Guest Post: Author Sarah Jean Horwitz

Today’s post is a guest post about the process of character creation, written by the very lovely and talented author, Sarah Jean Horwitz. Sarah writes the Carmer and Grit series, which rocketed up my all-time favorites list early last year. I am incredibly honored to have this chance to feature her on my blog and to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out Sarah on her websiteTwitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. The Carmer and Grit series consists of The Wingsnatchers and The Crooked Castle.

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14612081The Crooked Castle, my second book in the Carmer and Grit series, begins with something very large crashing into Carmer’s roof.

Well, not something, exactly – someone. 

When seventeen year-old balloonist Bell Daisimer loses control of his balloon and literally crashes into the lives of Carmer and Grit, he starts a chain of events that leads them to a magical flying circus, a brand new mystery, and a whole lot of scary faeries. An aspiring pilot always game for an adventure, Bell helps Carmer and Grit navigate the aeronautical community they suddenly find themselves immersed in. The story couldn’t exist without him.

But Bell Daisimer was not always a balloonist.

In fact, the Bell Daisimer that exists on the pages of The Crooked Castle is nothing like the character I originally imagined – and that’s what so great about him, and about writing stories in general. Back in the early days of brainstorming for the book, Bell was one of the first characters I knew I wanted to add.

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The first book’s villain ran a number of enterprises, including a scientific school for boys. With the villain’s defeat came the unraveling of many of his businesses. Bell had little connection to said villain, but he was a scholarship student at that school. Bell lost his scholarship in the fallout, and at the start of the second book, he was determined to find out the real reason behind his benefactor’s meteoric rise and fall.

Bell was supposed to spend the book as the thorn in Carmer’s side, always sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, eagerly searching for evidence of faerie magic. Much of the book’s plot at that time revolved around telephone and radio technology, so Bell was named after – you guessed it – Alexander Graham Bell.

If you’ve read The Crooked Castle – or even taken a casual glance at the jacket! – you’ll know that there’s nary a mention of telephones, radios, or dissolved educational institutions. But Bell Daisimer somehow managed to make it through every iteration of the story, evolving and changing until he became the character on the page today.

thewingsnatchersThis character evolution was a new experience for me. Most of the characters in The Wingsnatchers simply popped into my head, fully formed and ready to be written. Carmer, Grit, the Amazifier, Kitty, Gideon Sharpe, Madame Euphemia – even minor characters like Echolaken and Ravene – they all simply appeared in my mind’s eye, walking and talking almost exactly as they do in the finished draft. I was extremely lucky to have such a great cast of characters pop out of nowhere, ready and waiting to be written about.

While writing The Crooked Castle, however, fewer characters appeared to me as fully formed. Many, like Bell, started out as mere seedlings of ideas. Perhaps I knew one or two of their distinguishing features, or how I wanted them to function in the story. I definitely had to work for them, teasing out their voices through lots of brainstorming, reading aloud, and revisions. 

Sometimes, stories and characters come easily, like a garden that flowers all at once, filled with vivid and healthy and complementary plants. Maybe they need a bit of rearranging or a bit more sun here and there, but otherwise, they’re complete. Other times, you’ve got to stare at your plot of dirt for a bit, plant a few seeds, and coax them into something beautiful yourself. You’ve got to go in pruning and weeding and watering and getting your hands dirty. Both processes have their pleasures – and at the end, you’ve still got a garden. The trick in storytelling, of course, is to make the finished story smooth enough that no one can tell how you grew it!

I hope you and your readers enjoy meeting Bell and the new cast of The Crooked Castle. Though this book was a challenge for me, I do hope to write more Carmer and Grit stories in the future. I can’t wait to see how my garden will grow with each one.

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The Crooked Castle will be out on April 10th! And of course, make sure to check out The Wingsnatchers as well!
My review of The Crooked Castle will be up in a few days, and if you would like to read my review of The Wingsnatchers, click the teacup below!

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An Interview with Author Sarah Glenn Marsh

Today’s post is an interview with the extremely lovely and talented author, Sarah Glenn Marsh. I am incredibly honored and excited to have had this chance to talk with her and get to know her, as well as to work with her to promote her wonderful books! Please make sure to check out Sarah on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads

Reign of the Fallen | Fear the Drowning Deep | Selfie Sebastian | A Campfire Tail 

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hey! I’m Sarah: currently blond (but sometimes pink-haired!) lover of animals; mother to four rescued greyhounds, three birds, and tons of fish; eater of sweets; always anxious; sometimes funny; someone who loves writing books for kids and teens.

How did you get into writing, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?

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I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember (we’re talking little stories when I was five years old about why my parents should get me a dog…!), and I’ve always been a voracious reader. I started loving trips to the library in preschool!

I didn’t take my writing seriously until I was out of college, however; it was actually my husband who pushed me to follow my writing dream and supported me every step of the way, however he could, because he believes in my talent (even when I don’t)—I hope everyone who’s seeking a partner in life finds one who supports their dreams like that! 

What is your writing process usually like?

Quiet, full of looking up dog memes, and consuming copious amounts of kit kat bars 😉

In all seriousness, I’m one of those people who edits as I draft, so what I usually do is spend the day getting down a bunch of new words, the evening going over them to edit, and then the next morning before writing any more, I’ll read over what I edited the previous day to refresh my memory!

Where do you usually go to write, and is there anything in particular you do to get yourself in the right mindset?

I like to write in my dining room, because it’s quiet, sunny, and there’s a big table in there! Plus, whenever I get stuck on a scene, I can stare at my awesome fish tank on the opposite wall 😉

As for getting in the writing mindset, what helps me most is routine. I write in the same spot every day, during the same general hours, and so when I go sit down in the dining room, my brain switches into ‘work mode’ with little effort!

Sometimes, to set the mood for a certain scene, I’ll also listen to music first 🙂

What do you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?

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Credit: Penguin Teen

The most challenging part of the process for me has changed over time. It used to be revisions that I found daunting, though after plenty of experience, I now love them.

Now that I have a publisher and write under contract, I usually have to think up a synopsis for a story ahead of drafting. And since the most magical part of creating a new book used to be discovering things about the world and characters as I wrote, I’d say that currently, the toughest part of the process for me is plotting in advance. However, I figured out a way to help myself plan ahead while working on the sequel to Reign—the index card method.

I write out every scene I can think of on individual index cards—and not just scenes, but character building moments, pivotal moments in relationships, and so on—and then lay out all the index cards and try to put them into the order in which I think they belong. This allows me to see what’s missing from certain sections of the plot (ie: if I have three action scenes in a row, I’m clearly in need of a quiet, character-building moment in there somewhere), where I need to tie certain plot threads together better, and so on. Sometimes, my husband will take a peek and help me rearrange them. Having another pair of eyes is helpful even at that early stage!

Your characters are incredibly well-crafted, realistic, and easy to connect with. How do you typically approach the task of creating their personalities and bringing them to life within a setting and narrative?

My biggest tip for characters is to give each one a fully realized character arc (yes, even for the most minor of characters named in the book!) before starting to write the story. I found this really helped me make everyone in Reign distinct and more real. Before writing the book, I also spent time giving each character detailed backstory- even stuff that didn’t make it into the story in the end!

While reading Reign of the Fallen, I was really struck by how refreshing and unique every aspect of the story felt. How did you come up with the world, the magic system, and the overall role that necromancy played in Karthia? 

 

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Credit: @BeautifullyBookishBethany

Thank you! When I began world building for this story, I knew I needed a unique take on death and necromancers, since they’re a part of so many fantasy novels and I didn’t want mine to feel cliché! To do this, I went back to one of the earliest stories of necromancy– the Greek myth of Orpheus, a man who attempts to rescue his wife from the underworld and is told by Hades that he can take her back to the living world as long as he doesn’t look at her until they’re both out of his realm. Spoiler alert: he takes a peek and loses her forever. Drawing from that mythology, as well as researching rituals surrounding death from around the world, helped me to start building the culture in Reign of the Fallen, where the Dead must wear shrouds in the living world or else become monsters; where change of even the smallest sort is outlawed because the Dead fear it; where entering the spirit world demands a painful sacrifice of any living person who dares to go there. The spirit world in the book, known as the Deadlands, was also inspired by the Greek underworld! I took some of the themes from that world and put my own spin on it by having my Deadlands be a landscape that’s ever-shifting, ever-changing, unlike the spirits themselves. It seemed fitting, somehow. Same with my spirit world being full of flowers and beauty, things that grow the way the spirits long to still.

 

Since we are on the topic, Reign of the Fallen is such an emotionally intense story, and it’s clear that you put your heart and soul into every word. In what ways did that emotional intensity affect you while working on it?

Writing from Odessa’s POV, being so close to her thoughts throughout the tragedies that befall her during the novel was definitely a challenge at times! But the emotional intensity was actually…freeing, and healing, in a way. My grandmother was really sick while I was writing this book, and I was frustrated at some of my circumstances—getting to channel that negative energy into something positive through writing this story helped me tremendously. 

How does it feel to know your stories are published and out in the world for people to read, and what has been your favorite part of the experience so far?

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I won’t lie; it’s a little nerve-wracking knowing your work is out there to be judged, loved, hated, discussed, etc.! But the coolness factor completely outweighs that. It’s a joy to be able to share stories with the world. I feel very fortunate.

My favorite part of the experience is when people contact me and say that after reading Reign, they were inspired to work on their own book. Knowing I’ve inspired someone else to make their own art is the best feeling! I also love hearing from readers who identify with one or more of my characters, because they are such a part of me.

What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?

Patricia McKillip is probably my biggest influence. Her writing is the strongest and most beautiful I’ve ever read, and I wish I had a style as elegant and mysterious as hers. If you’re not familiar with her work, here are some titles I love: Ombria in Shadow, Winter Rose, and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

I also have to give a shout-out here to the most recent book I read and loved to pieces: MAMMOTH by Jill Baguchinsky. It comes out this November (2018) from Turner Publishing, and just…do yourselves a favor, friends, and read this book!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Here’s my best advice for aspiring authors, broken into three parts:

  • Get others to critique your work, but more importantly, offer to critique for others! Critique as much and often as you can. There’s nothing like finding the strengths and weaknesses in a variety of different authors’ work to teach you about how to edit your own stories.
  • Read voraciously in the genre/category in which you want to publish. When you’re doing that, and you have a strong response to something- love it, or not so much- try to identify what it is you’re enjoying, or what’s not working for you about the story you’re reading. You’ll pick up things you might like to try in your own writing this way (for instance, maybe you’ll be inspired to try a new POV!), and will also identify things you may want to avoid (the things that don’t work for you as a reader).
  • Seek community. In the online writing community, I’ve found like-minded people, learned more than I ever would have imagined possible, and made life-changing connections with wonderful authors and bloggers who I’m so happy to call friends. You have everything to gain by interacting with other book lovers online!

Thank you so much, Sarah! If you guys would like to check out my review of Reign of the Fallen, click the teacup below! And for all of you out there who haven’t yet, in the words of Sarah…do yourselves a favor and read Reign of the Fallen! 😀

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Guest Post: Author Courtney Peppernell

Today’s post is a guest post by the very lovely and talented author Courtney Peppernell. I am incredibly honored and excited to have this chance get to know her and to work with her to promote her wonderful poetry collections and novels! Please make sure to check out Courtney on her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. There are also links to the Goodreads pages of her work scattered throughout, so definitely make sure to check those out as well!

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I’ve never done a guest post before but when Ariana who writes The Quirky Book Nerd asked me to do a guest post, I was excited to jump in.

My name is Courtney Peppernell, I’m a 26 year old LGBTQ author and I live in Sydney, Australia. A lot of people write to me and ask about how I write. I really believe it’s important to develop your own writing process, as not everyone is the same, but I’m always happy to talk a little about my own writing process. A good book to read is called “5000 words per hour” by Chris Fox. It really helped to develop my ability to sit down each day and write as much as I can in a short space of time.

If anyone is like me, I am generally a very busy person (currently raising a puppy) and don’t have time to write for 8-10 hours a day (plus that would be exhausting, so many feelings!!). Instead I try to pump out as many words as possible within an hour or two. My favourite author Jodi Picoult once said something along the lines of, a page of writing can always be edited, but a blank page can’t. I really agree with this and I highly recommend Fox’s book to help you get started on following a similar process (or internal screaming also helps.)

dakotaBefore I start writing any project, I make sure I have an idea I’m passionate about. I believe in creating top quality products for people who choose to purchase my books, and I don’t think I can deliver the highest quality unless I am very passionate about the book I’m writing. I feel if you write the book that you want to read, then you will find an audience who wants to read it too. Once I have my idea ready to go, I start to do an outline of the characters. I begin to imagine who they are, what their interests, dreams, hopes, aspirations are, and how they are going to develop and fit the narrative I am writing. I try to imagine my characters like real people, and when I’m writing them, I feel like the words I’m putting on the page are truly how they would react if the situation was real. This is also a really fun part of the writing process and for me, the characters are really what I love most about my novels/stories.

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My two current novels Chasing Paper Cranes and Keeping Long Island had characters that I very much loved, and I am sure I will feel the same for other characters in future books as well. After that, I start to try and piece together a rough timeline of the story I am going to tell, names, places, dates, even irrelevant information that might not actually be in the story. It’s all still important to me, as I feel it helps shape the characters and pull everything together. Once I have all these in place, I have my story guide in my head, and I’m ready to start writing.

pillowthoughtsWriting poetry books isn’t as an intense writing process for me. My poetry books Pillow Thoughts and The Road Between are based off personal experiences but also experiences I have witnessed of other people. In fact, I tend to “get into character” when I am writing poetry books sometimes, as it helps me imagine what someone who is “heartbroken” may feel like. I’ve experienced heartbreak (naturally) myself, but where I am in my life currently, is very in love so it’s often hard for me to write about pain when I am happy. However, I think this is really good for developing my writing skills, so poetry is important to me as well.

I started as a self-published author, and over the last year I have had some amazing opportunities that were a combination of mine, and my business partner’s efforts, as well as some great exposure. We have worked hard on (slowly) building my brand of books (still striving to build this every day, but it’s exciting and half the fun and drive to keep going) and I have been blessed with some attention to my writing via readers and also The Chainsmokers which lead to my eventual publishing deal with Andrews McMeel Publishing.

FullSizeRender (2)I am really looking forward to continuing my career and working as hard as I can to give readers books that mean something to them and make them feel as though either they can achieve their own writing dreams, or just that there are others in the world who relate to the feelings they have every day. In my spare time, I am very family orientated, and very close with my family. Plus, I am always with my dogs Hero (German Shepherd) and Dakota (Pomeranian / probable tiny gremlin) or looking up new places to grab coffee with my partner Rhian. She’s actually a huge source of inspiration for me. Most readers find me/my books after reading a poem called Looking for Ice Cream which is for and based on Rhian. I really enjoyed seeing how different people from all walks of life related to that poem, as it drove home something I am trying to achieve in my writing which is that LGBTQ couples can live happy, healthy and normal lives like everyone else. We experience love, pain, loss and gain all the same.

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So that’s me, I’m generally a pretty quiet sort of person but I do like a good chat about feelings ha! I also will probably cross an ocean to meet someone’s dog, so if I am to have signings one day, you should definitely ask if you can bring your four-legged friend. I hope to interact with my readers more over time, either via Twitter, Instagram or email. I love hearing from people because I always find it interesting which stories/poems/books of mine people relate to most. Special thanks to Ariana for letting me post on her blog, she wrote such a lovely review for both my poetry books, that I even showed my Mum.

Thanks again and love to all,

Courtney

Guest Post: Author Spencer Hoshino

Today’s post is a guest post by the lovely Spencer Hoshino, author of Paper Wishes (The Magical Girl Series #1). I am incredibly honored and excited to have this chance get to know her and to work with her to promote her awesome novel! Please make sure to check out Spencer on her website and social media. My full review of Paper Wishes will be posted in a few days!

Aloha (Hello)!

 

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Hello! It’s me, Spencer Hoshino

It’s nice to meet you all! ヽ(*・ω・)ノ

I’m Spencer Hoshino, author of The Magical Girl Series. I am a 4th generation Japanese-American and a lifelong resident of the state of Hawaii, where I live with my husband and two children, thanks to my great-grandparents, who came to Hawaii decades ago to work on a sugar plantation. (I’m sad to share that the last sugar mill, the one my great grandparents and maternal grandma worked for, closed down late last year.) 

I was very honored when Ariana asked me to write a guest post for her (totally awesome) blog. I wasn’t sure what I could share with you all, so I decided to write about my publishing journey. I’ve never written a guest blog before, so I hope that you will all bear with me. (*/_\) 

 

Paper Wishes & Lucky Stars

 

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Paper Wishes’ original cover made for Swoon Reads. Image used with permission from Audrey Faith Lim

The road to finishing and publishing Paper Wishes (The Magical Girl Series, #1) was a long journey, but the catalyst was my mom’s passing. I’ve always struggled with depression, but my mom’s death put me in a dark place I’d never been before. I was struggling to cope, when a friend of mine, who is like a sister to me, that I hadn’t seen in years made a surprise return to our hometown after living in Japan for a while. We met up for dinner and caught up with each other.

During our conversation, she encouraged me to be happy. She asked me what I wanted to do, and I told her that I’d been trying to write a book for years, that I wanted to finish it and be a writer. After some introspection, I made the decision (with the support of my husband and children) to quit my job as a web developer and finish writing my book, which I later submitted to Swoon Reads.Although my book was not chosen for publication, I made many wonderful friendships with amazing writers, like Gigi McClure and Macy Filia, which was the best prize of all. (*^^*)♡ 

Digressing, despite the amazing connections I made through Swoon, I still had my manuscript that had no home. At Gigi’s urging, and with Macy’s support (thank you for all of your tips and tricks), I started posting Paper Wishes to Wattpad. Best. Decision. Ever. I lucked out! Paper Wishes was well received on Wattpad, gaining about 700,000 reads within the first year. Thanks to Wattpad (and Gigi and Macy), I was able to share my work with people and they were reading it! I was elated! After working on my book for so many years, I had readers! But, beyond that, I was able to connect with so many wonderful people and my readers became my friends. (ノ_<。)ヾ(´ ▽ ` ) I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the most fantastically supportive readers, whom I call Lucky Stars because I’m beyond lucky to know them. 

Self-publishing & Non-traditional Media 

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Paper Wishes 2nd edition with gifts

On the back of Paper Wishes’ success on Wattpad, I tried querying it to agents and boutique publishers with little success. At some point, there were three different boutique publishers considering Paper Wishes. Unfortunately, two decided to pass on it while I ultimately decided to pass on the third because I realized we weren’t a good fit. The thought of self-publishing was attractive because I would have complete control over my work and its design. I reached out to two of my favorite writers who had self-publishing experience, J.M. Wilde (The Eva Series) and Dan Garcia (The Succubus in a Red Dress Series), and they gave me a wealth of advice. (Did I mention how lucky I’ve been throughout this writing journey?) Having decided to self-publish, Paper Wishes was released on February 14th, 2016 as a Kindle e-book first, then as a physical copy a couple of weeks later. 

Aside from believing strongly in the possibilities of self-publishing, I am a huge fan of non-traditional media. I have so many apps, like Tapastic (now Tapas), Spottoon, and TappyToon downloaded into my phone. I love supporting creators and purchase new chapters/episodes on a weekly basis. I have been fortunate enough to be invited to share my work on Radish Fiction and Tapas (formerly Tapastic) apps. In September 2016, Meteor Garden was released as a serialized book on the Radish Fiction app. It is the companion novel to Paper Wishes and tells the story of Vilvian and Kai’s mothers, Maya and Eri, their friendship, and who Vilvian’s biological father is! ∑(O_O;) 

On February 14, 2017, the 2nd edition of Paper Wishes was released (much to my excitement) on the Tapas app. Upon releasing Paper Wishes on Tapas, I pulled the e-book from the Kindle store so that it would be exclusive to them. It has been such an honor to have Paper Wishes on Tapas. They are seriously the best, especially Editor-in-Chief, Gabby Luu, who has been so flipping supportive of me and my writing. (T▽T) 

A hui hou (until we meet again)!

So, that’s been my experience with writing The Magical Girl Series and publishing. While I think traditional publishing is great, and I love that there has been more awareness regarding diversity in publishing, in the end, I felt that self-publishing and non-traditional media were what would work best for me. I was very fortunate to have everything come together the way it did.

Aside from the support I received from my Lucky Stars and the friends that I’ve made through writing, I was also very lucky to be given the opportunity to share my work through non-traditional media, like Tapas. (Did I mention how much I love being a part of the Tapas Media Family? Because I do!) To any of my fellow writers, if Tapas Media reaches out to you about potentially publishing your work, I encourage you to seriously think about it. I have nothing but good things to say about them and hope to have other works published through their app in the future.) 

If any of you decide to give Paper Wishes a read, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving it a chance. If you read Paper Wishes on Tapas or the unedited version on Wattpad, please be sure to comment and let me know that you found me through Ariana’s blog! 

♡ ~(‘▽^人)

Thank you so much for reading! And, an especially big thank you and hug to Ariana for allowing me to share a little about myself and my journey.

http://spencerhoshino.com

Guest Post: Author J.M. Sullivan

Today’s post is a guest post by the lovely J.M. Sullivan, author of Alice (The Wanderland Chronicles #1), which will be released on May 16th. I am so excited and honored to have this chance to work with her to promote her debut novel! Please make sure to check out J.M. and her novel on social media. My full review of Alice will be posted on Thursday!

JM Sullivan - smallHi everyone!

My name is J.M. Sullivan and I am beyond excited to introduce you to the wonders of Wanderland. After all, when I’m not busy teaching middle schoolers, wrangling my two small children, or supervising my cats’ antics, it’s my favorite place to be!

Even though I teach Science, I have always loved reading and writing. I have dabbled in several different projects, but nothing ever stuck until ALICE, which always makes me giggle. Because, see, the idea for Alice sort of hit me out of the blue. I was getting ready for bed one night after watching the latest horror movie on my husband’s Netflix list (we had been on a zombie kick), and the Red Queen’s iconic line flashed through my mind. You know the one I’m talking about: ‘Off with their heads!’

moretroubleWell, as any zombie aficionado knows, decapitation is one of the most effective methods of dealing with our undead friends, and it all just sort of clicked! I knew that I was going to do an Alice retelling with zombies. Within ten minutes I had a working outline of what I wanted each character’s role to look like and how I wanted to execute it. Then, it was time for the real work.

Going into ALICE, I knew that most importantly, I wanted to stay true to Carroll’s work. I’ve read books that claim they are retellings before but really only share a character name or maybe a place. I did not want that to be something said about my book.

catsSo, I went to the store and picked up a new copy of Alice in Wonderland and proceeded to tear it up. (Seriously, that poor book looks like a college textbook) I read the story and
used that as a guide to help my plot arc. Even my section titles are the names of chapters from the book. If I ever had a question about a name or how a character might respond, I went back to Wonderland. (Hopefully it shows).

Once I had my reference base squared I got to do the fun part—writing! With my set-up, I had a loose outline for a plot with tons of ways to work in Wonderland twists. It was so much fun seeing how Alice Carroll reacted to being placed in Wanderland and how the other characters influenced her story. I think that’s what I like the most about retellings, you can feel the magic of the original working itself into your own story. It’s a really cool feeling.

Alice Cover EditFinally, after three months of obsessive writing, I had my draft. It was the first completed manuscript I’ve ever had, and I was ready to send it out. At least I thought so. My publishing journey… oh man. But THAT is a story for another day. Needless to say, I found my AMAZING publishing company (shout out to Pen Name Publishing- woot!), and they shared my vision of bringing Alice to life.

So now, here I am, a little over a year later from the day I started writing, and Alice is about to be released into the world! It was a wild ride, but I honestly wouldn’t change any of it. I have been so blessed and learned so much, now my only hope is that Alice can mean as much to someone else as she does to me. Maybe it will be you! (I really hope so 😀 )

Thank you so much guys (especially to Ariana for so graciously inviting me to share her page), and of course,

Happy Reading!

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J.M. Sullivan is a Science Teacher by day, and an author by night. Although known to dabble in adulting, J.M. is a big kid at heart who still believes in true love, magic, and most of all, the power of coffee. If you would like to connect for a healthy dose of sparkle and positivity, you can find her on Twitter or Instagram @_JM_Sullivan.