Authorial Intrusion Alert!

Image result for author talks meme

The Authorship Club that I advise asked me to give them (in their words) a “mini-lesson” about the writing process. In preparation for my big (mini) lesson later today, I decided to write down some tips to share with my students. And you readers! Lucky you…

Getting Started

As far as I know, most human beings, at one time or another, have thought to themselves: “This would make a really great book!” For most people, the book ends there. Some people I know have a running list of good book ideas that sits and collects dust. A brave few actually decide to buckle down and write out the entirety of the story they thought up, and that is where things begin to get good.

The tricky part? Joining the club of (possibly self-delusional) people who think they can actually tell a story. I want to let you in on a little secret: anyone can write a book. The tricky part about writing isn’t coming up with an idea, or polishing your writing, or finding a title, or choosing character names. The trickiest part about writing is believing in yourself enough to begin.

Keep Going

Once you’ve started on your novel (good job!) you’re truly on your way. Now the trick is to keep pushing yourself. If you drop out of the habit of writing, you run the risk of losing the motivation and self-esteem that got you started in the first place. I recommend setting writing goals for yourself to hit by specific dates. While I was writing Regnum Terra, I set a goal for myself to write 1,000 words each week. Now, I wasn’t always perfect. Some weeks I struggled to find even ten words that sounded right. Other chapters seemed to have been pre-written in my head, pouring out of my mind and onto the page almost faster than I could type. Overall, though, I stuck to my goal.

You goal might look very different than mine. Maybe you want to write a chapter a week. Maybe you really want to whip out a full novel in a month, so you need to write 10,000 words every three days. The details are up to you, your plans, and your life. Without setting goals, though, your dreams will remain dreams rather than becoming a reality.

Plan

Everyone likes to plan out their book differently. J.K. Rowling used a spreadsheet-style planning design to help keep track of all the plots in her books (check it out!) I put all my miscellaneous story details in a huge word document, and having everything all in one place was a lifesaver. It helped me keep track of dates and timing, character names, plot arcs, and ideas for subplots.

Finish

There will come a point where you’ve written what seems like a billion drafts of your novel. For any artist, the hardest part of creation is knowing when to stop working on a masterpiece and let it be complete as it is. Will your book be perfect? Probably not. But it will be pretty darn close. And moving a comma here or changing a word there won’t change the feel or essence of the story enough to keep making edits for the rest of eternity.

You’ve Got This

These are probably all tips you’ve heard before, and really, everything can be summed up in one phrase: believe in yourself. If you want to write, write. Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t. Some of the most popular authors of all time were scorned their whole lives because people just weren’t quite ready for what they were producing. Imagine the loss to the world of literature if those writers had given up on themselves and their dreams.

Believe in yourself.

You’ve got this.

Happy Monday!

We’re officially three weeks into the school year, and I think I may have caught my breath enough to actually continue working on Book 2 in The Regnum Trilogy! Too bad the attached meme is ridiculously accurate…

If you haven’t read Regnum Terra yet, you’d better hop on the bandwagon now! Here’s your chance to be the ultimate hipster and like something before it’s cool 😉

Check out our Shop for links to purchase your very own copy of Regnum Terra! And take some time to watch Lord of the Rings today… you know you want to.

What I did this summer…

After much waiting, wondering, and worrying, I finally took the plunge.

My debut novel, Regnum Terra is now officially published!

The Kindle and Nook versions are already available online, with paperback and hardcover editions coming soon.

I spent the last week working on this beauty:

I can’t wait to see this cover spread on an actual, physical book!

A huge thank you to all my diligent and supportive beta readers. This monumental project would not have been possible without your insight.

Follow the links below to order your very own copy of Regnum Terra!

Order via Amazon

Order via Barnes and Noble

Meet Kenzie-

“Wait, so he like, fixed your hair?” questioned Kenzie through a mouthful of salad the next day at lunch. “Sort of,” I replied, shrugging my shoulders.

I had told Kenzie everything, desperate for her opinion on the events of yesterday, and I could almost see the facts sinking into her brain. Kenzie was the closest thing the world had to a boy-translator: she could take a single conversation with a member of the opposite sex and unpack it the way some people could unpack the symbolism in a novel. If anyone could tell me what Alek was thinking, it was Kenzie.

I hadn’t worked up the courage to tell her about the dream I had had of Alek though; I didn’t want to lose my only real friend because she thought that I was crazy. I hadn’t been able to shake the sense of deja-vu I felt around Alek; the sense I had that I knew him, or had known him, or something like that…

“I’m so glad you and Josh aren’t together anymore, though,” Kenzie interrupted. “I can’t believe he actually had the nerve to grab you. I don’t know what you ever saw in him; he’s a total creep!” I nodded fervently, relieved to know I wasn’t the only one who found Josh’s behavior exceptionally disturbing.

“Alek though, he’s kind of a weirdo too,” continued Kenzie thoughtfully, twirling her fork between her fingers absentmindedly. “I don’t know what he’s thinking. He followed you around yesterday like a stalker!” She frowned, concerned.

“My thoughts exactly!” I mumbled through a mouthful of what was supposed to be mac and cheese. “He kind of dragged me out of History too, and wanted to walk me home.”

“Hang on, he dragged you? As in, by-the-hand actual draggage? You didn’t let him walk you home, did you? Oh my gosh, please promise me you didn’t get in a car with him!” Kenzie almost shouted, her eyes wide.

“Shhh, everyone’s going to think we’re even crazier than they already do,” I said, glancing around the crowded lunchroom. “I didn’t give him a ride, or let him walk me home, or anything. Promise.”

“You had me worried that I was talking to a ghost!” Kenzie laughed, relieved.

“Nope, still alive, unfortunately,” I responded, looking gloomily down at my unappetizing meal. “Maybe this will kill me off and rid me of my misery.”

“Hey now,” Kenzie shook her finger at me reprovingly. “At least you have a boy that’s showing some sort of interest in you! Granted, it’s a weird kind of interest, but some people are really into that. Don’t tell me you’re into that kind of thing though; it might put a damper on our friendship.”

“Do you think he likes me, though?” I asked, my voice coming across a little whiney.

“Is that even a question?” Kenzie replied with a smirk, catching my blank look before quickly adding, “Yes, dear, he likes you.”

“Then why is he acting so weird?” I complained, stabbing my food with a little more force than was probably necessary.

“Because he’s a teenage boy,” she said with a shrug. “They’re always weird, and then you add actual emotion into the mix, and it just amplifies the weirdness.”

Updates! (Or a Lack Thereof)

Hey guys! Not much to say this week… I’m still in the midst of querying literary agents, which is quite the grind. Imagine online dating, but much more rejection, and no weirdly awkward first-dates to break up the monotony. Pretty rough.

Which brings me to my main point: even though querying kinda sucks, you guys keep me at it! Your enthusiasm for my writing helps reassure me that I shouldn’t just shelve this project and give up on my dream of authorship. Thank you so much for all of you who read my random, weekly updates. Thank you for being willing to beta read my novel, and sparing me the embarrassment of typos in the manuscript I’m sending out to agents. Thank you for listening while I geek-out about the latest plot twist I’ve cooked up. And thank you for believing in me, even when I struggle believing in myself.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a village to publish a book.

Thanks for being my village.

Last Day of School!

Some of you may know that I teach high school Physics, (and English, too, starting next year!) This week has been the last of the school year, and today I wanted to give a huge shout-out to all my students for being so incredible.

From showing unparalleled enthusiasm about my writing to discussing weird scientific theories with me, you guys have been the best. As I’ve encouraged you to work hard and try your best, you’ve encouraged me to believe in myself. If I can ever become the teacher and writer you already think I am, my life will be made.

And to my AP class that wants me to write that novel about Mars… I’ve got some stuff in the works.

Go Falcons!

Meet Alek-

Outside of Mr. McKlellin’s room we stopped. I stared down at the floor as the boy’s hand dropped to his side. “I don’t really know your name,” I admitted, embarrassed. A beautiful, crooked smile flashed across his face.

            “My bad,” he said, eyes twinkling. “I should have introduced myself sooner. But I’m going to be mean, Hazel,” he paused, the twinkle in his eye looking slightly wicked. “I’m going to make you guess my name.”

            “What?” I replied, caught off guard. “Why?”

            “I want to see what you’ll come up with,” he laughed, leaning against the door frame casually. “What kind of a person do I look like to you? Am I a Toby? Or a Clarence? Stanley? Because if you guess any of those names, I’ll know you’re not into guys like me and I’ll leave you alone.”

            My cheeks flushed crimson.

            “Are you flirting with me?” I blurted out, mentally cursing my lack of feminine wiles.

            “Not if you think my name is Toby,” he replied with a wink.

            A wink? Seriously?

            “Well, I guess I can rule out Toby, Clarence, and Stanley…” I said, ruefully engaging in the game as my carefully built wall crumbled slightly under the intensity of Alek’s vivid gaze.

            Alek.

            Where had that come from?

            I felt the same, eerie sense of familiarity that had washed over me when I had first laid eyes on the boy; a tingling through my veins that both excited and terrified me.

            “You look like you’ve picked a name,” the boy said, his grin teasing. “What’ll it be, Hazel Anderson? Take a shot.”

            I hesitated, tasting the name in my mind.

            Alek.

            I looked the boy up and down, from his slightly scuffed jeans to his messy, ebony hair.

            “Your name is Alek,” I said, my voice surprisingly confident. The grin on the boy’s face faltered slightly, his shoulder slipping down the doorframe in shock.

            “Oh shoot, I’ve offended you,” I muttered, running my hands through my hair in chagrin.

            “No, that’s not it at all!” he replied, a crooked grin slowly spreading across his face. “You must either be a psychic, or really, really lucky.”

            “No way…” I breathed, my heart pounding like I had just won the lottery. “I actually guessed it? Your name really is Alek?”

            “Unless you hate it, of course,” he grinned, “in which case I’ll gladly change it. ‘Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d,’ and all that.”

            “Did you just quote Romeo and Juliet?” I asked, my eyes widening incredulously.

            “It’s not a problem, is it?” he answered with another wink.

            “I’ll let you know,” I said with a tentative smile, pushing the classroom door open as the bell sounded loudly above us.

Query Letter for Regnum Terra

I just spent the last 24 hours rewriting my query letter… and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. To be frank, I’m pretty sure the stupid thing counts as a straight-up obsession now. Technically, I’m on my 6th draft, but considering the fact that each ‘draft’ went through at least twenty revisions… well, you get the picture. Each night after polishing up my latest attempt at perfection, I’m tempted to quote The Princess Bride: “Good night… Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

Check out my latest draft, and tell me what you think!

Query Letter

Hazel Alina Galbraith is a 17-year-old spy from an alternate reality with a secret that might save the universe. Or destroy it.

The only problem is, she doesn’t remember any of that.

What Hazel does remember is her life on earth: her recent breakup with her boyfriend, Josh; the mean-girl-esque bully who spreads rumors about her; that huge English project coming up. And Alek, an unfairly attractive foreign exchange student with piercing eyes that haunt Hazel’s dreams. Hazel can’t shake the feeling that she somehow knows Alek, and when his strange behavior convinces Hazel he must be hiding something, she decides to investigate.

Hazel’s search for answers leads to an accidental trip to a shadow dimension, an encounter with a pyrotechnic phoenix, and, most importantly, the truth about her past. Hazel learns she and Alek are from a realm called Hespera: a dangerous reality filled with mythical beasts and ruled by a power-obsessed Council of Warriors. Hazel has been exiled to earth for treason. And as she remembers why she was branded a traitor, Hazel realizes she might be the only one who can prevent the rulers of Hespera from destroying the universe.

With the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance, Hazel must decide whether she is willing to sacrifice her normal life on earth to save the world she’s left behind. After all, in a universe where dreams look more like nightmares, being normal might be the happiest ending you can hope for.

REGNUM TERRA is a complete 73,000-word YA genre-splice that blends fantasy and science fiction. It is the first in a planned trilogy, and will be enjoyed by fans of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I have a bachelor’s degree in English Teaching with a minor in Physics Teaching, and I currently spend 40 hours a week working with my target audience as a high school English and Physics teacher. The manuscript to REGNUM TERRA is available, in part or full, upon request.

Thank you for your consideration,

Ellie Penner