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2019 Writing Goals

Last year around this time, I wrote about my 2017 successes and my 2018 goals. You can read those here. This year, I thought I’d see which of my 2018 goals I hit and which I did not, as well as set down some new goals for 2019. So, without further ado, let’s break it down.

2018 Goals

According to past me, I had six goals for 2018. I completed four of them, which is a 67%, so not a great passing grade for the perfectionist in me, but a passing grade all the same. Of the six things I set out to accomplish in 2018, I managed to: pay off the editing fees for The Blood Mage; start querying The King’s Blade (at last count, I had queried 17 agents and been rejected by 15 of them); finish all of my promised beta reads; and catch up on my TBR (sort of, that’s always an ongoing process, but I read ten or so books). What I did not accomplish was to create a marketing strategy for the Changing Tides series, or finish the draft of my third book in that series.

Work Left Undone

Not to make excuses for myself, but part of the reason I didn’t work on my Changing Tides series is because I’m continuing to grapple with where I want it (and me) to land. I have fallen out of love with the idea of self-publishing. I’ve also run out of money. Furthermore, after chewing on the third book (and what I once thought would become parts of the fourth book), I’ve begun to suspect both are premised on topics I’m not equipped to write. Parts of these books are not my story to tell. Parts of them are very much my story to tell, but a part of my story I’m still too raw over to get on the page in any meaningful way.

I haven’t sworn off writing, however. I’m still working diligently on querying The King’s Blade, though it might be due to be shelved soon, too, in favor for something more marketable, and I’m working on something new as well, a 1920s inspired high fantasy about a girl who trades one set of secrets for another. And to be fair, it’s not really Alena or Lukas or the world of the Sanctum I’ve sworn off, either. It’s self-publishing. As it turns out, I’m far too structured and rigid of a person to enjoy (or be good at) self-publishing. I’m not a marketer, I’m not innovative in terms of getting my books into the right hands. I’m lost, confused, alone, overwhelmed, and fed up with the whole process, and to be perfectly honest, I want to deal with the gatekeepers, now. I want the validation that comes with someone telling me my book is good enough, as true or untrue as that may be.

None of this is set in stone yet, but I think the decision is coming, and I think it will not bode well for book three of this series, though it will hopefully mean bigger and better things for me.

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But while I chew on what is to come for the Changing Tides series and the world of the Sanctum, there is still other work to be done. So with that, I bring you my 2019 Goals, in list form, just how I like it.

  1. Finish the Flapper Girl WIP.
  2. Query said Flapper Girl WIP.
  3. Get an agent.
  4. Read 24 books (and read diversely!)
  5. Keep up with this blog
  6. Keep up with Instagram (someone recommended Planoly to me recently, which is a program that lets you pre-schedule IG posts and post pictures from your computer, and I’m loving it so far).

In non-writing news, my boyfriend and I are (attempting) to buy a house, so that’s a major goal of mine for this year as well. It’s going to be a big year!

And how about you guys, what are your goals (writing or not)?

❤ Aimee

 

 

Book Review: Caraval

Author’s Note: Want to see my other 2018 and 2019 reads that maybe didn’t (or haven’t yet) made my 5 Star Review? Head over to my Instagram at: writingwaimee plus get bonus photos of my pets (of which there are many) and sometimes the random stuff I’m baking. Now, onto this week’s 5 Star Review.

caravalOfficial Blurb:

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

My Take:

5/5 Stars

“Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost” ~ Stephanie Garber

Welcome, welcome to Stephanie Garber’s debut novel, CARAVAL. And what a debut it is. Fast-paced and riveting, the world Stephanie Garber creates in this first novel of her career and first novel of the Caraval series drags you in and has you begging for more by the end. I read it in one sitting. At times, I found my heart pounding. There were twists I expected, and others I did not. They were all handled with the same intensity, the same breathless waiting. I couldn’t make my eyes move fast enough. I just wanted to get to that place where I found out if what I thought was going to happen was actually going to happen or if Garber was going to swerve in another direction all together. The plot was as theatrical as the world the author created. It was so elegantly crafted I could almost swear Legend himself had made it.

And Scarlett. Oh, Scarlett. Scarlett is not like the main characters I’m used to seeing in this genre. She is unsure, shy, exceedingly cautious. Scarlett is responsible and serious, much like me. Scarlett is not a sword-wielding badass of a heroine (don’t get me wrong, I love those ladies, too), but is of a softer sort. But Scarlett is earnest and smart and she grows. Watching her grow was one of my favorite parts of the novel (if you can say anything is your favorite in a novel where everything is simply exceptional).

So hurry, hurry, one and all. Get yourself to Caraval.

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Anyone else read this and want to gush with me? Want to shout about how much you didn’t like my gushing? Go ahead and leave it in the comments.

❤ Aimee

Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

Author’s Note: I know! You thought I’d never be back, right? Well, here I am, ready to report on another 5 Star Review! I’m hoping to be able to revive this blog and also my IG over the coming months, so if you want to follow the progress there, my handle is writingwaimee. Now, onward!

darkest part of forestOfficial Blurb: 

In the woods is a glass coffin. It rests on the ground, and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives….

Hazel and her brother, Ben, live in Fairfold, where humans and the Folk exist side by side. Since they were children, Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different from the other faeries, the ones who made cruel bargains, lurked in the shadows of trees, and doomed tourists. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake.
Until one day, he does….
As the world turns upside down, Hazel has to become the knight she once pretended to be.
My Take: 5/5 Stars
“The only way to end grief was to go through it.” ~ Holly Black
THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST, published in 2016 and recommended to me in 2018, was a fast-paced, emotionally charged page turner. The book blends the real and the fantastical in a way that, if not done correctly, would be a bumpy, jarring ride. Fortunately, Holly Black does it right. So right it makes you wonder if there could be a fairyland under that mound of dirt in the back yard your parents have always told you is a sand mound septic system. Maybe it is, or maybe the King of the Fairy Court is down there, with his entourage of sharp-toothed, winged, and antlered fair folk.
The Darkest Part of the Forest transports the reader to the small town of Fairfold, which might be somewhere in my native state of Pennsylvania, as Philadelphia is mentioned a few times throughout the novel. But Fairfold is far from an ordinary Philadelphia suburb. And yet… in some ways, it is completely ordinary. In fact, this ordinariness is one of the things I admired most about Black’s novel. Black is unabashed and unafraid in her portrayal of teenage life. Her characters were authentic in their youth. They were all the things I remember being: emotional and spontaneous; a little wild; a little reckless; unsure; yet often confident in a way you can only be in your teenage years. (If a teen who has read it reads this review and disagrees, I 100% differ to you, however).
I also loved the fact that this book is a standalone. We don’t really see enough of that in young adult fantasy. So all in all, The Darkest Part of the Forest was a quick read that left me feeling all the feels. A book I could shut with a satisfied little sigh and settle on the shelf. No cliffhanger, no desperate wait for the next book, simply a happy memory that also looks lovely in my collection.
Buy Links:
Has anyone else read this beauty? What were YOUR thoughts?
❤ Aimee

Agency

When we talk about “agency” in literature, we are usually talking about the protagonist of the story: (1) having the ability to act in his/her/their environment, then; (2) acting.

Simple, right?

Well, as it turns out, not for me.

Agency is something I always have to write into my manuscripts after multiple drafts. My critique partners and beta readers always come back to me telling me my characters don’t have enough (or any) agency. The character is supposed to move the plot, not the other way around. It’s a concept taught in every 101 creative writing class.

Yet… it always eludes me.

Struggling with agency is a common problem for a lot of writers, but recently, I’ve been thinking about why it’s such a reoccurring problem for me. You see, it’s not one character or one book or one series that lacks agency for me. It’s all of them. Even though I should know better. Even though I write thinking this time I’m not going to have to edit agency into my character. Thinking this time I’m going to get it right. But I never do, and I have to wonder why.

I think the answer comes from another definition.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape

[Emphasis added]. Source.

I’ve written about my C-PTSD and how it relates to my reading and writing experiences before, but though I’ve previously connected the two things, I never made this particular connection.

It’s hard for me to write agency, because my mind is wired to believe I have none.

My C-PTSD stems from childhood abuse. That’s all I’m really willing to share about that out here, exposed on the internet, but for purposes of this post, I think it’s important that it’s understood this trauma occurred when I was very young and went on for a long, long time. It shaped the way my brain behaves. Seriously. Physical changes in my brain happened and those things impact my worldview. Deeply.

Though I’m older now, and I have agency, and I go to therapy to unravel and unpack all this trauma, I still struggle. I have an extremely difficult time making decisions. I get overwhelmed easily. When I’m in a dangerous or even mildly upsetting situation, I freeze. I have the ability to control my environment, but I struggle to do so. It’s uncomfortable, and it makes me nauseous and anxious.

Because deep down, I don’t understand agency. Agency is, at its root, having some kind of control or influence over your life situation. Something I never had. And if I’m honest with myself, it scares me.

My reactions to the world taking hold of the reins for me are much better. When someone dies, for instance, I’m the most level-headed person in the room. Not being in control is something I’m intimately familiar with and have learned to navigate beautifully. Which is… different.

I started to write unhealthy there, then changed it. Because maybe it’s not unhealthy. Maybe it’s simply different. Maybe it’s how I operate. And maybe that’s okay.

And maybe this is all to say that while I believe agency is important (and I do write it into my manuscripts where it’s needed), lack of agency might be just as important with some characters, and is something I would love to see explored further.

Can you tell a compelling story if your character has no agency? And how should we even define agency? Can’t agency be taking actions to survive, even if they’re not active actions? What if agency, for some characters, is not acting but freezing? What if agency is not striking back, but appeasing? What if agency is looking at a hopeless situation from which there is no escape, but hoping for one anyway?

What if agency could be rewritten?

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Even Rapunzel, locked in her tower, had the agency to let down her hair. But her prince had to find her first. What if he never came? Would her story still be worth telling? Photo courtesy: https://pixabay.com/en/users/Emily_WillsPhotography-8096214/

Next Week on the Blog: Dreams, Failure, and the What Could Be Wish

❤ Always,

Aimee

Book Review: The Belles

Author’s Note: Hi all! I know I haven’t been around a lot, life has been extremely hectic. However, I do have a few posts I’ve been chewing over I hope to get to soon, about agency (eek!) and failure (double eek!). In the meantime, I’ve decided that in an effort to support other authors, I’m going to start doing BOOK REVIEWS! Woo! They’ll be sporadic as I intend to ONLY review those books I think deserving of five stars. Why? Well, because: (1) I want to support other authors; but (2) I like to keep it honest here, and I don’t five star like every single book I read; but also (3) I’m also an author who empathizes with anything less than five stars. So! I bring you my five-star only book reviews. To begin, I offer a review of Dhonielle Clayton’s, The Belles, which was my most anticipated read of the year and which definitely did not disappoint. Without further ado, here we go!

23197837Official Blurb: 

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite, the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie, that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide: save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles, or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

27783510_10105455140147238_344651365_nMy Take:

5/5 Stars.

THE BELLES, Clayton’s first high fantasy novel, is a stunning take on the concept of beauty in society. THE BELLES transports the reader to the world of Orléans, a place in which beauty is bought and bartered for and those with the power to give the people what they so desire, The Belles, are revered.

Clayton’s prose is warm and lush. It drips and flows, so I want to drink in every word. Beauty is reflected in every aspect of the piece, but so is the price that must be paid to obtain “perfection.”

In addition to the take on beauty that permeates the page, Clayton’s depiction of female relationships was something that had me thinking for hours after I left Orléans behind. Her characters were relatable but not perfect. Never perfect. Camellia Beauregard (“Camille”), the story’s protagonist, makes decisions I cringed at, not because I judged her, but because her choices forced me to examine myself. Put in Camille’s shoes, I might have done some of the same things, and Clayton’s intricate use of language allowed me to make that connection both instantly and deeply, leading to a greater appreciation of Camille’s situation and the world of Orléans.

In short, I highly recommend picking up a copy, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

Buy Links (click me and buy Dhonielle’s book because it’s so good, and I want everyone to read it and love it):

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

That’s all for now! Hope everyone is doing well!

❤ Aimee

 

The Big 3-0

Y’all! I’m turning 30 next week!

And because I want to do something fun and special, BOTH of my novels will be FREE on Amazon Kindle from Thursday, February 22, 2018 through Saturday, February 24, 2018. This is the FIRST TIME EVER you’ll be able to get a free digital copy of my second novel, The Blood Mage so mark it on your calendars, share it on your social, pass this blog around, tell all your friends, and GET READY!

Oh, and if you’re new here and want to learn more about the Changing Tides series that will be free next week, check out the homepage for the full blurbs and Amazon links.

Have a great weekend everyone!

❤ Aimee

Both books together

2018 Writing Goals

Well… 2017 has been a bit of a rough one if I’m honest (which I try to be). It’s been a difficult year to create for me and many others if Twitter is to be believed. But when I sit down and push all the noise aside, I realize I did accomplish quite a bit in the last year, which I will now reflect on.

  • I hit (and surpassed) the elusive 100 book sales mark for my debut novel The Wheel Mages.
    • Note: 90% of self-published books will sell less than 100 copies, so this is a real accomplishment even if it doesn’t seem like much in terms of sales numbers.

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  • I published the second book in my Changing Tides series, The Blood Mage.

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  • Although I didn’t make into Pitch Wars this year, I did enter, which was quite a feat. Plus, it means I have a novel ready to query for (hopefully) a traditional publishing deal. The King’s Blade features a diverse cast of characters including a triumvirate of Deep Sea power by way of a competent assassin, a mermaid magician and scientist, a young king who has a knack for political maneuvers and on land, you’ll find a human prince who is softer than my average male character and a budding naturalist himself. I did more research for The King’s Blade than anything I’ve ever worked on, and I am immensely proud of it. Read more about it here.

With all that said, I do have some pretty serious writing goals for 2018. Let’s see if I can accomplish them!

  1. Create a real marketing strategy for my Changing Tides Series and execute, execute, execute!
  2. Pay off the editing fees for The Blood Mage.
  3. Finish the draft of the third book in my Changing Tides Series and get it out for developmental edits at the very least.
  4. Start querying The King’s Blade for a traditional deal.
  5. Finish my beta reads!
  6. Read, read, read (my TBR is out of this world and I can’t seem to stop buying more things to add to it!)

All you writers out there: What did you accomplish in 2017 and what are some of your goals for the New Year?

Happy Holidays everyone!

❤ Aimee

 

We Love Soft Boys — But Soft Girls?

Alena, the protagonist in my debut novel, The Wheel Mages, is sometimes labeled as weak. I don’t usually comment on the label, because I see why people call her that, and I think it’s important for readers to have room to formulate their own opinions. However, there’s something about the label that rings of a double standard to me. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, or the frustration I’m facing in my own life that is finally compelling me to speak on it, but whatever it is, here we are.

Alena’s backstory is one of sheltered confinement. Because of her value to the Sanctum, she’s been hidden. Before the novel begins, she has spent the last five years in almost perfect isolation. The isolation makes her naive, while her emotions, driven by her ever-changing element (water), make her as variable as the river.

She is in a constant state of flux. Her opinions are mutable, and her emotions propel her forward, often landing her in positions that frustrate readers. She doesn’t rule her feelings nearly so often as they rule her. She’s rash and (arguably) irritatingly dependent on the main man in her life, Nikolai, who has served as her mentor and protector for the past five years.

In the first book, she is not a feminist’s feminist. When she meets Catalina, the fiery former love interest of Nikolai, she explodes in a fit of jealousy. Isolation might have protected her, but it has also stunted her emotional growth. She will grapple with this throughout the book, and indeed, throughout the series.

Bitterness rose with the thought, acrid in the back of my throat, but I fought it down. I would not allow myself to fall prey to that again. Not after Catalina.

~ The Blood Magesequel to The Wheel Mages

When I first wrote Alena, she was much more stoic than she appears in the final version of the book. The scene where she erupts in fury over Catalina’s presence, throwing an epic temper tantrum (albeit in private), did not exist in the first drafts of the novel. It was added after a lengthy conversation with my editor wherein she urged me to dig deeper into my protagonist’s feelings. Alena, at first, did not read like an eighteen-year-old, especially not one who had spent the past five years completely hidden from the world.

That’s perhaps because she was being written by a twenty-eight-year old who had just spent some time in a mental health facility doing a whole lot of soul searching. A lot of maturation happens in the decade between eighteen and twenty-eight. That’s not to deride teenagers (in fact, I think today’s teens are a world more enlightened than I ever was), but it is true. A lot of growing occurs in a decade–any decade–and I’m sure when I’m thirty-eight I’ll say the same thing of my twenty-eight-year-old self. At least, I hope I will, because I want to keep growing.

One of the things I love about young adult literature, and have always loved about it, is that there is so much room for growth within the characters. The internal journey for main characters is as interesting, if not more so, than the physical journey taking place on the page. Exploration of this growth is something that has always fascinated me, perhaps because my own development has been so slow moving.

But the journey Alena takes is, perhaps, a controversial one in today’s climate. She is, after all, a young woman who is driven by her emotions. I understand that in a time when the badass, woman warrior is the go-to main character for young adult fantasy, Alena might seem… soft. Too typical. Too weak. Too dependent. Too exactly-what-we’ve-been-fighting-against-aren’t-you-a-terrible-feminist. It was a risk to write Alena the way I wrote her, but at the end of the day, I wrote what I knew. Alena’s story is one I’m familiar with.

Because honestly? At eighteen, I was a terrible feminist. Actually, I wasn’t a feminist at all. I was brash and completely ruled by my emotions, which were prone to shift by the minute. I cried a lot and screamed and engaged in far too much self-pity. I fell hopelessly in love with men who were terrible for me and to me, yet would do just about anything to cater to them. I thought much less about the amazing women who surrounded me than I did about the sometimes horrible men I fell for, and in the end, I was burned by this confused loyalty. I surrendered friendships I’ll never be able to get back to please men who weren’t worth a single hair on the heads of those women. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is part of my story. For me, feminism didn’t happen overnight, and I’m still not a perfect creature when it comes to my feminism (or anything else, really). Neither is my protagonist. She’s floundering, struggling with her identity. She’s trying to figure out who she is and what she stands for, and the fact is she simply doesn’t know the answers to life’s big questions. But she’s willing to learn, and she tries (but sometimes fails) to keep her mind open.

In this way, she is the queen of the internal monologue. She thinks about her feelings a lot. Whether or not she makes the right decisions concerning them is a question the reader can pose to him/her/themselves. I am not telling a morality tale, I’m simply telling the emotional journey of one young woman trying to find herself in a messed up world. And unfortunately her journey (as it is for many of us) is not clean, or pretty, or comfortable.

The reaction to Alena, and other female protagonists who get pinned with the label “weak,” does make me wonder about double standards, however. I see cries for soft boys in YA in reaction to the alpha male, and I wholeheartedly agree we need to see more soft boys in books. I’ve written a soft boy into The King’s Blade in direct juxtaposition of the alpha-male type my main character has spent her life in service to. I love soft boys, and I hate that they’re underrepresented. But why do we cry for soft males, then spurn soft females as weak?

I understand that in some ways, we reject soft girls as a confirmation of stereotypes about the female gender role. But in my view, that’s reactionary feminism. It’s defensive instead of offensive. The thinking goes something like: The patriarchy says women are soft, thus we should portray women as hard. The thinking is simple, but it doesn’t allow for the entire vision of womanhood to shine through, only a sliver of it. Women are not a monolith, yet our heroines are starting to make it appear as though we are. Why, for example, do so many of our heroines these days so closely mirror heroes? Why do they have to be sword-wielding, physically strong killers who hide their emotions? Why can’t there be room for both hard and soft girls, the same as there is room for both hard and soft boys? Why can’t our heroines be both emotional and strong? Emotions, after all, are powerful things, and learning to harness them can be a lifelong struggle that takes immeasurable strength. Why also do we consistently link physical prowess to some kind of intrinsic perception of “strength”? Can’t a female character be considered strong of spirit without ever needing to wield a sword or shoot a bow?

And, most of all, why can’t we give our female heroines a little space to grow?

Just some things to ponder on this (here in Philadelphia) rainy Monday.

❤ Always (and please don’t hate me),

Aimee

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Slumps

So in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m in a bit of a writing AND reading AND marketing slump.

Right now, what I wish I could do is give you some great advice about how I conquered it. But I’m failing to conquer it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve edited a chapter of my third book in the Changing Tides series here and there. I’ve gotten words on the page in short story format for an adult audience. But I haven’t done any real work on marketing, and I’ve been lackluster when it comes to working on my TBR. Usually, I can read a YA fantasy in a sitting. Recently, I’ve been lucky to get a chapter in here or there.

Which leads me to a point. Writing and reading are inseparable. Writers are readers first, and if you’re not reading, it’s very likely you’re not writing. Reading is how, at least for me and many in my writing circles, we replenish our creative wells. The first thing I say to any aspiring writer or author is: “Read. Read diversely and frequently. Read everything you can get your hands on. In your genre and out of it.”

When I’m not reading, I’m almost always not writing either. When I’m not writing, it’s hard to market, because some of the enthusiasm I have for my own work is lost. I forget what it’s like to be an author. Maybe it’s the hum-drum of the 9-5, maybe it’s the trying to reestablish a social life, maybe it’s being caught up in emotionally exhausting friend and relationship drama, maybe it’s because of the slight worry I have about money right now, but whatever it is that’s preventing me from reading has to be stamped out.

With reading, will come the writing. I’m sure of it.

Anyone have any advice for reading and writing slumps? I’d love to hear it!

❤ Always,

Aimee

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New Review of #TheBloodMage

Hi all!

Sorry I haven’t been around! If you’ve read my last two posts you’ll know I’m still struggling with mental health issues as well as trying to find a proper work/life balance. I think I’m getting my head back in the game slowly but surely and hope to come back to regular posts soon!

Because of everything going on I unfortunately didn’t get a newsletter out this month, but the next one will be sure to be action-packed! At least I hope 🙂 If you’d like to sign up  you can do so here.

In the meantime, check out this new review of The Blood Mage by My Life, Stolen by Books.

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