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

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-sixth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

I’m so happy that these past two weeks I’ve been continuing to plug away at my WIP. I’ve reached the 60k mark, but somehow feel there’s so much more to go. (!!!) I can’t believe that I once thought this would be a short book; it seems like it’s turning out to be anything but. One thing that’s been a big help to me creativity-wise has been the easing of quarantine here in Connecticut. I can’t go write in coffee shops or at the library yet (even Barnes & Noble is only doing curb-side pick-up), but I’ve been going to my writer friend’s house a few times each week so that we can write together. We’ve made Zoom calls work these past few months, but it’s such a nicer experience to be together in person. ❤

Another notable thing that happened recently is that I found another writer who did a take on a Beauty and the Beast retelling with an alien framework! Or, at least, Amanda Milo’s novella Contaminated claims to be a retelling of the classic fairytale; I did think that claim was a bit looser than most.

It can be a bit alarming as an author to hear that another book has a seemingly similar premise to your own. It stands to reason that I’m not the first one to think that an alien-human romance is ripe for a Beauty and the Beast take (the idea is kind of obvious if you think about it), but I hadn’t been able to find one on the market until now. Fortunately it turns out that Contaminated, while a very cute story, isn’t at all like my WIP. And that’s the thing: a similar premise approached by two different writers is bound to end up being different, because every writer brings their own creative lens and background to the table. That’s why my writer friend wasn’t at all concerned when she told me her plans to write a cozy cat shifter book–and then she encouraged me to write my own as well when I told her it was one of the best ideas I’d ever heard. Here’s something else to consider: if a reader really likes a book, they seek out other books that will scratch that same itch. So it can actually be a good thing if your book has some similar elements to other works, because readers are often on the hunt for more of the same. How many times have I picked up a book hoping it will be like my beloved Sookie Stackhouse books? The answer is a lot.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Six.

Blog Tour + Review: A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A Royal Kiss and Tell debuted May 19th.

I adored last year’s The Princess Plan, so I made sure to be first in line for an ARC when the sequel was posted on NetGalley. I love your typical snag-a-duke historical romance, but the Royal Wedding series takes the fantasy to the next level with handsome princes and court intrigue. Let’s get the details out of the way, then get to the review…


A Royal Kiss & Tell
London, Julia 
FICTION/Romance/Historical/Victorian 
Mass Market | HQN Books | A Royal Wedding #2
9781335136978
$7.99 USD | $10.99 CAN

Blurb

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

Author Bio

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.

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Buy Links

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(I receive no commission on these links, FYI!)

Review

I adored the first book in this series, The Princess Plan, last year, and was so excited to get a chance to read this second book! Like the previous book, the characters in this book are excellent; one thing that London does so well is craft characters who feel solid and utterly unique. On that note, I can see a potential for some readers to be turned off by the MC, Caroline; she’s impetuous to an extreme and isn’t shy about making her opinions known. These traits often land her in sticky situations that can get cringy, so anyone super sensitive to cringe might find this a tougher couple to fall in love with. I was quite taken with her, though. 🙂

Due to the royal focus and the invented kingdom of Alucia, this series has a slightly more fantasy feel than your typical historical romance (a genre which, let’s be honest, is its own strain of fantasy, anyway.) Anyone looking for historical accuracy should perhaps keep browsing, but for those of us who just want to imagine a scenario where we get to fall in love with a dashing prince, this book is just perfect. The dialogue is great and the prose is strong, with the right amount of whimsy that doesn’t cross into saccharine sweet or precious territory. I also appreciated the court intrigue plot thread; astute mystery readers might unravel the mystery before the end, but I didn’t anticipate the twists and turns myself. All in all, this was a great read, and I’ll definitely be first in line for the next in series.

Chapter Thirty-Five of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-fifth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

Not much different these past few weeks, though I did finally get out a new Short Tuesday! It’s not much, but I’m considering it a win. I have another few blog posts planned for this coming week as well. Work-wise our season is finally slowing down again, so I’m hopeful that I’ll have more energy to devote creatively. I’m also going to be working from home until at least July, which I think will also be helpful in terms of creative output? Hard to say, since the wrecking of my normal schedule and routine due to COVID-19 has really hampered writing for me; I know a lot of other authors feel similarly. Even Mark Dawson has been saying that he’s lucky to get in just a few hours a day right now.

In terms of other small victories, I’m also reading more than I have been–I was in a bit of a slump through April, but I’ve finally broken through that and now feel very motivated to read… which is always great for my general creativity as well. I’ve been loving the Beauty and the Beast retellings by Robin McKinley. (She has two.) Just such a pleasure to read fiction by an author who really knows what she’s doing.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Five.

Short Tuesday Returns! #43: “The Black Beast of Belterre” by Mary Jo Putney

Short Tuesday makes a triumphant return this week–hurrah! Normally I reserve this spot for horror-tinged SFF, but I thought I’d do something a bit different this week, so actually turned to a novella by romance author Mary Jo Putney. It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, which anyone who’s spent a little time around these parts will know is super interesting to me right now. You can buy it off Amazon for $1.99… (I receive no commission for this link.)

I really enjoyed this novella, which flew by for me in about an hour and a half. It’s branded as a Christmas novella, but Christmas has the smallest of influences on the story–I didn’t feel weird at all reading it in May. I didn’t much get along with the last work I read by Putney (strangely, also Christmas-themed), due to 3rd POV reasons, but I didn’t experience any of those frustrations here.

This is a tale as old as time (har har): a man with confidence problems reluctantly falls in love with a smart and charming beauty. It’s a retelling of the classic fairy tale, but sticks strictly to those bare roots of the story–the magic is in the budding romance between the MCs, rather than curses and talking teapots. I was definitely aching for these two MCs to get together; the male MC’s insta-love wasn’t off-putting to me at all. A fair warning that anyone looking for sex scenes won’t find them here–there is definitely romantic longing and tension, but the one sex scene is top down and detail-free. I wouldn’t have minded things to get a bit more X-rated, but I can understand from a pacing standpoint why Putney didn’t go there.

I’m really happy I read this short story–one, because I’m on a Beauty and the Beast tear, but also because it gave me a second chance to read this author. I think we might have gotten off on the wrong footing; I’ll probably give one of Putney’s full-fledged novels a chance some time. This novella definitely has a thumbs up from me. 🙂

Chapter Thirty-Four of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-fourth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

It’s been another one of those two week periods with not really anything happening on the blog. 😦 I’ve been writing my WIP and reading, but motivation for blogging has been low for me, both due to the quarantine and the fact that it’s crunch time at my job. I know I’ll get back into the swing of things, but it’s just not happening right now. I think I’ll try to get a Short Tuesday post up this week; that would be a nice, achievable victory. I also have an ARC review to write, so maybe I’ll try to get that out for Thursday or Sunday.

But really, I’m just happy that I’m making progress on my WIP. This has been a slow book from the start, and I’ll definitely be happy to be done with it! (And let’s hope that day comes sooner rather than later!!) I’m not sure what I’ll be working on once I finish–there are a couple possibilities. I might swing right into a sequel for Beauty and the Beast and Aliens, since I can see the potential of this book developing into a longer series… or I might work on a different sci-fi retelling… or maybe even a cat shifter cozy that’s been bouncing around my mind for the last month and a half or so. That idea was gifted to me by one of my writer friends–thanks, Dawn. 🙂

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here, and I will try my absolute hardest to see you all again on Tuesday!!! Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Four.

Chapter Thirty-Three of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Picture courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-third chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

In writing news, Camp NaNo is going… okay. I’ve definitely been adding words to my manuscript–not as many as I’d like, but what’s new? 😉 I’m continuing to do Zoom dates with my writing buddies, which has been really fun. And I’ve added a new character to my story; this book has a very small cast thus far, so it’s always nice to add someone new into the mix.

I thought it might be fun this week to give some shout-outs to a few new bookish things! The first is Dabble, a writing service that I think I’ve mentioned before once or twice. I’ve been drafting on Dabble for the past nine months or so, and I really enjoy it; it has a similar layout to Scrivener, but everything syncs to the cloud and you can write from a browser if you want to, so that it’s easy to write from multiple computers. What’s nice is that they’ve added mobile support just a few days ago! I’m sure other writers out there will relate to how it can be really annoying to get an idea for your book while you’re out and about and not have anywhere to write it down–I normally text myself in those situations, but now I can just use the app to jot the idea down in my actual story document. Hurrah!!!

I also want to shout out Self Publishing Formula, which is Mark Dawson’s company that offers courses and webinars for indie authors, as well as an excellent podcast. Most indies probably know Mark Dawson; he’s a giant in the industry. Anyway, his company has been running lots of promos on courses for indie authors due to COVID-19, and now they’re working on a BookBub competitor called Hello Books. It’s not up and running yet, but you can get on a waitlist. Given Mark Dawson’s success in the industry, this seems like an interesting opportunity to grow your list and get exposure.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Three.

Predictions for how COVID-19 will impact the book industry

So let’s get this out of the way at the front end of things: I am not an economist, nor am I a fortune teller. 🙂 However, I do like to think I have a decent understanding of the publishing industry, so I thought it might be interesting to put together some predictions for how the current pandemic and resulting economic fallout could impact publishing and books. Definitely leave a comment down below with your own thoughts and predictions–I’d love to know what others think about this!

Traditional Publishing

  1. Many smaller presses are going to go under. Publishers who use a traditional business model are already facing such economic pressure that the coronavirus is unfortunately going to be the nail in the coffin. Things like renting a space in NYC and employing an HR department, admin assistants, a marketing department, and on-staff cover artists and copy editors will become simply too expensive.
  2. Smaller and larger presses alike are going to back out of many book deals with new and especially midlist authors in favor of deals that seem like a sure success. I would not be at all surprised if authors who have a publishing deal find that deal rescinded or indefinitely delayed. The midlist problem, commonly understood as publishers betting on blockbuster books and no longer offering much support or sizable advances for midlist authors, will intensify even further.
  3. Readers who have been loyal to paperback and hardcover books are going to give ebooks and audiobooks a try, since it’s tougher right now to get physical copies. (For those who don’t know, Amazon is prioritizing stocking their warehouses with essential items right now, which has a direct impact on if you can buy a trad-pub book online.) For many readers, a shift to ebooks or audiobooks won’t be just a temporary measure but will change reading habits permanently.
  4. Prices of ebooks (generally much higher for trad-pub books than indie books) are going to fall as traditional publishers try to grab readers’ dollars in whatever way they can.
  5. Expect to see a rise in trad-pub ebook sales, not just from readers switching from hard copies to ebooks out of necessity, but due to the lipstick/nail polish index phenomenon, where people tend to purchase items of smaller value for psychological comfort in times of economic distress. People also have more free time, so some people will spend that time reading more than they have in the past. I believe this last point applies more to readers in the traditional sphere, since whale readers appear to read more indie books through services like Kindle Unlimited. That is to say, the whale readers are already reading tons, and I doubt they will be reading even more than they already are.
  6. A longer-term prediction: as people working in trad-pub begin working from home or are laid off, NYC will slowly lose its status as North America’s trad-pub mecca.

Indie/Hybrid Publishing

  1. In response to trad-pub’s prices coming down, indie authors will lower their prices to remain competitive. We might see the return of the 99 cent ebook.
  2. “Hybrid” publishers who publish using many of the tips and tricks used by indie authors will snatch up books by authors who had a trad-pub deal and don’t want to put in the indie effort.
  3. Indie and hybrid book sales will temporarily dip in the next month due to readers’ current stress levels, but then experience a fairly swift rise because of readers having more free time, as well as the lipstick/nail polish index (mentioned above).
  4. This one’s a long shot, but print sales might go up for indie authors? I can vaguely envision a reader who is super-committed to reading only physical books not being able to get copies of trad-published works, so ordering indie books that look interesting because indies can still print and ship according to demand.

Stories

  1. No-brainer: we’re going to see a veritable tsunami of pandemic stories releasing, starting in about two months’ time from the indie crowd and two years’ time for trad-pub. Post-apocalyptic stories will probably also experience a rise, as well as speculative horror with a disease focus. I’m not sure if I’ll personally be wanting to read these types of stories after all this craziness, though!
  2. We’re also going to see a rise in stories with a feel-good/fluffy feel–cute romances, beach reads, etc. Perhaps a return of chick lit?? New Adult with a chick lit feel seems like it would be a grand slam–something like Bridget Jones’ Diary but with the MC aged down to twenty-two.
  3. Due to traditional publishers only wanting to bet on sure successes, there will be an even greater pressure on highly successful trad-pub authors to bring their books to market faster (authors like VE Schwab, Sarah J. Maas, etc.). Expect to see lower quality stories from trad-pub authors, since they will be under pressure to rush their process along.
  4. Since it will be harder to get trad-pub deals, more authors with serious writing chomps will start to indie/hybrid publish. This means that authors won’t be going through the lengthy trad-pub editing process with a need to get a go-ahead from the business/marketing team. That means we will hopefully see more innovative story lines!

So those are my predictions–what do you think? I’m beyond curious to know what impact you guys think the coronavirus will have on the publishing industry and stories in general, so leave a comment below!

Chapter Thirty-Two of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-second chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

These past few weeks I’ve really upped my word count on my Beauty and the Beast and Aliens WIP–I’m finally feeling like I’m making some progress story-wise! We’re also officially past that interminable kayaking scene. 😛 A lot of the progress I’ve made is down to writing with friends virtually, since, you know, social distancing. I’ve been doing a lot of Zoom sessions with writing buddies, sometimes even multiple times a day. Over the years, I’ve found that my most effective habit for getting words in is to write with friends–we usually rotate coffee shops or sometimes write at each other’s houses, about one to three times a week for two hours or so. These are not critique sessions; it’s just butt-in-chair time with other people. So I’ve been happy to discover that virtual writing sessions are about as effective for me as in-person sessions, and it’s nice to be keeping up with all my writing friends as well.

Something that’s been another small help to me is Camp NaNoWriMo. A lot of people know about NaNo, but not necessarily about the “camps” that take place during April and July. In the camps, you get to pick your word count and you write in virtual “cabins” with other writers, to help with accountability. This year’s Camp NaNo is an afterthought for NaNoWriMo as a company, in my opinion; with the gutting of the NaNo website last year, it seems that there’s hardly any support for camp this year in terms of online functionality. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to be sorted into cabins; you have to join writing groups yourself in the forum. There also doesn’t appear to be any fun new graphics or merch for this year’s camp, different from years in the past where each camp had its own branding. I’m not really sure where NaNo is at as a company (they’re a 501(c)(3)), but I wish they had made camp a bigger priority than it seems to be. Nevertheless, I’m in a couple cabins, and we’ve been using Discord for chatting while we’re getting words in. So it’s been kinda fun… but also a letdown. :/ Anyone else doing Camp NaNo? I’d be curious to hear other people’s opinions about the changes NaNo is making as a company.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Two.

Four Sins of a Newbie Writer

I’ve done a lot of beta-reading in my day, and I find that my critique points often align along the same sort of issues. I thought it might be helpful to type up a list for anyone who is just starting out writing–I know a lot of people are using their self-isolation time to start a new WIP for Camp NaNoWriMo, for example. 😉 As always with these sort of posts, I’m not claiming I’m some genius master writer, but I do firmly stand by this list.

Sin #1: Being Too Mysterious

It’s happened more than a couple times that my very first, page one comment on a manuscript is that the author is trying to be too mysterious in the first couple paragraphs. In the first few pages, it is courteous to readers to clearly introduce your MC’s name, age, and identity. When authors dangle tidbits of information and invite readers to piece the puzzle together, it makes readers work too hard, rather than being able to sit back and enjoy the story–and that often means readers will stop reading and pick up a different book. These slow, spoon-fed introductions always makes me think of some cheesy anime character intro where they make their grand entrance to the show in silhouette.

The man walked into the bar and sat down with a weary sigh. “What’ll it be?” asked the man behind the bar, his voice a low growl. Green eyes glinted. The monk laughed. This was going to be an interesting night.

Okay, so here is the information we aren’t privy to in the above paragraph (not taken from a beta manuscript, just a few lines I made up that are representative of many past beta reads). There are no names, and the only physicality we’re given could belong to either man… or the monk… or a third party observer! Also, who is the monk? Is it the guy who just came into the bar or somebody else? Just how many people are in this scene anyway???

And take a look at the oh-so-mysterious line “Green eyes glinted.” Short sentences of physicality have started to drive me absolutely bananas recently–I think I’ve seen too many of them in books by authors like Sarah J. Maas, and they just… aren’t working for me anymore. Authors normally throw them in to establish a lyrical, poetic, or moody feel, but they read as lazy writing to me at this point.

Most crucially in the above few lines, the POV feels shaky; most readers will make the assumption that we are in the head of the first man, not the bartender, but that is not necessarily the case. This leads into the next sin…

Sin #2: Head-Hopping

Head-hopping is when authors change POVs within a scene. Unless you are some master literary craftsman who understands how to do this, stick with one POV in each scene, lest your readers become disoriented.

Wow, thought Paul, she’s super hot. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from her.

Emma blushed, noticing his gaze. Hey, good-lookin’. What she wouldn’t do for a man in uniform.

Okay, before our two characters above start getting it on, we have to fix an enormous problem; first we’re in Paul’s head, then we’re suddenly hearing Emma’s thoughts. That’s going to give your readers serious whiplash, and it will introduce major confusion throughout the manuscript. If you are using 3rd POV, you can only have your POV character think and react to information that they know.

And to help ground your readers if you’re switching POV from chapter to chapter, always use the POV character’s name in the first sentence–and ideally, make their name the first word.

Sin #3: Noticeable Dialogue Tags

There are a scant few dialogue tags I use on the regular in my writing. Here they are:

  • said
  • asked

Of course I’ll throw in a “murmured,” “growled,” or “spat” every once in a while, but generally, “said” and “asked” will do me–and my favorite scenario is when I don’t have to use dialogue tags at all and just let the dialogue sit by itself. 🙂

Here’s some dialogue from my current WIP, with extra dialogue tags thrown in.

“I’m going to pop by the liquor store, then we’re having a night in at your place. Any booze requests?” she inquired.

I thought for a second. “Just rum for me,” I sighed. “But get yourself whatever you want.”

“You getting sick?” she asked me. She knew me too well.

“Bit of a sore throat,” I told her. “That’s all.”

Okay, so this snippet is a telephone conversation between the MC and her best friend. Notice how every line includes some sort of dialogue tag (“inquired,” “sighed,” “asked,” “told”). Most of these aren’t necessary. For example, a question mark indicates a question (duh), so generally speaking there is no need to use “asked” or “inquired.” Our MC is telling her best friend what she wants to get from the liquor store, so “told” is also repetitive. As for “sighed,” it adds a bit of color, but not enough to make it necessary here. Some people would keep it, but I’d personally get rid of it.

My rule of thumb is to nix any dialogue tag that is not pulling its weight. One little thing to note, though, is that dialogue tags can do a lot for a sentence in terms of rhythm; sometimes it’s nice to break up sentences with a “said/asked,” just to keep things flowing nicely. But don’t worry about that if you’re a beginning writer–just take a good, hard look at all your dialogue tags and ditch the ones that are useless.

This is the way I wrote the text originally:

“I’m going to pop by the liquor store, then we’re having a night in at your place. Any booze requests?”

I thought for a second. “Just rum for me. But get yourself whatever you want.”

“You getting sick?” She knew me too well.

“Bit of a sore throat. That’s all.”

I can understand that to some people the above might read a bit sparse–that’s a personal preference thing. My point is that many newbie writers employ dialogue tags for every bit of dialogue, and this can quickly bog down your characters’ conversations and annoy your readers.

Sin #4: Using Telling Words to Show

“Show, don’t tell”–we’ve all heard it, but it’s often tough for writers to understand what that means. I could write a whole ‘nother post about “show, don’t tell” (and when you actually should tell), but I’ll save that for a different time. What I really want to talk about here is when writers think they’re showing, but they’re not.

Here’s an example:

He heard a braying voice from the other room.

Another:

She saw sparks fly from the machine.

Notice how “he heard” and “she saw” introduce distance into the sentence? It filters all action through the character’s senses. If you have centered your readers in a POV, we understand intuitively that a braying voice is something the character is hearing and that sparks are something the character is seeing. In the above example, these sentences tell, rather than show.

So get your character out of the sentence and let the action flow, rather than telling us what’s going on. Here are the sentences fixed up:

A voice brayed from the other room. / There came a braying voice from the other room.

Sparks flew from the machine.

Notice how much more actioney the above sentences feel? That’s because we’re suddenly not limited by having everything focus on the MC. Yes, we should be in their head, but not to the point where every single sentence tugs us back to the character.


I really hope the above tips are useful if you’re a writer just starting out! However, my biggest recommendation for avoiding these sins and developing your fictional voice is to read good books by competent writers. I’m going to be frank here: there are a lot of authors out there who are extremely successful commercially–but they don’t necessarily have the strongest chops when it comes to narrative voice. You should make it your mission to read authors who are good at their craft and pay attention to what they’re doing, maybe by even typing one of their chapters into a Word document so that you’re forced to pay attention to their stylistic choices. Here are a few of my absolute favorite authors when it comes to narrative voice:

  • Charlaine Harris (read for character description and voicey 1st POV)
  • Derek Milman (read for dialogue and voicey 1st POV)
  • Eloisa James (read for dialogue and character dynamics)
    • On a quick note, James very occasionally head-hops, but she does it as a master writer should: with purposeful subtlety that hopefully won’t annoy the average reader.
  • Kristen Britain (read for her wide range of emotion and sentence simplicity)
  • Maureen Johnson (read for voicey 1st and 3rd POV)

Can you think of any other “writing sins”? Who are your favorite authors to read for their narrative voice? Leave a comment down below!

The Rose Gate by Hanna Sandvig

One of my reading missions this year is to discover some indie authors of quality. I love the indie space for many reasons: it’s easier for authors to make a living, authors retain complete creative control over their work, and the author community has a positive, entrepreneurial vibe, rather than the doom-and-gloom of trad pub.

Story quality, however, can be an overlooked issue in the indie space; with the push to rapidly release books (I’m talking 4+ books a year, and sometimes wayyyy more than that), the majority of the indie books I read don’t meet my personal threshold for a quality novel. I totally get why indie authors release like this; readers and store algorithms respond well to rapid release, so there’s a lot of money to be made. When voracious romance fans are breathing down your neck for the next book in a series so they can throw money at you, who can blame an author for getting their book to market as swiftly as possible?

But I’m just not personally a fan of these pulp fiction-type books. No matter how cool a story’s premise, flat characters and weak prose will doom a book for me every time. So that’s why I was so happy to finally get a chance to read Hanna Sandvig’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, The Rose Gate.

Sandvig as an author has been on my radar for a while. (Her author Instagram is to die for, and I’m in the mood for Beauty and the Beast retellings, since I’m writing one myself.) The first in a fairy tale romance series, The Rose Gate follows MC Isobel (otherwise known as Bel–get it?) as she accidentally leaves our modern world for Faerie. Of course, there’s a handsome prince, a curse, and lots of fun flirtation.

This book is a strong first entry in Sandvig’s series. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s voice, world-building, the characters, and especially the budding romance between Bel and her faerie beau. I do think the book could have done with another pass by an editor, as there are some punctuation issues and especially run-on sentences, but these lessened as the book went along, and I didn’t find they hindered my enjoyment.

Can I also talk real quick about the production quality behind this book as well? Sandvig designs her own covers, and the paperback edition is gorgeous, including full-spread illustrations also by the author. I’m so glad I picked up the paperback version!

The Rose Gate was a twenty-four hour read that really swept me up–it was the palate cleanser I desperately needed after the disastrous The Sound of Stars. I will definitely be taking a look at Sandvig’s future work!

Also, comment down below–do you have any recommendations for other books by indie authors? I’m always on the hunt!