Mindee Arnett
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Dear Readers,

It’s February 15, which means we’re exactly 3 months away from release. Looking back, it’s truly hard to believe. I first conceived of the idea for Onyx & Ivory all the way back in 2012 as part of a world building exercise I did for a blog post. You can read the actual post here, if you’re interested. So much of the book has changed, not the least of which is the main character’s name. Originally, Kate was called Jane. I chose the name purely because I liked the title “Traitor Jane.” Thought it had a nice ring to it.

But then my sister pointed out that this was the title people used to refer to Jane Fonda back in the day when she was protesting the Vietnam War. This was way before my time, but once I realized it, I decided to change it to Kate. In the end, I think Kate is better. My other lead, Corwin, also went through a name change in the course of writing the book, but the reasons behind that one are best kept private–feel free to ask me in person, if you get the chance.

Speaking of in person, I have my first event of the year coming up in March 3 at NK-YA Fest located at the Erlanger Library in Kentucky. There are a bunch of awesome authors in attendance. Find out more here.

Audio Book News

That’s right, if you haven’t heard, there’s going to be an Onyx & Ivory audio edition! And the absolute best part is that the narrator is none other than Khristine Hvam. She is the reader for the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor. Not only do I love these books, but the audio versions are may favorite. In part, because Khristine reads them. I’m honored to have her.

 

Swag, Swag, and More Swag

Do you see that beautiful picture above? That piece of art inspired by the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series was done by the supremely talented Jenny of Seedlings Design Studio. I mention it here because I’ve been working with Jenny to design a bunch of Onyx & Ivory swag, some of which will be available in upcoming giveaways, including a preorder campaign. That’s right, if you’re already preordered Onyx & Ivory (you’re the best ever) be sure to save your receipts. Everyone who preorders will receive a brand new O&I short story. I use the term “short” loosely as it’s over 10k words. If you want to stay in the know with all the giveaways and swag reveals, be sure to tune into the official Onyx & Ivory tumblr page: https://onyxandivorybooks.tumblr.com.

Well, that’s it for now. In the meantime, happy reading, happy writing.

Musingly,

Mindee

The Genesis of Onyx & Ivory – WriteOnCon

If you haven’t heard, there’s a really awesome online writing conference going on right now called WriteOnCon. I’m a contributor again this year, with a podcast of story structure, and I’m also critiquing submission materials. If you’d like me to take a look at your query, let me know. Sign up here.

The really coolest thing about this conference though, at least for me, is that it’s the very same conference where I first came up the initial premise for Onyx & Ivory. Flash back to WriteOnCon 2012. It was my first time as a contributing author, and my topic was on world building. In order to write it effectively I decided to generate a new world as part of the exercise. That world ended up being the very same world (and main character) in Onyx & Ivory. Pretty cool, huh? I think so.

So cool, in fact, that I’ve decided to present that very same guest post here. This is the original post. I’ve made no updates, and as you can see a lot has changed from my initial idea to the final product, including Kate’s name. Nevertheless, this is where it all began. Enjoy!

World Building: Let Your Characters Be Your Guide 

In my experience, writers tend to fall into one of two categories when it comes to world building: The Tolkien Types and Everybody Else. The Tolkien types are those brilliant people who will create entire mythologies and even languages for their fictional worlds. For them, the world comes first and the characters and story second. World building like this is a marvelous feat and one I greatly admire, but I’m afraid that if you are a Tolkien type, you might as well stop reading now. This post just isn’t for you.

For everybody else, our stories start with a character and/or situation and the world building develops out of it. If you want to get technical, this is the “bottom-up” strategy as described here [link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top-down_and_bottom-up_design ]. While this is a perfectly acceptable approach to world building, it does involve a couple of pitfalls. The first major issue is that it can lead to inconsistencies and plot holes, the latter being especially true when we’re talking about the fantasy and sci-fi genres. The second issue is that the world building tends to be underdeveloped.

And really, both of these problems make sense for us bottom-uppers, right? I mean, we’re far more interested in the characters populating our story than the world it takes place in (while the opposite may be true for the Tolkien Types). No wonder our world building is weak. Also, the very idea of creating an entire world is daunting. It’s so BIG, so OUT THERE; it’s the forest we can never see.  I, for one, barely understand the world I live in, let alone the one I’m creating.

Fortunately, one effective solution for avoiding the world building blues of plot holes and underdevelopment is to focus even more on what we love best about the story—the characters populating the world. Crazy, you say? Nope, not at all. The characters—their back stories and especially their motivations—hold all the answers.

To demonstrate, I’m going to take you through some prewriting activities for a YA fantasy novel I would someday like to write. The following headers and questions will function as a world building worksheet.

Concept

What is the story about in its most general terms?

Right now, I picture this story as being Shadow and Bone meets the Pony Express—so high fantasy/steampunk-ish with an emphasis on horses and riding.

General Setting

What kind of world does this story place in? (Medieval Europe? Preindustrial? Futuristic? Try to be specific here, but don’t be afraid to change and modify as the story becomes clearer)

This story takes place in a world home to both humans and a race of vicious creatures known as the Mal’niveus. The Mal’niveus live in a vast network of tunnels beneath the ground, but they come out to the surface at night to hunt. In order to survive, the human population has built huge walled cities and barricaded the tunnels beneath the cities to keep the Mal’niveus out. As a result, the political structure of this world is similar to the city-state structure of Ancient Greece (something I’ll need to research later).

While many of the cities are self-sustaining, trade does exist between them, with goods being shipped via rivers or in large caravans, which I imagine might be protected by mages or sorcerers. For faster travel, the city-states rely on an independent guild known as The Riders (surely, I will come up with a more specific name later—even names play a part in world building). The Riders function the same as the Pony Express did in the American Old West (again something to research and draw on later).

Characters

Who is the main character and what is his/her primary motivation at the beginning of the novel?

·      16-year-old Jane lives on a small farm inside one of the city-states. Her primary motivation at the beginning is to become a Rider like her big brother, John. Riders are required to provide their own mount. But Jane’s horse is small and will have a hard time competing for one of the slots.

From these few brief sentences, the world is already taking shape. Although I don’t state it directly, there are ideas in here about class, social structure, and a number of other world building elements.

How much does Jane know about the bigger world she lives in?

·      Although she knows many things about the world, it’s primarily secondhand. She has experienced very little of the world beyond the farm. She has never seen a Mal’niveus before, and she knows only the very basics about the government that rules the city she lives in, as typical of a teenager.

Jane’s lack of experience and true knowledge about the Riders and the world at large is going to make it easy for me to include world building details naturally and without contrivance. There is so much that she is going to experience for the first time, same as the reader. Since she will most likely be the POV character, I should be able to convey much of the world through her eyes and reactions.

To break this down, consider that world building information is usually passed onto the reader in one of three ways:

1.     Description—what the world looks like, what the character sees, hears, smells, etc.

2.     Straight exposition—“this is how the world works” kind of statements. And yes, they will often be considered “telling” instead of “showing.”

3.     The POV Character’s interactions with the world and other characters, including dialogue and plot developments.

I will use all three types when writing this story. But when and how much will depend on my POV character, in this case, Jane. Description, naturally, should be used in every scene, although when Jane goes somewhere brand new for the first time, there will be a heavier emphasis on the description. When she’s at home, in her familiar world, the description will be lighter.

I will use straight exposition as sparingly as possible, but I will use it. Mostly, I will rely on it to convey the more unique ideas about this world, those which Jane already knows but which the reader doesn’t. For example, Jane already knows about the city-state structure of her world, the Mal’niveus, and the Riders, but these will be completely new to the reader. For some of these, I may use straightforward exposition, such as these example sentences:

Jane had never seen a Mal’niveus before, but she knew they lived deep underground, only emerging at night to hunt—deer, elk, humans, they didn’t care. Any fresh meat would do.

While it is possible that I could show all of these elements through a combination of #1 and #3, I will want to be careful about placing too much burden on the reader to figure things out for themselves. Sometimes it is okay and appropriate to give the readers “just the facts, ma’am.” If you leave too much up to the reader to guess at, they might grow frustrated with the story and put it down.

Primarily, however, I will rely on the POV character’s interactions with the world and with other characters to pass on world building information. Dialogue, of course, will be a key component. The trick here is to identify which characters know what and to use them effectively.

Identify supporting characters and their motivations, including forces of antagonism.

·      So far, the only supporting character I’ve identified is big brother John. And I don’t know his motivation in the story yet, other than to make sure his little sister doesn’t get hurt. But he does know a lot of about becoming a Rider. He will likely pass this information on to Jane.

·      The Mal’niveus are a force of antagonism, and they have already provided a main structural element to the world building by creating the necessity for the walled city-states.

I haven’t yet identified the main villain, but once I do I will need to explore his/her motivation extensively. What does the bad guy want? Why does he want it? How does he plan on getting it? Answers to these questions should both inform and be informed by the world at large. Think about it—only the perfect storm conditions of post World War I Germany could’ve produced a Hitler. The more we explore the villain’s motivation for his/her badness, the more these conditions will become apparent. Once they are apparent, put them into the story as much as you can and as much as makes sense.

Finally, my last bit of advice is to try and make the world building as fun for you as possible. If the writer is having fun playing in their world, the reader will, too.

Remembering Majyk Cover Reveal and Preorder

Today it’s my pleasure to help my friend Valia Lind reveal the cover for her next book, Remembering Majyk, And let me tell you, it’s gorgeous! But first, a little about the book. Here’s the blurb:

Calista Faulkner never believed in fairy tales…until she is thrust into one.

While attending a college party, she’s attacked by terrifying creatures straight out of a modern day Dr. Frankenstein’s handbook. Fleeing for her life, she discovers that her human memories are a lie and nothing is what it seems.
Calista becomes a target and her only chance of survival is to trust the mysterious Brendan Parnell. He seems to know all of her secrets, even those she doesn’t remember herself.

Together they must fight to protect the most important part of their inheritance, the Relic of Knowledge. Unfortunately, Calista has no memory of her magical life and no idea where she hid the relic. As her memories begin to resurface with bone crushing agony, Calista must face the facts: she is a Volshebnitsya of the High Realm of Skazka and it is her duty to stop the Glava, the masters of Shadowlands.

The world around them begins to falls apart. Plagued by storms that are destroying cities and torn by the sinister monsters of Russian lore. The secrets locked deep inside her mind are her destiny and her undoing. If both worlds are to survive, Calista and Brendan must face the darkness around them—and the darkness threatening from within.

And now for the cover!

You can add the book on goodreads here.

Also, there’s a special preorder going on. Up until the day of release, there’s a special price for the book of $1.99! So be sure to preorder now by going here.

Onyx & Ivory Advanced Copy Giveaway!

Christmas has come early, at least for me! These pretties arrived the day after Thanksgiving, and that means it’s time to give one away. I’m not sure how many of these will be available, so if you want a printed arc, now’s your chance. As always, the giveaway is easy to enter—the only requirement is that you add the book on Goodreads and mention the giveaway at least once on any social media platform. This giveaway is opened Internationally and runs until Wed December 6.

 

In case you need a reminder, here’s the scoop on the book out May 15, 2018, first in a planned dualogy.

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime. Cast out of the noble class, she now works for the royal courier service. Only those most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan mysteriously massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormane, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget, after he condemned her father to death. With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must uncover secrets, both past and present, to face this new threat of drakes who attack in the daylight and the darker menace behind them. 

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What I Wish the Nonwriters in My Life Could Understand

Warning, this is not a happy post. It’s also very personal, something I rarely do online and don’t feel very comfortable with doing.

But it’s also a post I have to write. It’s a weight I need to unload into these words and onto this page. Even if no one else read this, I need to get it out.

It’s no secret to those who know me that one of my biggest wishes is to be able to quit my day job and write full time. Okay, who am I kidding? If I’m being honest and unfiltered, it really is my single biggest desire, even over all the other way more important things I should long for, like a way to heal our shattering nation.

The desire to be unfettered by the daily, and often creatively-draining demands of my day job is one I think about often, even though I try not to. For the record, I have a great day job, and I’m supremely grateful for it. My job is good to me. My employers and coworkers are supportive and giving and wonderful, and nothing in this post is a criticism about any of that. I like my job. I really do.

But I love writing more.

It’s that simple. Writing stories, having them be made into books—that is what fills me up. That’s what satisfies me in a way the day job never could. Writing pays me in a lot more money. And I’m very fortunate that I get to do it at all. I’ve had five books published so far, and I’ve a new series coming. I’m blessed in so many ways

Except for one.

Time.

I live my life in a constant deficit of time. Have you ever not had enough money to pay your bills? You know that sickening, hopeless feeling you get that you’ll never catch up? Never have a reprieve? That’s often what it feels like for me, except with time instead of money. The thing is, I publish and write by choice. It’s a willful commit and sacrifice, and as much as I love it, it can be so so very hard to do both.

Like this past week.

Because keeping my day job isn’t a choice. It’s a requirement. I have to keep it. I need to be able to support my family. At least, I have to for right now. It’s possible in a few years that might change. I’m trying to put myself in a position where I have more choices about my working life, but that times time. (Debt, debt, debt, never enough time). Or maybe I’ll have a book hit big enough that I can afford to quit (and for the record, most writers don’t make enough to support a family on. We just don’t. It’s the nature of the business, and if you’re a writer who has to work, don’t feel like you’re somehow less. You’re not. You’re not, Mindee. You’re not. I swear).

Yet it always feels like less. The thing is, in my life, the writing never gets to come first. The day job does. Always. That’s how it should be, of course. It’s just not how I want it to be. And the thing is, even though I have a day job, I still have the same demands on me as a fulltime writer. I do book events. I market and promote. I have deadlines and edits and everything else. I’ve got huge plans for this upcoming book, and I’m excited about them, and I eagerly want to put time and energy into doing them. But no matter what, those activities will always be second.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here, the thing I wish the non writers in my life understood, is how hard it is when I have a week like this past one, where I didn’t get any writing done. At all. I’ve been trying to find a metaphor that works. The best I’ve come up with is this:

Imagine that you were a bird born in a pet shop. You have wings, but you’ve never used them because you’ve lived all your life in a cage. But that’s alright. The cage is comfortable and safe, and for the most part, you’re happy there

But then one day you get out of the cage and learn to fly. You realize you were made to fly. It’s the best thing ever. It’s your heart desire. But because you are a bird born in a pet shop, you’re only allowed to fly for small periods of time. Most days, you can live with that, the couple of minutes you get to soar free are enough to sustain you the rest of the time, enough to hope and to dream that maybe one day there’ll be more time. The cage doesn’t feel so much like a cage if you can escape it for a little while.

But then there are days, and sometimes even whole weeks, where you don’t get to fly at all. Those are the times you resent the cage, when you feel it all around you, closing in and getting smaller by the second, and wish you could be a bird that wasn’t born in a pet shop. That you could be a bird who could fly all the time. Whenever you wanted. Whenever you needed.

There. That’s what it feels like. Fortunately it’s not all the time. Most days, most hours, I’m happy and content, but sometimes I’m not. It’s no one’s fault. No one’s problem to fix or to heal. Really, all that any of us can ask when we’re hurting or struggling is simply for understanding. That’s all.

And I do feel better now, having said it. So long as I get to fly a little, I can keep on living in the cage. Thank you for reading, and for understanding. Happy fun times will be coming back soon. I promise.

In the meantime, I want to leave off with this quote. All my writer friends and readers, this is how you make me feel:

Ruined in Retribution Cover Reveal

Today I’m super happy to help co-host the cover reveal for Valia Lind’s RUINED IN RETRIBUTION, book 3 in the Titanium Series. You can see it below–and trust me, it’s amazing! Also, if you haven’t read this series yet, you’re in luck. Book 1, PIECES OF REVENGE is currently free. You can download it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

 

ruined-in-redemption-ebooksm

Synopsis:

Gone. Gone. Gone.

For the past two months, it has taken all of Logan’s determination to just keep going. Losing Tasia to Kallos Enterprises shattered his world, but he is not about to give up on what she had started.

Together with her family, Logan works to destroy the company that ruined their lives. The corporation is growing bigger and stronger by the minute, weaponizing the drug and selling it to the highest bidder. But that’s not the only hurdle to overcome. Logan’s past is catching up to him, and the time has come to pay. His family’s secrets are unraveling everything he has built for himself and now, Logan is fighting on multiple fronts.

Save Tasia. Destroy Kallos Enterprises. Stay alive.

Such a simple list, such an impossible mission.

Time is running out and Logan is left with one question: can he save them all?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Author. Photographer. Artist. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, Valia Lind has always had a love for the written word. She wrote her first full book on the bathroom floor of her dormitory, while procrastinating to study for her college classes. Upon graduation, she has moved her writing to more respectable places, and have found her voice in Young Adult fiction. You can visit her online at http://valialind.wordpress.com or follow her on twitter, where she spends way too much time, @ValiaLind

Awesome right? The book is out December 7 and you can preorder it on Amazon here.You can also add the book on Goodreads and get to know Valia over on Twitter, Facebook, and her webpage.

Happy reading!

Almost News + Giveaway

It’s almost September, and that means I’ve almost got news, as in the title for my next book! We’re zeroing in on a title right now, and I hope to get to share it with you soon.

In other news, I’m heading to Dragon*Con next week. I’ve got two panels lined up:

  • Writing YA–The Craft on Saturday at 4:00 in A707
  • YA Lit After Dark on Saturday at 8:30 in A707

Hope to see you there.

Now onto the giveaway! You know what’s awesome? Books. New books are awesome. So are friends, especially awesomely, talented writer friends. And that’s why I’ve decided to celebrate a few of my friends who’ve got new books coming out. All four of these books are amazing, and you’re going to want to read each one!

What’s up for Grabs?

friends_give

  • A signed arc of One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards – read about it here
  • A signed hard cover of A Million Times Goodnight by Kristina McBride – read about it here
  • A preorder of Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon – read about it here
  • A preorder of Metaltown by Kristen Simmons – read about it here
Who can enter and for how long?

The contest starts right now and will end at midnight EST on Wednesday September 7. The contest is open to US only. Apologies to all my international friends. You all are great, and I promise more international contests will be coming soon. (Maybe with my actual news???)

 

Good luck!

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Film News + Audio Book Giveaway

Did you hear the news??? The Nightmare Affair has been optioned as a digital series by the very same people behind the Emmy-award winning The Lizzie Bennet Diaries! Isn’t that awesome? If you want to read all the juicy details, they’re on Variety.com.

To celebrate this awesome event, I’m giving away the entire Arkwell Academy series on Audio CD. This is open Internationally and will run until midnight March 30st. Also, you’ll see that the most weighted option is to sign up to beta read my new book and help test out the brand new Mori app. Sign up is here. Right now the testing is only for Apple users; however, the Mori people are keeping track of Android users, too, so the option is available to everyone! Best of luck and thank you, thank you, thank you!

Win these!!!

FullSizeRender

 

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Read a “New” Free Book by Mindee

Are you interested in reading a one of my books for free? A book that’s never before been published? Well now’s your chance. Here’s the skinny. I’m helping out an app developer who’s getting ready to launch an app that helps readers and writers connect with each other during the writing process. If that doesn’t make sense, trust me, it will. But basically, they’re looking for people to read my book through the app and to just play around and explore some of the features. You’ll get to make comments on it, highlights, notes, anything you want–and it’s going to go straight to me. We’ll even chat about it later. Space is limited, though, so don’t wait!

If you’re interested here’s the link to sign https://mori.com/earlyaccess/sunrise

About the book: This is my pre-Nightmare Affair novel. This is the one that was almost my break-through novel. It was so, so close. It’s near and dear to my heart, and now I’m sharing it with you–flaws and all. And yes, there are flaws. Remember this was never published and it’s never been through the editing process. So bear that in mind. But if you’re an aspiring writer, this might be cool insight into an almost-there novel. Or if you’ve enjoyed my other books, you just might like this one, too. It contains one of my favorite ending scenes of all time (just saying).

Here’s the original pitch I used in query letter for this novel. Please note that it’s technically a New Adult (a category that didn’t exist when I first wrote it back in 2009):

Dear Agent:

I am seeking representation for my urban fantasy, SUNRISE, and thought you might be interested. It’s complete at 97,000 words and contains elements of both romance and horror. While on the hunt for the vampire who murdered his friends, Dylan Caine sees the one person he must avoid at all costs–Penny Larue, his soul mate, and the woman whose life he’s destined to ruin. Dylan is a shape-shifter able to assume animal form at will, but the power comes with a terrible price: death at 24 from a curse handed down in his family from father to son. Resigned to his fate, Dylan is determined to be the last to suffer the curse by denying the magic which compels him to be with his soul mate. But when Penny becomes the focus of the vampire’s deadly games, he must risk temptation to keep her safe.

Determined to get into vet school early, 21-year-old Penny Larue has no plans to fall in love. She has better things to do, like studying and competing her horse in the extreme sport of Eventing. Yes she can’t resist her attraction to the elusive Dylan Caine. The closer she gets to him, the more frightening life becomes. People around her are drying at the hands of a serial killer dubbed the Wolfman from the bite marks he leaves on his victims. As she learns Dylan’s connection to the killer, she realizes the danger is greater than she ever imagined. In a world where vampires cannot be made by force, but only by choice of the one whose soul is at stake, she will face the hardest decision of her life, one which will determine both her fate and Dylan’s.

Good luck and I hope to see you on the other side of the story!

Grand Rapids Comic Con

Well, I suppose I should call this a quick recap. But I had a blast at GRCC this past weekend. I got to meet so many wonderful people and hang out with the lovely Susan Dennard, whose upcoming book Truthwitch is one you’re going to want to check out.

My presentation on Worldbuilding started off a little rough due to some technical difficulties but went well once we got going. Thanks so much to everyone who attended. As promised, here is the presentation in outline form for your convenience: worldbuilding.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take that many pictures, but here are a couple. Also, you might have noticed my website has been redesigned (hope you like it). I plan to do a formal reveal soon that’s going to include a giveaway. So be sure to come back!

Happy writing!

Mindee