Featured From the Archives: My Love Affair With Complex Narratives

Confession: I was going to use today’s post to wax poetic (or completely fangirl gush, I hadn’t decided yet) about one of the books I finished recently. But then I realized that next week already has two book reviews scheduled. So instead of subjecting to you to four straight posts of reviews, I figured I’d pull something from the archives. You’re welcome.

This particular post (which I can’t believe was written over TWO YEARS ago already) does have a certain relevance, though. Not just in my own work, but for what I look for in general. I suspect that a large portion of you out there are writers. And I further suspect that most of you, if not all of you, are aware of my position as Head of Acquisitions for REUTS Publications. (That’s not my official title, by the way, but you know what I mean.) And I would hazard that of those who both write and know I actively cull the query trenches for new victims (did I say that? I meant authors —  talented, amazing authors) there are even some who have heard or seen the #MSWL tag/site.

In case you haven’t though, that’s short for Manuscript Wish List, and yes, I have a profile there detailing what I’ve been tasked with finding. In it, you’ll see that I list “intricate, multi-layered narratives” as one of the things most likely to tickle my fancy. Some have even submitted with that particular desire mentioned in their query. But it seems not everyone really knows what that means.

Which brings us to today’s topic: defining exactly what I mean when I say “intricate, multi-layered narratives.” Keep in mind that this was primarily written in reference to my own work, but the definitions toward the bottom are certainly useful for querying authors. (And to those thinking of submitting to REUTS/me: bonus points if you use the correct terminology in your query. ;) )

My Love Affair With Complex Narratives

by Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 3/29/13

I had a revelation this week — I’m completely infatuated with complex narratives. More than infatuated, I’m like an obsessed stalker. I already knew that my WIP was a complicated son-of-a-gun, with layers upon layers of intricate plot threads. But when my “simple” rewrite of The Bardach suddenly decided to morph into a complete overhaul with an added web of complexity, I started to wonder if it was a pattern.

Every writer has their go-to storytelling device, and apparently, this is mine. Like some kind of virus viciously mutating my fluffy little ideas into beefy, hulk-like variations with mental disorders, complex narration has spread through almost all of my plot bunnies. I suppose that really shouldn’t be a surprise, given the type of entertainment I tend to gravitate toward (they do say writers should write what they love to read), but still.

Why do I feel the need to complicate everything? Is it to push myself out of my comfort zone, testing my limits as a writer and forcing myself to rise to the challenge? Or is it simply that those are the stories I most enjoy as a reader? I’m honestly not sure, but I suspect it’s a little bit of both.

I’ve been writing for a long time now — over 20 years if you count the embarrassing grade-school attempts my mom continues to mortify me with whenever she gets the chance. (Love you, Mom!) And I’ve been an avid reader for even longer. So maybe it was a natural progression that I would grow past the simple narratives and start searching for things that were more complicated and therefore interesting.

I think all of us start to feel storytelling overload in this entertainment-soaked digital age. Eventually, storylines become predictable, plot twists become stale, character archetypes become as familiar as our siblings. So when a book/movie/show/game manages to keep us on our toes with an unexpected curveball, we are instantly intrigued. I know I go from only halfway paying attention to fully engaged in T minus 2 seconds when I run into a story that is different, refreshingly intricate, or surprising in some way.

Complex narratives add that extra depth to a story, regardless of medium. When done well, they’re almost invisible. The only thing readers notice is total immersion in the experience. We’ve all felt it. It’s the difference between mildly enjoying something and being so hooked that you’re glued to the edge of your seat, riveted until it ends; finishing a book and then promptly forgetting it, or being consumed by the need to share its brilliance with everyone you know. In short, it’s exactly the kind of reaction every content creator hopes to elicit from their audience.

What exactly are these complicated creatures I simply cannot live without? Well, there are several types of complex narratives, including these fine specimens:

  • Flashbacks: The interjection of a past scene or memory that illuminates the current situation or provides insight into the character’s backstory.
  • Dream Sequences: Similar to flashbacks, this oft-scorned device introduces atmospheric foreshadowing, additional information, or mystery for the reader.
  • Repetition: Just like it sounds; the literal repetition of a scene, clue, theme, etc.
  • Swapping POVs: We should all recognize this one. Head-hopping has become a pretty popular method for providing readers with multiple perspectives inside one plot. Just make sure you keep the identities clearly separated, generally with a scene or chapter break.
  • Converging Plotlines: Two seemingly unrelated, simultaneous plotlines that converge at the end, where the connection and overall message of the piece is finally revealed.
  • Circular Plotting: The story circles back around to the beginning.
  • Backward Storytelling: The end is shown first. We then work backward toward it, explaining how the characters got there in the process.
  • Framed Narration: A story within a story. Or in my case, a story within a story within a story. It’s up to you how many layers deep you want to make it. As long as you can keep it all straight and clear enough for the reader, it’s all fair game.

I’ve used them all in some form or other without even realizing it. You probably have too. Even my first forays into storytelling (I’m not counting those frightening grammar-school moments, no matter how much Mom insists they’re legit) contained flashbacks, dream sequences, and framed narratives. Those of you who have read my short stories know that I graduated to a hybrid of backward storytelling and circular plotting with Confessions, and have now gone even further to converging plotlines in the new version of The Bardach and a combination of about 5 techniques, including repetition, in Unmoving. It’s taking an exhausting toll on my muse, that’s for sure, and has me screaming, “What’s wrong with a little simplicity?”

The fact is, there’s nothing wrong with it. The standard three-act structure with no fancy trappings has been the traditional storytelling format for thousands of years. But complex narration builds on that, creating a richer, more engaging experience for everyone. Isn’t that what every writer wants? To connect deeply with their readers? I know I do. I want to make people feel the way I have when reading some of my favorite books — nearly all of which utilized at least some of the techniques listed above. Maybe that’s where I learned it, emulating my favorite authors while searching for my own literary voice. In the end, who really knows? All I know is that my stories would feel extremely lacking without their complexity. And that’s as good a reason as any to keep including it, even if, as I strongly suspect, it’s at least partially responsible for my slacker status on the prolific-meter. ;)

How about you, do you prefer simple or complex narratives? Sound off in the comments below!

Featured From the Archives: Self-Editing Tips From an Editor

I’ll admit that I honestly didn’t know what to post this week. I have article ideas, but I’m also the human equivalent of a car running on fumes — which, for those who don’t understand that analogy, means I’m pretty much a walking shell waiting for every possible second of sleep I can find. “I haz the dumb,” as the epic words of countless internet cat-memes would say.

But that doesn’t excuse me from deadlines, as much as I might wish it did. And before I step back into the gauntlet of Insane Editing Deadlines, I wanted to find something to post. Fortunately, the archives came to my rescue yet again. And so, with that, I’ll let you read on while I disappear into the shadows of the Edit Cave. Hopefully I make it out the other side of the gauntlet in one piece!

Self-Editing Tips From an Editor

by Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 9/20/13

It’s no secret that writers loathe the editing process. With its tedious attention to grammar rules you tried to forget as soon as you graduated, repetitive methodologies that make anyone’s brain numb, and general snail’s pace, it’s no surprise that it pales in comparison to the joy of creating. But it’s a necessary evil. One that a strange few of us actually enjoy and decided to make a profession, creating that editor/writer bond we know so well. That doesn’t exonerate you from having to edit, though.

Surprisingly, I’ve actually seen the statement (more than once) that writers don’t need to worry about things like grammar and spelling. That’s the editor’s job; they’ll clean it up. (Every time someone says this, another editor’s muse disintegrates into ash from the horror.) No, actually, that’s not our job. It’s yours. Yes, editors (especially freelance editors) are more forgiving of the occasional typo and drunk-sounding sentence than your average reader, but that doesn’t mean they want to sludge through something that isn’t even as legible as your 4th grade history paper. And if your 4th grade teacher made you proofread, what makes you think an editor standing between you and publication, between you and being paid for your work, wouldn’t expect the same thing?

Exactly. They do.

But that doesn’t mean editing has to be as painful as a self-lobotomy. In fact, I’ve given tips to get you through the revision process before (Divorce Your Words; Save Your Story). But it’s a topic that bears repeating, so today, I’m going to give you another set of helpful insights, not from the perspective of a writer (like that previous post was) but from that of an editor.

(Hold on a moment while I swap my writer hat for my editor one . . . okay. Ready.)

1. Step Back


No, I’m not bastardizing “step off,” so don’t get your panties in a bunch. Step back is a concept from the art world. In fact, it’s one of the first things you learn at art school. (Yes, you learn stuff at art school. Shocking, I know.) The idea is that an artist can’t clearly see the entirety of their work when they’re hunched over it and it’s about 6 inches from their face, so they have to “step back” to change their perspective and see their work the way the world does. Now it makes sense, huh?

The first step in self-editing is finding a way to create that shift in perspective, to see the work you’ve poured your heart into for the past year in a different way. We’re too close to it during the creation phase, viewing it like an overprotective mother turning a blind eye to their kid’s flaws. You have to break that connection before you can even begin to analyze your work objectively.  You need to step back.

The easiest way to do that is simply to shove your manuscript in a drawer for a few days and avoid it like a note from a debt collector trying to repo your car. I recommend a bare minimum of 48 hours, but a week to a month would be better. That allows the warm, fuzzy glow of creation to fade away and stark reality to set in. If you can’t afford to take the time off, then simply changing the mode of viewing can help. Download it onto an eReader or print it out. Even just moving to the Starbucks two blocks away instead of the one next to your house will help, as the change of venue will help clear your perspective of any lingering rosy tint.

2. Ignore the Details

Editing is synonymous with comma hunting, spell-check, and word choice, right? Wrong. So many writers (and more than a few editors) dive right into the detail work, thinking all they have to do is clean up the grammar, completely skipping over a very crucial step — structural/developmental editing. Bypassing this is like trying to repair a broken bone with makeup. All you end up with is a mangled limb painted like a hooker. Offensive, maybe, but it gets the point across, no?

At this stage in the process, no one cares if you spelled “definitely” wrong, or have a bazillion commas in all the wrong places. Ignore all that. Look deeper, at the story itself. If the structure isn’t working, there’s no point in polishing. That lump of coal’s not turning into a diamond. The only way to fix it is to become a story surgeon, diagnosing and repairing things that are otherwise fatal to your chances of publication. How? Like this:

Take that fresh perspective you earned in Step 1 and read through your manuscript from an aerial view, glossing over all the details. You’ll fix them later. Right now, you want to focus on things like pacing, character motivations, world development, scene transitions, and narrative sequence. What’s the message of your book; is it coming through clearly? Do the characters feel like fully fleshed-out people, or cardboard cut-outs? Are the scenes in the right order, or does shuffling a few around improve the plot’s progression? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking. Trust your instincts as a reader. We’ve all been programmed to know when a story works and when it doesn’t. And don’t be afraid to make a giant mess; you can stitch it all back together afterward.

3. Murder Your Habit Words

Habit words are insidious, riddling your manuscript like a cancer, so before you send your book off to the cosmetic surgeon (aka, your editor) for that much-needed facelift, you need to eradicate them. (Don’t ask why my favorite analogy for editing is medical. I don’t know.) Don’t feel bad, though, everyone has them. They’re like comfort food, something we turn to without even realizing. My habit words are “was”  and “so.” I’m sure I have others, but that’s all I’m admitting to.

Other common ones are “that,” “had,” and “actually.” It can also be a phrase, like “for a moment,” or “roll his/her/their eyes.” Pretty much anything you find yourself repeating over and over again qualifies as a habit word. Ideally, you should try to avoid repeating words or phrases on the same page, or even the same chapter! The English vocabulary is huge; use it to your advantage. But without being pretentious about it. Rarely will you find a word that doesn’t have at least one synonym. So before you go to the next step, arm that delete button with a hefty dose of radiation and go hunting for your habit words. You can’t kill them all, but you’ll be surprised at how even just this small tweak can drastically improve the smoothness of your prose.

4. Rhythm’s in the Details

Now you get to go through your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, copyediting line by line until it’s as perfect as you can make it on your own. This includes things like fixing rocky sentences, condensing wordy parts, simplifying convoluted phrasing, fixing grammar mistakes, and just general tweaking for rhythm and smoothness. This is what people picture when they hear “editing.” It’s the tedious part that will make you want to poke your own eyes out just so you never have to read that chapter ever again. It’s repetitive and monotonous, but it’s like sending your book to the gym. Each pass will trim a little more of the fat, until your manuscript is a lean, efficient piece of storytelling. At which point you send it to an editor, and the whole process starts over.

That’s right. I just outlined what a professional editor does. (With the exception of Step 1.)

So, why, if these are all steps you can do yourself, do editors exist? Because they provide objectivity. Even a self-editing master won’t be able to catch everything. Writers can never truly disconnect from their work, can never view it with complete objectivity, because they know the story and what they were trying to convey. An editor provides clarity, finding things that are confusing or missing just like a reader would. But since they’re also literary doctors, they’ll help you fix it, saving you from the embarrassing backlash of reader criticism and scorn. And besides, two heads are better than one. Right?

Featured From the Archives: The 10 Best Things About Being an Editor

The past couple weeks have been rough. Let’s just put that out there right now. The stress, the anger, the pain, and ultimately the tears have left me feeling battered, bruised, and downright defeated. And as I stand at the bottom of the avalanche, staring down a gauntlet of deadlines so insane it makes me want to throw in the towel and walk away, I can’t help but feel like I’m losing some of the reasons that made me want to become an editor in the first place.

I could have pulled one of my bleaker, exposé type articles detailing many of the things I’ve experienced yet again in the last fourteen days, but I don’t want to dwell on that. I’m already broken; I don’t need the reminder of how I got here. So instead, I’m gonna pull one of the happier posts, not because I feel like it necessarily deserved to make the rounds a second time, but because I need the reminder. I need to remember the good part of this editing life before the bad pushes me out of it completely.

And what better way to do that than to reexamine the best parts? So, for the second time, I give you:

The 10 Best Things About Being an Editor

by Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 6/12/15

There have been a lot of articles floating around the interwebs lately detailing the uglier side of editing, the harsh reality and bitter truth that publishing generally prefers to keep hidden. And I’d guess a lot of you are wondering why anyone would sign up for a job that clearly comes with a large side of misery. Or, if you’re a fledgling editor, you’re probably thinking it won’t happen to you, that those of us “griping” are just jaded old farts yelling “GET OFF MY LAWN!” at anyone who comes near. But trust me, you’re wrong. It will happen to you. I said I’d never fall prey to it either, and now look. I struggle daily to hold on to the passion and enthusiasm I started out with, to avoid turning into that hateful, jaded editor I said I’d never become. Because, you see, being an editor is a lot like being a statue in a sandstorm. Each stressful project wears down a little more of that initial optimism and joy, replacing it with marble-lined walls nothing can get through.

But it’s not all bad. And this isn’t going to be one of those bare-all-the-skeletons-in-the-closet type of articles (in case you didn’t glean that from the title above). No, to counter-act the very valid, albeit depressing, truth behind the editing life, I’m going to show you the good, the reasons we battle our way through the ugly, day after day after day. The reasons, when asked, we’ll still tell you we love it and it’s the best job on Earth.

I give you, the ten best things about being an editor, in no particular order and with just a touch of snark. ;)

1. Nerdery Welcome

If you’re an editor, you’re an avid reader. You have to be. It’s literally job requirement #1. Okay, proficiency in grammar is probably job requirement #1, but you know what I mean. You are a self-professed book nerd and you wear that label proudly.

But growing up, you were likely teased for it. A lot. While others spent their afternoons playing video games, sports, or lusting after the opposite sex, you were Belle from Beauty and the Beast, walking around with your nose stuck in a book. Admit it, this was you:


Well, one of the best things about being an editor is that your unabashed love of all things books is returned and fed by others who also unabashedly love books. All those things that riddled your childhood with taunts are no longer a weak point. The fact that you’re a book nerd is par for the course, and in fact, nerdery in all forms is highly encouraged. They say that nothing beats finding your people, your tribe. Well, book nerds, the land of editing bears its nerd flag proudly, and if you have the skills, you’re more than welcome to add your sigil to our banner.

2. Buying Books Becomes a Business Expense

This is legit. Seriously. Part of an editor’s job (especially an acquisitions editor) is knowing the ins and outs of the book-buying market. And how do you accomplish this? By buying books. No joke. Therefore, those extensive receipts from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and whatever other book haven you haunt, become what is known as “market research” and according to my tax professional, that is a deduction. **Note: I’m not a tax professional and make no claims to be. Make sure you talk to someone who is before taking my word for it.

As if we needed another reason to buy books, right?


3. Hoarding Books No Longer = Mental Disorder

Ah, yes. This is probably one of my favorites. I am a book hoarder. There, I admitted it. My apartment is crammed to the gills with books, to the point that one of the first comments any visitor says when they walk inside is, “Man, that’s a lot of books!” The second is always “Cool weapons,” but that’s a story for another time.

The point is, I like books. No, scratch that, I LOVE them. I love their smell, their feel, their beautifully linear sqaureness (Don’t ask. It’s been noted before that I have a touch of OCD). And someday, I will own that library from Beauty and the Beast. I will!

Anyway, this habit to collect books in droves has long been considered strange, obsessive, and cause for concern for any who have to help me move. But guess what? No one bats an eye now that I’m an editor. All that judgment I used to have to fend off gets checked at the door. It’s considered normal and, apparently, is completely understandable now that I live my life surrounded by words and literature and the soothing smell of printed paper. Now my only problem is my lack of shelf space. (Thank God for Kindle!)


4. You Become a Mystical Rainbow Unicorn with Super Powers

No, not really. But it will feel that way sometimes. I believe I wrote before about how I considered “Editor” to be an unattainable, near-mythical job title when I was younger. Well, apparently, I’m not alone in that. People seriously look at us like we’re some shimmery Fae creature that can’t possibly exist in real life. And I’m not talking about writers, whose reaction is usually more akin to the fangirl/fanboy response of a super-fan at a rock concert angling to get backstage. No, I’m talking about everyday people who have no affiliation to the publishing industry whatsoever. There’s an impressed awe that tends to come across someone’s face when I mention what I do for a living (no, not the Day Job of Doom part). And honestly, who doesn’t want to feel like a rock star, even the literary kind?


5. Books! Books! Books!


I think that’s self-explanatory, don’t you? Moving on . . .

6. It’s Intellectually Challenging

Now we’re starting to get into the more serious reasons editors become (and stay) editors. So I’ll try to hold the sarcasm in check.

This one in particular is probably one of the main things I find appealing. Editing is like Crossfit for your brain. It’s often mentally taxing and can leave you feeling like you’re seconds away from having your eyeballs abandon ship, but that’s also part of why it’s fun. Not the mutinous eyeballs part. The mental gymnastics.

The best editing projects are like a massive puzzle, requiring you to shift and move and tweak and tune things until, like a camera lens, the focus snaps into place and the picture becomes perfectly clear. I love that feeling, and for me, it is a visceral feeling. I know the rules and regulations, but honestly, I edit primarily by instinct. I’m lucky to have been born with an innate sense of storytelling (and yes, I have had people tell me its a superpower) and I can actually feel in my bones when a narrative clicks into place. That sensation alone makes all the hard work, all the sweat and blood and tears (because editors expend those just as much as the authors do in this process) worth it.


7. Proud Teacher Moments

If the last point wasn’t enough to convince you that being an editor is awesome, this one should. Yes, I just said that feeling a story find its groove makes it all worth it. And it does, but this is the icing on the cake. Completing a project definitely feels good, I’m not going to lie. But there’s one thing that feels even better:

Watching your author step into the much-deserved spotlight, their polished, perfect new book-baby clutched in their hands.

I call it the Proud Teacher Moment, because that’s the only way I could think to describe it. I imagine it’s very similar to the swell of pride and emotion teachers feel when they watch their students graduate. It’s sort of a bittersweet sensation — one part love, one part pride, one part sadness. Most people don’t realize how invested editors become in the projects they work on. Yes, the author wrote the thing, but we helped train it, helped shape it into the perfect piece of literary brilliance flourishing out in the world. And that creates a special bond. We may be relegated to the shadowy corners of the hell writers call the Editing Cave, but we watch from those shadows, cheering our authors on with proud tears glittering in our eyes.

Make Good Choices

8. Discovering Hidden Gems of Awesome

Okay, now that we had our little moment of seriousness, back to the fun. This one is a perk that most people automatically know — we get to read (and find) awesome books before they’re published. Boom. Go ahead and be jealous. You know that’s totally awesome.


9. Creating Magic

Writing is a magical process. I mean, come on, authors paint fully-realized worlds, characters, and plots that elicit emotions in readers with words. Letters on a page. That’s pretty magical, if you ask me.

Editing may not seem all that magical — it’s more like polishing a car than say, painting one — but it has its own kind of magic. Especially in the developmental phase. Editors are like spirit guides, helping authors find their way when they get lost in a forest of words. The best ones can actually step into an author’s voice, mimicking their syntax, their style, with the efficiency of a Pooka. Which, come to think of it, may be the perfect analogy for editors in general, given the oft-touted love/hate relationship writers have with us.


Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that writers create magic, but editors help contain it. And for that, we need our own set of spells.

10. For the Love of All Things Books

When it really comes down to it, there’s only one true reason someone decides to pursue editing: a genuine, deep-rooted for all things books. The reasons listed above are great, but if I lost all of them tomorrow, I know I’d still have a love for books. Because nothing beats the ability to escape into a million other lives and worlds. It’s even been scientifically proven that reading enhances our ability to empathize. It’s a fundamental human gift, storytelling, and it’s one I will always cherish.

And that, my friends, is why I adore being an editor. Why I strive to look past the gritty, harsh truth of an editing life. I love storytelling. Plain and simple. And I love editing because it lets me pursue that love of storytelling. I enjoy the process, as painful as it may be sometimes, because I love the challenge, and I love helping others achieve their literary dreams. And best of all, I love that I get to spend my days surrounded with all things books.

I can’t sum up this last point any better than with this quote:


Happy reading!

From the Editor’s Desk: Sachael Dreams by Melody Winter

Who noticed that I recently revamped the page I store these reviews on? Anyone? No? Well, I did. You can check it out later if you’re curious. ;)

In the process of said revamp-age, it came to my attention that I’d been remiss on posting my thoughts for a few of the titles I had the privilege of working on. To those authors, I’m sincerely sorry, and I will be fixing that shortly.

First up on that roster is a lovely romantic fantasy, whose sequel just so happens to be dropping in a few short months. But first, the obligatory disclaimer/explanation:

As an editor (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their production phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors who trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

Okay, now we can get to the review.

Sachael Dreams

by Melody Winter

Sachael Dreams by Melody Winter

Twenty-two-year-old Estelle Bailey has had enough of busy city-life and her hot-tempered ex. She escapes to the seclusion and peace of her family’s clifftop home in Ravenscar, where the soothing solitude whispers to her soul as strongly as the sea itself does. But her newfound contentment is interrupted when a mysterious man — a Sachael, master of seduction — joins her midnight swim unexpectedly.

Estelle struggles against his charm and the overpowering attraction she feels for him. He offers her a life she never could have imagined, a life beneath the waves . . . but at what cost? Before she can decide, she’s captured, ensnared by the Sect, a secret enemy of the Sachaels, becoming a pawn in a war she knew nothing about.

Now, she’s left with a new choice — escape the clutches of the Sect and flee into the ocean, or side with her alluring, intimidating captor and destroy the Sachaels forever. Can she turn her back on the man she might love, or will the secret of her heritage change everything?

Set against a picturesque backdrop, Sachael Dreams is the first in a new series, exploring themes of romance, love, and identity, and the struggle that happens when all three collide.

The first thing I remember thinking about Sachael Dreams is: what a brilliant premise. Not unlike a wave crashing to shore, it landed on my desk and instantly captured my attention. The paranormal romance/romantic fantasy genres are heavily saturated with angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, and a plethora of other supernatural critters, but Winter managed to do the unexpected — she gave us a brand new creature altogether.

Estelle’s story is not a peaceful one; kidnapping, escape, fight scenes, and arguments litter her tale with splashes of suspense. But those moments of tense action and drama, while exciting, are perhaps not the most memorable elements. For me, the enchantment of the story lies in its tone, ambiance, mystery, and passion.

Lyrical and detailed, Winter’s prose transports us to the setting with a mastery that had me nearly smelling the ocean breeze on my home’s very non-ocean-oriented air. Realistic and gripping from the moment you start the Prologue (yes, there’s a prologue, and it’s handled with supreme efficiency), Sachael Dreams is like stepping into an ethereal world that’s maybe just a tad dark around the edges.

Even the romance, which is central to the book’s core, starts with an almost Phantom of the Opera-like vibe, and the sinister nature behind the mysterious Sachaels lends a tinge of danger to the relationship unfolding between the lead characters. Add to that Estelle’s personal history (alluded to for much of the book and revealed fully toward the end) and a villain bent on revenge, no matter the cost, and you start to see why the story’s tone is heavier than your standard romance.

Winter makes sure to give readers plenty of swoon-worthy, romantic moments though; don’t worry. But my favorite scenes were actually those where the sheer raw emotion — often of the darker variety — really bubbled to the surface: the arguments between Estelle and Azariah, the heartbreaking moments of loss and grief, even the tortured rage of the villain. All of them were handled with a grace and poignancy that is nothing short of impressive.

Darkly beautiful and intriguing, Sachael Dreams is the beginning of what is arguably a refreshing, original take on mythology from a promising new author. Fans of romantic suspense, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance would be wise to check this one out. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to watching this world, and author, bloom into their full power.

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! $20 Full Manuscript Critique Offer

I know, I’m posting a day early. But if you were on social media earlier, you already know that I’ve stepped off the deep end into a pool of utter (and awesome) madness. Hence the need to post a day earlier than normal this week.

See, one of my best friends — the brilliant and fabulous Cait Spivey — is trying something ambitious for the release of her debut full-length novel, From Under the Mountain. She’s putting together a high fantasy fashion show for her launch party. It’s a unique, fantastic way to bring readers into the world of her novel right from the get-go, and I’m always one to applaud innovation. (As does REUTS Publications, who — to the surprise of no one, I’m sure — is behind the book’s publication.)

The thing is, she can’t do it alone. She needs help to make this ambitious dream a reality. And, with the aid of IndieGoGo, she’s created a way for you to be involved, offering a variety of bonuses and extra perks in exchange for a small-to-generous donation to the cause. (Which, in case you’re curious, funds only the event’s production and not the book’s.) From custom art to autographed copies and exclusive bonus content, there’s a lot to choose from.

But I have one more to add to the pile:

Anyone who donates $20 – $50 to the campaign between 9/3/15 and 10/1/15 will receive a FULL MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE from me.

Check my Freelance Editing Page, that’s worth $200-$500 dollars all on its own, without the added value of the perks Cait is offering too. That’s a crazy good deal, right? You know you want it. ;)

Here’s how it works:

Between now and the end of the campaign on 10/1, Cait and I will keep track of the eligible donations. I’ll add them to a special two-week schedule on a first come, first serve basis. So the sooner you donate, the higher up on the list you’ll be.

Then, starting 10/2, I’ll contact everyone and work will begin. Due to the other constraints on my schedule, I will be working on them one at a time, so the closer to the top of the list you are, the faster the turnaround time will be.

(Side note: if you won something from me previously and have not received it yet, don’t worry. I have not forgotten you and will be working on those first. You’ll even receive a bonus for your patience and the inconvenience.)

All right, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the terms and conditions of my offer. As always, if you have questions, feel free to contact me directly or leave a comment below. I’ll be back next week with more book reviews, editing/writing advice, or whatever other randomness grabs my attention. But for now, what are you waiting for? GO DONATE!

About From Under the Mountain

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The novel follows Guerline, a young woman who ascends to the throne of the empire after her entire family dies in one fell swoop. Now Empress, Guerline must address the suspicion growing in her court toward the four witch clans that protect the empire’s borders. Among the seditionists is Guerline’s best friend and lover, Evadine.

Guerline’s political balancing act is upset when the palace is attacked by powerful magic, bringing all Evadine’s fears to bear—but magic saves them too. In the wake of the attack, with an even greater threat looming, Guerline must decide who to trust, and summon all her strength to meet the challenge.

From Under the Mountain is a high fantasy for the modern world, drawing on the foundations laid by great female fantasy writers of the past twenty years to tell the story of one young woman. Guerline’s journey to establish her place, protect what she loves, and do right by her people will resonate with readers across the board.