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

Breaking News!

News!

The Wheel Mages, my debut novel, is a finalist for an award through the YA chapter of the Romance Writers of America for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction. The overall winner will be announced in late July, but I’m so excited to have made it to the final round. This is especially exciting to me because the contest was open to all authors, traditional and self-published alike, so that’s kinda neat.

Want to see what the fuss is all about? Buy it here.

Big thanks to my editor, Katie, my copy editor, Nikki, and my cover designer, Fiona, for helping me bring it all together!

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Cover Reveal: The Blood Mage

Today is the day everyone! So without further ado, please bask in the glory that is the cover of The Blood Mage. And make sure to scroll to the end for details on how to get a sneak peek and additional launch information!

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Official Launch Date for The Blood Mage is July 18, 2017!

But you can preorder for Kindle NOW!

Annnd if you’re interested in receiving a sneak peek of The Blood Mage, sign up for my newsletter because I’ll be sending out a link next week containing the prologue and first chapter!

Thanks to Fiona Jayde Media for her stunning design and all the work on the cover. I hope you all enjoy!

❤ Aimee

How a Trilogy Becomes More

Author’s Note: I’m sending out my very first newsletter this week and it has exciting NEWS in it, so if you’re interested, sign up here

At the end of last month (where is time going?), my second manuscript was sent to my editor. I wrote about it (briefly). When I sent it, it was 131,000 words, which is loooong. But I ran out of places to cut words and time to do it in so sent it with fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, I was in the middle of a serious argument with the third book in my trilogy. My characters did not want to cooperate with my plan. At all.

All of this, combined with a lot of other things going on in my life, including frustrating book sales, led me to overwhelm which led me to stasis. Something to know about me: When I get overwhelmed, I freeze. I didn’t want to abandon my series, because this is my dream, but I also felt the familiar sensation of losing my way creeping in.

Fortunately, I have a good editor who wasted no time in pulling me off the cliff. Although, I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous when I received the email from her enclosing her critique. Katie and I have a great relationship, and I trust her, but something about seeing, “You’ll see that I do make a big recommendation that could change a few things” in an email from your editor can really make your heart rate spike.

Of course, my brain started to go into overdrive as I ran through worst case scenarios such as: she hates my new protagonist (who is a character I’ve been developing for approximately… forever); there’s a gaping plot hole I’m not going to know how to fix; the prose is terrible; the whole thing needs rewritten. All fixable, yes, but not pleasant. I should clarify, none of these were the case, either.

What I wasn’t expecting was a suggestion to expand the trilogy because well… the book is too long but parts need a bit more development and there’s nowhere to find 30,000 extra words. As Katie put it, “The story and characters have begged you to.”

My first thought was: Why didn’t I think of that? Why did that not ever seem like an option?

It’s funny how strict you can be with yourself, how solid an idea can be before it’s even formed. In my head, my series was always a trilogy. That’s just how it was. Period. As I’ve said before, I’m not a plotter, so how that one idea became so solid, I’m not 100% sure, but it was. Three books. No more, no less.

I called an emergency “meeting” with a couple of my most trusted beta readers. Frantically, I spelled out to them via Facebook messenger what my editor was proposing. Then I sat back, wincing as I waited.

Here’s something else you should know: My betas are the best people I know, but they can be a tough audience. That’s what makes them good (and my friends). I expected some kind of resistance from them especially because expanding a series is done frequently in fantasy and sometimes it’s not done all that well. They know that. I know that. I expected them to remind me of that.

Surprisingly, they didn’t. “I like it,” said one.

Hm… I thought, then winced again and decided to poke the sleeping bear. “This would help me fix the problems with book three that were making me want to throw the book out the window. I guess I was just dead set on a trilogy.”

The three dots on the message screen blinked, and my stomach flipped somersaults as I tried my best not to grind my teeth down to nothing. “Trilogies are so passe. Ten million books plus ten novellas are so hip right now.”

I burst out laughing. Just when you think you know what to expect, people throw you a curve ball. Which is, of course, exactly what my characters did to me too, sneaky bastards (and I mean that term literally in at least one case if you’ve read book one).

With my betas on board, I decided it was possible to discuss this thing with my editor. So after taking a night to sleep on her critique to digest what her suggestions would look like, I sent her a sprawling, long-winded email that concluded by addressing the elephant in the room: fantasy series that are expanded poorly.

Everyone who reads this blog knows my policy on not tearing down any specific works by any specific author, and I’m not about to break that now. Instead, I’ll say that sometimes authors expand series because they’re popular, and their readers want them to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should. This shows in the writing. The books start to drag or get redundant or the characters no longer seem to be on an arc but more of a flat line path. No one is developing. In short, the writing loses its spark.

This is sort of my biggest fear when it comes to a series. I want my series to reflect the arc in my own writing. Book two should be (and in my extremely biased opinion, is) better than book one. Book three should be better than book two, etc. You’re growing as a writer, and your characters should grow with you. That’s organic. That’s (dare I say it) art.

Don’t get me wrong, plenty of fantasy series have more than three books and are absolutely lovely. Obviously, the most famous fantasy series in the history of the world consists of seven books, and they’re all stellar.

That said, there are plenty of series that could have stopped at book two or even book one and been fine. And I couldn’t quite get my professors at UNC out of my head as I started to contemplate a possible expansion. The famous “six-word novel” hung heavy on my heart. For those who don’t know it, it is as follows:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

It’s often mistakenly attributed to Hemingway, but there were stories like this before Hemingway. It’s true author appears to be unknown.

The point remains the same, however. Less is more. This was always an extremely difficult concept for me to grasp, and though I believe I’ve gotten much better at it, I probably won’t be writing any six-word stories any time soon.

Still, those extra words nagged at me. I could see the possibility on the horizon. I wanted those words. The strength with which I wanted them made me shove through the fear and the self-doubt and dare to imagine what this series could look like if I had the room to really open up and let my characters do what they want instead of constantly fighting me.

Ultimately, the decision to expand was born through a combination of that desire and my editor’s sage advice: “Overall, listen to the characters and the story, and don’t worry about trying to fit it in a certain number of books.”

Now, I might not be able to write a six-word novel, but that is something I can do.

Here we go y’all.

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Broken and Built Anew

Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow.”

~ Helen Keller

Last week, I was ready to give up. This probably has something to do with the fact that my birthday is next week. I’m going to be 29.

Sarah Maas is 30 (8 books), Victoria Aveyard is 26 (3 books), Veronica Roth is 28 (4 books), Marissa Meyer is 32 (6 books). This doesn’t include novellas, compilations, short stories, collections, etc.

I felt too old to be only just starting.

I know, it probably sounds ridiculous. I shouldn’t be comparing myself to other writers, especially not those who are traditionally published and anyway, 29 isn’t that old! But I felt old and tired and exhausted and beaten and defeated and… broken.

I have wanted to be a writer since I could hold a pen(cil). I never really dream hopped. I didn’t want to be a veterinarian one day and an astronaut the next. If you asked me at age 6 what I wanted to be, I would have told you I wanted to be an author, ask me at 16, a novelist, at 22, a writer.

My dream has never changed, but I still managed to get so, so lost. For years, I struggled through a quagmire of mental health issues ranging from addiction to depression to agoraphobia to self-mutilation to panic attacks. I have insomnia. When I do sleep, I have terrible nightmares and night terrors. I spent years undereating only to then spend years overeating. My weight is in a constant state of confusion. I’ve weighed 106 pounds and 206 pounds and everywhere in between. Living is often exhausting for me. And last week, I thought, “You know what, this is hard enough as it is, why make it more complicated? Accept mediocrity. Accept that you’re never going to make it. It’s okay to be average. You don’t have to be special. You wake up every day and for someone with as many problems as you have, that’s enough. Enough is enough. Just stop.”

There is peace to be found in surrender. Peace sounded good. Surrender sounded good. Curling up under a comforter and never coming back out sounded good.

But none of those things are actually options. Not for me. Not when I feel so deeply that God has blessed me with a special gift—the gift of knowing what I want to do with my life.

I don’t talk about my faith very much, because faith is personal and controversial and for me, hard to nail down. But sometimes, usually in my darkest moments, it whispers to me.

I was not raised with faith. My mother has always identified as a Christian, but she didn’t really rediscover her faith until I was much older. My father is a scientist and like a majority of scientists, he is an atheist. While my mother read me fairy tales in the cradle, my father read me Darwin. When I was in the sixth grade, he bought me a copy of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (“Because it’s a good story”). I was brought up on the belief that religion is a crutch used by those who are desperate.

Maybe it is. Then again, maybe it isn’t. As the daughter of a scientist, I was encouraged to question, to be always curious about the unknown. Fostering curiosity is probably part of what led me to be a writer. It’s also what guided me to my faith.

I converted to Catholicism my sophomore year of college. I started attending mass because I was in love with a Catholic boy, and I wanted to impress him. I decided to convert because I felt like I’d found something that had been missing inside me, but I’d be lying if I said it’s been easy. I’ve struggled with my faith every day since the day I converted. I’m constantly questioning it just as I’m constantly questioning myself. But sometimes, I think I hear God’s voice, and it gets me through the day.

In that way, I guess my faith is a crutch. But a crutch helps those who cannot walk for themselves. A crutch helps broken people heal. It is exactly what I needed last week, and I clung to it until my knuckles turned white. And eventually, I found myself walking a little stronger, a little further. I found my despair easing its hold. Ideas started to flow again as hope sprang back to life inside me, a small ember at first, a tiny thing I had to nurture, but it was there all the same.

There’s something magical about being on the precipice of defeat and clawing your way back. There’s something empowering about being lost and finding your way again. There’s a reason the image of the phoenix rising from the ash is so popular, and it’s because never has there been a symbol that encompasses the human spirit so well. At some point in our lives, every single one of us has been the phoenix risen from darkness.

Last week, it was me. But I have risen stronger than before. My dream is more beautiful because it was broken. It will be so much more exciting when I make it a reality because I will remember the taste of the ash on my tongue and the burning in my throat as I fought my way back into the light.

Broken and built anew.

Never stop dreaming. Never stop fighting.

❤ Aimee

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Valentine’s Day and News

Okay! So… I finally did it y’all. I finally made a newsletter… well… sort of. I made a mailing list, which you can sign up for by clicking on the link to the right of your screen where I joyfully declare I have done a thing. Or you can click here.

We’ll see. I’m still not convinced on the newsletter thing, but I recently had a discussion with a beta reader who told me she does in fact read author newsletters, so I bit the bullet and did it. I’m hoping to send them monthly, and I won’t sell your information and all that good SEC stuff here.

Now, the information that would go in a February newsletter but didn’t because I didn’t create such a thing until today is as follows:

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, people! In honor of the holiday and in honor of my first in I don’t know how long Valentine’s Day single, I will be teasing the new novel all day tomorrow in 140 characters or less. That’s right everyone, #TheBloodMage is going to be rocking it on Twitter. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you can find me @writingwaimee or click here. I’m allll about the links today.

Of course there will be gooey goodness, and the hashtag for the day will be #TheBloodMage. It’s not only about amorous affections though, there will be some other kinds of love on display as well, and I promise it will be spoiler free.

As a preview, here’s one of the fun ones I pulled yesterday that didn’t make the 140 character cutoff but was too good to ignore. This is about one of the new lead’s love affair with the loveliest of all full-bodied flavors—wine.

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Writing Workshop in Reading, PA – My workshop which was originally going to be in mid-February was rearranged, so it will now be happening on March 22nd with details to come (in the new newsletter so go ahead and sign up for that if you want to meet me live and in the flesh, because I’m not going to tell you where it is except in the newsletter!)

The Blood Mage – Comes back from the editor sometime today. In case you couldn’t tell, by all the links and the rambling, I’m a bit nervous. We’ll see how it goes!

And that’s a wrap! Happy V-Day everyone, and make sure to click on some of my fancy new links!

❤ Aimee

 

Second Month Sales

Okay, so I said I was going to do it and here we are.

Things didn’t go well this month, people. I sold only 12 books. That’s NOT exactly going to pay the bills. And with a 130,000 word manuscript currently sitting in the editor’s hands, I’m not feeling super pumped right now.

But, I suppose this is a marathon and not a sprint, right? And things have been a wee bit crazy around the world this January, so I’m wondering if timing might have something to do with it too. It feels a bit frivolous to be marketing my book when social media feeds are dominated with much more pressing concerns, so I didn’t push as hard as I might have otherwise done. I’m preoccupied too. I get it.

Good news is this run-down will be short.

Sales Period: December 30 through January 29, 2016

Vendor: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle)

Copies sold: 4

Territories sold: United States (3) and UK (1)

Royalties: 8.22 USD, 1.85 GBP

Vendor: CreateSpace (Paperback)

Copies sold: 4

Territories sold: United States (4)

Royalties: 4.64 USD

Vendor: Personal Sales (Paperback)

Copies sold: 4

Territories sold: United States (4)

Royalties: 20.64 USD

Total Copies sold in the second month: 12

Territories sold: United States (11) and UK (1)

Royalties: 33.50 USD, 1.85 GBP

Total combined copies (since launch): 70

Territories sold: United States (68), Denmark (1), UK (1)

Total Royalties: 170.31 USD, 2.18 EUR, 1.85 GBP

So… I have almost paid off the cover art for the first book, and I even received my first check from Amazon and CreateSpace, so that’s pretty cool (fun fact, if you go with the direct deposit option, they’ll send you royalties every month so long as you’ve made more than $10, if you ask for a check, they won’t send you anything until you’ve made $100, also good to note that applies to every currency, so I won’t see any royalties from sales in the UK or Europe until I’ve sold more there).

I still haven’t broken into that 100 copies territory, but I have hope (some days). More important than anything, however, this month I had readers really connect with the book and that to me is worth more than royalties. Royalties would still be cool though.

Here’s to fighting the good fight!

❤ Aimee

A Bit of News

Short and sweet – there are a few things I want to keep you updated on regarding what’s going on in the world of the Sanctum, because right now, that world seems to be less dysfunctional than our own. Who would have seen that coming, right?

Author Interview: I did an author interview with Becca over at Shihtzu Book Reviews which you can check out here. We discuss my writing process (unhealthy), my characters, and some things to look out for in the future.

The Wheel MagesIf anyone is interested in receiving a signed copy of The Wheel Mages, I’m now offering those in limited supply. If you’re interested in receiving one, contact me through the website or send me an email at aimee@aimee-davis.com.

The Blood Mage update: I sent The Blood Mage to the editor yesterday for its first review. Word count – 131,592 (uhhh…). I’ll be receiving critiques on that sometime in mid-February, so things are moving along, and I’m still shooting for a summer release!

Workshop: Some fun and exciting news! I’ll be doing a writing workshop in Reading, Pennsylvania in mid-February (the date looks like it’s going to be February 15th, but I’m waiting on final confirmation). Details about the workshop will be available soon.

Two-Month Sales: I’ll be posting those within the next couple of days. I’ve been swamped with work trying to get The Blood Mage ready for Katie, so I’m behind, but never fear, I’m still committed to remaining transparent with my sales.

It’s rough out there. Please everyone remember to be kind to yourselves and each other.

❤ Aimee

 

 

First Month Sales

Okay… deep breaths… I’m going to do this.

When I first started out on this whole self-publishing venture, I told myself I would be honest and open about the entire process, including releasing my sales figures. Of course, now that the time has come to do so, I’m nervous.

You see, before I published, I saw plenty of blog posts from established independent authors sharing their sales figures, and how much they made per year, per month, etc. and the numbers were, quite frankly, staggering. Six figure salaries and five figure per month marketing budgets were plentiful. But I didn’t see many (read: any) new indie authors sharing their sales figures, at least not publicly, so I said to myself, “Self, when we do this, we shall publish our sales figures every month, so other indie authors have a better understanding of what this process really looks like.”

It sounded great before I knew what the sales were going to be. Now, I’m less than enthused about sharing my first month’s sales, but… I will. Because I need to learn how to be brave. Because this industry requires courage and tenacity and strength. Because if I’m ever going to succeed, I must first learn to embrace my failures.

So… without further ado… here are the sales figures for the first month of sales of my debut novel, The Wheel Mages.


Sales Period: November 29, 2016 (launch date) through December 29, 2016

Vendor: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle)

Copies sold: 27

Territories sold: United States (26) and Denmark! (1)

Royalties: 71.21 USD, 2.18 EUR

Vendor: CreateSpace (Paperback)

Copies sold: 23

Territories sold: United States (23)

Royalties: 26.68 USD

Vendor: Personal Sales (Paperback)

Copies sold: 7

Territories sold: United States (7)

Royalties: 36.12 USD

Vendor: iTunes (iBook)

Copies sold: 1

Territories sold: United States (1)

Royalties: 2.80 USD

Total copies sold in the first month: 58

Territories sold: United States (57) and Denmark! (1)

Royalties: 136.81 USD, 2.18 EUR

To put this into perspective, my cover art cost $175, so in my first month of sales, I’ve almost made that back. Except none of this money, with the exception of the money I made from selling books to friends and family (see: Vendor: Personal Sales) has actually arrived in my bank account yet, because Amazon doesn’t release the royalties until you’ve accumulated $100. So, there’s that. And my next book is due to the content editor in 17 days, so unless I wake up one morning and I’ve miraculously sold 2,000 copies overnight (listen, this is something I still sort of hope for), there’s another big check looming in my not-too-distant future. Sidenote: If you’re writing a series, maybe consider budgeting for the first two books.

My goal was to sell 100 books in the first month. As you can see, I didn’t make it. And although I wish I could tell you I sold 10,000 copies, the truth is less extraordinary, which I suppose in some ways, makes it all the more important to share.

This is reality, y’all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. So here’s to selling more books in 2017!

❤ Aimee

P.S. On a WAY more exciting note, I received my first bit of fanart yesterday! FANART! Can you believe it? Yeah, I’m super pumped. I smiled so hard my face almost fell off. Check it out!!! There’s another piece as well, but I want to save it to share in another post, so keep your eyes peeled!

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