Sunshine Blogger Award

Eeee, I’ve been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by the lovely Sibby at Siobhan’s Novelties! (“More like Thunderstorm Blogger Award,” jokes the husband. Sibby must have caught me on a good day, I suppose. :D)

The rules of the tag are simple.

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules.

Siobhan’s Questions

So far, what are your top three reads this year?

Which author would you do anything to see?

Monica Furlong (sadly deceased), who wrote the books Juniper and Wise Child. Both those books were a huuuuuuuge influence on me growing up, and I’d love to have the chance to let her know how much they mean to me.

What TV or movie adaptation are you eagerly wanting to watch?

TV and movie adaptations make me nervous, since the book is almost always better! But here are two I want to watch, if just out of pure (morbid) curiosity: the LotR Amazon remake, and There’s Someone Inside Your House.

What book are you looking forward to most?

If we’re talking unreleased books, The Babysitter’s Coven by Kate Williams looks very cool!

What type of post do you like writing?

The Short Tuesday posts I’ve been doing recently have been a lot of fun—especially since the Tor stories I’ve been reading recently have been excellent. I’m also loving going back through my first book, The Gold in the Dark, and getting each chapter ready to post. I wrote and edited the book several years ago now, so readying the chapters for publication has been like visiting an old friend. New chapters post every other Sunday at 11 AM EST, if you didn’t know!

Who is your latest OTP (one true pairing)?

Latest OTP? Not sure about that one, but Karigan and King Zachary from the Green Rider series have always been meant to be.

What is the last book that made you ugly cry?

This almost never happens—the last time I remember heartily crying for realsies was about five years ago while reading NOS4A2, since there was a character in imminent peril who reminded me of my husband. But a small amount of tears were shed while I read Light Years a year or two ago.

What is a series you haven’t finished yet but want to?

Ummm, all of them? Have you seen my TSOOSI post? Ha ha… I guess I’ll say the last Throne of Glass book.

If you could have any special edition book, which would it be?

A hard copy of The Interface Series by _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9. If you don’t know, this “book” was released sporadically in Reddit comments, and it’s super trippy. You can read it for free here, and I’m hopeful that there will eventually be a paperback or hardback edition that I can buy and cherish.

If you would rerewatch your favourite TV show or movie, which one would you choose?

Twin Peaks is always the correct answer.

What fictional pet/sidekick is your favourite?

The Disreputable Dog from Lirael.


This was so much fun! Here are my questions:

  1. Who is your favorite book villain?
  2. What would the two comps be for your perfect book? (Example: The Selection meets An Ember in the Ashes.)
  3. Do you prefer to read hard copies, ebooks, or audiobooks?
  4. Do you have a “reading spot”? Or will you pick up a book anywhere?
  5. What’s one book you can’t stop recommending to everyone?
  6. Which book have you reread the most?
  7. If you could play any one character in a TV/movie adaptation, who would it be?
  8. What’s the strangest book that you really enjoyed reading?
  9. What’s the last book that made you actually laugh out loud?
  10. What’s something about book blogging you think others should know?
  11. Which unreleased book are you looking forward to the most?

I tag…

Alyssa | Alexandria | Dux | Nikki | Hannah | Tilly | Legal Alien | Becca | Melissa | Sarah | Ari

Happy Thursday, everybody!

Short Tuesday #8: “Mama Bruise” by Jonathan Carroll

I sound like a broken record: this week I again returned to Tor to peruse their original fiction! This week’s Short Tuesday contender is a short story by Jonathan Carroll published just a few days ago. You can read it here… FYI that there will be spoilers in this review.

I enjoyed this story, both in terms of voice, pacing, and plot. I thought it was interesting how there are no names for any of the main characters—perhaps this is author trying to emphasize the soul inhabiting the body rather than the body itself? Reincarnation is central to the plot, so if we were juggling names I think that would take away from the message. Also want to add that somehow this is not the first “reincarnation in animal form” work of fiction I’ve read this year! If you like this sort of story, perhaps give The Hungry Ghost a try.

The ending, too, came as a pleasant surprise. At first I was all, oh, their dog’s come home. But if we’re to take what the female MC says as accurate, I think the most logical conclusion is that the other dogs in the neighborhood have come to take out the main characters, so that the secret knowledge they’ve garnered stays secret. It was an unexpected end, perfect for a last boo.

Ooh, I’m really liking all these Tor short stories! And it seems there’s a big backlist and that they publish new works regularly, so I have a ton of great content for more Short Tuesdays. 🙂

Chapter Seven of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

The seventh chapter of The Gold in the Dark drops today! If you need to catch up on past chapters, no problem, since you can do that right here. New chapters post every other Sunday at 11 AM EST, each one accompanied by a beautiful, custom illustration.

These past two weeks have all been social media work in preparation for Specter. I have a brand spanking new Instagram (@katiejanegallagher), where I post bookish stuff and dog stuff. (Did you guys know that I have a boxer dog? And that she is the naughtiest, cutest dog ever?) I’ve been pretty anti-social media in the past, but Instagram feels different to me somehow—less drama-filled, a lot happier. Plus I really like how it’s such an easy, fun way to connect with other artists, writers, and small business owners. So I’m having fun with Instagram, even though I’m a bit of a noob. 😉

Also, we are so close to a cover reveal that I can taste it. (Eeeeeee!!!!!!) If anyone is interested in an ARC, drop me a line.

Finally, I want to give a big, huge thank you to Joanna Penn, whom I don’t know personally but has been a big help to me in the last few weeks as I get closer and closer to Specter‘s release. For any authors out there, especially indie authors,she has a podcast called The Creative Penn that is just filled to bursting with writing and publishing advice. Every time I listen to her show I’m inspired by her energy and enthusiasm for all things independent publishing. Highly, highly recommend—and as an added bonus, her voice is incredible.

And that’s all from me! Have a good rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Seven!

My Beautiful Book or: How Formatting Unleashed My Inner Control Freak

Anyone who knows me as a writer knows that I am… picky. I write slowly because I like to finesse my language and edit as I go. (I know, not the way you’re supposed to do things, but whatever.) The words must be evocative. The sentences must have flow and rhythm. It means that despite all my writer friends being NaNoers, I’m always coming in last in the word wars—a perpetual loser’s fate that I’ve just learned to accept over time.

So because I’m a self-aware picky person, I knew that when it came to actually crafting my Word document into a final, physical product that that attitude would prevail. The purpose of this post isn’t to change my ways or confess some self-discovery. Really, I just want to set down in writing all the things I’ve done recently to make my manuscript into a PDF ready for print, both to give other indie authors a sense of a good order to do things and honestly to also remind myself what to do when I have to do this again a year or so down the line. FYI that there is a lot of typography and formatting mumbo jumbo in this post—too much for me to stop and define it all, but it is all very Google-able. Heads-up also that this is a very lengthy post.

Step 1: Look At Books

I read a lot. A lot a lot. Not as much as some of those Goodreads gods and goddesses who stack up hundreds of books in one year, perhaps, but definitely way more than the average person. You would think, therefore, that I know what books look like.

Wrong! There are so many little formatting details that take a manuscript from book-ish to actual book, and we readers often gloss over them. The very first thing I did at this stage of the game was to look at books that I wanted my book to look like (YA, paperback, paranormal/mystery/thriller). I paid attention to font choice, whether the text was justified, the layout of the front and back matter, the page number placement, the margin size (literally downloaded a ruler app so I could get to measuring in Starbucks), headers and footers, the use of imprint logos, etc.

Then I made myself a wish list:

  • 5.25″ x 8″ cover
  • Author logo on spine (99% of traditionally published books have an imprint logo on the spine, so I wanted a logo too)
  • First few words of each chapter in small caps in a different font
  • Cool chapter heading font
  • Line break ornament
  • Justified text
  • Hyphenation
  • Chapter starts don’t need to be on the right
  • Page numbers on outside bottom, starting on proper first page of book
  • Half title and full title graphic to echo the cover in the front matter
  • Appropriate-looking copyright page with necessary credits
  • Blurb or excerpt on back cover
  • Author website listed directly above barcode on the back cover
  • Author photo in back matter
  • Font changes where appropriate for style (text messages, articles)
  • Gray bubble text boxes to indicate text messages

Quite a lot, right? I’m sure there was more on my wish list, but this is just what I can remember off the top of my head.

Step 2: List Out Things to Buy

After some initial fumbling attempts at making my own cover and logo, I decided I’d rather pay some professionals to do this for me. PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying you need to spend oodles of money to have a great-looking book, but understand that this is my primary hobby and my money to spend.

Here was what I bought:

  • Logo, purchased on Fiverr for about $35
  • Professional author photo, $185
  • Cover, purchased on 99designs, $367. Understand that I knew I needed to buy a cover, but I didn’t buy it yet, due to needing to tell the designer the final page count.

There are typesetting services you can pay for, but I’m proficient enough at Word that I decided I could do all that myself. (Yes, Word. Some people use fancier programs, but I wanted to just make do with the beast that is Microsoft Office, since I know it well and didn’t want to buy a new program.) Which brings us on to the next step…

Step 3: Format and Typeset the Manuscript

I used many of the KDP guides to format the Word document, essentially following this webinar exactly to get the dimensions set properly. In terms of margins, I measured YA paperbacks that I felt looked good and modeled my margins after them. Then I put in placeholder pages for the front and back matter, adding in the content over time.

Here was my front matter order. I mirrored the content and order off of paperback YA books.

  1. Half title graphic without author name
  2. “Also by Author” page
  3. Full title graphic with author name and logo
  4. Copyright page with logo
  5. Dedication
  6. Blank page

And my back matter:

  1. Author’s Note
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. Ad for The Gold in the Dark, which I made myself in Canva. My wonderful author friend totally saved me here by telling me to not only have a black and white version of this, but also a color version to place at the back of the ebook.
  4. “About the Author” page

My one real disappointment in terms of the front and back matter is that KDP does not allow you to have anything printed on the inside cover, which many YA paperbacks do. If this were an option, I would absolutely have had something on the inside cover, likely a blurb in the front and the “About the Author” in the back. Oh well. 😦

Once I had my front matter in the document, this meant I could add in page numbers (starting on Chapter One first page). I used this function in Word to get them formatted properly.

Next I adjusted the paragraph and line formatting, making sure that there weren’t too few or too many lines of text on a full page. Given my margins and dimensions, twenty-nine lines per page seemed about right. I adjusted the paragraph indents (NOT using spaces or tabs!!!!) until they looked good visually. While I was doing all this, I made sure to zoom out from the document frequently to get a proper view.

Things were now looking pretty decent as far as I could tell. I began the long and thankless task of searching for fonts to use for my chapter headings, small caps chapter introductory words, text messages, etc. Some were already installed on Word, while others I found on Dafont and 1001 Fonts. I made sure that these fonts were able to be used in a commercial project, then marked down their designers in the copyright page. One thing to note here is that after a long and arduous search for a line break ornament, I found a stunning dingbats font that worked perfectly, so no need for messing around with vector files or anything like that. Hurrah!

At this point, text messages became the bane of my existence. There are many text message conversations in my book, and I had a lot of minute design goals for how I wanted them to look. Here was my vision:

  • Texts in a bubble (I used the rounded rectangle shape in Word)
  • A sans-serif font that looks like a text message (I used Arial Nova Light)
  • Text bubbles aligned either on the right or the left so that they looked like a conversation, flush with the margins
  • Two shades of gray to indicate both people in the conversation
  • The text margin inside the bubble aligned with the main text paragraph indent (man, what a mouthful)
  • Small, natural-looking line breaks in between paragraph and text messages
  • No hyphenation
  • No justification

If you have ever done any sort of precise work on Word, you’ll know that it’s not always easy to get pictures positioned exactly where you want them, especially when text is involved. In my experience, images sometimes jump around a little bit, and the anchor “feature” can just as easily become a nuisance. I did my best with the text messages at this point, with the understanding that, because I still had some other formatting to do, there would be a cascading effect with the text messages, so the text messages would have to be one of the very last things to fix. If necessary, I knew that I could make PDFs of the specific chapters with text messages once they were perfect, then smush everything together into one big Frankenstein PDF.

Next I decided to get super nitty-gritty. (As if we weren’t there already.) I went through the entire manuscript fixing widow and orphan words. It seems that there’s some difference of opinion about what constitutes a widow and orphan; my vague, personal definition was any lone word on a line ending a paragraph and any small line of text alone on a page ending a chapter. To fix these, I experimented with the font spacing in each instance, condensing or expanding the spacing by up to .2 points. This was laborious to the extreme; I think my husband watched four hours of The Punisher in the time it took me to go through the whole book. Oh well, such is the life of a control freak.

This is when it started to feel like things were drawing to a close typesetting-wise, so I decided to export the PDF and do a visual check. Oh joy, look at all the cascading text messages as a consequence of the widow and orphan fixes, exactly where I didn’t want them. I did some minor tweaking to get them in the right places again, then made some other minor changes: a few more widow/orphan fixes, adding in some missing italicization (for some reason, a lot of text in the document became de-italicized a little while back), etc. I also realized that the bottom text on some pages was lower than others, due to the various texts/font changes/ornaments/chapter headings present throughout the book. The difference was very slight, and I doubt many people would notice, but it was still present. Since this seemed like a difficult issue to fix, I opted to place my page numbers lower down on the page, so that the distance between the text and page number was larger. My hope was that doing so would make this issue less apparent, and I do think this fix worked pretty well.

Then it was time to export to PDF again for another visual check. (Lesson learned: it’s never not time for another visual check!) I found a few more minuscule issues, fixed those, visual check, and… we’re… DONE!

Step 4: Read the Book and Correct Errors

As I mentioned above, for whatever reason a little while ago some italicized words in my text became de-italicized—whole paragraphs of them, in some cases. So I wanted to do a final read through to check that I’d caught all the missing italics and look for anything else that needed fixing that my quick visual checks kept missing.

This was a good thing to do anyway, since it had been a couple months since I last read the book, so I was able to spot some other errors easier. (A couple missing words, two small continuity errors, etc.) Since I had already done the bulk of the formatting, I was very careful when correcting errors at this stage that I wasn’t causing any formatting issues by adding in text that was too short or too lengthy, etc.

Step 5: Order a Proof Copy

This was the point when everything fell apart. I ordered a proof copy from Amazon and held my breath for a day waiting for it to arrive. (Paid for rush shipping, of course—how could I not??) As soon as I cracked the book open, I knew things had to change. The font was too big, and the inner margin was a tad too close to the spine of the book. The book was readable, but I wanted to provide a reading experience that would be comfortable and not make anyone think about the formatting. I mean, that’s the whole point of this formatting journey, right? You want all your hard work to fade into the background, so that the physical layout of your book isn’t distracting from the reading experience.

So I brought the font size down, then brought in the inner margins by .25 inches. And because surely you’re aware by now, this had an enormous cascading effect on everything else I’d done thus far. The text messages were completely out of whack, and all the work I’d put in for the widows and orphans went down the drain in a second. I hunkered down and spent three days in formatting hell to fix everything, until I’d forgotten what the outside world looked like.

Then bought another proof. Then moped around the house on a Saturday for my package to arrive, having heart palpitations. (Kidding.) Then realized at 6:45 when I checked the app that the proof had been delivered an hour ago, but at the front of our apartment, not at our doorstep like usual.

Get the package. Rip it open. Open the book.

We good. Looks perfect. Final page count: 369.

You should have seen how happy I was when I went to go get a celebratory bottle of wine, blasting eighties music in my car all the way.

Step 6: Buy a Cover

Now I not only had a finished, glowing, beautiful PDF, but also the crucial page count. That meant I could at long last buy a cover, since knowing the page count enabled me to tell the cover designer how wide the spine of the book should be. I’d already been having a back and forth conversation with the lovely lsmyang at 99designs about design details and expectations, so I went ahead and plunked down my money. I’m not going to go into huge details about the cover process, but will probably save that for a future post, since I think I learned some good things there that could be useful to other independent authors.

Conclusion

I could see some people reading this post and thinking I’m a crazy person. This is the point where I could say and maybe I am! for a cheap laugh. But honestly, I don’t think any of this is crazy. It took forever, but my honest belief is that these tiny details make an enormous difference in the way readers view your book. This may be just a hobby for me (I’ve definitely spent money and not made a dime thus far!) but I care about looking professional and putting out the absolute best book I can—and design is a big part of that.

So no apologies from me. Specter looks the best I can make it (cover reveal coming very, very soon!) and I’m glad I went through this grueling process. Thankfully, now that I’ve done it once, the next book won’t be as difficult. And hopefully this guide will be helpful to someone out there who is also looking to whip their manuscript into shape formatting-wise! ❤

Short Tuesday #8: “Circus Girl, The Hunter, and Mirror Boy” by JY Yang

Again this week I returned to Tor.com to peruse their short fiction, and boy am I glad I did. No need to mince words here—this story was fantastic from start to finish, and eeeee, this author has an entire trilogy out as well as more short fiction, and wow wow wow wow wow, did I love this. (Also, can we take a second to appreciate the excellent artwork that accompanies each Tor story? Maybe there’s something to be said about a lack of a book cover being one reason why many readers overlook short fiction.) You can read the short story here…

So everything about this story is great—I have literally zero complaints. (Hell must be freezing over, huh?) The language was perfect: appropriately poetic when it needed to be, sometimes experimental, sometimes matter-of-fact. Plot-wise, we’re thrown into a near-futuristic world much like our own but with witches and spirits, etc. (Sidenote that all these ghouls and ghosties seem to have only existed for twenty years, and I want to know moooooooore in the best way possible. Can we get some longer fiction set in this world? Pretty please?) Yang’s voice keeps us feeling grounded without relying on an info-dump slog, and the main character right away feels like someone we can root for. And our MC has a problem—she’s woken up and every mirrored surface shows not her reflection, but instead a dude she’s aptly named Mirror Boy. She used to see Mirror Boy back in the day as well, but then he went away as her life became more stable. Now he’s back, with some pretty bad news: a serial killer is on the hunt for the MC, ready to make her his latest victim.

Also there’s some very cool ocean-based mythology woven throughout.

Does this seem like a lot for a short story? Don’t worry, I promise that everything wraps up at the end beautifully. Please, read this, then join me in feeling that achey, oh no it’s over feeling. Misery loves company.

ARC: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Serious Moonlight debuts April 16th.

You know when you see a perfect cover, and you think to yourself, well, the book can’t possibly live up to THAT, could it? They’re compensating for something, right? Well, banish those fears—Serious Moonlight is a cozy contemporary that pairs an adorable romance with memorable characters and a Pacific Northwest setting. In my opinion, this book is exactly what new adult should be: kids post-high school taking their first steps into “adulting,” with sex present, but not in an erotic way. It has a YA contemporary voice, but the MCs are just a tad bit older. I also truly appreciated how Bennett placed her characters in a non-school setting. I’ve heard so many calls from people in publishing asking for manuscripts featuring MCs navigating college, and I’m just… not really interested in that?

The pitch is that the MC, Birdie, hooked up with a cute guy in his car, then totally freaked out and literally ran away from him. She’s doing her best to forget all this… but then said cute guy, Daniel, happens to work at her new job. Gotta be fate, right? But both Birdie and Daniel are going to have to work through a lot of things before they can get their happily ever after. Oh, and there’s a “mystery” in the book as well… I use quotes here because the mystery aspect really isn’t that big of a focus; we’re all just here for the developing romance between Birdie and Daniel. It’s cute, they’re cute, the setting’s cute, everything’s cute, cute, cute! Love it.

All this isn’t to say that the book is perfect. Daniel is a bit too much of a “nice guy” for my taste; he treats Birdie like gold at every opportunity, giving her all possible outs from their relationship. That didn’t come across as caring to me so much as unsexy; I was hoping he’d grow a spine. But Daniel did grow on me in time, especially as he plans one awesome date after the next. The one with a Clue focus? (Trying not to give anything away.) I was Googling if anything like that existed in my area. (Unfortunately looks like I’d have to travel to Boston, so… meh.) There was also some cringey, wooden dialogue—I could have done without the “skedaddling” scene. But these are just small quibbles; the setting, the characters, the “found family” aspect, the pitch-perfect new adult feel all added up to a thoroughly enjoyable read, so I will definitely be checking out Bennett’s other books.

The Stone’s Heart by Jessica Thorne (The Queen’s Wing #2)

The first in this science-fantasy series, The Queen’s Wing, is the best book I’ve read this year hands down, so suffice it to say that I was beyond excited to read The Stone’s Heart and bought it the day of release. The Stone’s Heart picks up pretty much exactly after the last book ended and introduces Petra, Bel’s bodyguard, as a new POV; the book shifts between their POVs throughout. It took me a little while to feel fully immersed in the book, but that was really a me-thing instead of a book-thing—sometimes you’re just not in that SFF mood, you know? But things clicked for me about a quarter of the way in, and I was fully along for the ride.

Thorne crafts great characters and excellent plots, with world building that’s just the perfect ratio of science fiction to fantasy. As I think I said in my review of the first in the series, whoever is doing the marketing for this series is picking the wrong comps (Sarah J. Maas and The Selection). I think a wayyyyy better comparison is the Lunar Chronicles series if it were aimed at slightly older readers. And can we talk about that last bit? Because this series is not YA; I don’t care what the marketing and the cover indicate. Yeah, it’s written in a YA-ish voice that’s going to appeal to YA fans, but these characters are too old for that designation, sorry. I get it, that’s where the money’s at, but… can we try the New Adult thing again? Pretty please? Because a couple books I’ve read this year fit super well in that category, and I just wish traditional publishing and bookstores would acknowledge that we can make this a thing if we all just take a trust fall together.

I really enjoyed the new POV; these characters are full-fledged, with their own hopes, dreams, and back stories. If you are a fan of courtly (and interplanetary!) intrigue, definitely pick this series up, since there are a ton of twists, turns, and back stabbings. Thorne is really skilled at writing plot twists that truly come from left field but feel absolutely plausible. There’s no listed third book on Goodreads, but I’m praying that the author has one in the works, since I’m on board for this series for the long haul—hoping it’s not a trilogy, so we can get more, more, more! And in the meantime, I might take a look at her back list, since she also writes under Ruth Frances Long and R. F. Long.

Short Tuesday #7: “Blue Morphos in the Garden” by Lis Mitchell

This week I returned to Tor.com for another look at their original fiction. Lis Mitchell’s “Blue Morphos in the Garden” was published just a few days ago, and the beautiful illustration and the promise of magical realism was enough to hook me. You can read the short story right here!

I liked this story quite a bit! It centers around death, tradition, and what it means to be part of a family—don’t want to give anything away, but the family members in the story have a particular heritage relating to death. Every sentence felt purposeful and necessary, and the language itself was beautiful and evocative.

The outer edge of the wing resembles split wood with whorled knots, but each butterfly unfolds itself into a slice of fluttering blue sky and dark stormshadow. Open—sky, closed—wood.

I will say that I liked the story from start to finish, but felt that the opening imagery was the most compelling, I think because after that readers basically have a sense of what’s going on. I don’t want to know all the ins-and-outs with magical realism—would rather preserve a hearty dose of ambiguity. I also thought that Dash, the MC’s partner, was a very weak character personality-wise, leaving me to wonder what the MC sees in him—they seemed very ill-matched, not just because they don’t see eye to eye on the one issue central to the story. I couldn’t help wondering if it weren’t for their child whether they would still be together.

So some interesting things to contemplate while reading this story, coupled with a lot of beautiful imagery and sentence-craft. If magical realism is your thing, definitely give this story a shot.

Chapter Six of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

The sixth chapter of The Gold in the Dark drops today! I’m especially excited that this chapter is posting, since it’s the first POV switch of the book. Don’t worry if you need to catch up with past chapters, since you can do that right here. New chapters post every other Sunday at 11 AM EST, and each one is accompanied by a beautiful, custom illustration. Just look at this week’s illustration; isn’t it gorgeous? The care and thought my illustrator puts into these chapter illustrations steals my breath every time. It’s one thing to envision these scenes in your head, and another to see them pictured on a page. ❤ Really surreal.

In writing update news, this week brought a major victory for me: the formatting of Specter is finally finished. I thought I was done with it a week ago, then received my physical proof and realized I needed to make font size adjustments, as well as bring in the inner margin. And it’s not so simple as changing those things and then submitting the final manuscript, wham bam thank you ma’am, since any formatting change can have a huge cascading effect in terms of page length, paragraph widows and orphans, etc. Cue rushing to get these changes made in a span of three days so I could rush order another proof, so I could finally confirm my page count, so I could hire a cover artist. And let me tell you, the proof arrived yesterday and… the formatting is perfect, at last.

Which means that there will be a cover reveal soon. I don’t really know any other way to put this: I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!! Everything is coming together, it’s going to look fantastic, and soon Specter will be a real thing, out in the world for others to read.

I can’t wait. I hope you guys can’t wait, too.

Anyway, hope everyone’s having a great weekend, and enjoy reading Chapter Six.

ARC: The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

Thank you to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Dark Game debuts April 11th.

This may have been a poor choice for a first book to read by Jonathan Janz. I didn’t know much about Janz, though the name vaguely rang a bell. (More on that later.) The premise is a bunch of writers competing for mentorship and future literary prestige at a spooky retreat. Normally I’m not huge on stories where the MC is an author; the characters always read cringy to me, like an over-the-top author-insert. But the whole writer competition thing sounded fun, so I decided to request the book.

Yet it turns out that ten writer MCs read more cringy to me than one writer MC, by a factor of about ten-fold. (Whodathunkit.) Again, this is totally a personal preference thing; I just can’t get past all the talk about agents and advances and genre dissing, since I’m forever trying to suss out Janz the author’s actual thoughts.

He narrowed his eyes, appraising her. “You look like a YA writer. Am I right?”

She considered telling him of her early success, transforming his arrogant expression into a look of awe.

Take the above quote, for example—what do you mean by that exactly, Jonathan Janz? You wanna throw down? Huh? Huh? 😀

But then. Then. We get to the above and beyond part. Because Janz inserts multiple mentions of one of his own novels into the book and talks up how great it is. Read that again. One of the writers on the retreat is writing one of Janz’s books, The Siren and the Specter, and keeps saying how it’s amazing. It’s bookception, with a marketing twist. As my husband put it, “Wow, that takes a lotta balls.”

This is when I realized why Janz’s name seemed so familiar to me; I have The Siren and the Specter on my (lengthy) Goodreads TBR. Honestly I have no idea if there are other Easter eggs in The Dark Game, but I wouldn’t be surprised. My overall sense is that this book might be great for diehard Janz fans as a sort of fan service book, but it left me kind of feeling like I was missing a bunch of inside jokes, while also being served some sneaky advertisements. I also had a difficult time connecting with the characters since there were just so damn many of them. Some had interesting back stories, but most felt fairly interchangeable, and it was hard to keep everyone straight. (Save for Sherilyn; really enjoyed her brief POV sections.)

So I’m not ruling out reading another book by this author, but suffice it to say that The Dark Game was unfortunately a miss for me.


Just a real quick reminder to everyone that the next chapter of The Gold in the Dark will be releasing this Sunday at 11 AM EST! This is one not to miss, since there’s a new POV incoming. (Oooooh.) All right, that’s all, folks. ❤