saw me coming,” Allee answered. “Maybe they had Sprite speed.” 

Lilac bit her lip. Speaking up would risk her secret and bring condemnation on her dreamrover friends. They were unpopular already, and they wanted so badly to be regular Castalian citizens. But if she didn’t speak, she’d put her party at risk if the attackers struck again.




A couple years ago, I made a goal for how many books I'd read that year. My mother said something like, "Shouldn't you make a goal for how few books you let yourself read this year?"

I read a lot, but I also read really fast, so it doesn't take much time. This year I've been reading on kindle vella, where I can read small daily chunks of my favorite stories. 

I've been a lot more organized with my writing goals than my reading goals. I publish one chapter every week on kindle vella for my main series, The Spectra Crown Tales, which sets my schedule for when each book comes out as a full book in ebook, kindle unlimited, and paperback. 

Introducing The Tournament of Princes

  Hello, everyone. I'm having an interesting year as I learn to balance my writing schedule with caring for a baby. I've been releas...