2015 Holiday Giveaway — Bookapalooza


As most of you know, I do giveaways twice a year — one in the spring (in celebration of my blog’s birthday) and one in celebration of the holidays. Which means it’s time to introduce the Holiday Giveaway for 2015! Yay!

In previous years, this has been the giveaway where things like editorial services and other goodies have been handed out, but unfortunately, I have such a backlog of projects from previous giveaways that I can’t feasibly add any more without also adding a massive dose of guilt to my already Atlas-sized ball. So this year, I’m going to do a bookapalooza giveaway instead. Below, you’ll find four different eBook bundles, categorized by genre. These are some of my favorite reads, and I’m really excited to share them with you. I would have loved to give them all away as physical copies, but shipping costs have become prohibitively expensive, and I wanted this to be open to everyone, not just to those in the US. Therefore, all books will be delivered in the digital format of the winner’s choosing.

On January 8th, 2016, I will select four winners — one for each bundle. These are some truly fantastic books, no matter which genre you select. Many have been reviewed here, so feel free to locate them in the archives if you want to see my opinions in detail. Otherwise, I’ll leave you to peruse the titles up for grabs before sending you off to enter via the link at the end. Happy shopping!

(Note: each set of books contains a mix of YA & NA, so I would say these are appropriate for age 16+. Some contain swearing, some contain sexual situations, and several contain both, so be advised. 😉 )

The Four Options



Dark Fantasy:

Science Fiction:

Got your favorites picked out? Good. Now go enter!



From the Editor’s Desk: Gambit by C. L. Denault

Welcome to Book Review Wednesday! This week’s edition brings you a post type that I haven’t done in a while and that I will be resurrecting periodically. (I’ve been horribly remiss in posting all the awesomeness REUTS Publications unleashed into the world over the past year. Sorry to all those authors who are still waiting! A review from me is coming, I promise.)

But first, let me remind you what these posts are all about. As an editor, (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental 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 that trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

All right, now that we’re all on the same page, I bring you my review of . . .


by C. L. Denault

Gambit by C. L. Denault


In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

Gambit lays the foundation for a traditional coming-of-age tale, following Willow Kent’s journey — metaphorically and physically — as she grows from a young woman into the woman she’s destined to become. However, it’s definitely the beginning of a much larger tale, so don’t expect to see that journey encapsulated in this initial book. It’s a trilogy, and this is only the first third.

What you should expect is to be introduced to a world that is at once fresh and yet familiar at the same time. Set in a future where our current society has crumbled and humans have evolved, Willow starts her life in what feels like a medieval throw-back, a village in the remnants of what used to be Scotland. Infused with all the charm of Pixar’s Brave, we’re shown a snapshot of Willow’s life as a tavern keeper’s daughter.

But that life is soon swept away when an officer from the highly technological Core arrives. He’s looking for a missing heiress, a child stolen from one of the prominent Core families and hidden away in the Outlying Lands. That child is Willow. Suddenly faced with an identity she knew nothing about, Willow is forced to sacrifice everything she knows in order to protect the ones she loves and is thrust into the terrifying, fast-paced, intricate world of high society at the Core’s very center, where your DNA defines your worth.

Denault’s prose is captivating, painting her world with a mastery that instantly had me swooning. (Yes, editors swoon over words. Why are you surprised?) And speaking of swooning, the romance. While the hot and cold relationship between Commander Reece and Willow may bother some, it reminded me of the type seen in the classic narratives of Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters. It evoked a subtler, highly charged and passionate style of romance that is rare in modern literature. The kind where things like differences in social station and perspectives on propriety create tension and subtext that goes beyond physical attraction. Does Willow have a tendency to fall for gorgeous men, feeling pulled in several directions at once? Yes. But you know what? She’s sixteen. That’s what sixteen-year-old girls do.

In fact, that’s one of the things I loved most, that the protagonist, Willow, is actually allowed to be a teenager. She’s sixteen and catapulted into a world she has no idea how to navigate. She throws tantrums and makes mistakes, and it’s okay, because she’s sixteen. Unlike other young adult books that often have characters acting with a maturity well beyond their supposed years, I appreciated that Willow’s struggle felt genuine to her age.

I’ve loved Gambit from the second I stumbled on it on Figment.com (under its then title of Prodigy), and I still think about it, months after I’ve finished reading. It’s engraved in that special part of my brain reserved for all-time favorite titles, and I expect the characters and world will haunt me for years to come in the best possible way. For me, that’s the ultimate goal, finding a book that gives me a book hangover so intense I never truly recover. Gambit fit that bill for me.

One part Pixar’s Brave, one part X-Men, one part Pride and Prejudice, and one part My Fair Lady, Gambit is a magical debut from a brilliant new author. And all I can say is, “Sequel now, please!”

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | REUTS Publications Bookstore

And, as a special surprise, the author has donated two signed copies for a couple of you lovely folks to fight over. That’s right, I said SIGNED! Whether you’ve read it and love it as much as I do, or whether you’d just love to get your hands on it, here’s your chance. It is open internationally, and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, June 17th.

To enter, simply click HERE. Good luck!


Featured From the Archives: Writing . . . With a Twist

All right, everyone. The moment has come; it’s time to announce the winners of my 3rd Blogiversary Giveaway. Before I do, I want to sincerely thank everyone who supported and entered the contest. You were all so overwhelmingly enthusiastic, that, true to my nature, I’ve decided to throw in a surprise bonus. What might that be? Well, let me preface this by saying that I’m either crazy, or generous (or crazy generous?), because I’ve decided to give away not one, but SIX full edits. Yes, see, crazy.

Without further ado, the lucky winners of said Full Edit Packages are . . .

Susan Nystoriak

Ann Marjoy K

Tiffany Rose

Shantele Summa

Emma Adams

C.C. Dowling

But, that’s not all. I also said I’d be giving away winner’s choice of three print editions from the REUTS Publications library. Those lucky people are . . .

Rachel Oestrich

Alexandra Perchanidou

Ashley Hudson

I will be contacting the winners regarding their prize over the course of this next week. To everyone who didn’t win this time, I’m sorry. I tend to do these kinds of giveaways a couple times a year though, so please come back and try again in the future. 🙂

And, because today is supposed to feature an actual article and not just an announcement, I’ve pulled one of my more humorous bits of writing advice from the archives (at least, I think it’s humorous). Enjoy!

Writing . . . With a Twist

By Kisa Whipkey

Originally Posted on 8/3/12

This week’s topic comes courtesy of an interesting forum thread I haunted about what makes a plot twist good or bad. And since I’ve decided to break one of writing’s cardinal rules by courting a twist largely hailed as cliche, over-done, and impossible to pull off, I decided that maybe I’d take a moment to dissect what makes a plot twist successful. Publicly, of course. Because what fun would it be if I kept my musings to myself?

Every consumer of entertainment is familiar with the plot twist, be their media of choice literature, film, or video games. It’s a staple of the storytelling arsenal, and it’s a device everyone tries and most fail at. I’m no exception. I would like to say that I haven’t included such horrifically cheesy plot twists as pivotal characters actually being long-lost family members, vague prophecies that come to fruition in a way that surprises no one, bringing a character back from the dead after spending several long scenes grieving their loss, the dramatic love confession everyone saw coming the moment the characters met, the betrayal by a character close to the protagonist, etc, etc. But I would be lying, because the truth is, I have done all of those. And I’m rather embarrassed about it. Oh, and did I mention they were all in the same story? Yeah, needless to say, that one needs a massive overhaul before it ever faces the publishing gauntlet.

The only thing I can draw comfort from is that every writer suffers this same affliction during the beginning stages of their career. And eventually, they all outgrow it. Mostly. That doesn’t mean they graduate from relying on the plot twist to infuse their stories with suspense and  mystery, it just means that they stop suffering from CPT, a.k.a. Cheesy Plot-Twistitis. Symptoms of CPT include the heavy-handed attempt to create a twist no one has seen before, but in reality, everyone has seen before; the desperate need to earn intellectual points by creating an intricate, and completely obvious, web of twists and turns that wouldn’t fool a four-year-old; the delusional belief that you’re actually smarter than your readers, resulting in the condescending reveal of something we all figured out on page 2; and the urge to cram so many twists into your plot that it starts to look like a fraying pretzel, and even you can’t keep your ideas straight anymore. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, CPT isn’t terminal. To send it into remission, though, we need to figure out what makes a plot twist good.

I believe a successful plot twist consists of three things:

  • Subtlety
  • Total integration with the plot-line
  • Complete alteration of the reader’s perception of prior events

This powerhouse combination relies on all three parts working seamlessly to produce a recipe for success. Just knowing the ingredients isn’t enough, you have to know how to apply them. It would be like trying to cook with no directions. What order do you add them? What happens when they combine? How much of each one do you need? These answers are just as important as the ingredients themselves, so let’s break down our list of plot twist ingredients a bit further.

Subtlety: This is the foundation of a successful plot twist, and perhaps the most crucial element of the three. How often have you watched the first three minutes of a movie or television show and instantly known how it would end? Or within the first two pages of a mystery novel, figured out who the villain was and why they did what they did? Some of you may just be geniuses, but more often, the reason it was so easy to figure out is because the twists were predictable and obvious and something you’ve seen a billion times before.

Audiences tend to remember twists that make large impacts on them and look for them to be repeated. It’s kind of the “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” phenomenon.  We only partially like being made to feel foolish, so we remember those moments vividly. For example, everyone who’s ever seen The Sixth Sense remembers that moment when you realized nothing was what you thought it was. (I don’t believe in spoilers, so on the off-hand chance you haven’t seen that movie, I left it vague for your benefit. And if you haven’t seen it, shame on you! Go rent it. Right now!) Fans of Inception will forever be analyzing every aspect of future movies, looking for the threads tying them together. And people (like myself) who watch far too many police/courtroom dramas will likely be trying to figure out who the criminal is within the first five minutes, and often succeeding.

So how do you manage to fool an audience who’s keeping a keen eye out for plot twists? Through subtlety. A good plot twist is one written with a delicate hand. It’s hidden until the moment of it’s reveal through the clever use of decoys and hints that carefully and slowly build toward the twist. Play into your jaded audience’s expectations and let them think they’ve got it figured out before springing the reality on them. If you’ve done it well, they never see it coming and will begrudgingly offer a tip of the hat in appreciation afterward. Your audience wants to be challenged, so never underestimate them.

Total integration with the plot-line: For a plot twist to work, it can’t be out of the blue. There needs to be a lead-in, a build-up of tension before the final reveal. And you do this through those subtle hints I just mentioned above. Failing to sprinkle enough clues into the narrative will result in a twist that feels like it’s sole purpose is to get you out of a narrative corner you didn’t expect to be in. Readers hate hand-waving devices (things that dismiss everything they just read in order to change the story’s direction). It makes them feel like they’ve wasted their time investing in your book. And I don’t blame them. Any writer that uses devices like this is cheating, looking for the easy way out of a sticky situation. That character wasn’t supposed to die yet? Fine, bring them back and have everyone ignore the fact they died. Don’t like where your narrative is heading? Make everything a dream, and then you can take off in a whole new direction without having to revise your entire manuscript. You can see why it’s something readers find irritating, and why it should be avoided. Your twist has to feel like a natural — albeit surprising — turn of events, not a miraculous and random thing that doesn’t fit the rest of the story at all.

Which brings us to the final element . . .

Complete alteration of the reader’s perception of prior events: While you don’t want your twist to feel out of place with the rest of the narrative, you do want it to surprise the reader. Ideally, the final reveal is a twist so shocking that it changes the way your audience thinks about everything prior to it. I’m going to use The Sixth Sense again, because, even though it’s old now, it’s still one of the best examples of this element in action.

When viewers got to the end of the movie and the massive twist was revealed, there was a resounding “WTF?!” reaction, and suddenly everything the audience thought they understood about the film was painted in a completely different light. During the subsequent flashback explanation, we realized that the clues had been there all along, we just hadn’t seen them. This is exactly the reaction you want to create. When you reveal your big twist, you want your readers to immediately rethink everything they just read, and hopefully, because you’ve subtly integrated the build-up so well, they’ll realize that all the arrows were pointing to this moment, and it’s not really that shocking at all. In this way, you create an experience that’s both surprising and completely in sync with the rest of your piece.

Master all of the above, and voilà! Successful plot-twist soup, instant cure for CPT.

Now that we’ve dissected what it takes to make a plot twist successful, let’s take a brief look at what makes one bad. Personally, I don’t think there are such things as bad plot twists, just poorly executed ones. Just like no story is ever truly original, no plot twist is either. It’s all about the presentation. That said, there are a few notorious twists that are generally frowned upon by readers and writers alike, things seen so many times that it’s nearly impossible to spin them in a fresh way. Doesn’t mean you can’t try; just be prepared for a high rate of difficulty and the likelihood of potential failure.

The List of Plot Twist No-No’s:

  • Everything was just a dream
  • Villain & hero are actually related
  • Prophecies
  • Long-lost heir to the throne is actually the stable-boy/kitchen scullion/maid/soldier
  • The hidden love triangle/dramatic declaration of love
  • Betrayal by someone close to the protagonist
  • Bringing a character back from the dead after grieving their loss
  • Miraculous special powers that the hero discovers just in time to kill the villain
  • Gender reveal of villain/hero/general bad-ass character opposite of expectations
  • Anything which makes the prior storyline irrelevant
  • Anything that feels like the writer is simply trying to prove they’re smarter than their audience

Reading that list, I’m sure you can think of many examples where you’ve seen these very things done well. Which proves my point that there are no bad plot twists, just bad execution. Feel free to attempt the impossible and include any or all of them in your own writing. I, myself, will be attempting the all-hated “everything was just a dream” scenario. And it could very well blow up in my face. It could also be the very thing that makes my story successful. You never know until you try. But you can’t say I didn’t warn you if it doesn’t pan out the way you expected. 😉

Nightwolf’s Corner Turns 3! (Also, Celebratory Birthday Giveaway)

Image of Birthday Candles

“Birthday Celebration” by Cédric Boismain | Copyright 2013


Last week, I asked you to weigh in on what my birthday giveaway prize should be. The results are in, which means it’s time for the actual giveaway to kick off. First, thank you to everyone who voted. Your input definitely swayed my decision, as I always find those kinds of insights exceedingly fascinating.

So, what were the results? Well, some of you may have clicked on the little button at the bottom of the poll to find out, and therefore already know. But for those who didn’t, here’s the breakdown:

By and large, everyone went exactly for the prize I suspected — the full edit giveaway. I really wasn’t surprised by this, as I know a large portion of my audience is comprised of writers, and editing is one of the most expensive parts of the publishing process. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to get that for free?

But, in a surprising turn of events, the reader’s choice of three print editions from the REUTS Publications library came in a close second. Okay, maybe not that close, but still. I wasn’t expecting readers to make up such a large portion of my audience. I mean, obviously, everyone loves free books too, but I was pretty sure the editorial service options would dominate. Consider me schooled. 😉

Okay, let’s get to the fun, shall we? Here are the prizes (yes multiple) I’m giving away this year, along with the rules/stipulations for each.

Prize #1: A Full Edit Package (Structural edits, line edits, & proofreading)

To the surprise of exactly no one, I took your resounding suggestion and am offering the prize most of you said you wanted. However, there are a few things you have to do to qualify for it.

  • You must have a completed manuscript, or one that will be completed by May 31st, 2015.
  • If you have previously won a read report or other prize from me, you are allowed to enter the same manuscript here. Should you win, that previous prize will be upgraded; if you don’t, no worries, you still have the prize from before.
  • While I will try my best to provide a reasonable turnaround time, this is a volunteer/pro bono gig, and as such, will be subject to the whims of my schedule. Which means that there may be times when I will not be able to work on your project, and you will need to be okay with that. If that’s not something you’re willing to do, then might I suggest opting for one of the other prizes instead. 😉

Prize #2: Winner’s Choice of 3 Print Edition REUTS Publications Titles

Since this one was almost as popular as the first choice, it seemed only fair that I include it as well. The difference being that two people will have a chance at scoring this one. But, just like above, there are some rules.

  • You are allowed to choose any three books from the REUTS Publications Library (including the hardcover anthology), but they have to have been released in print by the time the contest concludes.
  • The exception to the above rule is Off Book by Jessica Dall. It will be released in paperback shortly after the end of the contest, so it will be included as well, with the clarification that choosing this one may result in a slight delay.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Thank you again to all of you — for your votes, for your support, and for just being plain old awesome. The giveaway will end at midnight on 5/8/15 and the winner’s will be announced that day. Best of luck!

Click Here to Enter!

Reader’s Choice Poll: What Should I Giveaway?

Hello! Feels like I haven’t seen everyone in ages. Even though I’ve been posting things from the archives, it’s not quite the same as actually creating new content and spending time with you lovely folks. I’m definitely looking forward to getting back in the swing of things around here, and have plenty of new topics and ideas floating around to craft into insightful, probably snark-infused posts.

But first, I believe I mentioned a giveaway coming up . . . no? I didn’t? Hmm, weird. I was pretty sure I’d let that slip during our journey through the land of subgenres. Anyway, my three year blogiversary is fast approaching (May 2nd, in fact), and that means it’s time for one of my two annual giveaways (the other happens in December). Excited? Everyone loves free stuff. Don’t lie. You know it’s true.

The problem is that I’m not currently sure what I want to offer as the prize. I have some ideas, and I could copy what I’ve done before, but what’s the fun in that? So instead, I figured I’d give you, the readers who have loyally stuck with me while my schedule was blown to smithereens and then repaired, a chance to tell me what you want.

Below is a poll listing some of the options I’ve been toying around with. There’s also an “other” category, so if you have an idea I didn’t list, feel free to pitch it. The ultimate decision will be mine, but knowing what interests you guys will most definitely help me figure out the best prize for the job.

So, that’s it. For now. Vote away, and I’ll be back next week with something new. Promise. 😉