REFLECTIONS Is Out! Here's an Excerpt

My YA urban fantasy/mystery novel Reflections is now available in paperback and ebook form! You can also add the book on Goodreads. Here's a little preview for you.

1 | THROUGH THE WOODS

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The hot dressing room made Ramachandra “Rama” Ganeshan sweat, but not because of the temperature.

She and her best friend Myra Hare had been at the mall for hours. Myra had a dozen outfits stuffed into bags on her arm, but Rama hadn’t found a single thing she liked.

She never found anything she liked anymore.

The department-store dressing room pushed on Rama from all sides. Why was it so small? Either the air conditioning had broken, or she’d lost her coping skills. Sweat slicked her face, ran down her neck, and kissed the contour of her spine. She scowled at herself.

Standing in front of the dressing-room mirror, Rama hated her reflection. The too-tight, too-low, too-short dress dug into her thighs.

Disgusting.

As she studied her reflection, her stomach clenched. If only the ground would swallow her before Myra asked what was wrong.

There were too many questions. Rama didn’t have the answers.

Myra rapped against the door. “Can I come in?”

“Hang on a second.” Rama smoothed the dress over her stomach. Every bulge resisted the fabric. She’d never ask Myra for the next size up. “I’m changing back into my clothes. Not getting this one either.”

“Rama,” Myra said, “that’s like, the eighteenth outfit.”

“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry. Give me a minute to change back.”

Myra sighed.

Guilt gnawed at Rama. Myra had proposed the shopping trip. They didn’t see much of each other. Myra did cheerleading, and Rama had three AP courses. She seldom left the house. Helping her parents with the restaurant kept her busy most nights. Social life? Forget it.

To make matters worse, so many teenage girls had been murdered in the past year that the mayor of Aldale, West Virginia, established a curfew for minors. No other mayor had ever imposed a curfew, but Mayor Paulson said it was necessary.

Aldale had three stoplights. An hour away Morgantown boasted shops and restaurants and West Virginia University, where Rama hoped to attend medical school someday. Two years ago, at fourteen, she’d joined other gifted students auditing lectures and shadowing residents. She’d pressed her face against the glass above an operating theater, breathless as a surgeon held a heart in his hands.

In that moment, she’d decided to become a surgeon too.

Though it wasn’t far from Morgantown, Aldale might as well have been centuries away. Morgantown wasn’t huge, but it had chain restaurants. It had a mall, a real one, and a Walmart.

Aldale didn’t have anything like that. Their mall didn’t count. If Rama or her parents needed anything, they had to go down to the drugstore. John Lewis Finster had opened Finster’s Drug Shoppe in the 1950s. It housed a dusty, decrepit soda fountain with a lunch counter and everything in the center of the store. If anyone had ever eaten there, Rama didn’t believe it.

Like everything else in town, it had seen better days.

Everyone went to Finster’s to get almost anything—prescriptions, toiletries, gifts, condoms. Once, Rama had seen Jessica Spurlock in the family planning aisle. Jessica hadn’t taken anything, and even if she had, who would believe it?

Jessica epitomized the small-town “good girl” ideal. Imagine if someone caught her buying condoms when she was “waiting for marriage.”

Somehow, she convinced her parents to let her spend nights with her boyfriend.

She got to stay out all night, even with the curfew. Even though girls like Jessica were murdered without explanation.

The dead girls had been Rama’s age, classmates and friends. Girls she saw in town, flitting from store to store, laughing in the park, sitting in her family’s restaurant. Smiling, shining faces. Smooth skin and bright eyes and white, even teeth.

They had been girls Rama envied, ones she would have given anything to look like. All her life, she’d assumed the world was easier for pretty people. All her life, she’d been wrong.

Even in Aldale, violence could happen.

Rama knew better than anyone else.

Myra’s parents didn’t buy it. Danger lurked everywhere. Their children were smart. Sure, they should be careful, but the mayor had gone too far. Nothing like this had ever happened in Aldale. Myra’s parents thumbed their noses at the rules and let their daughter roam. They preferred a lax parenting style, and sent Myra to the mall alone, armed with their credit card. They never asked questions.

“Let’s go to the mall today,” Myra had said after class. “You need to get out.”

For some reason, Rama went along with the plan. Myra was right.

Myra knew best. That truth underscored their whole friendship. Since childhood, she’d “helped” Rama, telling her what to wear, where to shop, and who to spend time with. Myra had more social clout, so Rama trusted her.

Besides, Myra loved her. She wanted the best for Rama—even if Rama didn’t know what that was herself.

In the dressing room then, Rama wasn’t convinced. Myra was wrong. The dress scratched her skin, exposed the scar below her collarbone, and clung to her hips.

She was a pig.

Rama’s fingers brushed her scar. Myra had seen it. Nobody else. They’d never talked about it. Rama hoped they never would.

Months ago, Myra asked Rama why she’d cut her hair. Rama hadn’t said a word. It was past her shoulders now, but still shorter than it had ever been. When she stopped wearing jewelry, Myra said nothing. And when she showed up sans makeup on the first day of school, Myra kept silent.

If she had suspicions, she didn’t say so.

Rama’s parents weren’t so thoughtful.

“Why can’t you dress like you used to?” her mother had asked. “Myra dresses well. Let her take you shopping.”

“Your mother’s right,” her father said. “You should spend more time with Myra.”

In the present, Rama swallowed the lump in her throat. The walls of the dressing room closed in around her—what if the ceiling caved in? She would be crushed or suffocate in the nation’s smallest mall.

No one would miss her—not even Myra, who’d pressured her to go in the first place.

“You all right?” Myra asked.

“Fine,” Rama lied. “I’m hungry is all.”

“It’s making you cranky.”

“I know, and I’m sorry. Look, can we go?” She tugged the hem of the dress. “I don’t want this.”

Myra sighed again. “You said you needed new clothes. We can’t leave until you find some.”

“I hate everything I try on.” Rama pulled the dress off and tossed it on the chair. A plastic hanger clattered to the ground. Rama stooped to pick it up. Her hair fell in her face. “No point staying here if I don’t want to get a dress.”

“I’ll find you something else then. Let me try, okay?”

Rama studied herself in the mirror again. Stretch marks pulled across her hips and thighs, dipping into her ragged waistband. How long had she had those panties? The underwire of her bra poked out on one side. Her hair, disheveled, dull, and tangled, elicited a frown.

If only she could have been anyone else.

Anyone who wasn’t her or anybody like her.

Myra returned with an armful of clothing. She knocked on the door, and Rama paused a minute before opening it. Myra shoved the clothing in. Rama dropped the pile of clothes on the chair. From what she could tell, they all fit too tight, showed too much skin, drew too much attention. What was Myra thinking?

“Well?” Myra asked.

“Close the door.” Rama would never wear any of it. Myra didn’t understand.

No one did.

“Something’s wrong,” Myra said.

“It’s nothing,” Rama answered.

“I wish you’d tell me what’s bothering you.”

Rama inhaled.

“It’s not about the clothes,” Myra said.

“No, it’s not.” Rama squeezed her eyes shut, willed away tears. In her mind’s eye, he loomed—the man with the mustache. Chicken tikka masala. Fear unfurled like a banner.

“Ramachandra.”

She opened her eyes.

Myra smiled. “If you don’t love your body, there’s no way you can be happy.”

Myra’s legs and curves were the stuff of magazines. She’d never had a pimple.

Rama sniffed and covered her scar. She could never tell Myra what had happened that day.

Myra took the clothes from Rama. “You win, all right? We’ll go.”

“I appreciate your help.”

“It’s nothing,” Myra said. “We’ll get milkshakes on the way. Grab your bike. I’ll drive you.”

That morning, Rama had biked to school. Myra drove them to the mall.

Rama wanted to be alone.

“I’m biking home. I need the fresh air.”

“By yourself?”

“It’s all right.”

“With the murders?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Rama exhaled. “I’m going straight home, no stops on the way. It’s not dark yet. I need to think. Just let me take my bike.”

Myra didn’t press her. “Suit yourself. Let’s go, girl.”

 

After Myra and Rama separated, Rama rode her bicycle through the forest behind the mall. She’d chosen the long way home—a half-hour trek—but that was good. She needed to think. Once she got home, she wouldn’t have the time or the silence for that.

Her father had asked her to help with dinner service. She and Myra had spent too much time at the mall—she might not get home before sunset.

At one point in her life, the dark had been scary. But the most dangerous monsters hid in plain sight, attacked in broad daylight. The shadows and the light they worked against were equal threats.

Trees shaded the straight, smooth path through the woods. Soon, they’d drop their colored leaves for Rama to crunch beneath her tires. The air was warm for October, but it was still autumn. Winter wasn’t far off.

Rama liked winter. She could cover up her body without looking out of place. When the temperature dropped, everyone covered up.

If winter never ended, she might not be so miserable.

At one time, she’d appreciated her body. It was nice, as far as bodies went. She could undress and look in the mirror without cringing.

Then he came into the restaurant and took all that away. Now thoughts of summer made her sick. When school let out next May—

Ramachandra. Stop it.

Rama’s bicycle jerked. Shocked, she hit the brakes and skidded to a stop. The bicycle wobbled. She struggled to keep her balance.

What had she run over?

There were no roots on the path.

The bicycle swerved. Rama’s tire ran over something else. She toppled from the seat, handlebars slipping out of her grasp.

Rama landed hard on her knees. The bicycle smacked against the ground.

She’d run over a rock. She’d have to check her tires.

That’s what you get for not paying attention.

Rama scrambled to a seated position. She braced herself against a tree to see what she’d run over—

There was a body on the path.

Rama shook herself.

No. She’d seen it wrong. She scooted forward on her butt, grinding dirt and leaves beneath her shoes. A twig snapped at her heel. Its broken edges scraped her ankle.

She had to get a closer look.

There was a body on the path.

The girl was Rama’s age. She lay on her side, facing Rama, blue eyes glazed. Unseeing. Dirt coated her long blonde hair and blood poured from her caved-in skull.

Jessica.

Drenched in sweat and shaking, Rama fell on all fours and threw up on the ground, retching until her ribs ached.

Jessica Spurlock.

Her parents lived in town. Rama had ridden her bike past their house.

They’d gone to school together.

She wasn’t coming back.

Emboldened by shock, Rama lifted her gaze—and saw the man beside the body.

She’d missed him at first—his clothes camouflaged him. Blood spattered his green flannel shirt, khaki pants, and brown boots. He held a bloodstained rock. Blood marked his face too.

A flash of recognition.

The man from the restaurant. He lived in town.

Her father’s friend.

The Smiling Man.

Rama heaved again, but there was nothing in her stomach.

She looked once more. It couldn’t be. Her eyes had tricked her.

But what if they hadn’t?

When she scooted closer, he looked up from the body.

He locked eyes with her.

He smiled.

Rama took off running. She couldn’t run before. He’d blocked the door behind him. He was twice her size. The knife—

Pounding heart. Aching thighs. Screaming shins.

She kept running.

If she stopped, he’d catch her. If he caught her, he’d hurt her.

He’d hurt her once before. She couldn’t take her chances.

Her mind shut down. The mustache threatened. The sharp tang of chicken tikka masala—

Rama spun around.

No one there. He hadn’t followed her.

She stopped to catch her breath.

For the moment, she was safe.

What was he doing in the forest? How had he found her again?

Rama hadn’t told anyone about what happened. The less she dwelled on him, the easier it was to pretend it was a nightmare. When she spoke of him, she gave him power.

He was already powerful.

The Smiling Man was her father’s friend. Someone from town. No one to be afraid of. Before the attack, she’d believed he was nice. But what he’d done to her, and how he’d spoken, how he’d touched

No time for that. Stay present, or he’s going to track you down.

Rama gulped air and focused. What was there, besides the man?

Jessica Spurlock. Seventeen. Pretty, thin, and popular.

Murdered with a rock.

Why had Jessica been in the forest? Why had the man been there too? Above all else, why had the man stood next to the body with a rock, like he’d done it?

And that smile.

Rama shuddered so hard she pulled a muscle in her neck. Wincing at the pain, she processed what she’d seen. If the Smiling Man had killed her, what had he done to her first?

She covered her mouth. She wanted to scream. The man would come after her, given she could testify against him. But could she testify, if she had to? Every time she imagined admitting what had happened, she came close to passing out. Add stumbling upon a crime scene and she wouldn’t make a great witness. Besides, she had no evidence.

Rama took another breath.

Behind her, a branch snapped.

She jumped back against a tree. There was someone on the path, but it wasn’t her attacker.

“Jessica?”

Whole and unblemished and alive. No signs of assault.

Rama couldn’t breathe. “How did you—?”

“It’s okay. You fell off your bike. You hit your head. Remember?” Jessica touched her hair. “I tried to help. You ran away.”

She spoke like they were friends, but they seldom talked at school.

“Your head,” Jessica repeated.

Rama pressed a hand against her throbbing temple. How long had it done that? She didn’t remember hitting it, only falling off the bicycle, seeing Jessica’s dead body and the Smiling Man.

Jessica’s brow furrowed as she took a step toward Rama.

Rama stepped away but there was nowhere to go. Her back was still against the tree. The bark scratched her elbows. Dizziness swept over her—but was it from a fall, an injury? She touched her temple. No blood. She probed her face. Nothing.

Could she still have hit her head hard enough to hallucinate?

Jessica fiddled with her pendant. In the fading light, Rama couldn’t tell what it was. Dead Jessica hadn’t been wearing a necklace.

But the body on the path might not have been real.

“I don’t know,” Rama said. The air crackled like a storm was coming, and ozone filled her nostrils. The hair rose on the nape of her neck. Jessica unnerved her. If Rama looked at her for too long, Jessica’s form flickered—for a second, and no longer.

“You’re all right?” Rama asked.

“Of course,” Jessica said. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Rama’s tongue refused to move.

She’d fallen off her bicycle and hit her head. That induced hallucinations. The Jessica standing in front of her was alive and well and real. She was expressing her concern.

Rama’s fingers jumped to her temple again and searched her hairline. Normal.

Maybe she’d just bumped her brain, like a football player. Didn’t some of them end up in hospitals? Her parents didn’t watch football. Her father preferred soccer, what he called football, like in India. No wonder those players wore helmets.

She should have worn a helmet.

She should have gone with Myra.

“You were dead,” Rama said. “You were lying in the road.”

Jessica’s expression stayed the same. “Come on now. Let’s walk you back and get you on your way.”

She could ask Jessica to check her head, but Jessica wasn’t a doctor, and wasn’t that weird? Other questions nagged her, but she wouldn’t get the answers.

Jessica led her to her bike. Rama struggled to slow her heartbeat. Jessica’s words hadn’t reassured her. They’d made things worse instead. None of it made sense. Her head felt fine. Had she hit it, or did it hurt because Jessica said it should?

Rama stooped beside the bike and ran her hands over the frame. Cold metal. Real.

She checked the ground.

No body.

No Smiling Man.

Praise Brahma.

Jessica raised her eyebrows, tapping her foot.

She looked nothing like dead Jessica.

“You’re all right,” Rama said again.

Without speaking, Jessica squatted down. She peered into Rama’s eyes. Rama looked away.

Jessica sighed. “Whatever you think happened—what you think you saw . . . I’m okay. Everything is fine.”

“Everything is fine.” In saying it, Rama hoped to convince herself it was true. Still, there was something amiss.

What if she’d seen neither Jessica’s body nor the Smiling Man?

But what if she’d seen both?

Maybe her detour through the woods had done more harm than good.

Jessica’s fingers brushed Rama’s cheek and Rama jerked away. What the hell was Jessica thinking? Rama hated physical touch.

Jessica recoiled too, and frowned.

“I have to get home,” Rama said. “It’s getting dark. I promised I’d be back by now.” Why had she added that part? When Jessica didn’t respond right away, Rama’s anxiety made her continue. “I shouldn’t have gone this way. I never go this way coming back from the mall—I cut through town. But I don’t ever see anyone going this way and I thought—”

“Sweetheart, it’s okay,” Jessica said.

Sweetheart? That was different.

Rama swallowed. “I’ll see you in Spanish tomorrow. Take it easy.”

“Yeah, I will.” Jessica stood and brushed herself off. “Same to you, all right?”

Rama righted the bicycle and climbed aboard. The whole way home, her stomach churned. When she got back to the restaurant, she still couldn’t get the woods out of her mind. No matter how many times she went through Jessica’s explanation, it didn’t satisfy her.

Rama’s head didn’t hurt. She couldn’t have fallen and hit it, let alone hallucinated. What could she have run over, if not Jessica’s body? No roots on the path. No obstacles.

She thought of the Smiling Man’s teeth, the dread in her stomach. Jessica’s hands on the end of her necklace.

Whatever the pendant was, it must have been important.

So why had Rama never seen her wearing it before?

What do you think of this excerpt? Are you excited to read REFLECTIONS?

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BLOOD AND WATER Is Now on Wattpad

Once, I had all my books available for free on Wattpad. Then, when I thought about querying Reflections, I was worried for some reason that having my work up there would hurt my chances of getting representation (no idea where that thought came from).

Since I'm self-published, I have complete control of my work. I want to make it available for as many people—and potential readers—as possible. And since I write YA, teenagers are my audience. The majority of Wattpad users are teenagers. So putting my writing on Wattpad seems like a great idea—why didn't I think of it sooner?

Anyway, if you want to read Blood and Water, it's now available in full—for freeon Wattpad. If you do read it there, please leave votes, comments, reviews, etc. and you'll probably make my whole year.

What do you think of Wattpad? Do you have advice for using the platform to gain readers?

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Preorder REFLECTIONS Now!

reflections-briana-morgan

The release date for my YA urban fantasy novel Reflections—a murder mystery with shapeshiftersis only a little over a month away, and I am so excited. I can't remember being this excited about something I've written before. I could probably release sooner, but I want the book to be good, so I'm taking more time than usual. Reflections goes live on June 10 in paperback and ebook form, and if you're eager, you can now preorder it (paperback link, ebook link)! Also, feel free to add the book on Goodreads!

I'm planning to give away about ten ARC copies to readers, bloggers, and reviewers. If you're a diverse book blogger, you take precedence—especially if you're Indian (since my girl Rama is Indian). Please contact me if you're interested in receiving a copy in exchange for an honest review! I'll let you all know when there are no copies remaining.

I'm releasing Reflections a week before my birthday so I can tell people what I want as a present (book orders and reviews, y'all). I cannot wait to share Rama's world and journey with you! Be on the lookout for a few sample chapters on Wattpad sometime soon.

What do you think? Are you excited for Reflections?

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Cover Reveal: REFLECTIONS

Totally wanted to do this post as some kind of link-up thing, but I was at 221B Con all weekend and therefore did not plan anything (though I did have a great time). ANYWAY, without further ado, here's the beautiful cover for my novel Reflections, releasing this June!

*drumroll*

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ISN'T IT GORGEOUS?! 

As usual, this cover brought to you by the talented Taylor Carney, who also designed my Blood and Water cover. 

And here's the blurb! 

 "Rama would trade almost anything for the chance to become someone else, even for a little while."

 In the small, rural town of Aldale, West Virginia, Ramachandra “Rama” Ganeshan wants nothing more than to avoid dressing rooms for the rest of her life. After a brutal assault destroys her confidence and self-esteem, she yearns to be someone else . . . someone pretty, popular, and loved—until multiple girls in town are found murdered.

After stumbling across her beautiful classmate’s body and a terrifyingly familiar face in the murderer, Rama encounters a group of shapeshifters who know more of the killings than they let on.

Only by earning the shapeshifters’ trust and becoming one of them will Rama be able to help serve justice.

But first, she must learn to love herself and confront her painful past—and find the courage to investigate the violence.

 What do you think of the cover? Are you excited for Reflections ? 

How to Stay Focused on Your WIP

Photo Credit: ihtatho on Flickr

Photo Credit: ihtatho on Flickr

One of the hardest things about being a writer is keeping up the motivation to see a project through. With traditional publishing especially, it can take a long time to get a book out into the world. From first draft to second to third to querying and going on submission and more—it seems like the cycle will never end. It can be difficult to stay focused and encouraged through the process.

I’ve managed to find some techniques that have helped me stay focused while working on drafts and edits and diving into the querying process. Although these tips and tricks may not work for you, I recommend giving them a shot. Here’s what helps me keep an eye on the prize and keep my excitement level up when working on a project.

  • Pinterest boards. I’ve talked before about how much inspiration I get from Pinterest. When motivation wanes, a glance through my project’s Pinterest board reignites my excitement.
     
  • Playlists. This is another topic I’ve touched on before, but I cannot underestimate the power of music. When I start a project, I listen to the same playlist every time I dive into writing. I associate those songs with that project. Sometimes, all I have to do when I'm unmotivated is put that music on and then I’m ready to go.
     
  • Remember why you started. If you’re writing a book, especially to a specific market, you should have a reason why you’re writing it. For example, with Reflections, I wanted my MC to be a trauma survivor with body image issues. Rama shows the devastating effects assault can have, and how it doesn’t end someone’s life or make them “damaged goods.” I’ve already talked to some friends who say they need this book, and that encouragement helps. If I don’t finish this book, I’ll feel like I’m letting them down. Looking at the big picture is a huge help when trying to motivate yourself to reach the finish line.
     
  • Immerse yourself. Surround yourself with your WIP in any way you can. Right now, my desktop and phone wallpapers are all related to REFLECTIONS. I can’t escape it. I also have a pile of crystals on my desk that I see every time I sit down to write. If you’re living in your book, how can you not get writing done?
     
  • Take care of yourself. One of my goals for this year has been to go a little easier on myself. I have a terrible habit of working myself into the ground. Most of the time, my intense work ethic is a blessing, but it has driven me to burn out before. When working on a project, make sure to take breaks. Get plenty of sleep, fresh air, and water, and don’t feel guilty about taking days off if you need to. Never underestimate the importance of breaks. If you’re writing something that’s triggering, breaks are essential.

Publishing is an industry that requires grit, determination, persistence, and patience. Armed with these tips, you should be able to stay on track with your WIP, meet your deadlines, and get your book out in the world.

What tips do you have for staying focused on a project?

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Vlog: When Your Writing Triggers You

There's a lot of material in REFLECTIONS that's triggering to me, so I've had to come up with ways to cope.

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What do you do when you're triggered by your own writing? What are some of your coping mechanisms you rely on when triggered?

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Why I'm Going Trad

Photo credit: Caligula1995 on Flickr

Photo credit: Caligula1995 on Flickr

Holy wow. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I’ve been hard at work on the edits for Reflections and cannot wait to share it with the world. After I’m satisfied with the manuscript, I intend to launch myself into querying… which I’m dreading a little bit.

I’ve queried before, even with this manuscript in some earlier stages (when I thought it was ready), but this time, I’m serious. This time, it’s real.

Since my debut novel is self-published, as well as my one-act play, I’ve gotten questions about seeking traditional publication. Why am I making the switch?

First, I don’t have as much time as I used to. As much as I enjoyed managing the details of my first book launch myself, it was a little overwhelming. The only reason I could put the book out when I did was that I was self-employed, working full time from home. All the marketing, planning, promoting—I got to do all that myself. Now that I have a full-time job (not working for myself), it just isn’t feasible.

I feel like I need the support of an agent and a publishing team behind me. Don’t get me wrong—I know authors still do a lot of their own marketing, but it would be nice to have a couple people by my side as I go through that whole process.

Traditional publishing would also give me a much wider distribution than self-pub, and a great deal more exposure. While I’m not in writing books to make any money, I do want as many people to read my books as possible. Traditional publishing makes that much more likely than self-pub.

I’m still happy with my decision to self-publish Blood and Water and Touch. Self-publishing has taught me a great deal about releasing books as well as offered me several opportunities I might not have gotten otherwise. Still, given where I am at this point in my life, I’m leaning toward going traditional.

How do you feel about traditional publishing?

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It's Rerelease Day!

I've been working on this rerelease for quite some time now. Since debuting in 2015, I've learned a lot about the writing, editing, and self-publication process. Naturally, that means I've grown and learned from my mistakes. I've developed higher standards.

When I first published Blood and Water, I was going through a difficult time. I was alone in Florida, working at a job I hated, depressed and suicidal. Finishing that novel was one of the only things that kept me going. I was determined to put my work out into the world—to let it spread its wings and fly when I myself was trapped.

At that time, I was more concerned with getting it published than getting it right. If I could just get it out there, everything would be okay. So maybe I rushed (I totally did). I put something out I wasn't totally satisfied with. And that truth has been driving me crazy ever since.

As I think more on the importance of legacy, I've realized how much I wanted to ensure the best product possible goes out into the world. That's my biggest reason for deciding to rerelease. Now, I have the time, and I'm publishing the book I wanted to in the first place.

The revised edition of Blood and Water is now available in ebook form. You will also be able to purchase it in paperback, hopefully soon. This new edition contains some new scenes, a few hints toward the sequel, and so much more. Thank you all for being so patient with me. I promise this book will be well worth the wait.

If you bought the first edition paperback and want 30% off the new one, follow the steps below:

  1. Take a picture of your copy of Blood and Water. Pretty self-explanatory.
  2. Share the picture on social media with the hashtag #BWRerelease. It can be any social media site, including Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook! Feel free to even mention me at the end of the post if you'd like. That way, I'm sure to see it.
  3. Once your post is up, I'll send you a link so you can pay the reduced rate for a new (signed) copy! Open internationally!

How do you feel about rereleases? Are you excited about the new edition of Blood and Water? Tell me in the comments!

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This Is a Political Post

I’m not sure I’ve ever done a political post before, and if you don’t want to read a political post, feel free to click out. But I can’t sit by in silence and watch people suffer. I can’t watch my sisters fighting hard to maintain our rights without participating. Feminism is something near and dear to my heart, and now more than ever, I need it—every day.

Photo credit: Liz Lemon on Flickr

Photo credit: Liz Lemon on Flickr

I’ve had many people tell me lately that “Feminism is men hating” or “You’ll never get a man to love you if you’re a feminist.” I’ve had people say they wouldn’t be my friend unless I stopped being a feminist. Other people have told me they’re not comfortable with my opinions.

You know what? That doesn’t stop me. Your discomfort doesn’t take precedence over someone’s rights. I understand that many people are miseducated regarding feminism, and still others have been taught all their lives that women are naturally inferior and should never be equal with men. You may belong to one of these groups. You may even feel that, as a woman, I have no right to complain about a system in which I can vote, start a business, and enjoy most of the same privileges as American men.

However, nothing you can say to me will make me turn away from feminism. I fully acknowledge my privilege as a straight, white, cisgender woman. I understand that I have it better than many of my transgender, queer, or POC sisters. I’m not denying that. I wish things were different. Although I benefit to some extent from the current system, I am by no means content with it. Now more than ever, I need feminism. Now more than ever, I want to be heard.

The new administration—President He Who Shall Not Be Named—has me terrified to live here. I am now a citizen of a country in which our leader is sexist, misogynist, xenophobic, racist, and a slew of other unpleasant “ists.” Every morning I wake up and wonder how it happened. How did we as a people ignore so many red flags? How did we assume it would get better, that he might back down, that maybe just maybe everything would be okay?

If you don’t see a problem with the new president, go ahead and click out of here. Unfollow me or block me or whatever you like. For me, it’s not a matter of debate. We now have a president who has openly and on record berated, belittled, and objectified women across the board. The following quote sums it up pretty well:

I did try and f*** her . . . I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping . . . She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look . . . I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful ― I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p***y. You can do anything.

The man who said that is now the president of the United States. Let that really sink in for a minute. Although he's not my president—I refuse to add that title to his name—he's in power now, despite so many warnings and red flags and concentrated efforts by concerned citizens to try and stop him. And for the first time in my life that I can remember, I am genuinely, truly terrified about the future.

Last weekend, when news of the Muslim Ban broke, I tweeted about it. Here:

That was all. I didn't say supporters of the ban were stupid, deserved to die, or anything like that. But that didn't stop a horde of trolls and malicious Trump supporters from descending on me with death threats, wishes that I would be raped, and even a Live Leak video of a Muslim woman being simultaneously beheaded and raped in the street—which ultimately led to me having two panic attacks, logging off Twitter, and locking my account for the weekend.

Never in my life prior to this administration have I gotten death threats. Never have I had anyone say, "I hope you get raped." But it's a whole new world now, with new rules, and no one is safe. And that's why I keep fighting. I don't want anyone else to go through what I went through just for expressing an opinion. I thought we lived in a country that welcomed free speech and encouraged understanding between different groups of people. I guess I was wrong.

No matter what happens now, I'm going to keep fighting. I hope you'll be there with me. It will be a long four years, but as long as we're together, we stand a fighting chance.

Stay safe out there, peeps. I love you. Come to me if you ever need to vent or anything, and above all else, remember—you are not alone.

Turning Off the Editor Brain

One of the biggest challenges in being an author and an editor is turning off the editor brain. After spending all day proofreading and editing, it's hard to come home and write or settle in with a book. Especially when I'm writing a first draft, it's crucial to turn off my inner editor.

Photo credit: Rob King on Flickr

Photo credit: Rob King on Flickr

Lately, that's been much easier said than done. And it's not limited to my work. I read at least a chapter before I go to bed, and most of the time, I can't help skimming the pages for grammatical errors. 

In some ways, this is good. It allows me to analyze literature, dissect a piece to figure out what works, and emulate it in my own writing. But it also detracts from my enjoyment of the piece.

The same goes for my writing. How am I supposed to finish a draft if I edit it to death? Instead of moving forward, I'm trapped in a hell of my own making (the road to which is paved with adverbs—thank you, Stephen King). Falling into this never-ending editing nightmare is a good way to guarantee I never finish a book.

As writers, it's normal to want to edit your fiction. You may even enjoy editing someone else's work. Even if you're a writer and a freelance editor, you should do your best to keep the two realms separate. Let your writing time be writing time, sacred and non-negotiable. The same goes for your editing time.

For me, I've found that it's best to stick to one project at a time (I'm only just now getting that!) unless I'm first-drafting one and editing another. It's too much stress on my brain, and I'm trying to be kinder to it. I suggest you do the same—we need our brains for building books!

I've learned to turn off my editor brain easier than I used to, but I still have some way to go. What about you? Do you struggle to keep from editing when you're supposed to be writing? Tell me about it in the comments below! I'll see you all back here next week.

Writing Resolutions for 2017

How is it already 2017? Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to watch 2016 die. I think we can all agree it was, on the whole, a pretty crappy year. With that said, let's leave the past in the past, and focus on the future.

Photo credit: cyclonebill on Flickr

Photo credit: cyclonebill on Flickr

This past year was a productive one for me. I published my one-act play TOUCH (which was also performed in a one-act competition!), drafted and revised REFLECTIONS, started a short story that deals loosely with ghosts, and wrote 12K of the BLOOD AND WATER sequel, WATER AND LIGHT. Writing-wise, 2016 was good, but I want this year to be even better. Here are my writing resolutions for 2017, in order of priority:

  1. Rerelease BLOOD AND WATER. I'm releasing a new, revised edition of BLOOD AND WATER (with the same cover, don't worry) in the next month or so. It has a LOT of bonus content, including "deleted scenes" I felt conflicted about taking out in the first place. I cannot wait for you guys to see it once it's finished!
  2. Publish REFLECTIONS. Not long ago, I had the cover shoot for this novel. Since then, I've been anxious to see the finished product. I've also gotten some good feedback from betas and sensitivity readers, and I have an editor(!), so I'm over the moon. I've put my heart and soul into this book. I hope it pays off in the end.
  3. Draft WATER AND LIGHT. I'm having so much fun with the characters in the BLOOD AND WATER sequel, so I should have it done sooner rather than later.
  4. Edit WATER AND LIGHT. Naturally, even if I get the first draft finished soon, it's going to need a lot of work. Thank God I know some editors!
  5. Publish WATER AND LIGHT. THREE BOOKS IN ONE YEAR. Who am I? (Can I do it??)
  6. Finish ghost short story. Because it should have been finished by now.
  7. Outline/start drafting LIGHT AND AIR. I'm hoping to do this one for NaNo this year, but if all goes well, I may even have the first draft 

This year is going to be a big one for me in terms on my writing career, I can feel it. I'm so excited to see what all the future has in store. Happy new year, and may it be your most productive one to date!

What are some of your writing-related resolutions for the coming year?

BLOOD AND WATER Rerelease FAQs

A lot of you already know this, but I’ve been working on a new edition of BLOOD AND WATER for several months now in preparation for the rerelease.

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My announcement that there’s going to be a rerelease prompted a lot of people to ask questions. The book’s been out for over a year now, so why do I feel the need to create a new edition? How different will it be from the original book? Will the cover change? What about bonus material? What about people who bought the first edition but still want the rerelease? It goes on and on. But you know what? Those are EXCELLENT questions. And today, I’m going to do my best to answer as many of them as I can.

Why a new edition?

With any book, when you assign a title a new ISBN, it’s automatically a new edition. Since I went back to self-publishing (rather than publishing through a small press), I have to get new ISBNs for the titles I had with the publisher.

How different is it?

Fundamentally, not very. The plot is the same, as are the characters, but I’ve gone in and added deleted scenes, made some changes to dialogue, fixing typos, and things of that nature. Overall, the new edition feels much more cohesive than the original, and I’m pretty excited about it.

Will the cover change?

No way! Taylor’s cover is perfect and I am so in love with it.

What about bonus material?

There will be plenty of bonus material! Like I mentioned before, I’m including a couple of deleted scenes, as well as a new character and some hints toward the upcoming sequel.

Also, at the end, there’s a short story all about Samson.

What if I bought the original but I still want the rerelease?

You’re in luck! I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I want to offer some kind of deal to anyone who bought a copy of the original but wants the rerelease. I’m open to suggestions! If you think of a sweet deal, please let me know in the comments or somewhere on social media.

When can I get my hands on it?

Right now, all I can say is early 2017. I’m hoping sometime in January, but it’ll most likely be February since I’m also working on getting Reflections out soon.

So there you have it. Hopefully in this post, I’ve answered most of the questions concerning my rerelease. If I didn’t get to yours or you’ve thought of something else to ask me (sneaky!), shoot me a message on social media or leave your query below.

Thank you so much for your support! I can’t wait to share this with you!

Guest Post by Lucy Adams: 10 Books That Will Change Your Mind

Hey, it's Briana! I've been running around like a madwoman lately, so today's post is from a lovely lady I've been in contact with recently. Enjoy the post, and I'll be back with a new one on Wednesday!

10-books-that-will-change-your-mind

Looking for the next book to put on your to-read list? Well, here are ten! What makes these books special is that they all have a great takeaway that will change the way you think, act, or perceive things.

This list is perfect for both avid readers and those looking for something inspiring and useful. Let’s dive in along with Lucy Adams, a diligent buzz essay writer.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

Not a morning person? Think again. This book will change it all. Author Hal Elrod has his own amazing story of how he got started in finding a way to not just take every day for granted.

It has been proven multiple times that waking up earlier and spending your first hour awake doing specific actions is extremely beneficial. The Miracle Morning provides an exact outline on how to do it.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Although this book was written in 1937, it is one that will never fall behind in the times. It’s applicable to today and has inspired and influences many wealthy people and entrepreneurs. Follow what Hill says and you will experience success.

1984 by George Orwell

After reading this one, you’ll always have it in the back of your head. It’s a classic and an interesting story with a warning to citizens of what can happen if a government becomes too controlling. It’s something that should be kept in mind especially with all the potential surveillance technology nowadays.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

On a lighter note, we’ve included this incredibly popular fantasy series. Get through all the books (they’re big), and you’ll have experienced a journey like you’ve never experienced before. These books tell such a good story with amazing creativity that you will get lost in them and come back out in awe with a new perspective on imagination.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

Don’t scoff at this title. I know what you’re thinking: this is a book for children. It is, but we all need a reminder at times, especially as adults. You probably already know the message it teaches. The power of positive thinking is unbeatable. We all need to reread this one every once in awhile.

The Five Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman

Just as we are all unique, we all experience and feel love in different ways. This book describes the five different of ways we like to give and receive love. Each person prefers one or two, and for a successful relationship you need to know your partner’s. Also good for close relationships in general!

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

This book has changed millions of lives. Yours is next! It’s been translated into thirty-five languages. What most people disregard is that it does take hard work to get to the point that Timothy Ferris writes about, but he is not shy about letting you know it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is the second (and last) young-adult genre book on our list, but also holds a well-deserved spot. It won a Newbery Medal, and also remains one of the most challenged books in the 1990s. It’s about dealing with many emotions in a seemingly perfect society. Check it out and you will be surprised how much it makes you think.

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

If you’re thinking this book it full of tips of how to control and manipulate people, you’ll be surprised. This wildly popular book will change your mindset. It will make you more popular and not only easy to work with, but the kind of person that people will want to work with. Increase your standing in people’s eyes by changing your own way of thinking with this book as a guide.

Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss

A personal favorite, this book is a short read that leaves you inspired and with tools to turn negative thoughts and happenings into positive ones. There are some truly great anecdotes inside that will make you see your own life in a different light. Plus, who doesn’t want to learn how to be happier?

Well, that should get you started in the right direction! One of these, and probably more than one, has caught your eye. Don’t hesitate to read them. You’re only making yourself better!

Lucy Adams is an essay writing expert from BuzzEssay. She’s a diligent woman who never misses a chance to cover an exciting topic related to blogging, writing, education, and a few more niches. Feel free to share your ideas with this diligent author and go ahead for a mutually beneficial collaboration.

You're Not a Failure for Not Finishing

We're halfway through November as I'm writing this post. If you're participating in NaNoWriMo, that means you should have a word count of about 25,000 right now. Mine is closer to 10,000. If yours is low, too, don't despair! Even if you don't finish, you are not a failure.

youre-not-a-failure-for-not-finishing

Writing a novel is hard. Finishing a novel is even harder. For that reason if no other, many people don't make 50,000 come November 30. And that's okay. Even if you don't "win" NaNoWriMo. you're still a winner. Here's why:

  • You tried. You faced your fears and doubts, buckled down, and made an effort. Don't discount your bravery. I've talked to so many people who have said, "I'm way too scared to try to write a novel in a month!" If you started, you're not one of them. You have a lot of courage.
  • You proved the cynics wrong. So what if you don't get to 50,000? Some people might have doubted you, said you couldn't write. Maybe some of them didn't even think you could get started. Look at you now! You have part of a book!
  • You can always go back. It's pretty cool to write a first draft in a month. That doesn't mean you have to. No matter where in the story you stop, it will be waiting there when you come back. If you don't finish in November, that doesn't mean you never will.
  • NaNoWriMo doesn't matter. Don't get me wrong; I love Nano, and I think it's important. But you don't have to do it. You can still be a writer without NaNoWriMo. You're not any less of an artist if you opt out. The same goes for not finishing. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't make any difference. 

If you don't finish NaNoWriMo, it isn't the end of the world. I'm probably not finishing this year due to some personal issues and wrist pain, and that's totally okay. The book will still be there whenever I come back to it.

How is NaNoWriMo going for you? What are your thoughts on not finishing?

Vlog: Q&A Again

I urged you guys to ask me questions on Twitter about writing, my projects, and more, so now I'm following through with my end of the bargain.

  1. 0:25 "How did you go about getting your audiobooks produced?"
  2. 1:09 "What key themes did you explore in your writing your 3 works so far? What themes do you want to explore in future work?"
  3. 6:15 "Do you feel you write better plot or characters? Why?"
  4. 8:04 "What does your worldbuilding process look like?"
  5. 9:43 "What was the spark that made you decide you wanted to write?"

Again, a huge, HUGE thank-you to everyone who sent in questions! Please let me know if you can think of anything you'd like to see in future vlogs. :)

Why I'm Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

I’m the busiest I’ve been in a while, and I’m still doing NaNoWriMo. I keep saying I won’t, but I know I will. The lure is far too strong. If I’m the busiest I’ve ever been, why do I want to do NaNoWriMo so badly? In part, because I’ve lost my mind. Mostly, though, it’s because I wholeheartedly believe in it.

why-i'm-doing-nanowrimo-this-year

The majority of the first draft of my debut BLOOD AND WATER was written during NaNoWriMo 2014. Last year, I used the time to start on THE PALEST OF PINKS. Although I technically won NaNoWriMo last year, I didn’t finish the draft, but that’s okay. In fact, I’m hoping to revisit it someday. This year, my plan is to use NaNoWriMo to knock out the first draft of the BLOOD AND WATER sequel, tentatively titled WATER AND LIGHT.

As you can tell, I’m passionate about NaNoWriMo. I think it’s great for so many different reasons, and I never would have finished my debut novel without it. If you need more reasons to participate this year, take a look at this:

  • NaNo teaches discipline. The biggest difference between authors who want to finish a book and authors who have finished a book is discipline. You can’t publish anything if you don’t establish some kind of writing habit.
  • NaNo improves self-confidence. Before I won my first NaNo, I didn't think I was capable of finishing a novel. I questioned myself as a writer. After all, if I never finish a novel, what kind of writer am I? NaNoWriMo changed all of that. It allowed me to silence my inner critic and finally realize one of my lifetime goals: becoming an author.
  • NaNo builds community. I love the spirit of collaboration and encouragement among writers during NaNoWriMo. It feels so good to realize that you're not alone in this adventure.
  • NaNo can lead to a published book! This reason may be the most compelling one of all. As a published author, I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to hold a physical copy of your book in your hands. Needless to say, having a finished product makes all the months and sometimes years of blood, sweat, and chugging caffeine worth it.

If you're still not completely convinced, give NaNo a shot nonetheless. Better to say, "oh well" at the end of the month than "what if?" If you're doing NaNoWriMo, good luck! And if not . . . there's always next year. Want to add me on NaNo? My username is skyeaerrow. We can do this!

What are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo? If you're participating this year, feel free to leave your username in the comments!

One Year + A Giveaway

One year ago today, I released my baby out into the world. My debut novel BLOOD AND WATER went live on October 22, 2015. I was at the Atlanta airport, gearing up for a flight to visit one of my best friends in Chicago. I hit PUBLISH on Amazon, and when that sucker finished processing, I lost my mind. I couldn’t comprehend what I’d just done; how much a single move was going to change my life forever. In that moment, I went from writer to author. There’s nothing like it in the world.

This post is a thank-you to everyone who supported me, encouraged me, and believed in me along this journey—especially those of you who have continued to support me. When I started writing BLOOD AND WATER, I was in a bad place. I’ve written about that before, so I won’t go too much into it. But writing that book saved my life. When I felt alone, the book was there, and so were all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m on the verge of tears as I write this post because you all mean so much to me and this book means so much to me and I am just so thankful for this whole roller-coaster process.

I wanted to do something to celebrate today—something big—but all my finances will allow right now is a paperback giveaway. If you still want a signed paperback copy of my book with a super-sweet handwritten note (I promise), you can enter the giveaway using the widget below. You have from Sunday, October 22, until Halloween to enter, and I’ll be announcing the winner on November first. The giveaway is international, and I’m covering shipping and everything. Again, thank you all so much. I love you, and keep dreaming.