Thoughts On the Eve of the Year – 2015

This is my annual resolution post. Sometimes I have many, sometimes only one. This year I have a half dozen.

I want to do better at exercising, getting fresh air, sunshine, H20, all that important stuff. I want to spend more time schooling my 4-year-old, as he’s in a stage where he loves every bit of learning. I want to listen and reflect more and talk less. I want to hang out with my family without stressing out about work. I want to grow more things. I want to be less distracted by the internet and more focused on people. But most of these are kind of continuing resolutions–nothing new. Last year I said I wanted to live in the moment more. To enjoy life more. I’ve done that this year. I want to do it again next year, too.


I did a lot of reforming my eating and sleeping habits in 2014. I took many weeks off of sugar, some off of carbs, purchased a lot more produce from local farmers. I gave more back, fed more people, stretched leftovers, concocted new dishes, and wasn’t such a consumer. I went out of my way to buy healthy, organic, non-GMO food for our family. I spent a lot less daylight hours staring at a computer screen and I started rising before dawn and going to bed earlier. Some of this was about being healthier, but a lot of it was about disciplining myself and not being so lazy, haha. I feel better, stronger, and more focused this winter than I have in awhile.

It was a wonderful year for our family, too. We took a road trip. I got back to journaling. We had coffee with some old friends and long visits with high school besties. My husband and I celebrated our fifth anniversary. My 2-year-old and 4-year-old are both out of diapers, adept with Legos and sand shovels, and know the letters of the alphabet. We went to the beach, went fishing, went hiking, listened to audiobooks in the car.

I’m grateful for all of the blessings we’ve shared, for the friends who keep us grounded, and the family who has our backs. I loved this year. I hope next year is just as lovely (or even lovelier), and I hope yours is too! Have a beautiful, inspired, grand 2015, my darlings. <3


The Trouble With a Series, and the Upsides to Self-Doubt

One of the crazy things I did this year was put out two novels in the space of ten months.

I know, it’s not really crazy at all for most self-published authors. Many of you release five or six a year. Honestly, I could maybe draft that many in a year–as long as none of them had to see the light of day for awhile–but I’m pretty sure two full-length fantasy novels is my limit as far as publishing goes.

I’m learning that, while I love writing, publishing can be the pits. I take awhile to recharge creatively anyway. And not just awhile…a long while. Deadlines are my friends, for sure, but since publishing is so stressful, I need to factor into each draft/revision/rewrite a couple of extra months [for writer-brain mutiny] in which I dally off to dance around with old projects or start new ones or pen short stories or songs. If I don’t give myself permission to do this, I cease to be able to write. I end up bumming around the internet or staring at the ceiling. I also need to factor in a month (or four) after the pressure of each book release in which to wallow in ice cream and try to reacquaint myself with the joys of literature. Otherwise, I’m not likely to have the wherewithal to pull that excellent plot twist or profound line out of my hat, and I end up having to extend my deadline anyway.


Rise of Orion came out on December 2nd, and I was practically radio silent about it. There were so many weird little hitches with getting it distributed, it made me cry at times. Neither of the first two books in the series gave me this many problems. I mean, the first one was difficult, for sure, mainly because I was a publishing rookie. But for reasons beyond my control, release day came and Rise of Orion was up on Amazon and iTunes only.  It was not available though some of my favorite bookstores–Barnes & Noble, for one–and I just didn’t feel like proclaiming its existence to the four winds when the buy options were still so limited. (I appreciate Amazon for sure, but I don’t like to solely distribute through them. I love indie bookstores and smaller online retailers and I want to be a part of the book culture they propagate, even if I’m only a tiny part.) There’s always a low after the amount of adrenaline expenditure preceding a book release, and although I was extra bummed, I chocked it up to the fact that I didn’t feel it was real without the paperback in bookstores (especially since bookstore appeal was a lovely new thing I experienced with Knights of Rilch).

But maybe putting out the third book in a series was sure to be a downer, since there’s really no way to pitch it, to share about it, to be excited about it, outside of the group that has already read books one and two. There’s just nowhere to go with that indelible feeling that this is my best work yet. This is the masterpiece of my life so far. I’m damned proud of it, and yet it’s weird to even breathe a word of its plot because, without context, that produces the strangest looks.

But come on. It’s not like it’s the only 110,000 word novel I’ll ever put out. The final installment in the series will probably be that long (err, yes, there’s a fourth book). And after Serengard, I’m going to move on to new things. I’m going to write in other genres for different audiences. It’s strange to think that the manuscript I’m toiling over this very moment will someday be that little book I whisper under my breath about, “I can do so much better now!”

That’s one of the things with a series. Though I busted my butt on it, my first book is truly Rookie Me. It’s humbling every time I tentatively tell a new reader that my latest release is the third in a series and they have to start with book one. Because the now Better Writer in me winces at that less-seasoned debut and knows that it will be awhile before they get to the third, if they ever do. Pfft, they’ll never read my good stuff. They’ll never know I can do better. Oh God, where is the gin.

Or if they do…if they read Coldness and Knights and Rise…and read the fourth book…and ten years from now I’m spinning out literary historicals, will I blush awkwardly when someone mentions my foray into Epic Fantasy when I was still a twenty-something with two little kids and no one to talk to bookstore owners and work with editors but myself? Will it be real embarrassment (it shouldn’t be–I work hard, I make my own destiny), or just that touch of insecurity that every writer has deep down, that deep-seated self-doubt? It’s not like I’m not proud of my stories. I am. But I wonder how natural it is to see flaws with your past as soon as you can do something greater? Is it just me?

There are some books I am in complete awestruck euphoria over. I hug them and love them and put them on my shelf and gush over them, re-read them every Christmas break, and buy copies for all of my friends. I do this with wild abandon. I feel this way over books whose authors I’ve never met, authors who are dead, and authors who have an audience of twelve. And I always wonder if somewhere, someday, someone will feel that way about one of my books. If such a thing ever happens, you can bet I will still feel insecure. I will still have all the writerly doubt that comes with putting art out in the world. Is it possible to kill that doubt? Maybe. Would that be healthy? I don’t know. At the moment, I’m apt to think there is something good about this vulnerability. It’s what’s driving me to produce something more stunning next time, to make every novel I write more powerful than the last, to write every chapter of every story tighter, cleaner, stronger.

And that is always a good thing. I don’t even know where I was going with this, I just wanted to get it out. I may still have a touch of separation blues, but I’m glad I have another manuscript to give my full 100% to. There’s always another story. I’ll write more books. I’ll find new horizons. Maybe another series, even. (Don’t say the word “series” around me for awhile, though. Seriously.)

Rise of Orion Soundtrack and Mood Board

Rise of Orion is releasing in exactly ten days, so I thought it would be a good time to share some of the emotions of the story. For those of you who have been waiting for the playlist, here it is! Along with a mood board for extra atmosphere. Scroll down for descriptions of the songs.

Listen on Spotify | Listen online via Grooveshark | Download these songs on iTunes*

 The Mood Board



The Soundtrack

I decided not to reveal much of the story with the playlist this time because not only is it chronological, any more information would provide major spoilers. I’m just going to tell you to whom each song belongs and you can draw your own conclusions. ;)

Castle of Glass – Linkin Park
This is Mikel through and through.

Set Fire to the Rain – Alex Boye, Salt Lake Pops Orchestra (not available on Grooveshark)
Kierstaz and Mikel have a bit of a fight. There’s a lot of denial involved.

Only Hope – Mandy Moore
This is Aura’s. She’s calm in a sea of uncertainty…most of the time.

Stolen – Dashboard Confessional
Someone is in a little deep…

On Fire – Switchfoot
This is The Song With All The Feels. First verse is Aura’s, second verse is Mikel’s, the bridge is both of theirs.

The Unwinding Cable Car – Anberlin
Mostly Kierstaz’s. A little bit for each of the other characters.

Riser – Dierks Bentley (not available on Grooveshark)
There’s a reason why the Captain of the Guard is always there. This is both his and Kierstaz’s.

Sea of Lovers – Christina Perri

Strawberry Swing – Coldplay
This song always makes me think of Colstadt, but really it could belong to all of the Knights.

Running Up That Hill – Placebo
Otreya’s, Trzl’s, Malcom’s. All in the family.

Carry On My Wayward Son – Quietdrive
Mikel’s, when Trzl re-enters the scene.

Between – Courrier
“The space between the gallows and the gates…” No more need be said.

It’s Time – Imagine Dragons
Malcom has things to say.

King And Lionheart – Of Monsters And Men
Kierstaz has a sidekick…

Made For You – OneRepublic
A few eerie things. And a few good things. Mostly eerie things.

Haven – Enter The Haggis
Belongs to all the Drei. Pier especially.

Devotion – Hurts
Some things that Mikel needs to work out of his system.

Love Don’t Die – The Fray
Everyone in the story would say this in one way or another. Especially Colstadt.

Dust to Dust – The Civil Wars

Learn You Inside Out – Lifehouse
A scene with Sark that involves scars and dredging up old wounds and other such things.

Pompeii – Bastille
There’s a moment here where everything is deja vu, for every character. Nothing says it better than Pompeii.

Sing It Out – Switchfoot
Some more things Mikel needs to get out of his system.

Now We Are Free – Lisa Gerrard

*I use Spotify as a tool to find new songs and to spread around those I love via playlists. As a fellow artist, I always buy the music I enjoy so that I can keep it forever, but also so that the artist can earn a real royalty and keep making good music! Please buy music! <3

 About Rise of Orion:


After the Border Wars, Mikel Orion flees Serengard and seeks haven in the Desert of Aldad. Although he and his sister, Kierstaz, must become slaves in order to set foot inside its borders, the hot sands hold a bitter kind of peace—one he hopes to keep. But he risks destroying their newfound stability when he becomes entangled with an Aldadi girl. Aura has tragic secrets of her own, but she gives Mikel a purpose beyond his birthright, and when he leaves the Desert he carries scars that run deeper than skin.

Twelve years later, trouble brews in Serengard that threatens to pull in the Aldadi and the Drei alike. Trapped in a dungeon as the prize prisoner of Trzl—an orchestrator of the rebellion that killed his parents—Mikel is out of maneuvers. Even while Kierstaz gathers a force to attempt his rescue, Trzl transforms more and more into the hypnotic ruler she claims to loathe…and Mikel becomes convinced that peace has never been within his reach at all.

Rise of Orion is the third in the Serengard Series, sequel to Coldness of Marek and Knights of Rilch.

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Interview with Joshua Bellin, author of SURVIVAL COLONY 9

Hey Tuesday, you’re here with another book I’ve been waiting for! This one is a post-apocalyptic Young Adult novel with a serious side. The author, Joshua David Bellin, is a friend of mine, and when he agreed to an interview, I dreamed up the most random questions I could just for fun. Enjoy! And be sure to check out his novel today!

About Survival Colony 9:SC9 Cover medium

Forget the past. Fight to stay alive.

Querry Genn is in trouble.

He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he’s dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they’re here, just that they can impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.

Desperate to prove himself after the accident that stole his memory, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father. The only person he can talk to is the beautiful Korah, but even with her, he can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. And that his missing memories are at the very center of it.

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Released September 23, 2014 from Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) ISBN: 9781481403542

The Interview:

Rachel: What are some of your favorite places to write?

Joshua: For the most part I write in my home office (i.e., half of my bedroom). But depending on what I’m writing, I sometimes like to plant myself in the actual place. So, for example, I wrote the parts of one book that were set in a forest in, you guessed it, a forest. And I’m hoping to be able to reserve a room in Thoreau’s actual birth house for a project I’m planning that has to do with the New England Transcendentalists!

Rachel: Oooo, I hope to hear more about this project regarding New England Transcendentalists. Being from New England myself and fascinated by Thoreau, I’m hoping it’s fictional and thriller-ish. *bounce bounce* Okay, tell us a) something quirky about your family, b) a sad pet story, or c) your best childhood memory.

Joshua: Oh my gosh, a sad pet story! We all have them, so maybe readers will identify with mine. When I was about nine, my parents decided I was responsible enough to have my own pet, and I really wanted a lizard. At the time, anoles were super popular, so that’s what I got. Little did I know that they’re extremely difficult to keep alive in captivity. Mine refused to eat or drink, and within several days, s/he died. At which point, realizing I’d been too busy trying to save my pet to name it, I choked out to my parents, “His name is George!”
On a less pathetic note, I do think this experience taught me something about the responsibility we humans hold toward the natural world—and how we don’t and shouldn’t possess it.

Rachel: Aww, poor George! Neat that you were able to learn from it, though. :) Who are your favorite authors to read, and how do they influence your writing?

Joshua: I have so many favorites, it’s hard to name only a few. There are the classics of speculative fiction like Tolkien, Wells, and Zelazny, the college standards like Thoreau, Vonnegut, and Morrison, and the modern YA writers like Collins, Dashner, and Bacigalupi. That’s only nine names, and it doesn’t even scratch the surface—plus I discover new favorites every day! So in my case, I’ve spent a lifetime assimilating all these writers, borrowing from them, learning from them—and then, when it pours out in my own writing, it’s practically impossible for me to tell where any particular thing came from. That’s why writers need to be readers: not so you can mimic specific techniques, but so you’re immersed in language and craft all your life.

Rachel: Definitely! I see this happen with my writing a lot, too — especially because I tend to read a different genre than I’m currently writing. Speaking of genres/categories, you’re known on Twitter and Blogger as YA Guy. Can you tell me a bit about how you fell in love with Young Adult?

Joshua: I fell in love with YA years ago, when I was a pre-teen and teen. Though the genre hadn’t been named yet, many of my favorite books—Then Again, Maybe I Won’t by Judy Blume, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle, The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened by Don Robertson—would now be recognized as YA. So writing a YA book felt like a return, a coming home. The YA Guy moniker reflects that—I’m not just a guy who writes YA, I truly am a YA Guy.

Rachel: If you were a character in your favorite TV show, who would you be, and why?

Joshua: Well, my all-time favorite shows are Northern Exposure, Scrubs, Cheers, The X-Files, and Seinfeld. Choose a geeky character from any of those shows, and it’s me. (Joel from Northern Exposure, J. D. from Scrubs, all of the scientists from The X-Files, etc.) I’ve accepted my geekitude, and I’m not ashamed of it in the least. I love cartoons and monster movies, I can’t dance, and I’m completely inept in any social situation. Accept it, and move on.

Rachel: Ha, those are all of the favorites of my most beloved Language Arts teacher! *hugs you* And as far as social ineptitude, acceptance reached, geeks rule. ;) One last question: What kinds of things inspire you? Life experiences, social issues, human interaction, beautiful prose? All of the above?

Joshua: Like most people, I’m inspired by many things, whether that be a particularly meaningful encounter or a fleeting snatch of song. But deep down, what inspires me the most is the natural world. And I’m not just talking about things like the Grand Canyon; to me, the metamorphosis of a tadpole to a frog is every bit as awe-inspiring. In almost everything I’ve written—and Survival Colony 9 is no exception—the physical world is much more than backdrop: it’s what shapes my characters, tests them, haunts them. It’s a character unto itself, every bit as important as the humans who inhabit it.

Rachel: So true (about frogs–my kids and I enjoy them in the little pond just down the road from our house), and that’s truly gorgeous and beautiful (the physical world as a character), and something I wish I was better at in my writing. Thanks so much for joining me today, Josh, and happy book release!


About Joshua David Bellin:Bellin author photo

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He taught college for twenty years, wrote a bunch of books for college students, then decided to return to writing fiction. Survival Colony 9 is his first novel, but the sequel’s already in the works! Josh is represented by the fabulous Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency. Josh loves to read (mostly YA fantasy and science fiction), watch movies (again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi), and spend time in Nature (mostly catching frogs and toads). He is the self-proclaimed world’s worst singer, but plays a pretty mean air guitar. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

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Release Date Change for Rise of Orion + Giveaway

It is with some sadness but plenty of certainty that I bring you this solemn announcement:

Publication date for the third novel in the Serengard Series, Rise of Orion, is going to be pushed from the original release date of October, 2014.

The new release date is December 2nd, 2014.

Due to the unexpected length of the novel and the amount of time it took me to write it, the final product simply isn’t going to be here until then. I owe many people for keeping me sane and helping this book live and breathe, and I owe you for reading my novels and sending me tweets and emails to tell me you’re excited about the next book. I hope the wait is worth it!

The cover reveal is set for October 13th on If you’d like to read and review early, I’m accepting ARC requests via this form. Four new Trading Cards will be released with this novel, so if you’re a part of the Street Team, watch your mailbox!

In case you need something epic to read in the meantime, I’m giving away a lovely set of The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo this month. If you haven’t heard of these books, they’re Young Adult Epic Fantasy set in a world based on Russia and they’re beautiful. Nikolai will steal your heart, The Darkling will steal your soul, and I can’t say more because of spoilers. Giveaway ends September 15th, 2014 and is open to US entrants only (I’m sorry!).
Thank you for entering, thank you for being a reader, thank you for giving me a reason to write!

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway Here

About Rise of Orion:
After the border wars, Mikel Orion fled to the Desert of Aldad with his sister, Kierstaz, in an attempt to keep their family alive. But the peace he sought wasn’t to be found in the hot sands, and when he’s driven once again across the border of Serengard, he carries with him much more than battle scars.
Now, trapped inside the Fourth City of the new Empire, Mikel sifts through the lies told him about his birth, his family, and his duty to the Seren people. He always thought Trzl was one of the worst of them. But what if she is as much a pawn as he?
Full synopsis coming soon. Releases December 2, 2014.
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