Tag Archives: kate sparkes

INTO ELURIEN COVER REVEAL

Here we go.

I can’t even explain how excited I am about this book. What started as a “Yeah, I could squeeze a shorter project into my schedule” became something I’m madly in love with. These characters, this world, the ideas I got to play with and the story that took shape as I wrote it… It’s just so much more than I ever expected it to be when I took it on as a fun challenge. One of my favourite things I’ve ever written.

Here’s the cover copy again, for anyone who missed it:

Out of plans and out of luck…

Hazel Walsh left her island town three years ago, determined to never to return. But a series of missteps and misfortunes have left her homeless, heartbroken, and with no option but to return and take a job she doesn’t want in a place she fears will strangle her.

On her way, she stops for the night at the Old Brook Inn. It’s a place of local myth and legend—things that Hazel hasn’t believed in since she was a child. When she finds a strange key in the attic and tries it in a locked door, she suddenly wishes she’d paid more attention to the fantasy stories she once scoffed at.

She’s thrown into a world in the midst of revolution, where monsters have overthrown the humans who once enslaved them. All of them, that is, except Verelle, the cruel sorceress queen who vanished at the moment of Hazel’s arrival. If Hazel wants to have any chance of surviving and making it back to her own world, she’ll have to join forces with the amalgus Zinian—horned, winged, mysterious, and monstrously attractive—to unravel the mystery of Verelle’s disappearance. If they can’t, the fates of two worlds may be at stake.

This one will be available for pre-order May 15 and releases June 15, 2016. You can add it to your Goodreads TBR now via this link.

Ready? Here you go.

EBOOK

Whew.

Big thanks to Jennifer at JM Rising Horse Creations, who did such an amazing job with this gorgeous cover! Not only that, she’s doing ALL of the covers for the Skeleton Key series. You can check them out here.

What is the Skeleton Key series? It’s 30 books by 30 authors, all standalone fantasy romance novellas with a happily ever after guaranteed, featuring a range story types, sub-genres, worlds, characters, and heat levels. It looks like we’ve got fae, dragons, shifters, warrior queens, and of course monsters (*happy dance*). It’s going to be amazing. I’m really excited about this series, and I’ll have more information for you as we get closer to release day.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Please feel free to share this post. ^_^

 

 

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COVER REVEAL ANNOUNCEMENT (and a newsletter bonus!)

*taps microphone*

Hello?

Hi. Just a quick post today. After much hemming and hawing and trying to decide whether the cover reveal for Into Elurien should wait until pre-orders are available, I’ve come to a decision.

And the decision is: Screw that. I want you guys to see it. Those of you who haven’t, I mean. Newsletter subscribers saw it last month. 🙂

So the official Into Elurien cover reveal will be happening this Friday, April 15. That’s exactly one month before pre-orders go up. EEK!

into elurien teaser

DRESS! BOOK! MAGIC! DARKNESS! YAY!

I want this week to be special for newsletter subscribers, too, so they’re going to get something EXTRA special on Friday. They’ve seen the cover, so they get to meet… well, a very interesting character an early chapter excerpt.

You want to sign up for this. Zinian is a bit of a monster, but I think you’ll like him. Visit this link to get on the list, and be sure to add my email to your approved senders list so you don’t miss the excitement!

And I’ll see you here on Friday. 🙂

(If you’d like to help out by posting the cover reveal on your own blog, I’d be really grateful and super excited to have you on board! Just email me at kate.sparkes@live.ca and we’ll work that out. Anyone who helps out will be first in line for an advance review copy of this adventure-packed new adult fantasy romance–just let me know you want one when we talk.)

 


Author Chat: Celine Jeanjean on Sequels

Hi, everyone! Today it’s my pleasure to host a guest author on the blog. If you’ve been hanging around here, or if you follow me on Instagram, you probably know how much I enjoyed The Bloodless Assassin (formerly titled The Viper and the Urchin) by Celine Jeanjean. The sequel, The Black Orchid, is currently available for pre-order and releases tomorrow, so it seemed like a great time to chat with Celine about the unique challenges presented by sequels.

(Cover art by the excessively talented Ravven)

Writing your first book is hard. The next is another beast entirely.

This post is an edited transcript of our recent chat. As interesting as our tangents about cover art (what is with all of the beheaded hot dudes and drowning chicks, anyway?), reacting to reviews, our dogs, and the current state of publishing were, we’ll try to keep this post on topic. 🙂

KS: So, Celine, would you like to give us a quick introduction to what your books are about?

CJ: Sure! The series follows Longinus (the Viper) and Rory (the urchin). Longinus is a pedantic assassin with an inconvenient blood phobia. Rory’s an urchin girl with big dreams of becoming a famous swordswoman. They meet when Rory saves Longinus during an assassination gone wrong and then blackmails him so he’ll teach her swordfighting. It’s pretty much irritation at first sight for them both. They argue, they get on each other’s nerves, and ultimately become very close in a very platonic way.

The books are both fun action capers, they’re a mix of steampunk, non-magic fantasy (in that they take place in another world than ours) and there’s quite a bit of humour. And then each story has a darker mystery running throughout, where Rory and Longinus find themselves fighting to save the city.

KS: And now it’s sequel time.When did you start working on The Black Orchid? Was that something you had drafted before The Bloodless Assassin came out? Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do?

CJ: I had a completely blank slate after Bloodless Assassin was finished. I always wanted each book to work as a standalone, so I had no particular idea of what would happen next, other than Rory and Longinus would get into some trouble together. Likewise, I didn’t get the idea for book 3 until I was nearly done with The Black Orchid. There’s a bit of an emotional thread running throughout the books, in that the characters grow and change over time, but that’s as much as I know before I start writing a story. Although I think I might know the overall story for book 4 already. That might change as I write book 3, mind you. One thing’s for sure, I have so much fun creating new cities that I think Rory and Longinus will do a lot of travelling as the series develops!

KS: And you gave us a fantastic glimpse of that worldbuilding on your blog not long ago. I can’t wait to see what locations you create next! I find your series process interesting. And it strikes me as brave, because I would totally freak out if I didn’t have some idea what was going to happen next. I drafted Torn before Bound’s release, and Sworn before Torn’s release.

CJ: Yours is a continuous story whereas mine are separate stories with a common thread. I imagine if I wrote something like Bound, I’d plan out the whole thing first.

KS: I really had only a vague idea how the larger story would end when I released Bound. I’m glad I did things the way I did for the series, being able to plant seeds in earlier books that would sprout later, but leaving lots of room for exploration. Each book was a really unique experience for me. Did you find you faced different challenges in writing this book compared to what you dealt with for book one?

CJ: Yes absolutely. One of the challenges I found was dealing with the Worst Case Scenario of writing each book. When I was writing Bloodless Assassin, I kept picturing the worst thing that could happen: that nobody read the book (or that a handful of people read it and left 1 star reviews – I could never decide which was worse). But then I told myself that if that happened, then nobody would actually know about my book, so I could quietly retire it and start again from scratch. That made it less scary because I could see how I’d pick myself up if I failed, so most of the time I was just having fun with Bloodless Assassin.

With Black Orchid, I have readers now, and those readers have expectations. Which is a wonderful thing, of course, and I’m incredibly grateful, but I’ve found that this time my Worst Case Scenario is much harder to ignore: the idea of people who loved Bloodless Assassin reading Black Orchid and putting it aside, disappointed. I found myself second guessing what I wrote a lot more. Writing a book 1 in a series is far more freeing because there’s zero expectations, so you can literally just have fun with it. With book 2 there’s definitely a whole lot more pressure. Thankfully I did manage to set it aside most of the time so I’m not quite a basket-case yet.

And then from a more ‘technical’ standpoint, I found that with a sequel you have more of a balance to tread. You want to have the stuff people seemed to love in book 1 but at the same time make book 2 a unique thing that’s not just a rehashing of book 1 (I’m looking at you, bad Hollywood sequels). And part of that for me was trying to make sure there was as much of a sense of discovery in terms of the setting in Black Orchid as there was in Bloodless Assassin, despite it taking place in the same city.

KS: I think we may be kindred spirits. We have the same worries/paranoias. ^_^

CJ: Did you find publishing book 2 harder than book 1?

KS: I think the hardest thing about writing the middle book in a trilogy was making it its own story. None of them are intended as standalones, but each book needed a complete story arc and a definite challenge for each character to overcome, and Torn had to bridge the gap between the beginning and the series climax.

Do you have any advice for authors embarking on the sequel experience?

CJ: I think for sequel writing, the most important thing is keeping reader voices out of your head – even if it’s very positive stuff. One thing I fell prey to while writing Black Orchid was at some point consciously trying to please readers. I wrote this whole (rather large bit) which was totally created on the back of some very nice reader comments — because I really wanted to give them more of the stuff they’d liked. And it was totally wrong for the story and I had to cut it all out. That’s not to say it was worthless, it might even be transformed into a little side novella, but I realised how important it is not to let people into your head as you’re writing.

KS: That’s good advice! I think that was one place where having a definite idea of where my trilogy/story was going helped me. People wanted certain things to happen, and I already knew “no, that’s not going to be a thing,” or “I think this person will be happy about where this goes.”

CJ: Yes, that would really help. Probably a big advantage of trilogies over standalones
Did you know how the whole thing was going to end by the way, from the start?

KS: I knew a few big things, but not exactly how they would happen or how everyone would get there. I’m glad I knew the things I did so I could get those ideas started in earlier books and build to them rather than throwing concepts in at the last minute, but I’m also glad I got to explore and be surprised.

To wrap up:  What do you think makes a strong sequel? You mentioned bad movie sequels. How do you avoid that?

CJ: For me a bad sequel is a sequel written for the wrong reasons. Bad Hollywood sequels for me stink of business men rubbing their hands at how much money they’ll be able to make from it. A sequel has to be written with as much artistic integrity as the first book, and if the story was done at book 1, then it needs to stay done at book 1.

KS: Thanks so much for taking time to chat with me about sequels! I think we’ll need to do this again some time. Unleash all of our ideas on all of those other topics on the world. 🙂

CJ: Thank you so much for having me, this was fun! We should definitely do it again, if only to cover some of our many, many tangents! 😉

Here’s the link to The Bloodless Assassin (which you should all definitely check out–one of my favourite indie books from the past few years), and to the sequel, The Black Orchid. You can find Celine here at her site.

Thanks for joining us!

-K


WIPpet Wednesday: Calm Before the Storm

I have nothing planned for this week. But since my new project isn’t quite ready for WIP snipping, and Sworn only has a few more weeks as a work in progress, we’ll stick with it.

For anyone who has no idea what I’m rambling about, WIPpet Wednesday is when a bunch of authors share a snippet from a work in progress that relates in some way to the date. Then we link up, read each other’s stuff, comment, party, yadda yadda. It’s good times, and always open to new WIPpeteers.

Okay. 1/13/2016… *maths internally* We’ll go with chapter 14 (1+13), nine short paragraphs (2+0+1+6)

There could be minor spoilers if you don’t want to know anything about who’s in the story, and if you want it to be possible that the POV characters were massacred in the first scene (you monster). But this is a pretty safe one.

Aren’s POV this week. They’ve been going through some tough times and facing an unreasonable amount of reality, so quiet moments alone have been few and far between.

I reached out to touch her hair, which the morning light had lit like a fire. She turned to me and smiled, and the warmth in her gray eyes spoke to something deep inside of me. I felt myself opening. Relaxing. Letting go of the pressure I’d been under since my father’s rescue.

“This is perfect.” The words were out of my mouth before I realized they were coming.

She wrinkled her nose. “You think so?”

“I do. Not your problems, of course. But look at what we have right now. No Ulric. No pressure, no looking to the future.”

It couldn’t last, but we could make the most of it while it did.

A smile curled the edges of Rowan’s lips, as though she were reading my thoughts, and she stepped closer. “We might have to wait a while for Florizel.”

She gasped as my fingers tangled in her hair and I pulled her toward me. She grabbed the front of my jacket and drew me into a deep kiss that burned through me as the world around us faded to insignificance.

Even if I live a thousand years, I will never wish for anything but this.

“Excuse me?” inquired a small voice.

…can’t let the nice moments last too long, can we? Authors are so mean.

If you’d like to see what the other WIPpeteers are up to, here’s the link. Thanks again to Emily Witt for hosting.

In other news… The Bound trilogy prequel novella At Any Cost is now available on Amazon and Kobo, with other retailers dripping in as they approve the book for sale. It’s still available as a freebie for newsletter subscribers, but if you don’t like signing up for newsletters (or just like paying for books, which is amazing), it’s now out there for you. Reader response to this one has been fantastic, so it’s definitely worth picking up one way or the other to tide you over until the 29th. If you’ve read and enjoyed it, reviews would be most appreciated!

OH. And I’ll soon be posting about the Sworn release party (January 28, Facebook)! That’s definitely going to be a good time. If anyone is interested in getting your (Fantasy) books in front of my readers by doing a giveaway, just let me know. Or if you have days to fill and feel like posting about the book during the week after release, that would be great! Any help is wonderful, and of course I’m happy to return the favour.

Guess that’s it for now. See you all soon! I’ve got to get back to work on this new thing…

At Any Cost - Ebook


Sworn Chapter One Available Now

I asked my Facebook reader group/street team last week whether they wanted me to post chapter one for them. Opinions were divided. Some said “absolutely,” while others felt it would be too frustrating to read it and then have nowhere to go from there.

So I’m posting it here under “free fiction,” as I did with the first chapters of Bound and Torn. If you want to be teased, it’s there. If not… less than a month to wait for the whole thing!

click here

(Sworn releases January 29 on Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and other select ebook retailers)

sworn_full


Bound A-Z: T is for Tiernal

Who’s up for some history?

*crickets*

Oh, come on. It’ll be fun.

Okay, you in the back. You’re excused. But for anyone who’d like a little more information on Aren’s family history and maybe a hint about a project I’ve got in its earliest stages, you’re in the right place. Please forgive me if my dates end up being a little off. Or way off. It’s not easy to get this information around here, and my characters are just rolling their eyes at me when I pry. I reserve the right to revise dates and facts before future publications.

We good? Good.

Aren, stop smirking.

Hundreds of years before the Bound trilogy starts, the last line of kings fell. If you want to know a little about how that happened, check out the “D is for Dragons” post from a few months back. A decade of chaos followed, with several Sorcerers aiming to take control of the country. That’s a story all on its own, but not one I have plans to tell.

The ultimate victor in that struggle was Galyg Tiernal. I wish I could say he was a good man or a good king, but he was neither. He held onto power, save for a brief period around years 86-89, but Tyrea fractured into the lands that had been brought together under the old dynasty: Tyrea (south and central, containing the new city of Luid), Artisland (east), Cressia (north), Tauren (west), and a smattering of smaller areas that were generally absorbed into the larger ones. It was a time of war, of poverty for many, and darkness. Magic was a cruder thing then, used mainly for survival. It was more spread out through the population than it is now, but generally weaker in humans.

It was Galyg who focused on the practice of choosing his wives and companions based on their potential to produce heirs with strong magic rather than marrying for reasons of political strategy. He decided that with enough magic in his line, he would take the other lands back by force rather than treaty. He was ruthless about destroying those who opposed him–and if those enemies had magic of their own, he killed their families, as well.

Not one to take chances over potential competition was Galyg.

He had many children, and his plan to produce children with strong magic worked. In the year 102 (his reign started the calendar over), a daughter was born. People overlooked her for many years, as it was well known by then that males tended to carry stronger magic. But over the years, Avalyn proved herself. She laid low, keeping out of her more powerful and ambitious siblings’ sight. She witnessed the fall of the rival nation of Ferfelle in the year 127, and played a part in it. This was her first step toward taking the throne after the death of her father and brief (and eventually painful) reign of her eldest brother.

But that really is a story for another time. A story with murder and betrayal and love and more murder and treachery and power and sex and magic and did I mention revenge? and… we’ll get to it. Some day. If I can work out some huge problems. Avalyn went through some rough spots that might throw a wrench into actually writing her story, but here’s some of what I know:

Avalyn, the first queen of Tyrea in her line, took the throne in the year 141. For those counting, that made her 39 years old–terribly young for a Sorceress to have that sort of a role. Her reign was not an easy one, and her hold on power was never secure. She had many husbands and several children. The strongest of her sons was Ulric, who most of you have heard of (and who we’ll discuss another day). Her reign ended in the year 255, when she stepped down from the throne.

The rest is familiar history, at least in part. Ulric ruled from 255 and finished the work his mother started in bringing the nation back together and fixing what was screwed up so long before his birth. He disappeared around the year 375 and his son Severn took the throne. As of right now (writing between Torn and Sworn), we’ve nearly reached the point where Ulric will be declared dead and forfeit his right to the throne, even if he returns.

So what does the future hold? That remains to be seen. Thus far the Tiernal line ends with Severn, Wardrel, Dan, Aren, and Nox, and there’s always the possibility of someone more powerful swooping in to challenge whoever holds the throne.

Hmm…


Bound A-Z: S is for Severn

Okay, so we’re most definitely NOT attempting a character interview this week. He and I aren’t on speaking terms, and quite frankly he scares the bejeezus out of me.

Instead, I’m going to offer a rough (unedited) few paragraphs from Sworn. This is obviously spoiler territory, if you don’t want to know anything at all about what’s coming. I won’t give context or even point of view, and I’ve removed a few telling details, but you’ve been warned.

I stopped breathing, as though stillness would hide me. I didn’t dare look any higher than that hand.

Don’t make eye contact. Think only of the present. I checked my mental defenses and tried not to think about them.

The long, elegant fingers tightened, and [she] winced.

“Your king’s magic was never as weakened as you might have suspected based on your assignment,” said a cold voice. It was strong, not nearly matching what Aren had told me about Severn’s physical condition, but I had no doubt about who it was.

The potion’s light left me, leaving only fear. “Your highness,” I whispered, and dropped into a curtsy. I looked up enough to meet [her] gaze. Her face had turned into a blank mask.

“Look at me,” he ordered.

[…]

His eyes grabbed my focus and prevented wider inspection. Glacier blue and filled with confident authority, they cut through me. I let my fear take over to a degree that seemed reasonable given my story and focused on his face, allowing nothing else into my conscious mind. If he could see deeper, there was nothing I could do about it.

He released me and took a moment to glance over the rest of my face, my hair, my body. I did the same to him while I had the chance.

Aren had described him to me as he was before his encounter with Rowan. He’d also told me that Severn as he’d last met him was a shadow of his former self, weak and bent, shuffling and thin. This man was none of those things, and no description of Severn’s old appearance had prepared me for this. I saw Ulric in him, in the strong jaw and straight nose. His mouth was harder than the old king’s, and curved up slightly, pleased at what he saw. He stood tall and straight, slim yet strong, and he radiated power from every part of himself. Had I not known what he truly was…

I shuddered and looked away. I should have been accustomed to being around beautiful people by then. Appearances meant nothing, and I knew that. But his eyes, his voice, his very posture drew a person in with magnetic force that surpassed anyone I’d ever met, and I imagined it would be hard to deny him anything if he ordered it. I wondered how Aren had ever found the strength to defy him.

BONUS CONTENT:

A lovely friend and reader took a road-trip detour to get this picture. Made my day.

Okay, my month.

11822860_888440721204452_7211849278697014842_n


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