Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Symbolon Series: Totally Awesome Playlist (Side A)


It's no secret one of the questions we get asked the most as writers is, "Where do you get your inspiration?" If you've been with me long enough, you know I'm a music girl, and music plays a BIG part in my writing process. Funnily enough, last week, I received two messages from readers, asking if I had playlists for The Symbolon Series. Yes, I do, and you can snag the details here: Playlists. You'll find a little bit of everything, some of which are repeats from book to book.

However, amongst the hundreds and hundreds of tracks, there are a few gems that are scene-specific, and if I had to make a mix-tape, a la Guardians of the Galaxy, with limited space, these are the ones that would make Side A:

1. Shake the Disease by Depeche Mode | This song is Nyle and, when I hear it, he's immediately who jumps to mind, front and center. One of my go-to methods for plotting is to lie down with my earbuds and allow my brain to formulate scenes. In one such instance, while I was still in the middle of writing book one, I had Shake the Disease on loop and saw Scylla leaving a room in a beautiful gown. She was running, breathless, looking over her shoulder every few seconds as if she was being followed. And there was Nyle in determined pursuit.  From his point of view, he never could catch up, almost like he was trapped in a dream. He'd see a glimpse of her dress as she rounded a corner, catch the flash of her eyes as she twisted her neck to look behind. I finally got to write this scene in The Second Curse (Book 2).

2. Bound to You by Christina Aguilera | This one is Athen and Scylla. In fact, it's so Athen and Scylla that the last time I watched Burlesque (Hubs and I love this movie, ok? Tell anyone, we'll deny it...), when the scene came up where Christina sings this song, not only did my eyes fill with tears, but suddenly I felt like I was reliving Athen's and Scylla's love story all over again.

3. Better Love by Hozier | A surprise, this song. Not that I don't like Hozier, but once upon a time, Take Me to Church was so overplayed, I almost fell out of love with the man. Not his fault, of course; he's a talented artist. But this song...THIS song. Better Love makes the list because I wrote the first small battle Athen and Scylla tackled all by themselves to it on loop, and, whenever I hear it, I still see Scylla in a formal gown and perfect hair playing warrior-princess like a pro. Readers, you'll see this scene in Book 3 (squee!).

4. Phoenix Rises by John Powell | Finally, an instrumental, right? You'd be surprised by how many different movie scores and classical music compilations I listen to while writing. This little diamond is from X-Men: The Last Stand, and it personifies the scene from The Other Half (Book 1) wherein the companions (Athen, Scylla, Ryder, Gen, Landar & Meav) are running from the frost giants. When the music climaxes at 2:27, that's Athen creating the pillar of fire at the mouth of the mountain pass, barring the frost giants from further advancement. I can see the awe on everyone's faces, the shock of witnessing such unparalleled power. At 3:33, he brings down the mountain, killing the giants, and finally falls to his knees, the magic having robbed his body of strength.

5. Run Boy Run by Woodkid | One of the last scenes in The Other Half (Book 1) is when the cast is running from a mob of insurgents (I just realized they seem to be running a lot. Hmm.), toward the wall that separates the frozen lands from Creden's celestial domain. Run Boy Run was on loop when I wrote that scene. It's the perfect combination of modern and orchestral.

6. Fortress Around Your Heart by Sting | I saved this one for last, because it's been with me the longest. Fortress is one of a handful of songs I wrote to at fourteen, when writing books was something I did for fun and only, like, two people knew about it (best friend, boyfriend). It makes the cut, because there's a fantasy-feel to this track that reminds me of riding horses through open fields with castles rising in the distance. When I need to be reminded why I write and, most specifically, why I continue to write stories with romantic elements, I can always count on this one to do the job.

Thanks for reading! If you've read the series and a song jumped to your mind during a specific scene or for a particular character, tell me about it! I'd love to add more songs to my playlists. Cheers!

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Teams, Hurricanes & Coffee Shops


Past couple of weeks have been a little crazy in our household. The weather's been gorgeous, sure, but the love bugs--oh my goodness, when did these things become a bona fide Old Testament plague? Back in high school, we had to practice with white flags during marching season (using show stuff any other time other than Friday nights and competition was a BIG no-no...), and the darn things would attach themselves to the fabric. By the time our band director finished lecture number fifty-two for that practice, each color guard chick would have a flag full of bugs gettin' it on. Glad somebody was during those days, but I digress...

Aside from serious bug infestation issues, I had a stomach bug. Apparently bugs are the theme of the month of September--who knew? Details are unnecessary; we've all had an intestinal virus, I'm sure. However, I did receive my first bound copy of Book #3 in the Symbolon Series, the name of which will be revealed in a near-future post (woo hoo!). So that, at least, was a big bonus.

Bugs...take that.

Visited a gorgeous coffee shop in Minden, Louisiana called The Broken Bean. Has that Rhino Coffee feel, but better. More...genuine, maybe? Point is I could live out my days in this place. Writing at one of the little round tables near a window, bottomless coffee...ahh. I have a feeling The Broken Bean will be added to my list of daydreaming go-to's.

But speaking of (and back to) books: now, I've known since the second novel there would be a "Team" thing I'd have to battle with for the duration of these novels. How? My editor told me so. And if you don't know what a "Team" is, as far as books go, I'm talking about two people wanting the same thing (or usually a person) and readers taking sides. Think Team Peeta or Team Gale in the Hunger Games or, I don't know, Team Rhett or Team Ashley in Gone with the Wind. That explained, my own little "Team" play-out has proved more than inspirational--it's been outright fun. So, please, readers...continue to message me with "Team Athen!" or "Team Nyle!" Who knows? Maybe we'll do a giveaway...

And, so, now there's hurricanes. Yikes. Lots of people have faced unspeakable devastation in the wake of these forces of nature. Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia...now, they're talking about the Carolinas. You may be thinking to yourself, "What can I do? How can I help?" One of the easiest ways is to text HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Likewise, you can text IRMA to 90999 to make a $10 donation to Hurricane Irma relief efforts. You can also call your local state representatives and senators, and ask whether they are rounding up donations to send to disaster relief locations. You'd be surprised how quickly unaffected states are working to help those in desperate need.

Love you guys. Have a great week!

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Life Update + What I'm Loving

Fall is almost here and I'm beside myself with anticipation for pumpkin spice everything. Yes, I'm that chick. Maroons, oranges and deep yellows give me the warm fuzzies. A nip in the air first thing in the morning--forgeeeet about it. There is a small level of reprieve, though: I don't do leggings with long shirts, scarves and leg warmers. And I don't carry a dog in my handbag. I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere.

All that nonsense said, I thought it might be fun to fill you guys in on what's floating my boat at the moment. Gosh, that phrase is overused. What's basting my chicken? Gross. Sugaring my coffee? Whatever...here's what I'm loving:

1. Game of Thrones. Yes, I watch it. Stop rolling your eyes. No, I won't segue into a big explanation, other than I ship Jon + Dany (although I'd much rather watch a whole season on Rhaegar + Lyanna...) and, oh my gosh, Ramin Djawadi knows how to compose on an epic level. Seriously. We're not worthy of this man's talent.

2. Albanese Gummy Bears. Not a gummy person, y'all. Put a pile of wormy-worms next to a Snickers bar and I'm going for the chocolate, all right? But these things...yeesh. The perfect companion to writing that pain-in-the-butt chapter that just won't write itself.

3. Better Love by Hozier. Played during the end credits of Tarzan (the newer one with the Skarsgard guy who was, like, a vampire or something in one of those shows I didn't watch, but that everyone droned on and on about. Hey...kind of like I do with Game of Thrones...) Anyways. Can't get enough of this song. Never gets old. I put it on repeat in the mornings whilst driving.

4. Tumblr. WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE?! I'm subscribed to every Tom Hiddleston page on the planet--seriously, ON THE PLANET--as well as Chris Evans, Amanda Seyfried and Game of Thrones everything. What? You're surprised? Love. It.

5. Word Connect. Free app that gives you a handful of letters and a certain amount of slots in which you're expected to make words. Sounds easy and it is, at first. But each level gets progressively harder (of course) and you're only allowed so many hints. Did I mention it's free?

Remember guys: (shameless plug-in time...) Geek'd Con Shreveport is THIS weekend, August 18-20, and I'm signing books with fellow fantasy author Lela Robichaux. Would LOVE to see you!

Peace, Love & Junior Mints,


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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Losing a Life Friend


When I was a kid, Mom and Dad started me with the classics—the music they loved. Donna Summer, The Bee Gees, Gary Wright, Bread, The Moody Blues, Michael Jackson, Harry Chapin and the list goes on and on. Real vinyl records we played over and over, a fair few of which I knew all the words to. As I grew older, of course, I developed a love for artists not necessarily loved by my parents (some were, though; Mom is still a solid 3 Doors Down fan). In the eighties, it was Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block. I’ll never forget meeting Debbie backstage on her first tour. I had a perm, rose-framed glasses and tons of baby fat. Debbie had her signature black hat and a smile that could solve world hunger.

When the nineties rolled around, and high school with it, I got in to the grunge scene. Like most of my friends, baggy jeans and a loose flannel over a band t-shirt was my go-to. The Jim Morrison tee I bought from my favorite record store? Yeah. Probably wore that one at least once a week; twice, if I could get away with it. We spent free time in class talking about Nirvana, Soundgarden, Green Day, Portishead, Sneaker Pimps and some of the oldies but goodies: The Beatles and The Doors. In fact, a close friend of mine had a special place in his heart for Strawberry Fields Forever; it reminded him of his crush, the girl who’d smile at him in passing, but save her heart and attention for the jocks.

Her loss. He’s a successful writer now with a wife and a gaggle of gorgeous kids.

At the end of this era, in 1999, as boy-bands began to make a comeback and Britney Spears took over mainstream radio, I saw a video on MTV (back when they still had music videos—I know, right?) by a band I’d never heard. A lone piano led into a rap solo, which unfurled into a secondary voice, a tenor so chillingly smooth I remember leaning forward in my seat. The set looked like it had sprung from an online role-playing game. Gray, cracked ground gave way to distant mountains. Large gargoyle-like statues rose high into the air, and on the summit of one was the band. The lead singer, that hypnotizing tenor voice I kept hearing, was a slender boy with cropped, bleached-blond hair and a lip ring. Not what I would have imagined had I heard that voice on the radio, before seeing its owner on television.

That boy in 1999 was Chester Bennington, the song was In the End from the Hybrid Theory album, and the band is Linkin Park.

I won’t go into detail about all the ways their music impacted my life. It did, and that’s all that matters. Because from that moment on, I listened to everything by them I could get my hands on. I’ve written scenes to it, driven to it, showered to it, cleaned house to it, sat and leaned back my head and done nothing to it. They’re that kind of talent. Yes, when Chester took his life, I cried. I cried when Michael Jackson died, too. He was my childhood. He reminded me of good and bad times, and moving forward to new experiences. In a way, we grew up together, even though I had never once laid eyes on either of them, Michael or Chester, in person.

I chose to write this post, one, and perhaps a little selfishly, for myself and, secondly, for any of you who might’ve felt your heart clench at the news that Chester had taken his life. Because there are those out there who think it’s silly to mourn someone you’ve never met; someone you didn’t really know. But how can someone’s childhood be silly? It’s their childhood. Our life journeys are just that—ours. And if a part of that somehow gets chipped away…yeah, it hurts. While Chester took the lead vocals for Linkin Park, my husband and I met, fell in love, got married, lost a child, had another, and watched yet another graduate. We bought a house. I published multiple books. Gained and lost employment. I’ll never be able to watch Transformers without hearing their anthem, What I’ve Done, in my head. Or get through the lyrics of Crawling without remembering my best friend nearly took her life when that song was popular. Chester and Linkin Park were and are a part of my life’s journey.

And I feel quite blessed for that.

Rest in peace, sweet prince. Thank you for the time you gave us.


Peace, Love and Junior Mints,



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Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Second Curse: Cover Reveal!

Whispers of a gathering insurgent army threaten the whole world, Faerie and Mortal...

In the second volume of the popular young adult fantasy saga The Symbolon Series.



Scylla escaped torture and death when she and her companions fled Mistral's ice fortress to the sanctity of Creden's celestial palace. The price of freedom, however, did not come cheap. Athen is in a coma, his heart frozen by a dark spell. Her brother remains in Mistral's clutches. Scylla fears she is at the end of her rope, until Creden issues an order that sets Scylla's feet on a formidable new path--she is to learn how to fight. Her tutor? Nyle Shadowbane, assassin and captain to the Faerie armies.

As dark forces work to hunt her down, Scylla studies the cunning ways of stealth and weaponry--and the truth of who she really is emerges. She might be vital to the rebirth of a nation. But only if she can hone her budding magical gifts, eliminate the evil plaguing the land, and choose not only what she wants for her future--but with whom she will share it.

In this gripping second book in The Symbolon Series, a young woman will face her greatest challenge as ancient evil works tirelessly to take her down and take over mankind.

Coming June 27, 2017!

Cover art by Berto Designs


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

It's Coming! It's Coming!


The Symbolon Series Book 2 cover reveal is coming soon! I worked once again with the amazingly-talented team at Berto Designs in Australia and, I must say, the end product is far more beautiful than I imagined. And I can imagine big, okay? Ha! Thanks to all of you for reading and following. I love you guys!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


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Monday, March 13, 2017

The Week in Photos - 3/4-3/12

Yeah, yeah. I know this is more than a week, but I couldn't leave out Geek Fair and then I took one of my wee man climbing stuff he wasn't supposed to climb in Lowe's. Which is pretty much everything, right? I mean, they won't even let you on the ladders. What if I need to see over all the aisles? You didn't think about that, did you, Mr. Blue Vested Lowe's Man? No. You only think of yourself.

Ahem.

Fantasy author Lela Robichaux and I had a fantastic time at the Shreveport-Bossier Geek Fair on Saturday, March 4. We bought art, soap, cupcakes and too much coffee. Oh! And the true icing on the cake (or cupcake, as it were...) was meeting all the amazing readers who not only bought books but actually CAME UP AND TALKED TO US! It was absolute insanity with sprinkles and unicorn dust on top. We chatted about books and authors and Game of Thrones, because, hello...July, are you here yet?


And then, as always, I got silly with SnapChat, because I'm a sucker for nutty filters. It's like trying on Halloween costumes all year long. Sigh...Halloween. Does anyone else pine for October like I do?


I never can remember why we go to Lowe's, but it's one of my husband's favorite stores, second only to Best Buy. When we're there, the only stuff I find even remotely interesting are the lights and ceiling fans, which is rather silly, because I don't need either. I imagine this is how he feels when he trudges behind me into Barnes & Noble or Ulta. Like...what do I do here? Should I just sit on the floor and catch a nap or something?

At least the Little Man had fun. Since he doesn't know what's what in Lowe's, either, he just climbs stuff. "Mommy, take my picture!"


Peace, Love, and Junior Mints and here's to a bright new week!

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Friday, March 3, 2017

The Week in Photos

My Five-Year-Old's Depiction of Him in Mommy's Tummy

Thought I'd try something different, as well as stick to my New Year's Resolution to take more photos. I didn't do so well over the past few days, but hopefully content will improve as I go along. It's been an interesting week, busy preparing for a book signing (March 4!) and also implementing a solid workout schedule. Maybe it's cliche, but, man, I didn't realize how out of shape I was, until I started doing crunches--I mean...REAL crunches--again! Yeesh! But I've slept better at night and I think I may even have more energy. Score!


Have I ever mentioned how addicted I am to SnapChat? Addiction may be a little strong. I can put it down, after all. But the filters! OH the filters! Even my kid loves it. Plus, the sparkles make everything look better. And who doesn't love a bunny nose?


While going through rewrites, I usually put Friends on. Now, let's be honest, if you know me, you know I'm a 90's girl. So, yeah, Friends is my...jam? Whatever. I can talk to you in straight Friends quotes, okay? And, yes, Netflix totally passes judgment on me. The Emma Bridgewater catalog came in this week, too, but all I can ever do is drool, because shipping is ridiculous! Almost as much as whatever product you're ordering--no lie. The Mum mug may be worth it, though. As for Avril...no idea. I think maybe YouTube suggested I watch one of her concerts and, boom, there I was and now here I am, listening to every album she ever cut. SO MUCH FOR MY HAPPY ENDING.


The hubs made this amazing banner stand out of PVC pipe. Gotta tell ya...it's pretty hot seeing your book cover THIS big (4'X6'). I totally hope people wanna do cameos beside it at the Shreveport-Bossier Geek Fair, a la red-carpet style. At least I'll have fun posing with my girl, Scylla. Love you guys!

Peace, Love, Junior Mints, yadda yadda yadda...


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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Surges and Setbacks


Often when I'm trying to think of something to write for the website, I find myself attempting to work up sage writing advice or a smattering of photos I've taken recently. But let's be honest: I'm not the best at writing advice--I mean, I can give it, same as any other author, but I feel as if every writer is his or her own person, a voice special and unique. Giving advice to a one-of-a-kind individual is hard. That's not to say I don't glean from other writers myself--I do. But when I start talking about writing, I often--very well, always ramble into a sub-universe of characters and plot lines that leave people scratching their heads.

Plus, there are a million other authors out there who have written much more than I, some of whom even have self-help books. Stephen King, Donald Maass, Deb Dixon...amazing.

As for the photos...I wish I snapped more. Something tells me I'm gonna regret that someday.

For this post, however, I wanted to give a brief little shoutout that is half business/half personal and a healthy, doughy mixture of both. For the cup and a half of business, I'm extremely pleased to announce that, one, I will be doing a joint signing with fantasy author Lela Robichaux at another Geek Fair next month (details via the "Events" tab) and, two, the next book in the Symbolon series will be coming out in early May. Double-bonus. Oh, and, three...Netflix has proposed an adaption of The Other Half: The Symbolon Series Book One to be released in Summer 2019.

Just kidding about that last part. I almost had myself there.

Moving on. The for real tres is the marvelous response we've received for The Other Half. As my first YA release, to say I was scared and skeptical and eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food every other day would be putting it completely and unequivocally accurately. (Good HEAVENS that was a lot of -ly words; my senior English teacher will have a conniption, if she reads this.) Nevertheless, you guys have shown SO much love with your purchases, reviews, involvement in the working soundtrack on Spotify (Details for that via the "Playlists" tab), coming out to events...really, I don't know how to thank you enough, except for maybe with a sincere #blessed.

For the dash of personal that is, in all honesty, much more than a mere dash...The support system I have in my family is more than I could've ever dreamed. And that's real important to a writer (there you have it...writerly advice!) who is desperately trying to be a spouse, a decent parent, work a day job, keep a clean house and a family in clean clothes, plus make time to write. But my Other Half takes it all in stride. Supports my business decisions, great or small. Cheers me on when I succeed, supports me when I fail, and encourages me to keep going, no matter what. I'm a lucky chick. Thanks, baby.

And thanks to ALL of you who support what I put out there. For growing with me as an artist and a human being. I love the humans you are, too.

In closing, I don't know why I entitled this post Surges and Setbacks. It just sounded kind of good. Catchy. Or not. Or maybe because this was still on my brain:


#truth

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My New Year's Resolutions


First and foremost, I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year! I sincerely hope that all of you had a wonderful Christmas holiday and that you spent time with family and friends and, hopefully, even got in a little, well-deserved relaxation. We had a quiet holiday, filled with laughter, delicious food, and weather that seemed more like autumn than winter, but that didn't matter--I felt festive, anyway! And I know this is a little cliche, the whole "New Year, New Me" bit, but I like setting goals for myself, nonetheless. Plus, it's something to look back on, a way to hold myself accountable when I get down in a slump.

1. Read more. You'd think this was obvious, right? Writers read. That's what we do. But I tend to find time to do other things (like surfing social media!), rather than dedicating thirty minutes to an hour a day to another author's work. When I'm reading, however, I write better, harder, faster. Ideas pop up more often, and I have less moments of writer's block. And while I'm on that note...

2. Spend less time surfing the internet. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. I love Facebook. Love to see what everyone's doing, keep up with my high school buddies, laugh at all the funny photos and memes. But it's a time sink I can ill-afford, if I want to be consistent with writing and publishing books. My goal is to write for a living--for writing to be my actual "day job." However, if I don't start taking a more professional attitude toward being an author, a part of which is limiting my internet time, then I'll have a slow, slow road to the goal. That said, I do think social media is a marvelous avenue for promotion and putting yourself out there, as an artist. I just feel like limitations need to be set in order to allow more time for actual work.

3. Interrupt anxiety with gratitude. I actually stole this concept from Tanya Burr, but I just couldn't resist. The idea really resonated with me. I work in an environment that oftentimes proves highly stressful. On top of that, I'm a wife and a mommy who's desperately trying to put out her next book. Add keeping up with a house and laundry, four dogs, and making sure my kid eats a nutritious meal every now and again, you've got a recipe for SOMEONE GET ME OUTTA HERE RIGHT NOW! However, I love my family, and I actually do love my day job, so I have to find a healthy way to cope with the anxiety sometimes. When anxiety creeps in, Tanya's suggestion is to think of three things for which you are grateful. What's actually good in your life? What's great? Beauty can be found everywhere. The other day, when I was on my way home and feeling rather down because of the weather and a tummy ache that could've been avoided if I'd only eaten a healthier lunch...I saw an elderly man with a cane, walking from the end of his driveway to his front door. He took two very slow steps, then brought up his cane. A second or so would pass, then he'd take the next two steps. Bring up his cane. Two more. And then his cane. I imagine the total journey from one end to the other took close to ten minutes. But it hit me that I shouldn't allow weather conditions to dampen my mood, because I have two eyes that got to see the weather that day, as they do every day. And I shouldn't be upset by what I ate for lunch, because I have the energy to chew and swallow. Finding joy in the face of anxiety takes discipline, but I believe it's a very doable venture.

4. Call my family more. Like a lot of people, we live away from our family, my husband and I. Sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents...they're all spread out around the country. But I want to hear their voices more often, ask them about their lives, how they're getting along. Even if it's only for a few minutes, communication with our loved ones is important to healthy family relationships.

5. Travel more. The issue with traveling for us is twofold: time and money. But, seriously. Unless you're a royal, isn't it like that for pretty much everyone? The thing with us, though, is that we have a little one who I very much want to see the world. I want him to experience different cultures, cuisine, to know what it's like to sleep on a beach or wake up to a mountain view from your back porch. To explore ancient castles, museums, cathedrals, and ruins. To see, with his own eyes, the glory of our small planet. And I want us to experience that wonder with him, as a family. When he's grown and on his own, I want him to remember how nice the people in Ireland are and how green that grass is, how spectacular it is to see a live volcano or to stand at the summit of one of the tallest mountains. I want him to crack open his World History book and say, "Hey! I've been there!"

So, those are my New Year's Resolutions. I started small for a reason; hopefully I will add more as the year progresses. Here's to a happy, prosperous 2017. Cheers!

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,

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