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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Book 5 snippet

It's almost Halloween...and that puts me in a good mood! I wanted to share a little snippet of The Djinn Kingdom Book 5 this morning! Set to release on....December 1.

Now, keep in mind this has not been edited, but I thought it would be fun because I'm having a blast wrapping up this series. This is the final book and it will have my own "battle of Hogwarts" so you know it's going to be epic.

P.S. This is a copyrighted work with the library of congress. Please don't steal it, copy it, or use it for anything other than a book review or social media share with proper site/author credit.

Mount of Gods snippet:

“Everyone take hold,” Atlas cried out, but she ignored his command pushing through the sea of people, the dark anger for the brothers’ influence growing like a lead weight in her chest.

“Make ready your positions for crossing,” came her father’s louder command.

Everyone on deck, ducked, or stood, clutching onto corners, rails, rigging, or notches cut out in the deck flooring.

“Kale,” Nova called, rushing toward him.

He turned toward her, hanging tightly to the back rail. His face was still stony and angry, until he saw her. “Nova! Hang on!” He shouted, his expression filled with desperation as he tried to reach out.

But it was too late, with a strong pitch the ship rolled onto its side as it flashed through the dark Unknown through a vibrant white tunnel. Nova thought she screamed as she tumbled across the bow, away from Kale.

The light was blinding, and the pressure was suffocating. As if someone were stoking a blaring fire the wind blew hot against her face as she grappled for anything to catch before she fell to her death over the rail.

The dark wooden barrier came closer, looming toward her like a silent reaper as her hands continually came up empty. As she was about to topple over the edge into the pressurized, hot tunnel her shoulder jolted with a painful lurch.

Nova’s feet had slid through the rail spokes and dangled precariously over the edge. Frantically she reached her other hand up to grab onto what had stopped her. Her eyes met Kale’s as he was stretched across the deck, one hand clutching her, while the other held tightly to the back rail. His knuckles were white, and his face was twisted with exertion.

“Hang on,” he shouted, as the pressure seemed to be closing in tighter around the ship.

Nova grasped his hand with both of hers, her throat tight from screaming, but the humid, hot air made it difficult to breathe. “Don’t let go,” she begged desperately, as the strain pulled her closer to the edge.

“I won’t,” he promised through clenched teeth.

“Kale, I’m slipping!”

“I’ve got you,” he cried. “Don’t you dare, Nova, you hang on.”

“Kale!” she screamed as her fingers began sliding from his sweaty palm. The ship tilted more, causing more people to cry out as it became more difficult to hang on to the ship.

“Kale!” she cried again as her grip slid from his.

His terror-filled eyes were the last thing she saw, as she slid down the bow’s deck, slamming hard against the rail before tumbling over the side. Hitting the ground wasn’t what concerned her most, it would be a quick death. It was the painful fall. The air burned her skin. As the wind whipped around her, it seemed so heavy and thick, it was practically solid. Tears spilled out of the corners of her eyes as she gained speed. In her mind the dark power frantically burned through her blood, tingling every inch of her skin. This was not her fate. This was not how it was supposed to end.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Self-publishing

Hello, to new visitors, I'm LJ Andrews. Mom of four little kids by day, teen fantasy author by night (and super early morning).

I'm an Indie author. **audible gasp**

What does it mean to be an Indie author?

Does it mean my books actually suck because no "real" publisher is publishing them?

Does it mean I just threw a book together and published it on Amazon without a second thought?

Does it mean I'm rollin' in the dough because I cut out like ten middle men with my royalties?

Uh...well maybe I can answer a few of those questions and really talk about self-publishing.

Do my books suck?

No. Flat out no. Yes, I'm the author, but trust me I still would say they don't suck even if I was a reader. I don't mean that arrogantly, so bear with me. As I was writing them...I thought they sucked. When I finished them...I thought they sucked. Because, I wrote them.

I don't know an author who doesn't at some point go through some level of self-doubt. But we do our best to edit them, have a professional edit them, have early readers, and do a final read through. By the end of it all--no I don't believe my books suck. The reviews tell me my books don't suck.

Let me clear up this common misconception that people only self-publish because they "couldn't" get a traditional contract. I suppose it could be true for a few people, but most of the authors I know are either Hybrid authors (both indie and traditional), trying to buy their books back from their publishers, or they chose to self-publish because they want control of the books, marketing plan, and royalties.

I was one of the latter. I wouldn't turn down the right traditional contract, but I haven't found it yet. I was offered a contract by a company about 12 months ago. I stalked some of their books, and you know what, their books were ranked in the millions, while my first book had ranked out in the low 1000's. (that is good by the way, the lower the number the more you're selling). So, although they were a publisher, they obviously didn't put in the marketing I wanted.

Many Indie's prefer to be self-published. It doesn't mean they aren't good enough. The Martian was originally self-pubbed, as was 50 Shades. Just some food for thought.

Again, if the right offer came around I wouldn't say no to a publisher, especially on subsidiary rights like audio books.

Does self-publishing mean I just wrote something and threw it together? 

Again, no. And again, perhaps some people do this and it's a shame. I write like a mad-woman to finish a book. I wake up early, write during nap time for the kiddos, and stay up at night writing. My first book took me four years. I'm now at the point I can write a book in about 6 weeks if I really push it.

Then what? Well, for me I have to format it (my absolute least favorite thing to reason I'd take a publisher if they ever come along.) Then I self-edit. Then I send it to my professional editor. Then I read through those edits, and self-edit again. Then I add all the necessary links for the eBook. Then I format the print book. Of course this is after I've paid for the amazing cover design. Then I send it to my advanced reader team and sit anxiously as I await their reviews and feedback. Then I launch the dang thing. By this point I usually hate my book :)

All of this is out of my own pocket, and my own time. So after all is said and done, if everything goes according to plan I can release a book every 8-10 weeks. So, it takes a lot of work to release the books especially when I am in charge of building buzz and excitement so hopefully it doesn't flop on launch. I'm in charge of all the promotions and ads.  A lot of thought goes into my books, and a lot of effort. And you know what...they still aren't perfect, but each book is absolutely my best work. Nothing less for my readers.

**I apologize to readers of books who have read someone who has thrown a book up there without a second thought. It gives hard-working Indie's a bad name.**

So since I work so stinking hard, and have neglected my laundry for so long I must be bringing in the money and cruising in a brand new Mercedes right? Well, I know some people who are and they are my inspiration.

I can't complain really. I've been at this gig for a little over a year and I'm making what I make at my day job. I use half my money for all those previously named expenses, but thank goodness I can break even and then some. Many indies struggle for years and make a few bucks a month, and more power to them for holding on.

It's a very difficult game to learn how to market. As an independent author you have to write fast, and spend money to make money. Some people hit it big with two or three books, I wasn't one of them. Thought,  I am very fortunate I started making money right away.

My first month published I made $21. My second month I made $210. Now, over a year later I am hitting four figures. My goal is be high four figures in the coming months...and it is an uphill battle trying to get there.

It is still possible to make money as a self-published author, but there isn't a magic button. There is ample advice, and it's all different. So, I will say what I've learned is test different methods. Spend money on your covers, spend money on your editing. Take a few lessons in copy-writing for your ads to make them awesome. But most importantly is keep writing. Write series. Have confidence in your product. There are readers out there who will love it. And there are those who will hate it. You must have thick skin and keep going if you want to be a full-time author.

I am still learning, and I am so grateful for the support from readers. Without you I wouldn't be making a penny. I can't express how much it means to my family and I that you buy my books, and hopefully enjoy them.

It is awesome being an author and controlling my destiny. I can take it wherever I want to go, if I choose to work hard. But it can be ugly sometimes. It can be really ugly. But its worth it if people enjoy my stories and if I'm able to brighten someone's day a little bit more. 

If you're thinking of self-publishing I would recommend some courses:

Your first 10K readers, by Nick Stephenson

Kindlepreneur courses

I hope this was helpful and educational.

My goal is to get the idea self-published authors aren't real authors out of the minds of readers. Self-published authors work just as hard, if not a little harder because we do the work of the publisher too.

Live the life you want to live and dream big. That's what I think!

Keep reading,


Monday, March 20, 2017

It's Launch time!

Pirate's Vengeance is live! For the next 48 hours it is only $0.99! Grab your copy HERE!

Launi Kingdom is built on floating islands, full of wonderful adventures for eighteen year-old Nova. But when her father is kidnapped by sky pirates, her carefree days are over.
Armed with her father’s leather bag, an old pirate seal, and a mysterious jeweled dagger found in the wall of her home, Nova sets out disguised as a boy to find the legendary Captain Phoenix. Only a man such as him could bargain for her father’s safe return.
But before she can reach Captain Phoenix her ship is attacked by pirates, and Nova is forced to join the crew or die. Now she must survive the riotous crew for her father’s sake. Soon she finds there is something more to the jeweled dagger⸺ and herself. Something dangerous.
Nova must unravel her family’s secrets before the dark power overtakes her, or her father will be lost forever and she’ll become what she fears most. A pirate.
Grab your digital book right now! Here is the link:

Just to add a little bit of fun I am doing a paperback giveaway!
3 people will win a signed copy of Pirate's Vengeance! Want a shot at your free book click below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But there is also a short story that is now live! Pirate's Atlas! It's only a buck too! Grab your copy here:

So much fun going on today! I am so grateful for all the support I've had! Thank you to you, wonderful reader!

Enjoy your books, and enter the giveaway. Please let me know if you have any trouble entering--I can help.

All the best,

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pirate's Vengeance Chapter 2

One more week! Then the entire book will be available for your reading pleasure. Here is chapter 2, when all the fun happens. I hope you enjoy!


Nova whined, “I look ridiculous, Mother.” She studied her reflection as she spun around in front of the double mirror in her small bedroom.
“You look beautiful,” Kamali insisted as she held the purple fabric between her thumb and index finger. “It fits perfectly. Now let’s do up your hair.”

Nova rolled her eyes. “Mother, nothing you do with it ever keeps. My hair will be undone by the afternoon.”
“Well, we might as well try.” Kamali smiled and began pinning the wavy blonde pieces up on her head.

Nova watched her mother. Her eyes looked tired, but she smiled as she worked on her hair. Kamali was going on as if she and Varick hadn’t been up late talking. Nova wanted to ask what her father was afraid of, but every time she tried, the words stuck in her throat.

The morning had come and both of them greeted her brightly with birthday wishes as if nothing was wrong, but Nova sensed the mysterious tension building.

“Do I really have to go out in this?” Nova complained once her mother had finished.

“The Carters are very kind to offer their home for your birthday celebration. The least we can do is dress our best,” Kamali answered kindly. “Oh, Nova, don’t forget your tea.”
Kamali placed the fine china cup in front of her and Nova wrinkled her nose. “How about for my gift this year, I don’t drink the tea?”

Kamali narrowed her eyes and shook her head. “Drink.”

Nova sighed and sipped the brown tea her mother had been insisting she drink for the last four years.

“This can’t be healthy,” Nova said grimacing as she gulped the tea in one go.
“Your physician would disagree. Growing young women need nutrients and this has them all.”

Her father pushed through the door. He was dressed in a white pressed shirt with fresh gray pants. His face was clean shaven, and his thick muscles were accentuated in his fine clothes instead of hidden beneath his heavy work suits.
“Are you ladies primped and ready?” He chuckled, winking at Nova.

Kamali curtsied playfully in her teal and gold gown. Her dark hair was pinned in soft curls, with a blue pearl necklace resting along her thin neck. Nova often found herself marveling at her mother’s beauty. Kamali was a wonder, both on the outside and inside, despite forcing dresses upon her.
“Unfortunately,” Nova answered, but smiled.

Kamali sighed. “Just once I’d love to have my daughter behave like the beautiful young woman she is.”
“I don’t think your wish will come true, Mother. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” Nova answered, lifting her shoulders.

“I figured. Well, let’s be on our way,” Kamali said. She linked arms with Varick and they made their way toward Dria’s manor.
The Carters were plump and jovial people. Mr. Carter was the foreman of a sun mango plantation. The rare fruit was difficult to grow because their island bobbed closer to the sun than other islands and often dried the crops, but Dria’s father had designed custom shades and created a way to grow the succulent fruit. He had made a fortune trading to distant islands that were much too cool to even dream of such a treat.

“Welcome, welcome,” Mrs. Carter said once the doorman had ushered them in. She shuffled toward them, and her red dress rustled along the polished marble. Nova was immediately pulled into a tight hug while Mrs. Carter squealed in excitement. “Oh, it’s so wonderful to have you celebrate your birthday with us, my dear.”
“Thank you for welcoming us into your home,” Kamali said, taking Mrs. Carter’s hand in hers.

“Nova, dear, go join your friends in the dining hall. Supper will be served shortly.”

Nova bowed her head slightly and rushed away from the two women until she found Dria and Jovany catapulting ice chips on their spoons toward the manservant standing at attention against the wall.
Jovany muffled a laugh when one chip hit the servant in the center of the forehead, earning him a steely glare, but the man didn’t budge.

“You two are terrible,” Nova said, glancing at the servant before plopping onto the seat next to Dria.

“There she is,” said Jovany, standing and bowing dramatically at her feet. “Happiest of birthdays, milady”
Dria snorted as she held her laugh behind her hand and averted her eyes from her father’s disapproving stare.

“Get up,” Nova insisted, feeling her face flush with the heat of embarrassment. Jovany stood, chuckling until he sat next to Dria again.
“Oh, my parents have turned your birthday into a drab adult gathering,” Dria admitted. “We were just trying to have some fun.”

Nova spent several minutes laughing and joking with her friends, until they again began catapulting chips at unsuspecting guests. She scanned the room and saw her father and mother across the hall. They seemed deep in discussion and Nova watched her mother’s beautiful face turn up with worry. Her heart pranced with curiosity. Something was wrong, but she knew she’d have to find out on her own. Her parents would never tell her the truth.

The tinkling of silver on glass drew her attention away from her parents. Purple-faced Mr. Carter smiled widely in the front of the room, causing his skin to fold over his collar, creating the illusion he didn’t have a neck. The room mumbled to a silence as the guests took their seats at the long mahogany dining table.
“I would like to thank you all for joining us on this special occasion to celebrate a remarkable young woman who has become like a second daughter to my wife and me.” Nova blushed at the sentiment, but inside she enjoyed the praise. “As is customary, before we begin our feast, we invite Mr. Willock to come and say some short words about his daughter on this special day.”

A small applause rippled along the dining room as Nova watched her father stride to the front of the crowd.
“He looks nervous,” Dria whispered.

“He hates being the center of attention. I’m sure he’d rather do anything than this,” she answered back.
Varick cleared his throat and looked at the crowd. “Well, first, thank you to the Carters for hosting Nova’s birthday celebration. The tradition of friends celebrating other friends’ children is one of my favorite on this island,” he began shakily. “It means there are good people looking out for our children when we can’t always be there.”

Varick turned and met Nova’s eye. His expression was somber and serious, and Nova felt a shiver run up her spine from a sudden blast of anxiety. “I want my daughter to know how proud I am of her abilities and talents. I hope she never forgets the lessons she’s been taught and never doubts her strengths. You have more power in you, Nova, than you know. And I know everyone says this during these speeches, but I may not always be around. So, I hope you know how valuable you are to me. You were one of my wishes that came true, and no matter what happens, just know I love you. Happy Birthday, my girl.”
Nova pushed the sting of hot tears down before they spilled over onto her cheeks. Her father raised a crystal glass filled with burgundy wine and the other guests joined in the toast to her life. His eyes never left hers, and something behind his pride and adoration frightened her, as if he was trying to tell her something which couldn’t be said aloud.

The party ended up being more fun and less drab than Dria had anticipated. The Carters served Nova’s favorite dish of sun fish, specially ordered from the wet island of Regen. By the time she stepped off the enormous porch with her parents, the gigantic moon was high in the sky.
Brilliant light spread across the sky, casting eerie shadows on the nearby islands as they floated amongst the numerous stars. Nova never tired of the blanket of twinkling lights that brightened her world. Each star was its own color, even if it was only a shade darker than a neighboring star. But the result of such unique lights created a stunning, colorful tapestry of twinkling diamonds above them.

Their house was quiet and warm when she stumbled sleepily down the hallway toward her bedroom, removing the long pins her mother had stuck in her curls. Unbuttoning her dress, she slipped into her cotton nightdress without returning the birthday gown to its hook in her armoire. Her ears perked when she heard her father bolting every door and window in their home.
Odd, she thought. Their island was humid and tropical and it was a common practice to leave windows open at night to bring in cooler air.

Varick tapped on her bedroom door and stepped in without waiting for her reply. “Forgive me, Nova, but I need to latch your window,” he said as he snapped the lock in place.

“Father, it’s hot. Can’t I crack it a bit?”
Varick shook his head. “A storm is coming. All the windows need to stay locked for the time being.”

Nova rested her head again on her soft down pillow; her exhausted brain accepted his explanation for confining them to a thick, humid furnace for the night. She removed her quilt from her sticky legs and slowly drifted away into a peaceful sleep.

China crashed in the kitchen just a few feet from her bedroom. Nova snapped up in bed, her wet hair sticking to her forehead from beads of sweat. She looked around her dark room, wondering if she’d imagined the commotion, until another loud crash caused her to leap out of bed and snatch up her sword.
Carefully, Nova cracked her door and heard angry voices shouting, but she couldn’t make out their words. She crept down the hallway slowly, gripping the hilt of her sword. Nova gulped as more plates crashed and the shouts grew louder. Peeking around the corner of their kitchen, she gasped.

The two frightening men from town were swinging swords and knives as they toppled chairs and dishes. But it was her father fighting them that surprised her more. He held a sword she’d never seen and she watched as he furiously sliced through the air at the two men.
Nova gripped her sword, ready to help her father, but the man with the silver tooth snuck behind him and struck his head with the butt of his gun. Nova covered her mouth to stifle her scream as she watched her father crumble to the floor.

Unsheathing her small, rusty sword, she stepped forward, but someone grabbed her from behind and covered her mouth. She kicked and squirmed, but was held with great strength until she was pushed into the dark living room.

“Mother,” she gasped when Kamali finally released her. “Mother, what’s happening? We have to help him.” Nova let her stinging tears fall when she saw Kamali’s determined face.
“They haven’t seen you, Nova. We cannot risk them seeing you,” she insisted.

Great shuffling boots clomped along their wooden floor as if they were searching for something.
“Quick, follow me,” Kamali demanded, pulling Nova’s arm hard.

Kamali pushed against their large standing clock until it moved to the side. Nova’s eyes widened when her mother opened a narrow door that had been hidden behind the clock.
“Get in,” Kamali whispered.

“Mother, we have to help him,” Nova cried again.
Get in,” Kamali whispered and shoved Nova’s head into the small room before joining her and slamming the door shut.

Nova covered her mouth to hold back the sobs trying to erupt from her throat, and Kamali listened intently to the room outside their hiding place.
Heavy feet paced the living room. Nova heard the coffee table her father had built for her mother slam against the wall. The small porcelain clock on the table next to the sitting chair broke as it went through the window. Over and over, her heart broke with her possessions as she listened to the hideous men search for something and grow more frustrated as they kept coming up empty handed.

“There isn’t anyone here,” a man hissed. “Ye were mistaken.”

“I know he took her, the cap’n said so. We aren’t leavin’ without her,” snarled the other.
Nova looked curiously at her mother, who never turned her attention from the room.

“C’mon. He’s comin’ to; we gotta get him to the ship. He’s useless to us if I have to kill him. Now, grab a leg.”
Nova heard the second man shout in frustration before hearing something brush along the wooden floor as if they were carrying a large sack of vegetables. Finally, the house fell under an eerie silence.

Nova and Kamali didn’t move for what seemed like hours. Kamali kept her ear pressed to the doorway, listening for any signs of the men returning. And Nova softly cried into her knees until all feeling in her lower body was gone from sitting in the awkward position.
As soft sunlight cast its happy glow over the carpet, Kamali unlatched the door and they spilled out into the battered living room. Nova stared at the destruction in disbelief. All around her, belongings dear to her heart had been destroyed. Even the pillows she’d helped her mother sew were slashed and unstuffed on the floor.

Kamali didn’t stop and look at her destroyed home; instead, she rushed into her bedroom and Nova watched as she opened a loose floorboard and removed a long box.
“Come on, Nova. We must leave now,” Kamali directed, wrapping her shoulders in a blue cloak.

“Mother…I…we have to get Father…they took him,” she cried, feeling as if her feet had stones tied to them.
“Listen to me, Nova. We must leave immediately.” Kamali paused and Nova saw the truth behind her blazing diamond eyes. Her mother’s heart was broken, but somehow Nova knew she wasn’t going after her father.

“Mother, why can’t…why can’t we save him?” she whispered.
Kamali pursed her lips tight together, placed the box on the floor, and held Nova’s face between her hands. “You must listen to me Nova. We are leaving. This night never happened, and you must promise me you will never try to find your father.”

Monday, March 6, 2017

Chapter 1: Pirate's Vengeance

Welcome to the first week of sneak peeks into the new series The Djinn Kingdom. Book one is titled Pirate's Vengeance. A little about why I wrote this series; I love pirates, I always have. My husband thought of the idea of having them be sky pirates, and from there the story developed. I wanted to have some kind of alternate culture involved in the story as well...that is to come as the series develops, but since it is called Djinn Kingdom you can imagine some crazy myths are going to come about.

I hope you enjoy the prologue and Chapter 1, next Monday I will be showing Chapter 2, and then on March 20th the book will be available! I can't wait. Enjoy:

Pigmy darts whistled past his ear, one nicking his cheek and drawing blood. The pearl white temple glittered in the setting sun as Captain Phoenix darted through thick darkness blanketing the cursed jungle. Swinging his ruby hilted sword, he batted the small darts back toward the miniature temple guardians.
The stolen treasure weighed heavy in his breast pocket, but the rush of the plunder filled his feet with agility and speed as he ran toward his ship. Leaping over the final ancient stone wall, Phoenix found himself on the coast with the Scarlet Moon just beyond the clouds. But all along the white beach were the dark knights of the temple pointing burning arrows at his heart, ready to set him aflame. Without hesitation Captain Phoenix lifted his sword, signaling from the beach for the Scarlet Moon to set aim. And with a blast heard through the skies, his forty guns swallowed the beach in a storm of fire…
“Then what happened, Uncle Briggs?” Nova whispered as she listened to the exciting tale. She hugged her thin legs against her chest and licked an apple-mango sweet stick. Her curly pig-tails bounced over the peach dress her mother had forced her to wear. Briggs tugged on one of the corn-silk curls and chuckled, plopping into a creaky wooden chair next to her.
“Well, just as the cap’n was about to meet his maker, his loyal first mate sailed the Scarlet Moon—while she was still shootin’, mind you—and the cap’n jumped, see. He jumped clean over them magic guardians and caught hold of the rigging hanging from off the hull; then they sailed away into the clouds, sacred temple treasure and all. And Cap’n Phoenix went on to become the sneakiest pirate ye ever seen, always takin’ what he wanted without killin’ a soul. See, the guns are aimed perfectly, never hittin’ a being, just puttin’ some fire in their feet. Makin’ ‘em jump around like patsies waltzin’ a ballroom,” Briggs said, spinning around as if dancing.
Nova sighed when he’d finished and stared dreamily out his dirty window. She saw the distant islands floating peacefully amongst the pillow-like clouds. “Captain Phoenix,” she whispered. “Now that was a man who knew how to have an adventure. Is it true, Uncle Briggs? Did you really see Captain Phoenix when you were a sailor?”
Briggs shuffled his feet across the grimy floor and added more leaves to his pipe. Taking in a heavy breath, he blew out a thick cloud of smoke and joined her by the window. “I did, lass. I seen him in the flesh, flying that magnificent ship, gatherin’ any treasure he wanted. No one could stop him.”
“Uncle Briggs, tell me the stories again.” She ignored his comment and pouted her lips.
“Now, ye know I’m not yer uncle, kid,” he said, with a twinkle in his cloudy eyes as he rubbed his thick gray mustache.
“Father said I could call you that.” Nova crossed her legs and folded her arms over her chest, never dropping her eye from him.
Briggs took in a big puff of his pipe and coughed when she narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her small hips. “Yer somethin’, girl, and stubborn to boot. Why ye so interested in the Phoenix stories? Yer pap don’t like me fillin’ yer head with such tales. And what ye wearin’ that dress fur?” he asked. “People are gonna think ye some kinda girl.”
Nova sighed again, ignoring his blabber. “I’d love to meet Captain Phoenix. I can’t believe he really did all that you say.”
“Well if ye don’t believe me, then I’m done tellin’ such tales,” Briggs glanced at her playfully. “But yes, lass, nothin’ could stop that cap’n and his crew.”
“Except the temple treasure, right, Briggs?” a deep voice came from the front doorway.
Nova spun around and smiled at her father. He winked, but kept his lips turned down in a disappointed smile. Her father’s shoulders spanned the entire width of the doorway and he had to turn slightly to enter the house. “Come on, man. Is it necessary to fill my nine-year-old daughter’s head with such wild stories?”
“Oh, Papa, I love hearing about them. And I believe they’re true. Uncle Briggs wrote them down, so they can’t be made up.”
Her father laughed and pulled her against his hip with one of his muscular arms. “I assure you little miss, Captain Phoenix is a legend. You really believe, with that logical brain of yours, that there was an invincible captain who scuttled his magical ship to keep his mutinous crew from taking it?”
Nova nodded furiously, making her pigtails whip her face over and over.
“Now it’s not my fault, Varick, what the young lassy hears when ye drop ‘er off. Besides I only get to see ‘er a little longer before ye take her away to Mollem,” Briggs said. His shoulders slumped and a bit of twinkle left his eye.
Varick smiled and shook Briggs’s hand. “We’ll be back to visit, Briggsy. But I have to go where the jobs are. Tough times, you know that.”
Briggs nodded, and then looked down at Nova’s bright eyes. “Now ye listen, lass, take good care of yer mother, and never stop fightin’ swords with yer pap, hear?”
Nova wrapped her small arms around Briggs’s thick waist and fought back the tears in her eyes. Slowly, she turned out the doorway, followed closely by her father.
“Oh, and Varick,” Briggs shouted from his broken doorway. “Tell Kamali to keep that girl out of them dresses.”

Chapter One
The Ship
            Mollem Island- seven years later
Warm water splashed across Nova’s cheeks and the slow rush of gravity pulling her downward filled her with a sense of exhilaration. As she plummeted, she saw the edge of her island bobbing amongst the peachy clouds. The floating island was surrounded with waterfalls spilling over its coasts into the vast sky, and as she flowed over the edge with the rest of the water, she imagined she actually had wings.
As she fell through the open sky, the neighboring rocky land of Felsig came into view behind the hazy clouds. The underbelly of Felsig Island reminded her of a beet pulled from the soil, with muddy roots dangling freely in the sky.
The setting sun glimmered through the waterfalls and cast a glare across the shimmering, silver manu carving long scars beneath Mollem and Felsig. The buoyant mineral shone brightest at sunset, creating a mystical glow across the skies and forming a rainbow of beautiful silver which connected the islands of Launi.
Through the waves of clouds, ships floated amongst the world with bright manu nailed to their keels keeping them afloat; some were big, some only small skiffs. Nova smiled at her world, closed her eyes, and breathed in the humid, comforting air.
As she fell faster, her blonde curls billowed furiously behind her like a golden cape in the wind, and the water droplets from the surrounding waterfalls whipped her smooth face. The faint darkness of the stormy cloud line at the horizon came into view. The barrier separating Launi Kingdom from the unknown darkness of the Below sent a thrilling shiver down her spine.
“Nova, swing around quick!” Dria laughed above.
Smiling, Nova braced her shoulders, getting ready to end the free fall through the sky. The ropes dangled off the sides of Mollem Island, placed there strategically by brave climbers. If she missed the mark, the dark clouds of the Below would swallow her up and she’d be lost forever, but the risk was part of the excitement.
She reached out through the current of the falling water until she grabbed the thick, scratchy rope. The rope gave a little against her weight before ripping her backward and swinging her up over the edge of the island like a bungee.
Nova landed in the fresh pool of sapphire water and let her body float weightlessly as she reveled in the adrenaline filtering through her veins.
“That was amazing,” Dria said once she surfaced. Dria’s long brown hair was suctioned with water against her heart-shaped face, but she didn’t seem to mind. Dria’s green eyes sparkled as she bobbed up and down in the warm pool. “I’ve never seen you go so fast. It was almost as if you were flying. She’s beaten your record I’d wager, Jovany.”
Jovany brushed his black hair from his dark eyes and shrugged. Jovany was lanky and the pool of water only reached his mid-chest, while it splashed around Nova’s neck.
“I wouldn’t go that far, Dria, but I did think you were going to fall right into the Below for a bit. Didn’t you get the announcement of no more island jumping ever since that kid from Rand Island missed the mark? Poor sap just fell right through the barrier into the Below,” he said, spraying a stream of water at Nova. “I’m curious, though—how did you soar so…flawlessly? It was like you weren’t even falling.”
“As I said, like she was flying,” Dria insisted.
Nova wrung the cold water from her hair and batted the droplets off her thick eyelashes. “Oh, the way you two go on, you’d think we’ve never island jumped before. I feel for the kid on Rand, but who’s to say he died? Maybe there’s some invisible net under the barrier we can’t see.”
Dria and Jovany laughed. “Right. That’s why no one has ever returned after falling into the Below,” Dria scoffed, peering into the distance of the gray line of clouds cutting along the bright, happy sky.
“Yes, just take our praise, Nova. Your smooth jump today was probably just a fluke, I doubt you’ll beat me next time.” Jovany narrowed his eyes as if to show his seriousness, though the corners of his mouth quickly pulled up into a smile no matter how hard he resisted.  
“If we can get away to have a next time. When your father finds out you came out here again, he’s going to lose his head,” Dria said nonchalantly.
Nova rolled her eyes. “He will not. He might behave as if he doesn’t want me doing such things, but the man instilled adventure in me since I could walk. I think his reprimands are more for show than in earnest.”
Dria raised an eyebrow and a playful twinkle passed across her green eyes. “If believing that helps you justify disobeying, then good for you.”
Nova laughed and dunked Dria’s head under the pool.
“Hey, look, you two,” Jovany said quietly as if his mind had drifted away. “Have you ever seen such a ship before?”
Nova peered curiously through the cloud cover to where Jovany pointed his bony finger. Just off their island, maybe two miles away, a dark ship bobbed between two swirling clouds. The wood was a dreary gray with a chipped figurehead of a woman with chains from her wrists to her neck on the bow. The ship’s sails were ashen gray and stood out against the bright sky.
Jovany and Dria talked hurriedly to one another about the vastness of the vessel, the enormity of its hull, and expansive sails. But Nova’s eyes drifted upward toward the large crow’s nest. A black flag fluttered in the wind as the ship bounced eerily between Mollem and Felsig Islands.
Her heart beat against her chest like a taut drum. She didn’t see the definitive marking of the skull, but the flag was black, the ship brought a strange anxiety to her soul, and the way it sailed the sky seemed different. Her father had taught her about such things, such dangers in their skies. She knew what kind of ship it was, and its crew. Pirates.
“I…uh…I think we should be getting back,” she said, backing to the edge of the pool nervously.
Jovany and Dria stopped their chattering and looked at her curiously.
“Why, what’s wrong?” Dria narrowed her eyes and raised an eyebrow as she followed Nova to the side.
“Nothing.” Nova laughed nervously, trying to distract them from her flushed cheeks and frightened expression. “I should get back home before my father is done with his shift is all.”
Jovany glanced at the hazy sun above them that cast the bright orange throughout their sky. “It’s barely late afternoon, Nova. The shipyards don’t close until evening.”
“I know, but he mentioned he may be home early tonight, seeing how it’s my birthday tomorrow. He wanted to help Mother…prepare…things,” she lied.
Dria and Jovany looked at each other with skepticism, but to Nova’s relief chose not to question her further.
Nova pulled herself from the clear pool and wrung out her long blue tunic before strapping her leather belt around her waist again. The brown pants that garnered many disapproving looks from the respectable ladies in town clung to her thin legs.
Dria frowned as she slipped her periwinkle dress over her underclothes. “I wish my mother would see things as yours does. I see no problem with a woman wearing trousers.”
Nova laughed and adjusted the small steel sword on her hip. Her father had given her the harmless weapon for her twelfth birthday, although her mother disapproved. Nova wore it everywhere she went, though compared to the real swords of the naval officers, it was nothing but a toy.
“Dria, if my mother had her way, I would go around wearing corsets and gowns, staying silent beneath a parasol until a young, handsome man came and asked for my hand. A nice, quiet life, as she says.” Nova batted her long eyelashes and rested her chin in her hands as she looked away dreamily. She laughed when Dria nudged her out of her mocking position, but Dria didn’t seem appeased.
She stuck out her lip and pouted as she scrunched her hair into long brown curls. “Still, you’re allowed to wear them.”
“Come off it, Dria,” Jovany interjected. “Nova isn’t a regular girl. She’s more…well…like a…never mind,” he said, clearing his throat.
Nova didn’t hear Jovany bumbling over his words. Her attention had returned to the eerie ship beyond the peaceful cloud cover. The black flag was barely visible as it sailed closer to Felsig. Nova felt a wave of relief pass over her as the frightening ship left their humble island’s coast. Something quickened her heartbeat as if some part of her knew the ship meant danger.

Jovany leapt off the tall curb back in town and waved goodbye as he ran to his father’s blacksmith shop.
“I don’t think he’ll ever notice me as a woman. I’ll always just be a friend,” Dria confided after he was well inside the shop.
“Have you ever thought of telling him the truth?” Nova asked.
Dria shook her head furiously, causing her wild curls to wrap around her head like a mane. “No, and you promised you wouldn’t say anything.”
Nova threw her hands in the air in mock offense. “I have kept that promise, have I not?”
“Yes, well, be sure to keep it. I don’t want anything to ever come between our friendship,” she admitted. “Nothing is worth losing that.”
“Well, you may just be surprised if you actually told him,” Nova said rolling her eyes.
The bright sky was dimming and Nova saw the crown of the enormous light blue moon lifting from the dark Below, pushing the white sun out of its hemisphere.
“What brings you lovely ladies to the center of town this late in the evening?” a deep voice asked behind them.
Nova smiled, meeting her father’s bright blue eyes. He stood tall, and his handsome face was smudged from a hard day’s work. The sweat and grime concealed the long scar along his cheek. Every time she asked how he’d gotten it, he would ramble on with terrific tales of swashbuckling battles with sky pirates and forbidden temple guardians; the tales changed every time she asked. Now he had stubble covering his chin from several days without shaving, and his thick brown hair was falling out of the thin leather strap tying most of it in a ponytail behind his neck.
“Hello, Mr. Willock, wonderful to see you so early,” Dria said, curtsying slightly.
“Dria, I’ve told you before you’re allowed to call me Varick. And yes my slave-driver foremen let me off early today. Have you two been behaving?”
Dria smiled. “Yes, sir. I’ll see you tomorrow, Nova,” she said, waving and turning down the lane leading to her parents’ large manor.
Varick faced Nova and raised an eyebrow. Nova felt herself shrink beneath his gaze. Her father’s face was youthful, with only a few lines of age, but his eyes were those of an old soul. He had a way of peering into her as if he could see inside her inner thoughts.
“Nova, have you had a nice afternoon?” he asked knowingly.
She nodded. “Very pleasant. Nothing of note to talk about.”
For a fleeting moment, she wondered if she should mention the mysterious ship, but then she’d be admitting to island jumping against his wishes.
“Ah, of course not,” Varick said and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “I’m certain your mother will love knowing you’re running around with a sword on your hip and men’s trousers again.”
“I can’t help it if I have a father who taught me the joy of sword play,” she teased.
Varick rolled his eyes. “I think it wise to teach a young woman to defend herself, but tomorrow your mother may become more insistent on your wardrobe. It’s a big birthday for you and she is right; you are a young woman now.”
“Father, please—turning sixteen does not justify the travesty of gowns and heels on my shoes.”
Varick laughed and hugged her more tightly against him. “Perhaps not, but maybe you can give your mother the satisfaction of wearing your birthday dress she’s commissioned for you.”
“Just for tomorrow—that’s as far as I can promise. And you must assure me we will still practice together, no matter how womanly I am supposed to become,” she said patting her sword on her hip.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Varick said. His eyes wandered to a small shop to the side of them. Nova followed his gaze.
Two men watched them curiously. One man had a silver front tooth that was visible as he picked at something in the back of his mouth. His hair was dirty and matted, and it hung past his shoulders. The man wore a greasy bandana around his head beneath a tattered leather hat whose brim shaded most of his upper face.
The second man wore a thick bluish-gray coat with brass buttons. Across his chest was a leather strap with two flintlock pistols strapped beneath his coat. He appeared more clean-cut than his counterpart, but his eyes were black with malice as he glared in their direction.
“Who are those men?” Nova asked, suddenly worried.
Varick met her eye and for a moment she imagined she saw a flicker of fear, but soon his bright eyes sparkled again.
He shrugged and pulled her closer to him once more. “I have no idea. Come on now, let’s hurry home. We have a day of celebrating to prepare for.”

Their home was modest and nestled among a patch of shady palm trees. The stones making up the outer walls were gray with pink and silver scars of minerals embedded within, creating almost mystical glimmers when the bright sun hit the stone just right.
“Kamali, look who I found wandering the streets. What an urchin,” Varick called out when they stepped into the small entryway. Nova shoved her father’s shoulder and chuckled.
Kamali stepped around the corner from the kitchen. Her diamond eyes sparkled with playfulness, though she tried to keep her face puckered in frustration.
Nova often wondered how her parents created someone like her. Her father had chestnut-colored hair that was thick and straight. Her mother’s hair was black with a natural blue tint, and her skin was a deep olive tone that sparkled with radiance. Varick was broad and tall, towering over her mother who had a perfectly shaped hourglass figure, which granted her numerous envious looks from other women. The only thing she shared, were her mother’s eyes. They were nearly translucent, they were so bright. Her mother’s eyes were the one trait Nova cherished about herself. Her hair was too big for her petite head, and her torso was long and lanky without a curve in sight. Her pale face made her appear five years younger than she was. But she had her mother’s eyes, her beautiful diamond eyes, and that was good enough for her.
“Nova, why must you wear those atrocious things?” Kamali said disapprovingly, taking in her daughter’s apparel.
“Mother, they are comfortable. You should try them sometime.”
Kamali clicked her tongue, but her lips tugged at the sides as if she wanted to smile.
“Varick, did you get what I asked for?”
Varick swooped on his wife and spun her around before planting a firm kiss on her lips. As Kamali pushed him away laughing, he pulled out a box wrapped in thick brown paper from his messenger bag.
“My wish, did you doubt me?” Varick said, feigning surprise.
Kamali laughed and pushed him against his chest, taking the box. “Of course not, love, but you have been known to let things slip your mind before.”
Kamali led Nova into the small dining room and signaled for her to sit and eat the plate of food she’d laid out. “Nova, why are your clothes wet?” she asked, inspecting Nova’s tunic.
“Uh, Dria pushed me into the creek by the orchards. All in good fun.”
Kamali raised an eyebrow as if she knew the truth, but instead of forcing a confession, she turned back to Varick before joining Nova at the table. “You were a little later than I thought you’d be. I thought Johnathan was dismissing you early today. Is all well at the shipyard?”
Varick nodded, wiping his hands on a soft towel before taking a large bite of his buttered roll. “Yes, the day ran smoothly,” he paused and glanced at Kamali until she met his eye. “The old clock stopped, which would account for my tardiness, I suppose.”
Nova’s forehead scrunched. Her father said the words dark and slow, never dropping his gaze from her mother. She watched Kamali’s expression. For a moment, her mother seemed frozen before scooping a bit of potato and eating as if nothing had changed.
“Well, I suppose they will have to fix it immediately or you’ll be eating cold suppers from now on.”
Nova watched her parents, but she saw the glance between them. Something was bothering them, and the tension grew throughout the night but she held her tongue from asking.
Later that night, Nova heard whispers in the dark from outside her bedroom.
“You know what to do if anything happens,” she heard her father say.
“We should go now,” Kamali answered.
“No, we have to keep you both safe and if we leave, they’ll only follow. If anything should happen, take the box and go to Briggs.”

Nova’s stomach curled in her soft bed as she tried to stay awake long enough to hear the rest of their conversation. Her eyes were growing heavy and fatigue overcame her. Soon, she drifted into a tumultuous sleep, dreaming of flintlock pistols and silver teeth.

Copyright © 2017 LJ Andrews/The Djinn Kingdom
All Rights Reserved. This book or any portion cannot be used without express or written permission by the publisher/author except for brief quotations in a book review

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

5 Tips to building an Outstanding World

5 Tips to Building an Outstanding World

In the world of fiction writing, creating believable, realistic worlds is crucial to strong stories. If you invent a world, but have no infrastructure, no reasons why things are the way they are your readers will see through the holes and potentially give you up as an author.

As daunting as it seems to create an imaginary world where readers can escape and believe, there are some basic ideas to simplify this important task of fantasy authors.

Tip # 1: Build up the infrastructure

Why do people do things? How do they get around? What’s the hierarchy of power? Perhaps you have a vicious king, who uses knights or noblemen to control the working class/peasants with magic crystals tied around their necks. If they rise up the crystals stop their hearts—for example. After you establish the hierarchy determine why it is set up in such a way. Oppression usually has a reason. Perhaps the world depends on a certain mineral, but it is dangerous to mine. The evil King would use the peasants to mine it, and ignite the crystals if they refuse. That way the people submit to save their own lives. Think Hunger Games, a wonderful example of oppression and hierarchy of power.

Make sure you don’t just create a society, but an economy. In my book the Lost Relics, there are four realms. Each realm has certain items and goods they cultivate and share with the other realm people. The realms are kept in balance from the Ponderi, who has rules and regulations such as magic bans in the realms. Because the Ponderi is in charge rogue groups have spurred throughout the realms, which feel the Ponderi oppress the people and should allow them to live naturally in their own environment. However, the Ponderi has experienced dangerous magic in the past which killed many people. This is why they instilled the magical ban and created a council over the realms which provided the strict rules. The Ponderi isn’t trying to be dictators, however from their past experience they feel the need to instill rules and regulations. It may begin to create problems in the realms eventually.

Tip #2: Explain why the story is happening

It is imperative you explain why your story is taking place. If your world has existed for hundreds of years, why are the events suddenly happening now? Is a new ruler in place, is a rebel group rising up, is the climate suddenly changing, is a war starting?

In The Lost Relics, the story begins because the dangerous magic which caused the magical bans has returned. A dangerous secret-society is looking to control powers that would prove deadly. These are the reasons that particular story begins to change the world.

Tip #3: Create a world readers can enter

One of the most exciting things about creating a world is making it real. Explain what the food tastes like, explain what it smells like. This helps the reader enter your world and it feels real to them. The hardest part of this is if your world is fantasy and doesn’t involve the real world in any way describing things can be a challenge. For example, my upcoming series uses islands. One set of islands looks like Hawaii in my mind, but if my characters described them like the “Hawaiian Islands” it wouldn’t be consistent because the made up people in my story have never seen the state of Hawaii. It is a blast to describe foods with creative words, textures, and the appearance of people. Give a try; creating all the little details is my favorite part of world-building.

Tip #4- Become a reader

A helpful exercise to practice when you’re world building, is to become a reader. Ask any question you can think of that a reader may ask, and find a way to answer it. Even if it’s something you don’t mention in the story, the more solid your own understanding of your world the easier it will be to write it. For example: What do they eat? Can they die like mortals? Is there magic? How to the people reproduce? What is the common religion? Why is the climate the way it is? How do the different genders get along? How are they educated? What kind of clothes do they wear? What is the atmosphere like? Things of this nature will help you create a solid world that will make sense to your readers.

Tip #5- It better make sense

The final tip is one of the most important. You have to have a reason for the elements of your world. If you have a magical tree that glows red and shoots purple pears at the people, what is its purpose? Why is it there? What significance does it have? It seems strange to make fantasy logical, but it will make or break a world. Make sure you have strong understanding and reason behind the things you are doing in your world. You can’t just make it so unbelievable without any order to it, or your story will be just that…unbelievable.