The Master List

Hey friends,

Happy Sunday! I hope this weekend and the month of May have been excellent to you. As for me, I’m hard at work preparing for summer events! First up is Phoenix Fan Fusion (what I will always refer to as Phoenix Comic Con) from May 23-26th in the Phoenix Convention Center. The League of Fantasy Authors (which includes some of my bestest author buddies Jenna Elizabeth Johnson and Katie Salidas) will be returning to booth #696 to sell books and merch, and new this year, we’re hosting a fun game of Cosplay Bingo!

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All you need to play is the card we’ll give you, something you can use to take pictures, and a good eye to spot those Disney villains, Game of Thrones characters, and favorite Avengers. Score a blackout and win a prize!

You can also find me at Arizona StoryFest in Mesa on June 1st, where I’ll be doing a live reading of ROSES IN THE DRAGON’S DEN on the author stage. Thanks to KJZZ radio for the invitation!

After Mesa, I’ll be taking a short break from events to focus on my non-authorly job for the summer, but I won’t be idle! NIRAYA STORM is in beta, and truthfully, I’m waiting for some ideas to slow-cook right now, so I’m using my pockets of free time to soak up some craft knowledge. Currently a book called Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff is keeping me busy, and I invite you to work through it with me!

Sokoloff encourages writers to build a “Master List” of at least ten books/movies that influence our work, and then there are exercises that involve rewatching/rereading and analyzing the bones of these story. I love a good excuse to watch my favorite movies again and call it work! I may even share some of my findings and Master List with you all on this website somewhere. For example, one really cool trick I’ve learned is to pay greater attention to what happens at the 15 and 30 minute marks when we watch movies, which should be turning points that can teach us a lot about plot and pace.

Just looking at two of the movies on my Master List:

  • Stardust (2007)
    • 15 minute mark: The King of Stormhold throws a necklace into the sky and declares that the first of his sons to recover it will be his successor to the throne. The necklace knocks a star out of the sky. In another part of the world, Tristan Thorne watches the star fall and makes a promise to go find it in exchange for Victoria Forester’s hand in marriage. (I love this whole scene so much that I keep coming back to it in the Neil Gaiman book for other craft exercises.)
    • 30 minute mark: Tristan Thorne crosses the Wall and finds the star. Surprise! The star is a woman, which definitely complicates his plans to bring it back to Victoria.
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)
    • 15 minute mark: After a few minutes at each other’s throats, the four teenagers in detention get sucked into a video game and become their adult avatars.
    • 30 minute mark: an NPC explains that the group needs to return the jewel they’re holding to the top of the mountain, but there’s a bad guy after it too… oh, and his gang is right behind you. 🙂

If you’re a writer, I’m curious what stories you’d put on your Master List, or even on mine! Most of mine tend to be family-friendly adventures with fantasy elements, ever-shifting settings and an emphasis on travel/multiple worlds, and ensemble casts. If only there was enough time to read and watch them all… 🙂

Happy reading!

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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!