Mary the Outlaw: Prologue

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I stepped up the creaking stairs leading to the house of evil – the saloon. It was only five minutes past two o’clock in the afternoon on a sunny day, but I felt despicable being there. I held my breath to stop the strong scents from overpowering my senses as I walked inside. There were only two men sitting down with drinks at the bar speaking with the bartender. My eyes stung as the smoke from their cigars wafted over to me.

A well-dressed man around forty years old approached me seemingly from nowhere. He was handsome, but looks never impressed me all that much. His snakelike smile made me want to turn around and leave. I swallowed hard, trying not to stare into his bright blue eyes.

“Good afternoon, Miss…?”

“Miss McNeil.”

“McNeil. Are you Nathaniel’s daughter?”

“Yes’m,” I said.

I nearly hated him for asking me. I spent every day attempting to swallow down the grief since his passing on some distant battle field. I never had a chance to say good-bye to him or Mother.

“The war took the best men.”

“Yes, it did, Sir. I came here because I saw your ad in the paper seeking to hire girls in your saloon. Are you still lookin’?”

His eyes widened as his mouth upturned into an easy grin. “You can call me Max and I am hirin’. You’re all of what – seventeen?”

My heart raced.

“I am nearly nineteen. My baby sister is very weak from starvation because we had a bad year on the farm. I need to earn some money. Please, Sir, I will work any task that you need me to.”

“We can’t have your baby sister stave to death, can we?” he said while hiding a smirk.

I swallowed back a biting retort to his sarcasm. I already hated him.

“You are a little young. Most girls start around age twenty and they look their age, but I am certain that the fellers will love your pure type of beauty. It’s a rare thing to come by in saloons – or anywhere for that matter.”

The way that his gaze scrutinized me up and down reminded me of the devil.

“Sir, I mean, Max, the article says that hired painted ladies serve drinks and food to patrons and make them feel welcome. Is this all that I will be doing?”

Max the saloon owner cleared his throat, taking a step closer to me. His warm breath tickled my face. He stared at me as though he was contemplating breaking my neck. I looked away.

“My dear, I knew your pappy,” he said, stepping closer. “I’ll watch over you like a father while you make a living for you and your sister.”

“When may I start?” I asked quietly, hating how my voice broke.

“You can start tonight. I only have four girls working for me right now, and Tuesday nights are busy.”

I cringed inwardly at the thought of working in a saloon full of rowdy drunk men. Fear weakened my knees and had to lean against one of the chairs while I pulled myself together.

“All right. I-I won’t need to live here, will I? I have heard that some of the girls-”

“You need to live here. You can send money to your sister once monthly when you are paid. Deal?”

My stomach knotted at the idea of sleeping anywhere other than home. I expected to return to my sister and our house servant, Samantha. Well, she was more like our friend. We all became one and the same once the war began. I peered over my shoulder and out the door, longing to go back to my farm. I clenched my fists and took a deep breath.

“Deal,” I agreed. “So long as my job as a painted lady will not venture into lady of the night territory.”

My entire face flushed as Max threw his head back and laughed at me.

“My girls aren’t whores, Mary.”

I flinched at the way he used my first name, but his blunt response was the assurance that I needed to hear.

“Why don’t you start right now? I will get you acquainted with the other girls upstairs. They’ll fix you up proper for tonight.”

He reached over and took a long strand of my sun-lightened hair, gently twirling it around with his fingers.

“Um all right,” I said.

I followed him up the dusty stairs. I nearly turned around and ran out, but I knew I could not. My sister’s life depended on me.

I blinked back frightened tears and braced myself to face everything that the job would throw at me. I would only need to work there for a few months and then I would be able rework the land along with my sister and Samantha. We would rebuild the farm together and one day, my time at the saloon would be well behind me. It was only temporary.

***

One cold morning, I woke up before the sun rose. I had to pry myself out from the cowboy stranger’s strong grasp. He groaned and turned over to his other side. Even in his dreams, he seemed to think that he owned me.

I wrapped my shivering body with my silk robe and stood at the window. Staring out at the stars, I relaxed. It was only those quiet moments when no one else was conscious that I could truly think. I was so tired of being treated like property. I was more than tired.

It had been four long months since I discovered that Max was lying to me all along. As my sweet baby sister slowly gained her strength back on the farm, I had become a lady of the night in the saloon.

“Lady of the night,” I whispered to myself in disgust. That was no title.

The cowboy stirred in his sleep. I touched the tender bruise on my upper arm and winced at the memories of our evening. He said he liked the skinny girls because they are the easiest to toss around. A smile formed on my red lips as I glanced at his knife on the night stand.

I hesitated before taking it in my grasp. I quietly crawled back into bed with the knife still in my hand. I held the blade against his thick neck as he continued to sleep soundly. He was young like I was, but he had killed more men and beat more women than I would ever know.

Tears marred my vision of his angular face.

 

Wednesday Whimsicality

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Independent Spirit

Her wide eyes and quiet nature are often misunderstood to be needy or helpless. Some fail to recall her multiple solo trips across provinces to find her own way. Her quest is to find balance and peace as she writes. She cannot be truly happy unless she is supporting herself.

She cannot be tamed, though she is often mistaken to be weak and manipulatable. She will flee any situation that threatens her freedom or authenticity. She cannot stay anywhere for too long, always a wanderer.

Once, a spiritual man accused her of having a demon when she openly disagreed with him about a woman needing to be under the authority of a man.

“Independent spirt,” he sneered.

He pounded his fist on the desk, and that was the first time she wondered if she was perhaps one of the few sane people in a rather insane world.

I ran for the hills, living whimsically ever after.

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(Photo Source: everystockphoto.com)

 

INFP Wednesday Whimsicality

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I wander along seas and lakes and rivers, or on cobblestone streets in search of organic tea shops. I am a willowy princess in this world, but a warrior in my created world. I wonder if they might make me a Queen one day. In my other world, of course. Where most of my characters are alive and living, where friends never born in this world live and speak to me. I think they help me more than I help them.

I know if my canine friend were still alive, she would watch over me in any way that she could. I am a lone wolf, a wandering wild mare. I may be lost sometimes, but I find many muses as I travel and write. Old books from my grandparents spell-bound me as a child and I miss them. Turn off the lights, watch a candle.

Fog is an eyegasm; sun often chases away my inspiration. I have loved monsters, but monsters will eat INFP girls as a late night snack. Cute cannot conquer.

(Source: Whoufflepuffabulous on Tumblr)

City of Ice, An Excerpt

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I started a novel, City of Ice, about six years ago. It’s about a 28 year old suicidal princess attempting to survive in a cult ice world. The monarchy is a sham – the city is ruled by the cleric and their dark magic.

I am notorious for working on two projects at once, and my YA fantasy novel is still my main focus, but as a little reprieve, I will come back to this and start editing and adding to it. :) Here is how the first chapter begins.

Let me know what you think!

City of Ice, An Excerpt

Sunlight hit two large ice formations just ahead of them, making them glow. The light made Ivea nearly forget about the cold.

“So beautiful,” she breathed.

“We should turn back.”

She ignored Tercun, quickly urging her horse into a gallop over the crisp snow before he could say anything else to spoil the magic she was feeling. His mount caught up to hers and they both slowed down when they came to a large patch of ice.

“What if I can’t bring you back this time, Ivea?” he asked.

Instead of offering her alchemist friend a biting retort, Ivea watched the horizon ahead. She would do what she needed to, and he would follow her as he always did for the last twenty years. They rode ahead and reached a cavern. A human-sized hole only a few feet above ground level marked the mouth.

Ivea’s pulse quickened with that familiar blend of excitement and unease. She dismounted and approached the cavern, digging her treaded fur-trimmed boots into the solid ice. From below, Tercun gave her a gentle lift upward and she reached for the opening.

As she climbed up on the ledge, warm air collided with her face. Her lithe form slid down a sloped, icy wall; she grunted when her bottom slammed onto the cave’s floor. Her eyes adjusted to the strange and stunning surroundings, which made her quickly forget about her discomfort.

Light from a tiny opening in the ceiling hit the hot pools of rippling, steaming blue water and caused the walls to come alive with radiant designs. Ivea was sure that the sight was as magnificent and soothing as any heaven could be.

Her skin tingled as she unbuttoned her coat and let it slide down her shoulders. She could not have chosen a more fitting place to perform her most dangerous experiment. Today, she would find out for certain if there was life after death.

“Ivea, you can’t do this.”

Tercun stood right behind her. She would have jumped from surprise had it not been for his soft, even tone.

“Since when did you become so skilled at sneaking up on me?”

Tercun’s gaze travelled down her long, scarlet gown. Ivea rolled her eyes and went to the pool, admiring her dress in the reflection. She could be imprisoned for over a year if a member if the cleric caught her in such attire. She was Queen Mornia’s daughter, but that would not spare her from the wrath of a fanatic.

“Don’t you tire of always wearing white?” asked Ivea, returning her gaze to Tercun.

“I never bothered to think about it.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” she sighed.

Ivea twirled once, watching the bottom of her dress sway like a faraway flower in the breeze. How wonderful it was to break away from white’s monotony. White hair, white garments, white snow, and white skin was everywhere in the city with no reprieve.

“You don’t have to do this just because you want proof that a supreme being does not exist,” said Tercun.

She dipped her bare foot in the warm water.

“Yes, I do.”

“I know very well that you do not.”

Ivea could not be mad at him, even as his stern tone chased away the whimsical mood that surrounded her. She had adored his quiet, calm manner from the first moment they met as children. He was so different from her, from everyone. He was the only person that offered her a listening ear and she adored him for that. She also despised him for being so accepting of the clerics’ doctrine.

Taking in the surrealism of the strange water, her stomach fluttered. It was time.

“Ivea.”

She turned to him in annoyance, but was stunned to see how otherworldly he appeared as the blue reflection danced along his angular face. He could have married countless noble women that would have made his life a lot easier, but he never seemed to be interested in any of them. When he wasn’t busy studying new theories, he was trying to keep up with her self-harm experiments. It was almost as though he secretly enjoyed them.

She swallowed as a dull ache worked its way up from her chest, tightening her throat. She brought her gaze away from his pleading eyes and down to the water.

“Yes?” she whispered.

“I will bring you back. No matter what.”

“I know.”

Ivea cleared her throat and stood at the edge of the small pool, wondering how deep it reached into the earth.

Second Excerpt from my YA Novel :-)

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The mineworkers’ shadows appeared as dark monsters on the walls of the cave. Helen paused for a moment to rest her sore arms and watch the eerie figures move about. She would never become accustomed to the place no matter how much she tried to tell herself that she would.

When at last the bell rang for everyone to go home, she followed the long line of people who were anxious to escape from their dreary daily sentence. Most of them barely spoke a word to one another. She imagined that their minds were off somewhere else, perhaps thinking back to better days.

Gladyssa had been given the day off since her fiancée arrived in town last evening. Helen was happy for her sister and could not begrudge her the stroke of good luck.

Sunlight greeted Helen from the mouth of the cave. Though she was shorter than everyone else, the streams of light still reached through them and shone on her soot-covered face. It healed her from the abyss of hopelessness, reminding her that there was still a life worth living once the workday was over. She was almost fourteen years old, and as she got older, she would have more say over life. Or, so she hoped.

An unusual rumble sounded above her and drowned out her pleasant thoughts. Panicked voices filled the air around her. She tensed, unsure of what to do.

“Everybody run!” shouted a man from the entrance.

Several bodies pushed past Helen toward the cave’s opening. Rocks and pebbles fell down on them. She cried out and shielded herself from it.

(Image source: everystockphoto.com)

 

Excerpt From My Work In Progress

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Here is an excerpt from the first chapter of my young adult fantasy novel. Let me know what you think! 

Agnita willed for her legs to climb faster up the hill so she could catch up with Frenz. Once she reached the top, he was already overlooking the river. Hearing her approach, Frenz turned around and grinned at her.

“Hello, loser.”

She lunged at him to give him a good punch, but he dodged the blow just in time. She used to be faster and stronger than him, but he had grown much bigger since last summer. Every passing season was a reminder of how much closer she was to a life of drudgery. With a sigh, she brought her attention to the frothing rapids below. Before the rains came, the water was low and lazy enough for her to go wading in its refreshing depths.

“I wish summer would stay with us a little longer,” she said.

“It won’t be summer as long as the Nesins are alive.”

Agnita glared at him. “They will never make it this far north with General Kaloun protecting us.”

“If this war is not over in a month, I am joining his army,” said Frenz.

“You can’t do that. You’re a kid!”

He raised his chin to look down his nose at her.

“I can and I will. The army is accepting fourteen-year-olds. My age is not that far off. I will convince my father to allow me to go.”

“Then I will go as well.”

He grimaced. “Wearing pants and playing boy’s games will never erase the fact that you are just a…”

“Oh, shut up.”

He looked away from her with a shrug. She crossed her arms, trying to swallow back the anger and hurt that swelled up inside of her. A year ago, they were not talking about anything remotely close to war. She longed for them to just be children again.

“What am I going to do if you don’t come back?” she asked.

His hazel eyes met her blue ones and they softened a little, but his jaw was still set with a growing determination.

“It is my duty,” he said.

“Your duty, if you ever had one, is to help your parents on the farm.”

“You are such a simpleton sometimes.”

Frenz’s words stung her so much that she could not open her mouth to spew out a retort. He had become so disagreeable since the news of Nesin fanatics and their violence spread over the countryside. She hated them, too, but she saw no point in obsessing about them every day.

“Look,” he said suddenly, pointing down to the river.

Agnita couldn’t help but smile as an ebony stag trotted over to the riverbank to take a drink. His antlers’ large size spoke of his great ability to escape from both huntsmen and wolves. Perhaps he would bring her some good luck. It was said among the farmers that when you saw an old buck, fortune would befall the viewer. She still hoped that some fairy tales held some truth.

An idea formed in Agnita’s mind as she watched the deer bound toward the woods.

By: Sara Kjeldsen

Book Blog Tours

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It is time for me to invest in a book blog tour or two in order to get some more word out there about my ebooks. I’ve done some research on the best blog tours for your buck and so on and thought I’d share it with you in case you’re also interested in blog tours.

1.Blog Tours Are Pricey-ish

I’m an indie author still waiting to get my first cheque from Amazon, so the idea of paying someone $80 to $150 for a week’s worth of blog tours and reviews is steep.

On the other hand, sometimes an up front investment in marketing can be just the thing to boost book sales and move your ranking on Amazon to a better position. I get it.

I am not really a cheapskate, but the angsty artist chick inside of me bristled at the idea of paying so much for a service that claims to help indie writers. That said, it’s not a writer’s world and so it is what it is.

2. Most blog tours focus in YA and romance genres

My two most recent books are neither romance nor young adult, so it’s a little tougher to find a blog tour with a more alternative readership. The ones that specialize in multiple genres require more of an investment.

3. Many blog tours offer more than just blog tours

If you’re really strapped for cash, some blog tour providers offer book cover reveals and book blitzes for a fraction of the cost. I think it’s a smart idea for both parties. Some will even provide you with book reviewers if you can give them free copies to read.

I’ll likely invest in a book reveal blitz for my next publication. :)

4. Blog tours save you a lot of time

It does induce a sigh of relief at the idea of someone taking care of my book marketing for a week or two. Despite the surprisingly high cost (In my opinion), I can’t deny that I want the opportunity to be interviewed about my book, to have other readers who have never heard of my blog read an excerpt about my book, etc.

Writers want to write first and foremost. The idea of someone taking care of business is attractive.

5. Blog tour operators like Paypal

I don’t use Paypal for my own reasons. I had a blogger reply to me with an affordable book marketing option, and without asking, she said that once she received my payment through Paypal, that would be my consent for her to run my blog tour.

It was tough for me to decline, but I find it unprofessional to not offer direct email money transfer. If someone is willing to pay for a service, they should be given more than one option.

***

That’s my take on the blog tour industry to date. I’ll keep on searching, and take my time. I’m not letting myself become jaded, and at the end of the day, I’ll probably have to splurge on the service that will give me the best results.

I’ll let you all know when my blog tour runs! :)

***

Writers, what has your experience been with blog tours?  Do you have a blog tour service that you can recommend? Do you know of any blog tours that do not require Paypal payments? 

Cheers! 

(Image Taken From http://www.everystockphoto.com. Titled as “Malecón”)

 

 

 

How to Deal With a Negative Book Review

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So, you’ve recently published your book. After seeing some glowing reviews from satisfied readers, you check back again and notice one nasty little one star review. What do you do?

Do not reply to the review! Even if the review was left by a troll or by a reviewer who prides themselves in trashing writer’s books, do not take the bait. People who look at your reviews might not purchase your book if they see a stream of comments between you and a reviewer debating about why they should have loved your book. Stay professional.

Take a deep breath. You cannot please everyone. This is a fact of life. Many times, bad reviews are very subjective and reveal more about a reader’s tastes than about your writing. Perhaps they wanted more romance from your book, or they did not enjoy the violence. Sometimes, all it takes is one wrong word to agitate a reader enough to stop reading and leave a review. It sucks, yes, but there’s a bright side to this.

Remember all writers get bad reviews. Yes, every best seller gets one star reviews, too. There’s actually a really funny article about literary classics who received one star reviews from readers. It is funny, because it goes to show how taste differs between every individual. People from different backgrounds, education levels, and walks of life will be reading your book.

Think about the legitimacy. It might strike a reader as odd if all of your reviews are glowing five star ratings. As much as nasty reviews suck, just remember how it makes you look more legitimate as a writer. Remember, every famous author gets raked over the coals by certain readers, too. Reputable websites do not tamper with reviews and that makes your work of fiction look reputable in turn.

Use it as constructive criticism. Use that awful little one star as motivation to write your next book with, perhaps, a little more care and detail. Even if there’s nothing wrong with what you wrote, it’s interesting to many authors to discover little quirks and writing habits that don’t resonate well with people. You can even take pride in the fact that your book caters more to a niche market.

Ignore it. That’s right. It’s a little traumatic to read a one star review from a reader that clearly never connected with your book, but it is better for you to ignore it and keep writing. Focus on the good reviews and cherish the readers who connected with your characters and story.

How I Handled It

I got my first one star review a couple of days ago, and it did not bother me that much. Obviously, no one wants a bad review, but when I read that the reader was simply confused by the story, it actually made me feel sort of good. I do aim to write more for a niche market.

Of course, I would love for everyone to enjoy my book, but I know what a lot of people enjoy reading, and I think that my stories are different. My writing is like my mind. It’s quirky, dreamy, and it might be hard to understand unless you happen to be pretty philosophical yourself.

I didn’t get upset. I didn’t reply. Never, ever reply to reviews.

After a little annoyance, I laughed about it and shrugged it off. Then I thought of writing this post! :)

By the way, out of curiosity, I took a look at other things this reader reviewed other than my book, and I saw that she rated Fast and Furious 5 with five stars. That explained everything. ;)

Next Writing Project: A YA Fantasy Novel

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After focusing on writing and editing my shorter stories this past year, I am picking up on my unfinished YA fantasy story. Let me tell you, it was a treat to open up my Word document and see that it’s already at 52,000 words. That is quite the feat for someone who normally writes novellas and short stories! I knew that I had got quite far into the story, but I had almost forgotten just how much! :)

There are four main characters and they are based on the personalities of my grandparents. In fact, this story itself is inspired by life events lived out by my grandparents in their early to mid teens. Life was not easy for them at that point in their lives, and I hope very much to bring out their true characters in my book.

It’s complex with all four story lines being told throughout the book until they eventually intertwine. The story is also a parallel to a World War II type conflict set in a fantasy world. It would be impossible to make it into a novella even if I tried! ;)

And so, I am on to the next writing quest. I will keep you updated on how it goes. I am determined to finish the story, rough as it might be, before the holidays begin!

Happy writing!

The Suicides: On Amazon Kindle Today!

My historical novella, The Suicides, is now available in the Kindle store on Amazon! It’s set in the late 1800’s and it has a gothic flair.

Get your FREE copy on Amazon Kindle today (Dec. 7) until the end of Wednesday (Dec. 9)!

Excerpt from The Suicides, Chapter One:

“Be careful. People have been talking about your curiosity about the suicides. You must understand that they are not impressed with your book idea.”

“I do, but this is a project that I hope to finish.”

“You will discover things that you wish you hadn’t.”

I cleared my throat. “I am prepared.”

“Are you certain?”

Her expression matched that of my moral philosophy professor before he attempted to trap me during a classroom debate.

“What in the world are you attempting to convey to me?” I asked.

She shrugged and turned away. “Forgive me. Do as you wish.”

“Good evening, then, Ma’am.”

I strode down the busy street shaking my head. Sarah seemed to suggest that some sort of doom would befall everyone should I dig too deep into the lives of the suicides. The last thing that I needed was more discouragement. I had only been in Sunny Harbour for a few days and I was already causing a bit of a stir. I needed to find better ways to glean for information.

What I wanted to find most of all was the place where the suicides’ bodies were tossed. I hated going to bed at night thinking about them never being paid the respect of a proper burial. I sometimes dreamed of them being tossed into the river, sent to drift away only to be eaten away by things that appeared only in nightmares and gruesome tales. It was yet another reminder to me of life’s darkness. It hovered over people whether or not they wished to acknowledge its presence. No matter what humans did to catch a wink of light, the darkness never stayed away for long.

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