The Dragon Tamer’s Tale (Excerpt #1 from ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN)

Hey all,

Happy Saturday! Every day is a little closer to the release of ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN, and I’m so excited by the little gems of feedback that are popping up here and there on social media. One reviewer wrote to me that it inspired her to go watch the La Llorona movie that just came out . . . oh man. First, let me promise you all that ROSES is not a horror story meant to give you nightmares. La Llorona is. Whenever you get to the book, you’ll understand exactly why this reviewer wanted to go watch the movie! (Full disclosure: I don’t know this person, but I’m confident she must be braver than me. I don’t have the heart to watch La Llorona in theaters…)

Oh, how the crazy crying ghost story used to scare the pants off me as a kid. Especially when it was storming outside, and the wind was strong enough to pull open the screen door when I was at my grandmother’s house…

But if you’re up for a story within a story, I have the first excerpt for you from ROSES today. If you’ve read The Carver, you just might recognize the storyteller. If you haven’t, don’t worry! You’ll learn all about the man before you’re done reading…

     The dwarf paced back and forth, tugging his beard in alternating motions like cow udders. While he got over his fit, I checked out his home. This guy seemed like the least likely person to put wanted posters around the city for a dragon’s death. Reptilian figurines lined his shelves, golden eggs the size of my head sat in silver bowls, and paintings of winged beasts clung to every inch of the wall. And yet, here stood a man who was blubbering like he had a phobia. When he finally stopped pacing, he poured three goblets of wine without asking. I wondered if it was juice at first, but the smell stung my nostrils, and I vowed not to touch it.

     Zid gulped his wine, wiped his lips, and then slammed his goblet down in front of him. “I’ll have you know that I used to be a dragon trainer. I’ve bred and raised a few. I fed them and exercised them and advocated for their rights. See that one on the wall right there?” He pointed to a painting of a dragon that oddly seemed to be smiling. “My Draco. I loved him dearly, so much that I had to move him into Grimm’s Hollow with a friend. He was too big and too free for my little yard.”

     A tear sparkled like a marble in Zid’s eye.

     Karina offered a smile. “I can imagine you’re very passionate about dragons.”

     “Was,” Zid said. “Until Verdoro.”

     I gripped the sides of my chair, ready for some kind of story. We needed a thunderclap and a theater spotlight to properly set the mood.

     Zid cleared his throat dramatically, rising on his toes to make himself look taller. “Verdoro first plagued Florindale Square some time ago. You can imagine my excitement when I first saw those scales. He was a dream. Most people ran in fear, but I wanted to talk to him. They can understand us, you know. They know our tones, our intentions, and our body language. But when he burned down Midas’s Pub without provocation, I knew there was something . . . off about him. Dragons do not descend on civilization to burn or consume unprovoked. They’re actually quite gentle. Leave them be—respect them—and they shall never hurt a soul.”

     Based on that statement alone, I knew Zid would’ve become fast friends with Tio. Coffee shop buddies. I tried to picture them broing out, and I almost laughed. The trouble was I didn’t agree with Zid’s statement at all, and Karina clearly didn’t either.

     “My uncle did nothing to the dragon,” she said. “It came out of nowhere and took him away with no good reason.”

     “That’s because this one’s different,” Zid said. “As if Hades itself spat him out. He cannot be reasoned with or tamed. Believe me, I was the only one foolish enough to keep trying. I considered that he might be a shifter—a human who’s dabbled in dark arts to assume another form at will.”

     Karina and I exchanged wide-eyed glances. Real life shifters? Like Dracula and his bat form? Or the blue lady from the X-Men comics? Neither of them was very nice.

     Zid must’ve sensed my discomfort because he waved a hand and said, “But I have doubts. Humans have different auras that don’t go away when they turn. You can sense it. Go figure, we finally settle into a period of peace, free of curses and evil queens, and now we have Verdoro returning at random intervals to terrorize Florindale. Sometimes he engulfs buildings. The Woodlands are dying. Sometimes he batters a living being and leaves them there to suffer, as if he enjoys the sport of torturing people.”

     My stomach churned. What was the monster doing to my tio?

     “I should say there are few who have ventured out to hunt him. None have returned, and not a soul wishes to attempt the journey anymore, even with the rather generous reward on Verdoro’s head. It feels as though we are destined to settle into our fear, to keep one eye fixed on the clouds until the monster finally plummets from them. Unfortunately, the life of such a beast spans ages we do not care to wait for.”

     Rina and I grew up with some messed up legends. Mom liked to scare us with La Llorona, the crying ghost woman that took bad kids away. But never an actual dragon.

     Karina put on that famous Rosas concentration stare, like she was taking an X-ray of Zid. “What do you think is the lifespan of somebody who’s been taken by the dragon?”

     Zid frowned, deep lines appearing on his forehead. “I’m sorry, younglings.” He refilled his goblet and then drained it again. “Nobody’s ever come back.”

Zid

There’s still time to download an ARC of ROSES if you’re interested in getting it for free! Most of them have been claimed already, but there are about 8 left last I checked. As for the eBook, it’s on preorder for $2.99 where digital books are sold! Try Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple . . . they’re everywhere, and they’ll hit your ereader on April 30th!

Cover Reveal! Roses in the Dragon’s Den

Hi Friends!

Happy Friday to you all! So, this post really can’t be about the words today. What I’m about to reveal can only be shown to you, and that’s the cover for ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN! *trips* *drops cover*

Roses in the Dragon's Den final front cover for preview

I’m just . . . I’m absolutely . . . I can’t describe it. It’s everything I ever dreamed it would be. Special thank you to the designer, Amalia Chitulescu, one of the most incredibly talented artists I know. It was important to me that this cover show off a pair of young, strong, determined LATINX heroes, and I think that Amalia just did that beautifully. Look at Rina and Charlie squaring off against that beast up there! And, they look incredibly close to how the characters were imagined for the trading card set:

Karina No TextCharlie Card no Text

The preorders for this book will be live soon, but in the meantime, if you’re interested in an ARC opportunity to read this before it even hits release day, you can sign up here! I believe this is a book for you if:

  • You’ve ever wanted to see new places
  • You enjoy character-driven stories with family themes and a spirit of adventure
  • You like Oreos (and who doesn’t?)
  • You secretly wish you could sail with pirates
  • You’re a fan of Percy Jackson or other stories told in goofy first-person POVs
  • You want more Latinx heroes in your books
  • You’re fascinated by dragons (and who isn’t?)
  • You’ve watched Man Vs. Wild and wondered what Bear would do if he encountered a dragon. (Okay. Maybe that’s only me?)

Lastly, I ask that if you like this cover, share the preorder widely and add it on Goodreads. I have big dreams for this story… but it’s gonna take a team effort to make sure people know about it! What do you say? Are you with me?

Happy weekend!

Jacob Devlin Logo Small

A Place Off the Beaten Path

Hey Friends!

I hope 2019 has been everything you hoped it would be and more so far. On my end, life’s been a little chaotic, but in a great way. It’s all chaos that I asked and prepared for, so I’m rolling with it! On the surface of it all, I recently traveled to Chicago and got an incredible fill of the famous Bean, deep dish style pizza, time with a great friend, and I discovered a random place to have amazing strawberry-lemon pancakes for lunch. I think that will be my mission every time I travel from now on… not necessarily the pancakes, but to find at least one great place off the beaten path that people don’t tell me to go to. Then I can tell YOU about it, and if you ever end up at Eggy’s Diner in Illinois, think of me. 🙂

As fate would have it, ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN is a bit of a love letter to people who have ever wanted to venture off the beaten path before. Speaking of which, I’m MOVING! Last night I let one of my new roommates peek at my upcoming book. I really hope he keeps the juicy spoilers to himself… I think I can trust him.

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But until then, I can show you that ROSES is just about done with interior formatting now, and Melissa Stevens worked some real magic! Get a look at the chapter header for the first page of the book:

K

The only thing left is to do is put a killer cover on all this, and I believe that will happen next week so . . . YEET! (Did I use this word correctly? It felt natural…)

By the way, everyone who is reading from Tucson should come see me at the Tucson Festival of Books on Sunday! I’ll be in the YA Indie Pavilion from 2:30-4:30, and I’ll have ROSES trading cards ready to give away! If you want a set, purchase any book at my table, or if you already have ’em all, just come up to me and whisper the pass phrase: LADY FORTUNE.

Until then, happy reading!

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2019: One-Word Theme

Happy New Year! Because we can still say this for another week or so, right? For about as long as it takes us to stop writing “2018” on our checks and homework assignments and stuff…

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know I had tremendous optimism for 2018, but didn’t enjoy the year that much at all. Great things did happen and I will forever be grateful for the good that occurred. But looking back at 2018 is like looking at a mean lunch lady who chucks your pizza at you from across the cafeteria. Yes, she’s giving you food, and yes, it is PIZZA for goodness sake and you love it, but she’s being incredibly uncool about it and you have to get up and face her wrath every day, and it probably costs money. In fact, she probably beat you up and took it from you, then threw the pizza at you and screamed at you to “SAY THANK YOU!”

Despite all this, I still rang in 2019 with tremendous optimism, and I hope you’ll let me share some of that with you for your year to come. I spent a few hours downtown last night and watched a jazz band called the Hot Sardines play at the Fox Theater. It was so great to soak in the infectious energy, not only from the band but the people who dressed in their best “roarin’ 20’s” attire last night, like they were ready to go “roarin'” into 2019 and insist on enjoying the next trip around the sun. I also love that social media crackles with positive energy around January 1 each year, but there are always a few downers who insist that “No, the new year will NOT be any better, because time isn’t real and humans invented it.” Fair point, smarties, but isn’t it also true that we can all be a little better? We can go into the lunch room with catching mitts, for example, or bring our own pizza. 🙂 We don’t have to go in with difficult resolutions. I actually didn’t make any resolutions at all. Every year, I simply pick a word of focus, and use that as a “theme” for how I will approach challenges.

There’s one moment in particular that I want to take with me from 2018:

Image may contain: sky and airplane

This photo represents a time when I seized an opportunity and went ALL in on something new, even when all possible outcomes scared me. It was a short adventure that could have changed my life in a number of ways, but in the end what it really changed was my perspective and what I believed about myself. It was a time I knew my future was in my hands alone, and that I had the full support of people who cared. It was a time when I felt bold.

Bold (adj): showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

This is my word of the year! I know what it means for me and how I can practice it in writing and life, but it may mean something different to you, or you may have an entirely unique idea of what you want out of 2019. I’m here to encourage you to grasp onto that theme and not to be afraid of it, whatever it is. If there are a couple of days where you notice it slipping from you, it doesn’t mean 2019 is a bust. It means “let’s stand back up and try this again. Let’s be stronger, wiser, and face the year with an open heart.”

Wishing you all the best in the year to come!

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Of Wind and Thunder

Dear Friends,

The days are long, but the years are short! What can I say about 2018? It’s been a year of growth and excitement, from releasing THE HUMMINGBIRD to rebranding a series, not to mention the wonderful festivals and cons I got to take part in from Tucson to Kentucky!

The whole time, something else was in the works, and as I look ahead to 2019, this is honestly what I’m most excited about.

I want to confess that ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN was the first time I wrote a book and had a “wind and thunder” moment. Did you ever see The Man Who Invented Christmas? Dan Stevens plays Charles Dickens in the time when he was struggling to write A Christmas Carol. In one of the coolest parts of the movie, he sits there spewing nonsense syllables and trying to come up with a name for his main character.

Just when he’s about to give up, his eyes light up and he breathes, “Scrooge.”

And it’s an event. Wind and thunder. The curtains flutter, the door bangs open, and there’s Mr. Scrooge, ready to engage. But it’s not until Dickens can actually name him that Scrooge takes on a life of his own and plants roots in Dickens’s mind. It’s a movie moment that gives me chills, and that was exactly what happened when I created the Rosas family: Charlie, Karina, and Uncle Diego. Finally landing on the right title was another event. The story started to sing. It took me a long time to settle on one, and the characters, voice, and even the POV changed many times over the past 2.5 years.

diego

But once I discovered the Rosas family, they were everywhere. Diego would speak to me from the passenger seat of a rental car when I would drive through the mountains of Dragoon. “Get a look at that! Let me tell you about some of the places I’ve been.”

I would imagine Charlie running through soccer fields and Karina sitting pretzel-style in the middle of the YA aisles at the bookstore, chin in her hands and completely lost in a book she hadn’t even taken to the register yet. And I had to tell the story of what happened when their daily routines were interrupted by something so much bigger than them.

And where did the inspiration come from? The flu. I was sick in bed watching Man Vs. Wild, and at one point I said, “I want to see a situation where Bear DOESN’T know what to do. Like what would happen if a freaking dragon showed up on camera right now?” I still don’t really know the answer to that, but I DO know what Diego Rosas would do, and that’s what I get to share with you this coming spring.

So are you ready for a preview? The manuscript is in final proofreading stages, so it’s coming to you very soon! Be sure to sign up for my official newsletter (which actually isn’t what you’re reading right now 🙂 this is only my blog! Sign up here!) as the first three chapters will be exclusive to subscribers until release day.

If you’re a creative type, I hope 2019 is filled with imaginative wind and thunder for you. And to all of you, I wish you love and inspiration, good health, and plenty of Oreos to go around.

Merry Christmas!

 

What Stan Lee Meant to Me

As a writer, there have been a handful of creators I’ve really looked up to in different stages of my life: JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Sabaa Tahir, Jerry Bruckheimer, Lin-Manuel Miranda . . . people who pour their hearts and souls into a spark of an idea and nurture the flames until their blaze becomes bigger than them.

As a person, there are characters I’ve grown up with, and I aspired to be just like them. I wanted Wolverine’s resilience, Captain America’s moral compass, Spider-Man’s charm and ability to bounce between his contrasting dual-lives so fluidly (but not perfectly) . . . I wanted Iron-Man’s brains and dry sense of humor. I wanted Black Widow’s sheer “badassity” and a group of friends with a bond like the Fantastic Four. These were characters my mom used to hold up to me when I was battling cancer as a little boy. As much as I didn’t want to eat, sleep, or take my medicine, the goal of growing up to be “big and strong like Wolverine” and the fact that the nurses were bringing me “Spider-Man food” trumped all fears I ever had, and the effect endured long after my recovery.

I mourn today for the loss of Stan Lee, a creator who left behind an immortal legacy. His worlds gave us an escape, and then he showed us how there’s hope in our own worlds. His characters gave us something to aspire to, and then he showed us how they’re just like you and me. His imagination gave us something to get excited about, to geek out over, and to hold in our hearts.

I’ll never forget when I saw Mr. Lee at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con . . . a tiny, ordinary-looking man with a presence that was larger than life, standing nearly ten feet away from me and providing opportunities for photo ops. Seriously, my jaw dropped. How many times had I cheered in a crowded movie theater because this man graced the movie screen in front of us for no more than five seconds? I had the money ready in my hand and I was ready to tell him everything I just wrote down . . . and then I simply couldn’t do it. I didn’t think I could say anything to him without getting choked up. But he knew his effect on the world. You don’t build an entire empire without knowing you’ve changed lives. Even being in the same room as him for a few minutes was more than I could’ve dreamed as a kid. Those who were lucky (and brave) enough to thank him often got a moving reply of, “I did it all for you, kid.”

stanlee

And now, as creators, we get to remember Mr. Lee and the wonderful vision he left for us to enjoy. I will always be inspired by his vivid imagination, colorful worlds, and flawed but phenomenal characters, and I can only hope to leave behind even the tiniest fraction of what he created.

Thank you for everything, Mr. Lee. May you rest in peace.

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NaNoWhatMo?

It’s official! NaNoWriMo starts in less than a week, which means it’s time to find your favorite writers and give them hugs or send them snacks and inspiration. Throughout the month of November, many of us are going to be bleeding out our fingertips to write the stories of our hearts. It’s National Novel Writing Month, and tens of thousands of writers across the country will be participating.

I’ve had this exact conversation with more individuals than I can remember now:

Person: “Wow, you write books? How cool! I’ve always wanted to write a book. When I have time, I will.”

Me: “Oh, hey, you should think about signing up for NaNoWriMo this year.”

Person: “NaNoWhatMo?”

Me: “NaNoWriMo! It’s a yearly event and a non-profit organization that encourages you to write a novel in a month, or at least make progress and establish a habit.”

Person: ” . . . oh. Yeah, no. I could never write a novel in a month. That’s crazy!”

A: Yes, perhaps a little. All writing is a little crazy. We sit at a keyboard or a pad of paper and manipulate 26 letters in infinite combinations with the goal of creating vivid shared hallucinations. It’s fantastic.

B: NOBODY inherently has time to write a novel. Many of the writers who have done so did not have any more time than you do. Time is a finite economy and we all make do with the little pockets we can scrounge. More on this in a blog post I made last year. The Sparknotes version: If you are waiting for that magic moment to open up when the stars will align and you’ll have ALL the inspiration and ALL the time, you will never write your novel. *puts down the megaphone and steps off soapbox*

C: Truth, homie! Writing a novel is difficult. Writing a novel in a month is SUPA HARD. It can be done, but I certainly have never done it before. In fact, I’ve never even hit the 50,000 word goal that we’re “supposed” to hit during NaNoWriMo. That’s why I use the month to taken in all the creative juices I can and attempt to make significant progress on some sort of project. I pull up my playlists, print out photos of my “fan castings” or settings, light candles that smell like Florindale Square or the ocean or the leather goods someone might find in my world, and I simply add as many words as I can. My record is probably somewhere over 30,000. Fifty K? I can only dream for now.

But, whether I know I can write 50,000 words or 500 words in a month, I could never pass up the opportunity to move 500 words closer to typing “THE END.” After all, I find the revision process a whole lot more fun than the first draft process, and every year I can’t wait to print out that beautifully-spiral-bound-but-terribly-written first draft so I can begin to splatter the pages with red ink and make them sing. (Oh, and nothing I’ve written in November has ever been publishable until at least June or July!)

So, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge into the writing waters “when you have the time”, why not get started this November and see if you can write half a novel? A few chapters? An outline? Even if you finish with a basic description of a main character and a random sentence that belongs somewhere in the middle, that’s something you didn’t have in October.

I’m here to tell you: You have a book inside of you, you can bring it out, and it is valuable.

You’ve got this!

Cheers,

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YA Scavenger Hunt: Fall 2018 Edition

Hello World!

And welcome once again to the YA Scavenger Hunt, Fall 2018 edition! I’m Jacob Devlin, your humble host for this leg of the race, and here are three fall-ish things you may not know about me:

  1. My favorite fall activities are finding a new jacket, stepping on crunchy leaves, and scooping all the squishy guts out of the pumpkin so I can grub on the seeds later.
  2. I’ll be asking you for one of the Reeses or Snickers bars in your trick-or-treat bag later.
  3. Don’t invite me to see a scary movie with you. I have a hyperactive imagination and am a chicken. (But I do kinda wanna see Halloween . . .)

But enough about me! You’re here to find that magic number and meet a new author, aren’t you? Well, I’ve got you covered today! Somewhere on this blog post, I’ve hidden a very secret number in GOLD, because you’re currently hunting for the Gold Team! Follow the trail, add up all the numbers, and enter the sum on this site for an opportunity to win ALL the treats. Along the way, you’ll meet some cool new authors, and on somebody else’s blog, I’ve hidden a playlist and a free downloadable novelette from my CARVER universe!

Today I’m excited to introduce you to Addie Thorley, author a forthcoming release called AN AFFAIR OF POISONS. I can’t wait for you all to learn about this! First, more about Addie:

Addie Thorley spent her childhood playing soccer, riding horses, and scribbling stories. After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in journalism, she decided “hard news” didn’t contain nearly enough magic and kissing, so she flung herself into the land of fiction and never looked back. She now lives in Princeton, New Jersey with her husband, daughter, and wolf dog. When she’s not writing she can be found galloping around the barn where she works as a horse trainer and exercise rider. AN AFFAIR OF POISONS is her debut novel.

(Jacob note: Isn’t this an awesome cover? Almost a minimalist feel, but one you could study for hours and make some guesses about what you’ll find inside!)

Synopsis:

After unwittingly helping her mother poison King Louis XIV, seventeen-year-old alchemist Mirabelle Monvoisin is forced to see her mother’s Shadow Society in a horrifying new light: they’re not heroes of the people, as they’ve always claimed to be, but murderers. Herself included. Mira tries to ease her guilt by brewing helpful curatives, but her hunger tonics and headache remedies cannot right past wrongs or save the dissenters her mother vows to purge.

Royal bastard Josse de Bourbon is more kitchen boy than fils de France. But when the Sun King and half the royal court perish at the hands of the Shadow Society, he must become the prince he was never meant to be in order to save his injured sisters and the petulant dauphin. Forced to hide in the sewers beneath the city, any hope of reclaiming Paris seems impossible—until Josse’s path collides with Mirabelle’s, and he finds a surprising ally in his sworn enemy.

She’s a deadly poisoner. He’s a bastard prince. Together, they form a tenuous pact to unite the commoners and former nobility against the Shadow Society. But can a rebellion built on mistrust ever hope to succeed?

(Jacob Note: Wow! Shadow societies, roguish royals, poisons and cures? Sign me up to read this! Page Street Publishing will release AN AFFAIR OF POISONS on February 26, 2019, and you can preorder it in several formats including Kindle, Paperback, and audio!)

As a preview, Addie shared the aesthetic below, featuring characters from her book . . . and DESSERT!

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(Jacob note: I’ve never had a croquembouche before, but now that I’ve seen this photo, I’ll take 12 please.)

Did you get the secret number? If not, you’re quite warm right now! Remember to write it down, add ’em all up, and enter the giveaway for grand prize!

But just for stopping by today, below are some opportunities to win a $10 Amazon card and a signed set of character trading cards!

ENTER JACOB’S GIVEAWAY HERE! 🙂

When you’re ready, jump on over to Colleen Oakes’s page and continue the next leg of the hunt!

Happy Fall!

Interview with Avon Van Hassel

Hey all!
One of the cool things about being an author is getting to cheer on my friends and celebrate their accomplishments. Today, I’m excited to share a little bit about up and coming author Avon Van Hassel, who is writing a series that all you CARVER fans would love! She’ll be revealing her covers on social media today, and you’ll be able to find her books on Amazon as well. Here is my interview with AVH in celebration of her BEANSELLER series!

1. MAGIC BEANS and GOLDEN reimagine fairy tales (both well-known and yet to be discovered by Disneyophiles) from untold perspectives! What are some of the fairy tales your readers can expect to see in your stories?
Magic Beans centres around the man who sold Jack the beans that would become the beanstalk, so obviously, that one will be very prominent. Golden focuses more on the back story of the magic golden harp that Jack finds on the giants’ cloud, but also looks at the Princess and the Pea, the Golden Goose, the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, and Goose Girl. The Grimms had a thing for geese, it seems. There are also other, subtler references, as almost everyone is either a fairy tale character or based on real-life historical figures. Let’s see how many you can guess 😉

2. Until I read MAGIC BEANS, I had never seen JACK AND THE BEANSTALK told from the perspective of the beansellers before! What inspired you to approach it from that angle?
Honestly, there was a Tumblr post about how Jack is actually the least interesting character in Jack and the Beanstalk. Who is this mysterious man, running around with a bag of magic beans? How did he come by them, and why is he willing to trade them for a sick old cow?
That NaNoWriMo, I had been planning a YA colonial spy thriller, but I saw that post and the idea festered. I wrote the whole first draft in two weeks!

3. One of your villains, The Spider Queen, is absolutely terrifying for arachnophobes like me. Tell us about her! Is she inspired by anybody in literature (or even real life)?
She was actually inspired by a ring! I had gotten a ring in the Halloween section of Target that was this huge jewelled spider that spanned three fingers. I was thinking of who my villain would be, and I looked down at this ring, kinda spacing out, you know, and I thought, ‘Hey! Lots of people hate spiders! That’ll scare ’em!’ And it did, lol. My poor betas, so many of them are terrified of spiders…
But I find the true mark of a good villain is not that they’re just scary, but that they have a sympathetic side. That you can see someone innocent, maybe even yourself, becoming a villain, if the right button is pushed. So I tried hard not to make her a cartoonish villain, just relying on arachnophobia, but an actual person who has rationale for the things that she does.

4. What’s been on your reading list this year? Any recent favorites you can recommend for fantasy fans?
A friend of mine and I are doing a challenge called 12 Meses 12 Libros (12 Months 12 books–The challenge is in Spanish, but I posted a translation on my blog). Basically, each month has a theme, and you have to read a book according to that theme. So far, I have read:
The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Touch the Dark, by Karen Chance
Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho
The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert
and I’m currently reading Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
So, obviously a wide range from classics, to supernatural spies, to satire, to adventure, to fairy tales. It’s been a wild ride. For fans of fantasy, I deeply recommend The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert. I am OBSESSED. It definitely has a dark, twisted real-life fairy tale feel that gets under your skin and stays there. Albert has a wonderfully visceral writing style that captivated me on an emotional level, the likes of which only a few writers have ever done. Plus she’s planning a sequel and a collection of original fairy tales to be companions to The Hazel Wood, so naturally I’m refreshing her author page every few minutes to see if she’s published yet.
In a more abstract sense, Pygmalion and The Alchemist have a fairy tale tone to them, both with epic journey themes, lots of symbolic characters, and unlikely situations. Also highly quotable, and feature some decent strong women.
As for the others I read, I think fantasy fans could also get into Karen Chance, if vampire romances and time travel are your thing. Again, very well written, and very well researched, as well as creating her own layer of vampire mythology. Daniel O’Malley is refreshingly proficient at writing a strong female, in first person perspective, no less! The Rook is about superhuman spies basically keeping the lid on the supernatural world in the UK. It is VERY meaty, VERY weird, but also VERY funny. I recommend it.
I think history has pretty much said anything I could about Alice, Jim, and Mr Gulliver, lol.

5. You and I both found our footing as writers on an online community called Scribophile! Tell us how Scribophile helped you, and are there any other resources you’d recommend to writers who are looking to publish one day?
Scribophile helped me immensely. Not least by giving me the confidence to show my work to other people. The basic theory behind it is that your friends and family may want to help you, but it’s hard for them to give you unvarnished opinions and advice because they don’t want to hurt you. Strangers don’t have that issue. It also is based on the principle of giving in order to receive. You have to critique a lot of work before you can put your own work up for critique. It’s a show of good faith, but it also has the side effect of putting you into contact with quite a lot of what’s out there, and getting involved in the writing community as a group.
One area where yours and my experience differed, I believe, is that I was a member of a pretty strenuous critique group for about two years. We were called the Candied Sea Urchins, and we were a group of usually 6 at any one time, who were expected to post a chapter a week as well as critique each other’s work in that time. So you posted a chapter and critiqued 5 chapters on top of that. The obvious downside to that was, of course, getting everyone’s stories mixed up, and also only reading one chapter a week, if you were on time. But the huge upside was that you produced at least one chapter a week! And a chapter, according to the guidelines of that group, was three thousand words, give or take. So we got a lot of writing done at a pretty good clip.
Scrib helped keep me to a schedule, but the group itself helped me really see what is necessary to the narrative, and they helped me write more clearly. It’s one thing to write for yourself. You know what you’re trying to say and where everything is going. But it does help to have someone say, ‘this bit makes no sense.’  And over time, you do become friends with the teammates, but it’s a friendship built on frank and honest feedback, so you never have to worry about whether or not they’re holding back their opinion.
The other resources I would recommend that have helped me are a book called the Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi; a book called Story Structure Architect, by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, Ph.D.; and a book called The Word Loss Diet, by Rayne Hall. I truly have all three books open when I am writing.

6. You and I talked a lot about “fan casting” for our books! Can you share a bit about who your dream cast would be for the epic MAGIC BEANS Netflix series one day?
I have to be honest, in my head, I have a terrible time picturing faces. This is the first time ever, be it writing a book or a character sheet for D&D, that I’ve actually had faces to work with, so they’re pretty special to me. Alois was partially inspired by a British actor named Tom Burke, who is probably best known as Athos in the BBC Musketeers, and is currently playing Cormoran Strike (you know, the detective books JK Rowling wrote). Sulat was inspired from the start by Sonequa Martin-Green. At the time, I’d only seen her as Tamara on Once Upon a Time, but I did start watching the Walking Dead to see if Sasha Williams was anything like my Sulat. She kind of is, but not as much as Star Trek’s Michael Burnham, as she is these days. Johanne, the third point on my Trinity, was inspired by a portrait, actually, called the Honourable Mrs Graham, by Thomas Gainsborough. (She was a fascinating woman,you should look her up) Later, I found my face actress for her, another British actress named Sophia Myles, best known as Madame de Pompadour in the Doctor Who episode, The Girl in the Fireplace.

7. The Carver has his knife and the Ivory Queen has her mirrors. What magical artifacts can you tease for MAGIC BEANS and GOLDEN?
Well, the magic beans are a bit obvious, aren’t they? There are also snakebite stones, which allow the user to detect enchantments (You might recognise something similar from Neil Gaiman’s Coraline–they’re both based on common fairy tale items called Adder Stones, as well as several stones from Celtic lore); a magic hairbrush that can transfer magical ability from one person to another; the magic harp itself; and a magic ladder that is the cause of all this trouble.

8. You have other plans in mind for MAGIC BEANS related merch, correct? Tell us about your crafts outside of your writing time and how they tie into your stories!
I’m a big fan of candles and cosmetics, as well as historical foods and handicrafts! I have an Etsy shop set up, called Avon Van Hassel Designs. I’m a little embarrassed about the lighting and composition of the photos, but I promise the quality of the actual products is good! At the moment, I have a few soaps, perfumes, and homewares posted, but I plan to branch into other areas, as well and putting together some historical handicrafts like tea caddies and embroidery. We’ll see where my whims take me.
Also, as teased in my last cover reveal party, I have been working with a tea blender, The Forest Witch, also on Etsy, who has made me two custom tea blends to tie in with my work! One is called Johanne, and it was inspired by a scene in Golden; and the other is called The Novelist, and it is my signature blend.

9. Can you tease what you might be working on next?
I intend this book to be a ten-novel series, with short stories and novellas nestled between the books. The novellas following Golden are called Country Dances, The Martinette, UnderDressed, and Heroes and Villains. The next novel be more centred on Sulat than Alois and is called Siren Song. Guess which fairy tale I’ll be twisting with that one! The next books planned after that are called Sweet Dreams, Big Teeth, and Huff and Puff. They’re all still in the planning stages, so it’ll be a while before they’re ready to go.

10. Pitch the Beanseller Saga to us as a haiku!
The beans are trouble
But so is everything else
Snarky thieves with guns

 

San Diego Comic Con Recap: 2018!

Hey Friends,

If you’ve been keeping up with anything “pop culture” this week, be it through Entertainment Weekly, the Conan show, or even just your Facebook timeline, I’m sure you know my favorite “holiday” just ended: San Diego Comic Con!

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Every year has had its share of amazing memories, and it’s hard to pick a favorite moment since I started going in 2015. This year, I don’t even know if I can pick a favorite day! As always, I left feeling both exhausted and rejuvenated. My body is tired, but my heart and mind are filled with love for the power of creativity–love for a yearly phenomenon in which thousands of people of all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and life stories come together to share a creative passion. Maybe that’s for books, film, graphic arts, or any of the various rabbit holes of SDCC that I probably haven’t even explored: gaming, tech, cosplay, the scientific panels, etc.

Here are some of the highlights from my fourth year at SDCC.

Wednesday

“Preview day”! I wasn’t a badge holder for Preview Day, but as a volunteer, I got to work the Art Show! I wasn’t allowed to snap photos for obvious reasons, but there was at least one artist whose work I was sure I’d seen before, and it was fun getting to help him unload his van and carry his paintings to the Marriott. There was also an interesting man who made wooden robot figurines and spent most of his time talking to them. I guess all of us creative types are strange in our own ways?

When I finished my shift, I walked around San Diego a bit and scoped out the off-sites and wraps they were setting up for the weekend!

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Thursday

The real “day one”! I actually spent a lot of time retracing some of those off-sites once they opened, and there were a lot of really great ones this year. The Good Place was one of my favorites. You start with a questionnaire about your morals: Yes, I have spoiled a movie for someone before (sorry…); No, I have NEVER reheated fish in an office microwave, how could you even accuse me of such a thing?! Based on my answers, I got to move into The Good Place where a merry-go-round, a super chipper mailman, a cupcake lady, and a bunch of other “neighbors” were there to welcome us to their neighborhood. Among them was a lady who told me she was supposed to go to the Bad Place and she needed my help keeping her secret, and if she could just see my phone, she needed to take a photo of me to commemorate my time in The Good Place. When I got that phone back, I had 8 selfies just like this:

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And then they all started fighting and it turns out we weren’t supposed to be in The Good Place at all, so we had to leave before the Architect came to kick us out. Darn.

Amazon also promoted the heck out of the upcoming Jack Ryan show, with two huge building wraps and a HUGE off-site I only scraped the surface of. Seriously, they brought their A-game, with a huge escape room where you could win a Fire stick just for participating, an “analyst physical training” course where 100 people a day completed a VR obstacle course that ended in them zip-lining out of a helicopter, and a bazaar where if you completed a puzzle, they’d give you a cool bag and a sweet water bottle. They also gave out free ice cream, water bottles, and fruit. So yeah, they really want you to watch Jack Ryan, and because John Krasinski is awesome, I was already planning on watching it anyway!

Oh! And John Barrowman from Arrow and Doctor Who signed an autograph for me! Super nice guy!

Friday

Friday was so much fun! This was the day I saw a very dedicated group of cosplayers dressed like the Scooby-Doo gang, and overheard this candid conversation:

  • Fred: *yawns* “So what do you guys think? Do we wanna do Ghost Busters first?”
  • Daphne: “Sure! That’s a thing we want to do, right?”
  • Shaggy: “I’m gonna check out the taco food truck. I’ll meet you there.”

I also got to be in the “Marvel Group Hug.” Full disclosure, group physical contact with a bunch of strangers sounded terrible to me, but I saw “free shirt!” on the sign and registered right away. It turns out this Group Hug wasn’t a physical embrace but a simple discussion with about 10 other people and a Marvel rep so we could sort out all of our “feels” about Infinity War. We discussed that “I don’t wanna go” scene, the fate of the Guardians, Bearded Cap vs. Non-Bearded Cap, and then the rep gave us donuts and shirts and showed us a deleted scene from the movie. Yay! I also had to sign a bunch of releases and sit by cameras and stuff, so watch for me on the Blu-Ray extras! (Just kidding–I don’t know what Marvel Studios is doing with the footage!)

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I also saw a few panels in Ballroom 20 that day: Sissy Spacek and Bill Skaarsgard for Castle Rock, a new Stephen King show coming to Hulu, and the “Warriors of Prime Time” panel featuring Benedict Wong, Jay Hernandez, Santiago Cabrera, and a few others.

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Saturday

Three highlights from Saturday:

  1. The Manifest premiere and panel featuring Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh. The pilot was amazing, and this is a show I’m going to get really into this fall! I have a feeling it’s going to resonate with LOST fans.
  2. I played a 15-minute demo of Kingdom Hearts III, specifically the intro to the Toy Story world! I confess the controls felt a little weird at times and felt very demo-ish (it was also XBox which I’m not used to), but the magic was all about diving back into this universe and dusting off those memories of the first time I played Kingdom Hearts as a 5th grader. I’m 27 now, and the dude next to me looked like my physician and had to have been at least 40. We’ve been waiting all our lives to start bashing Heartless again!
  3. I made it into Hall H for two panels! The first was all about “Women Who Kick Ass,” featuring Chloe Bennett, Amandla Stenberg, Regina King, Jodie Whitaker, and Camila Mendez, and the following panel was all about Deadpool 2 and the “super duper extended cut” they’ll be releasing soon. Seeing Ryan Reynolds was probably the highlight this year!

Overall

There’s tons of great programming on Sunday as well, but I had to catch an early flight and opt out of the last day! I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface of everything that happened this weekend! I didn’t even mention that I was signed up for a scavenger hunt and placed around 17 out of 120 participants. There were close to 200 tasks, ranging from easy to hard to embarrassing:

  • Easy: “Pose with a Deadpool cosplayer!” (This is actually kind of hard once you start looking for them… otherwise they’re everywhere.)
  • Slightly harder: “Get arrested by a Stormtrooper.”
  • Hard: “Kill Jon Snow.” (He actually wasn’t that big of a cosplay this year!)
  • Embarrassing: “Start a rousing sing-a-long of the “500 Miles” song.” “Take an awkward prom photo in front of the convention center!”
  • Impossible: “Spot a celebrity in a hotel elevator. Take a selfie with them.”

Would do the hunt again, hands-down!

This isn’t the rest of the photos, but I think this assortment summarizes SDCC 2018 quite nicely. Until next year!

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