There’s An Epilogue In This Freaking Book

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When I started writing about Serengard six years ago, I would have laughed if you told me it would lead here: to a four-book series, the last of which is 430 pages long, and the launch of an audiobook.

It started as a dare. At 22, I’d been writing for most of my life, but kept every one of those writings under lock and key. Friends and family would glimpse an abstract chapter here or there, but read a whole draft? Nope.

I blurted out Coldness of Marek during NaNoWriMo 2011 with the intention of finally letting people read something I had written. I wasn’t sure if I’d be posting it on WattPad, a blog, or letting a dog-eared printout circulate at Thanksgiving, but I decided I would be emotionally uninvested in the outcome enough to not care who on the planet got their hands on it.

What could possibly go wrong, if I didn’t care? Well…a local press-for-hire told me it was one of the most well-written manuscripts they’d ever had submitted, and it went to my head a bit. Cool, I can churn out good writing in my sleep? Okie dokie. Self-publish that thing, make it a paperback, I don’t care. Let everyone in the fam have a copy, I don’t care. Good reviews and bad didn’t dent me much, because I’d seen the whole investment as merely a fun jaunt.

But something happened. I was asked about the sequel. There definitely was a sequel just screaming to be written. Hey, I had fun with NaNoWriMo last year, let’s do it again!

Problem: I got invested. Almost as invested as I had been in my lock and key stories. Dammit. Now I owed myself something. Now I owed my readers something. Now I had to let the whole world in on the little secret that, yes, I can write passionately…I just like to hide it. Knights of Rilch wasn’t a story that I could relate to, or that anyone else could likely relate to, but it came from deep in my soul and carried themes dear to me. Loyalty. The friendship between a brother and sister. Tough love. Mentors. Things I couldn’t just shrug a shoulder at.

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Darci Cole, Narrator

Then came the weird and awkward task of revising Coldness of Marek to actually work within a series — a series I cared about, with a debut that I didn’t? Fun fun. The only thing to be done was to pepper in bits of story that I did care about. Deepen the villains. Hint at the many layers of the washed-up, bitter characters. Weave the two books together so they shared a bit of a bond. Saving Coldness was tricky, and it felt like making a patchwork quilt, but this was also the point in the game where I had several amazing critique partners and beta readers giving me invaluable feedback. I also found an awesome editor who helped it flow and make a bit of sense. Its second release in 2013 garnered a positive response that rather shocked me (is still shocking me!), and eventually led to the creation of the audiobook, narrated by the incredible Darci Cole.

The release of Knights of Rilch was one of the most exhilarating events of my writer life. The year it came out, 2014, I had two kids, and two books. I was doing the two things I loved the most: hugging my babies and writing. (I was also knee-deep in the online book world, which was already felt like it was changing too fast for me to keep up.)

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Knights of Rilch Review Copies

The trouble with Knights of Rilch was that it was too long. I had to split it in two, into another book. (That other book became Rise of Orion and took on a life of its own.) I poured so much effort into getting Rise out there the same year so that Knights wouldn’t be left dangling, I burned right out. I’m not sure why I pushed so hard. It wasn’t smart. I didn’t even have the morale to properly promote it.

What floored me, though, was that Rise sold even better than Knights did. (And Knights did well, for the modest expectations of the amateur self-publisher I was.) I mean, I didn’t even email my friends to tell them I had a book coming out. I forgot to inform my local bookstores that Knights had a buddy. (The day I found Rise of Orion chilling on the shelf of Bull Moose anyway made me cry. I mean…they had my author name on auto-order?) I still run into people who say, “Wait, there’s a third one?” Yeah. And…the other trouble was…I had ended the third one on a cliffhanger. There wasn’t enough space in that book, either.

At this point, I realized I’d finally dug in and created a story with characters that had long, slow arcs. I’d put a fast pace on the plot and a slow burn on the timeline. I liked it that way…maybe even loved it that way. Rise of Orion certainly didn’t contain any neat little bows. The story must go on.

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(Aside: who likes neat little bows, though?)

Blood of Ashlin was gnawing gently at my consciousness for all of 2014, while I was releasing two books and chasing two toddlers and wondering if I’d ever go to the beach again. I drafted it, revised it for a couple of years, and really, really took my time. The amount of frustration that went into it is hard to even quantify. It’s a story that’s a little too complex for me to summarize. (It’s supposed to be a summary in and of itself, actually.) It doesn’t explain everything — I don’t know that there is a way to explain what Serengard is or has become — but there’s a lot more paint on that canvas than I’ve flung at my past canvas’. And there might even be a neat little bow or two. I mean, this series is done, done. There’s an actual epilogue in that freaking book.

That brings me to today. A completed project. A series under my belt. Blood of Ashlin on the shelf next to the other three, where it belongs. Coldness of Marek beginning a new life on Audible and iTunes. I don’t know what this means for my writing career going forward, but I know I loved making this art, and I enjoyed sharing it way more than that lock-and-key-writer in me would have ever imagined.


BloodOfAshlinCoverAfter the death of notorious Seren king Altrun, Izannah Orion ascends the throne in Serengard under less than traditional circumstances. Ten years younger than she should be, and with questionable parentage, she is merely a stand-in for an heir that murdered his siblings and threatened to eclipse the kingdom in dark chaos. Against bad odds, Izannah quells unrest, forges treaties, and engenders trust where it is least expected…even in the thick-skinned, deeply scarred Captain of the Guard. more

Blood of Ashlin (Serengard, Book 4) Paperback/eBook
Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-A-MillionKindleKobo | iBooks | Nook


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Coldness of Marek Audiobook

Serengard has been under Orion rule for centuries – centuries of insufferable adherence to laws and traditions that its people no longer believe in. Raised by her scholarly grandfather in the fiery southern city of Neroi, Trzl is dedicated to turning the monarchy into a free society where knowledge is king and no one has to be subject to the whims of an Orion. more

Coldness of Marek (Serengard, Book 1) Audiobook
Amazon | AudibleiTunes

 

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Three Announcements

At last. I have things to tell you, me hearties.

I do realize this blog, my Twitter feed, and newsletter have been silent for…a long time. If you’ve left off following, I blame you not. But if you’re still reading, stay tuned, for there’s much to hear.

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FIRST ANNOUNCEMENT: New shiny thing (already announced on Twitter, but in case you missed it)… Coldness of Marek is going to be an audio book!

Darci Cole has done a masterful job reading it. If you know Darci, you may know that this is her first audiobook performance ever, and PEOPLE, YOU HAVE TO HEAR THIS. She has a silky smooth voice that truly does the story more justice than my clunky words ever did. Watch Instagram and Twitter for some teaser clips in the coming month. It will release February 26, 2018, and will be available for Audible and iTunes.

Now, since I’ve been writing it for three years, I’m sure you’re a bit tired of hearing about the fourth and final book in the Serengard series, Blood of Ashlin, but since the cover reveal is really, truly happening tomorrow (January 31st) on IceyBooks.com, it’s about time I tell you there’s an actual release date!

SECOND ANNOUNCEMENT: On February 26, 2018, the last of the Serengard Series will hit shelves.

(Same day as the audiobook of Coldness of Marek. Cool, right? You really should tune in to the cover reveal tomorrow, too, because we’ll be giving away an audiobook over there.) Blood Of Ashlin will be available at bookstores, and you can totally order it in at your local indie. Also available online at Amazon, B&N, Powell’s, etc, of course.

So basically, the entire five-year chapter of my life known as Serengard will be done. [Unless I miss it too much and have to release a collection of short stories.] OKAY, it will be over, I just had to put a caveat in there in case I have to eat my words in like ten years and write some random dark chronicle of Ric’s wanderings, you know.

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THIRD ANNOUNCEMENT: the Street Team will be officially closing.

I’ll be sending out a batch of Blood of Ashlin Trading Cards as soon as they’re available, and new bookmarks, and then it’s over. I have SO MUCH heartfelt thanks for you all, I don’t even know how to put it into words. I’ll try to, when I send out the last Street Team packages. Until then, do stay tuned. There will be a lot happening in February, including some audiobook giveaways.

Thank you for sticking with me! <3

Review of The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski + Giveaway

I don’t typically write reviews, but occasionally I come across a book that I love so very dearly that I must shout about it. I also posted this review on There and Draft Again.

 Winning what you want may cost you everything you love.
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

At the urging of many a book blogger, I pre-ordered The Winner’s Curse long before release, received the gorgeous hardcover, and somehow managed to squish in reading it. I’m typically terrible about finding the time to joy read, but HOLY COW THIS BOOK. It gripped me. I stayed up way too late and ignored friends and simply basked in this masterpiece. (Also had a happy panic attack when this happened.) I have a hundred and one things to say about it, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down to four or five. First off, the writing. I loved some of the unusual descriptions that many people wouldn’t be able to get away with. Somehow the author was able to make them totally work. Those lines that I’m always afraid are a little too ironic or a little too intense? She puts them in there, guys! And not just anywhere. They are chapter endings. THE ACTUAL ENDING, ZOMG. This is what prompted me to gush all over Twitter that I think I have a kindred spirit, to run out and buy all her other books pronto. I’m now a crazy fan, thank you very much.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten my adoration for the writing off of my chest, there’s Kestrel. I haven’t liked a main character this much in years. She’s smart and cunning, and she knows how to use her intelligence without rubbing everybody’s face in it. Her personality was realistic and deep. I loved that she didn’t go around earning respect by being as tough or attractive as others. Instead, she was very much her own person, with her own tastes and friends and qualities and weaknesses. I love a character with a passionate streak, or deeply wounded with complicated motivations, even some who are harsh and unforgiving; but I also love a character with downright sense. Kestrel is sensible while still managing to feel things deeply, and she knows how to strategize around life crap that gets thrown at her. Basically, I adore her. Arin, the Herrani slave Kestrel wins at auction at the beginning of the story (thus invoking the “Winner’s Curse”), was expertly layered in every sense. His entire race has been conquered and made slaves — and that alone is enough to justify the bitterness he shows toward his purchaser — but he’s not whiny at all, and that made me literally want to hug him. He is displeased and incensed by his circumstances, so he sets out to change them, and he does so in a smoldering cloud of awesome. The conflict between him and Kestrel was crackling, and I liked it even more than their romance. There’s nothing quite like two honorable characters, equal of mind and soul, going at each other with words [knives, swords, poison, chains…ahem].

The secondary characters do not disappoint. Kestrel’s friends, Jess and Ronan (especially Ronan); an opponent of hers, Irex; and perhaps my favorite, Kestrel’s father, a general in the Valorian army — are all interesting, complex, and real in their own right.

Oh wait, General Trajan totally deserves his own paragraph because the father/daughter relationship is so freaking flawless. Kestrel’s father sometimes seems too unemotional and commanding, yet the way his wife died gives him cause to pull away AND cause to want his daughter to be as rugged and logical as possible. Also? He treats her as an equal. So much of the Young Adult genre eloquently reflects how idiotic parents can seem to a teenager, but I LOVE that someone decided to portray a teen that is actually pretty good at putting herself in her parent’s shoes and understanding him as a person (teens can be sympathetic and observant too, y’know). Trajan, although rather emotionally challenged, does everything he can to give her equal parts privilege and responsibility. And although she finds herself disagreeing entirely with his political views, Kestrel manages to never personally betray him — which, you know, just made me <3 <3 <3 her all the more.

I love that Rutkoski doesn’t shy away from showing many sides of mortality. There are slimy characters, people we think are well-meaning who turn out to be douchy, and there are beautiful, sacrificial souls that might have seemed shallow until the surface was scratched. (I AM rather bitter that we didn’t see enough Ronan in this book. I want more Ronan.) Nothing in the story was overtly magical, and that made me love it ten times more. Kestrel’s world is layered in history and humanity instead of symbolism and supernatural powers. I’ve always been drawn toward the more realistic/historical worlds in the fantasy genre — especially when the emphasis is on the characters! — and I’ve never felt that there is enough of them. The Winner’s Curse is the first in a trilogy, so there’s more coming, YAY!

Since I want more people to read this amazing book, but I want to keep mine close to my pillow, I’m giving away a brand new hardcover, right here, right now. Be sure to follow Marie on various forms of media so you can keep track of this series. I guarantee you won’t want to miss it. Giveaway is open internationally (anywhere The Book Depository ships!). Ends 6/20/14.

Enter the Rafflecoptor Giveaway

Buy the Book

Marie Rutkoski is the author of the YA novel The Shadow Society and the children’s fantasy series The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders, The Celestial Globe and The Jewel of the Kalderash. Her next project is a YA trilogy that begins with The Winner’s Curse, the first of which was published in March 2014. Marie grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She holds a BA from the University of Iowa and a PhD from Harvard University. Marie is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and fiction writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

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Sophomore Baby: Knights of Rilch (Serengard #2)

Today on the Knights of Rilch Release Day Blitz:
Interview on E.M. Castellan
Deleted Scene on Young Adult Guy
“Darth Vader and the Knights of Rilch” Review at My Random Muse
Review at Darci Cole’s Blog
Review at Amanda Shayne’s Sort-Of-Blog
Review at The Bearded Scribe 

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Today my second book baby goes out into the world to become its own grown-up self!

Throughout all of the excitement of this day, I was overcome with one major feeling: I am so very, very grateful. Being able to publish and share my stories has always been my dream, and to do it well takes a huge amount of hard work. I’ve been blessed to have the best critique partners and editor a person could ask for, as well as supportive friends, betas, and proofreaders who were always willing to read when I needed them.

The Serengard Series started as a sort of fling with fantasy for me, and then it became much more than that. I’ve had my writer fingertips bleed with angst over these novels, the pages hacked up time and again, and finally produced something I’m truly proud of. With Coldness of Marek, it was a heavy, frightening leap. I was scared out of my wits, but I did it. With Knights of Rilch, I’m ecstatic. I know this book is the strongest thing I can write at this point in my life, and that makes me confident and pleased to put it out there.

Everyone who helped produce it, everyone who buys it, everyone who reads it, thank you. Truly.

Available from these booksellers:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

{ Order signed from Author (US) }
{ Order signed from Author (International) }

{ Add to Goodreads }

Nearly a decade ago…Final_WebVersion

When Serengard rebelled and the Orion monarchy fell, former crown princess Kierstaz Orion’s love for her people became a burning desire to set things right. With a price on their heads, Kierstaz and her brother Mikel led a handful of men against the new army, fighting skirmishes all along the border of Dreibourge. But months of heavy bloodshed forced her small band of knights to abandon the border—and all of Serengard—to the rebels.

Nine years and a thousand betrayals later…

Kierstaz and Mikel again find themselves on the run—only this time, they’ve a boy in tow: Malcom, the son of two of the Seren rebellion’s strongest leaders. The new regime wants him dead, Mikel wants him alive, and it’s all Kierstaz can do to keep their tracks covered. Desperate to preserve the innocent life she swore to protect and the brother who has always stood by her, Kierstaz must gamble the last thing in the world she owns: her identity. Secrets are a staple of the Orion family, and those Kierstaz keeps are as dangerous as the ones kept from her.

KNIGHTS OF RILCH is the sequel to COLDNESS OF MAREK, and the second book in the SERENGARD Series.