A Sad But Hopeful Announcement

Hello friends! 
Many of you may have noticed that The Order of the Key…well, it isn’t out yet. There are many reasons for that, some of which I take the blame for and some of which involved circumstances beyond my control. All of which lead me to today’s announcement. 
As of yesterday, I have ended my contract and my working relationship with Fantasy Works Publishing. It’s a very long story, as all of the really good ones are. But at the end of the day, FWP and I disagreed about the direction of my series and in the end, I had to stick by my vision for the art. 

That is not to say I don’t owe FWP and its staff and authors a huge debt, or that we end on bad terms. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the owner, the staff and the authors, and I will always be here helping to promote them. The books they produce are great books and my book is much better for knowing them. 

However, as Vince Lombardi said, “The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” So, I’m rising. In the coming month, I will be tidying up the latest version of Order and putting it out there again. I’m excited about the road ahead. 

I hope to have good news for you all soon. Thanks as always for standing by me in this journey. Onto the next open door.

Justine

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Author Spotlight: Ismael Manzano

It’s funny. I do these author spotlights every now and then, and while the writers involved are often my friends, I have never done something like this for a person I know better than I know myself, about a book I read in its nascent stages, a story I’d heard about for years in various possible incarnations before it became what it is today. But here I am. My author spotlight today is for my husband, Ismael Manzano, and his novel, Soulless.

Now, below you will find a whole lot of press release type information, and I want you to read it and enjoy it, because it’s good stuff. But before I even get to that, I want to tell you the truth about this book.

I love this book. And not just because it’s my husband’s book. The story is imaginative, and I connected with the characters immediately, particularly the main character, Charlotte. Learning about this world through her eyes has been an exhilarating experience.

But more importantly, I love the writing, the way he weaves words together and takes you on a ride with them. I speak a lot about writing on this blog, but I rarely point out this fact – I am only a writer because I was inspired by Ismael. He not only told me I could, but he challenged me, and he showed me what dedication to the craft looked like, and without him I’d probably still be auditioning for acting jobs with my own stories dancing in my head. I got very lucky. I got to marry my favorite author. And I’m so very pleased to help create some of the fanfare surrounding this book.

So, without further ado, here’s a little about Ismael, and a little about Soulless.


Available Today!

Soulless
by Ismael Manzano

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Synopsis:

The devil’s not the only one buying souls; both sides need bodies to fight their war, and both have something to offer in return. Nearly anything is possible, if you are the type of soul they’re looking for. Charlotte Furio learns this the hard way, when a spirited and mysterious woman named Trisha follows her home one night and gives her ailing father a simple choice: a healthy body for his immortal soul.

His decision introduces Charlotte to the world of soul brokering, and Charlotte is not only drawn to it, but finds she has a knack for it. Having lived the last decade of her life with only one purpose—to care for her increasingly disabled father—Charlotte sees this as her chance to give direction and meaning to her own life, and the lives of other people. To help them as Trisha had helped her father.

This mission is quickly derailed when Charlotte is framed for the murder of one of the brokers’ leaders. Where she once had only one purpose, now Charlotte has two: get her father’s soul back and find a way to prove her innocence before it’s too late.

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Excerpt:

I walked around the car so I could jump into the passenger’s seat, waited for the crowd to thin and calmly—barely holding onto my senses—asked for the knapsack. It weighed nothing, but when I opened it, I found a parchment resting peacefully and eagerly inside of it. The full moon was out, and the sky was cloudless and unobtrusive, so when the pale, silvery light touched the papyrus, it was not reflected but enhanced. Trisha started the engine, and put the convertible’s top up to block the moonlight, then adjusted her mirror. Her face glowed nearly as bright as the papyrus.

The windows were tinted so I felt safe removing the parchment completely from the bag. The second my hand touched it, I felt a rush of something inexplicable, like a jolt of pleasurable lightning traipsing through my nerves and extending outward to the world at large. At first, I thought Trisha had pulled out a taser gun and had shocked me, but nothing hurt. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to enjoy the strangeness of the sensation. Shivers passed through me randomly, tingles that lit my skin. Without knowing how, I knew those shivers were my body’s reaction to people passing alongside the car. It was as if I was connected to the air through which they moved. I heard the wind pushing through the desiccated leaves still clinging to their branches, and it sounded like water rushing around a brook. The smells of the city, even through the confinement of the car, assailed my nostrils as if someone had bottled it up and threw it—concentrated—into my lap.

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PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon | Smashwords | Nook | Kobo

Author Bio:

Ismael_Head shotIsmael Manzano was born and raised in New York City, and has lived his entire life in the Bronx, first with his parents, and then with his lovely and talented wife, Justine, and now with their kinetic maelstrom of a child, Logan.

Ismael is an avid reader of fantasy books, and knew at an early age that he wanted to be a writer. He worked his entire life to hone his craft to achieve the goal of removing the prefix, ‘aspiring,’ from his title, and referring to himself as a writer.

He has written many reviews and social commentaries for the web magazine, G-pop.net. Recently, Ismael has found success publishing his short stories, Playing in Shadows, at This Dark Matter and Cold, published in July 2015, at Grey Matter. In 2015, Fantasy Works Publishing signed his Urban Fantasy series, Soul Broker.

Ismael loves watching historical documentaries and listening to audio lectures about Medieval England, Ancient Rome, and Egypt. He considers himself an amateur historian, and has never met a BBC historical drama he didn’t like. One of his favorite things to do is to watch shows like the Tudors and movies like Elizabeth, and try to pick out the discrepancies between fact and fiction. He also hopes to one day solve a Rubix Cube puzzle, but that dream, sadly, seems to be the greatest fantasy of them all.

Website: IsmaelManzano.com

Twitter: @IsmaelManzano76

Facebook: Ismael Manzano – Author

 

Author Spotlight: Ross Smeltzer

For my first Author Spotlight of 2016, I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, Ross Smeltzer, a talented Dark Fantasy writer, whose collection of novellas, The Mark of the Shadow Grove, will be the first release from Fantasy Works Publishing, available January 15th. Pre-order now at the links listed below.

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Synopsis: Daughters of the gathering dusk and students of blackest spellcraft, the women of the Schermerhorn clan are enigmas made flesh. Seers for time immemorial, they are keepers of primeval knowledge.

They are wise in the ways of the Old Religion.

And they are destroyers of men.

Do the women of the Schermerhorn clan drive the men they encounter to their destruction? Or are their actions governed by specters on the periphery of human consciousness?

The Schermerhorn women will soon learn what dwells in the oldest books and what lurks in the flickering shadows beyond the candlelight.

Excerpt:

I saw her close to the fire. I approached her. Instinct—animal’s blood—controlled my fatigued limbs and I felt no fear, though the flames blazed high and the hilltop was forlorn; the night was black as deep water . . . She turned and approached me. “There are no masters here. Only you and me,” she said.

 

PURCHASE LINKS:

Fantasy Works Publishing        |           Amazon           |           Smashwords

 

Head Shot_Ross

 

Author Bio: Raised in Chatham, New York, a small town in the Berkshires that looks like the setting for a Washington Irving story, Ross grew up surrounded by overgrown woodlands and tumbled-down, derelict farmhouses. He grew up with an awareness that the past was omnipresent, a slyly pervasive power and a subtle influence on the present.

Ross now lives in Dallas, Texas with his patient and endlessly supportive wife, a hopelessly brainless terrier, and an alarmingly unhinged cat. Ross works as a social studies teacher but writes fiction whenever he gets a chance. Sadly, he seems capable only of crafting stories of the weirdest kind. His imagination—apparently corrupted in adolescence by Hawthorne, Bierce, Machen, Lovecraft, and assorted other misanthropes, weirdos, and purveyors of high strangeness—can only manufacture demented little yarns.

Ross’s fiction has appeared repeatedly in Bewildering Stories magazine, Quantum Fairy Tales, and Enchanted Conversation, an online fairy tale magazine.

Find Ross here:

Website: http://fantasyworkspublishing.com/ross-smeltzer.html

Twitter: @RossTellsTales

2015 Year in Review, Dancing into 2016

Hi all!

So I know I’ve been kind of absent this month, and mostly that was just me being the usual speed-of-light blur that I’m known for. Post NaNoWriMo, I had a ton of work to make up for in daily life, so I ran through that and have just now come down from the big spin. But, now that Christmas is done (Happy Holidays!), my 33rd birthday is here (Happy Birthday to me!) and 2016 is on the horizon (Happy New Year!), I always like to take a minute and look at how much things have changed in a year.

Highlights of 2015

  • IMG_2318I signed a contract for my series! So, things may be a bit delayed from my original August release, but that’s because I switched publishing companies in the middle of the process. It was a difficult but necessary decision to make, and while it set things back a little, The Order of the Key is still going strong and will be on bookshelves and hopefully chilling in your e-reader in 2016. So, stick with me. 2016 is going to be a banner year! I am also over halfway through writing Book 2, so things for the Keys and Guardians series are going well and moving right along.
  • Speaking of which, if we’re going with firsts, this is the first time I’ve ever edited a manuscript for a publisher, and it has been insane. Bang your head into the wall, pull your hair out of your head, angst-ridden crazy, but we’re about halfway through the muck, and the product has been incredible. I’m in love with what we’ve done so far, and damn…my editor is right when she’s right, you know?
  • lastcover1My husband, Ismael, signed his book series! Fans of the blog know just how invested I am in my husband’s work (we work as a team, are each other’s first editors, and brainstorm out most of our work together). Obviously, he is more excited than I am, but I am still over the moon! Soulless, Book 1 of the Soul Broker series, is in final edits and due out early in 2016. Life just got very different for both of us, as I’m sure you know.

 

  • Logan is kicking butt at First Grade and has decided he wants to be a writer too. We’re not expecting anything, but he’s pretty angry he can’t publish a book now, because Mommy and Daddy are, so why not? One day, kid. Or maybe not. You decide.
  • Once we both got picked up for series with Fantasy Works Publishing, I also took a job with them, and I’ve been having a grand time with my newfound duties. I’ve been working in acquisitions, as a content editor, and I’m about to strike out in a new branch – I will be running the soon-to-open audiobook branch of the company. So keep an eye open for that. You can get an idea of all of the wonderful things FWP has to offer at http://www.fantasyworkspublishing.com
  • Lastcover I mentioned my content editing above, and I’d like to introduce you to the book I’ve been editing. If you like horror and dark fantasy, you will love following the twists and turns of Gage Greenwood’s first novel, In the Eyes, In the Shadows. We’ve been having a great time working on his novel, he is extremely talented, and a breeze to work with. I know you all will fall in love with his book just like I did, so follow him for news on its release. You’ll be seeing it in 2016 as well.

What’s New in 2016

  • Aside from all the release dates and pending projects? Well, I’m still writing Book 2 of the Keys and Guardians series, The Lost Key, and I’m also going to try to shop out my last remaining short story, One Headlight. It’s been a busy year, and I let that one fall by the wayside. Either way, with book signings and marketing on the horizon, I have a good feeling that 2016 will have a crazier and much longer list of highlights than this year.

Alright guys, that’s what’s up with me! How is everything with you? Post below so I can get a look at what everyone has been up to and what is to come!

Thankful

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I know I’m a bit late, but I hope all of my American friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I figured I’d write a little something about the things I’m thankful for this year. It’s been such a strange year. Sad in some places, but incredibly happy in others.

We lost my Grandmother this year, in April. But I’m thankful because I spent 32 years of my life with her in it. She was an incredibly strong woman, and she was very funny, and she is the matriarch of the Minners (my maiden name) family. She had three sons, two daughters, and a collection of zany grandchildren, great grandchildren, and in-laws from all over that map that she was very, very proud of.

I am thankful for the way our family bands together in times of sadness and I am thankful for a re-established relationship with some of my cousins, who I’d spoken to on Facebook, but I hadn’t spoken to in real life in years. I’m thankful for the way two cousins who live across the country from each other can discover all kinds of similarities and form a unique and close bond. I am thankful for positive family connections of all kinds.

I am thankful for new traditions and extra time spent with my parents and my in-laws. I’ve loved getting to know each of you better and better.

I am thankful for blood siblings, siblings through marriage, adopted siblings, all of whom are my best friends. I couldn’t get by without them. Melissa, Jon, Megan, Dorothy, Kristy, Julian, Joy, Allegra, Fruhmann, Frank, Jennine, Anthony, and Marissa.

I am thankful for nieces and nephews, both real and adopted – Genaro, Kaitlyn, and Angelica – every accomplishment is a joy to watch, even when it must sometimes be from afar.

I am thankful for the ability to move away from toxicity in my life, and for the opportunity to find myself and pull myself free from many of the doubts and fears holding me back in life.

I am thankful for the career success that Ismael, Megan, and I have all enjoyed in 2015.

I am thankful for the Fantasy Works Publishing team, who are working so hard to give birth to my first novel, Ismael’s first novel, and a host of others. I am so grateful to be a part of this team and to count them as my friends. I am thankful for the FWP writers as well. I can’t wait to help them all share their stories with the world.

To my day job and all of my bosses and friends there, who make my day-to-day bearable.

I’m thankful for an amazing set of really great friends. I have been very lucky.

I am thankful for good food, a roof over my head, for good jobs, for a good life.

And, most of all, obviously, I am thankful for my guys, Ismael and Logan, who deal with my general insanity on a regular basis and love me despite it. They keep me in check and remind me regularly why I do all of this, and what kind of person I want to be. Seriously, the best husband and child I could ever ask for – perfect for me in every way.

And I am thankful daily for all of you. Everyone who reads my blog, all of the writing contacts I have made, and for the great online friends I have made in this way. Thank you all for being incredible.

I hope you had a wonderful day, and I hope you have a great holiday season.

Love to you all,
Justine

 

Four Common Misconceptions About NaNoWriMo

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-Square.jpgHey all! I’ve been a little absent from blog posts this month, and here’s why! I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo, where I am working on Book 2 of the Keys and Guardians series, The Lost Key! To learn more about NaNo, keep reading. I’ll be back to a more regular posting schedule in December. 

As I am writing this blog, it is November 23rd and I have written 35,645 words toward my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words in a month. In case you don’t know, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo is an event in which every November, people try their damnedest to write a novel in 30 days. Every year, over 300,000 participants sign up. It’s not easy, but it is possible. At my current word count, I am just a little behind, but still keeping a good pace to finish the 50,000 in time. But many people don’t like the idea of NaNoWriMo. There are reasons for and against, but today I’m here to discuss what I consider to be misconceptions about the event.

The rush for a word count wins out over creatively good books. Here’s the thing. A ton of the people who join up for Nano have never written a book before in their lives, and they are certainly not writers. For them, this is a fun mission, a chance to try something they’ve never tried before. Maybe some of these people will find out they’re writers. Maybe some of them will write one sentence over and over again, and it will be about cheese. This won’t harm anyone, unless Madame Gouda decides to publish her magnum opus on the wondrous dairy product.

For writers, however, Nano is capable of teaching us another lesson. How to create a habit. It won’t make us any more or less creative. If we’re practicing writers, the hope is that we already have that tool, and if we don’t there may be no saving us. What it does teach, instead, is to write a certain amount every day, consistently. It teaches to shut down the voice in our heads that tells us to stop. We can’t slow down because something in the back of our minds says this idea might be stupid. We have to push through it because we have a word count. We’ll fix it later. And it teaches us to think outside of the box to make our plot, even the less well thought out parts, work.

NaNoWriMo creates terrible books. Maybe. NaNoWriMo probably creates terrible first drafts for some. But first drafts are not and never have been books. And if you think your first draft is publishable…I probably don’t want to read it. The Order of the Key is coming out in early 2016. I don’t even know how many drafts I did of The Order of the Key. I literally lost count. I know it’s more than five. More than five. And that was before my editor even got it. So, yes, if you’re handing in your first draft, it’s probably terrible…but you don’t get a seventh draft unless you’ve gotten a first draft down. Nano is good for that.

50,000 words is barely a book, so you don’t write a novel in a month. Well, for one thing, 50,000 words can make one hell of a first draft. Last year, one of my best friends, Louis Santiago, wrote an amazing novel in 50,000 words. Did it need development and a little expansion? Sure. But it was a damn good start. But most people will take a little more than 50,000 words to write a full novel.

It may take you another month to finish the other 30,000 words that might be in your novel. It might take you another year or two of editing. That’s okay. The point is to motivate you to create, not to motivate you to create a document ready to be sent to the printer for publication. You’ll get there. But nobody should expect it to be this month.

Nobody is buying as many books as are made regularly, so there’s no place for your stupid book idea. I read this article back in 2010 when it was published. It is still circulating, and it still pisses me off. This is a stupid article. Why? Because it determines that there is a finite amount of creativity allowed in the world, and if you discover some long hidden talent, then you’re wasting the space of so-called REAL artists who already knew about their talent. You’re knocking true writers off the bookshelves.

WRONG. NO WAY. There will always be plenty of space out there for you and other people to write books. Your book will be unique. And even if it’s not – even if you’re book is literally Twilight with witches and mermaids instead of vampires and werewolves, what difference does it make?Creation can be for others to observe, or it can be for the creator. We are allowed to tap into our creativity in whatever way we choose.

So, if you want to write a novel during NaNoWriMo, write one. If you don’t, don’t. But definitely don’t let yourself become swayed by these misconceptions. Now…maybe I should go back to writing my novel. Until next time!

 

I HAVE A BOOK COVER, EVERYBODY!

You guys, I am SO excited. I have just received the final version of my book cover! Created by Tiffany Heiser, Graphic Artist at Fantasy Works Publishing, here, without further ado, is the cover of The Order of the Key.

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Please check out Tiffany’s website and facebook page for more about her art. For a reminder about what The Order of the Key is about, see the blurb below:

Jacklyn Madison has a thing for heroes. She reads about them, watches them on TV, and would very much like to become one. When a mysterious beast makes an attempt on her life, she discovers she is a hero—the long lost member of The Order of the Key, a group of humans with unique gifts that protect humanity from creatures that come through inter-dimensional rifts.

It’s all fun and games until training reveals the Order’s out-of-touch views—Keys like Jacklyn are protected, while Guardians like the rest of her family are considered expendable. As she rails against their value system, she finds herself in the center of a power struggle between the group’s leader, Lavinia, and her idealistic son, Kyp. Believing Lavinia to be engaged in hidden criminal activity, Kyp spearheads a secret effort to overthrow the leadership of the Order, and Jacklyn quickly signs on.

As Kyp’s efforts to protect his team from his unpredictable mother entangle them in a mire of danger and deceit, Jacklyn must find a way to keep the people she loves safe—from those the Order was chosen to fight, and those operating within.

So that’s my big announcement! Stay tuned for more info, soon!