The 2nd Donovan Circus Adventure: Book Title Reveal

Hello friends! I’m thrilled to announce that this past weekend, I wrapped up the first draft of the second Donovan Circus book. It is in my editor’s hands!! My amazing friend and beta reader Ginny gave it a read and is already harrassing (er, I mean motivating) me for the third installment.

Because I’m so excited about this draft being done and the fact that I made my own self-imposed deadline (seriously, that never happens), I wanted to reveal the new book title to my readers!

BURNED, a Donovan Circus Novel

In Lucy’s second adventure with Sheffield and her friends, there’s a lot more at stake. After an attack, the gang takes a road trip to visit another circus; Lucy must make a choice between Keegan and Gabriel; new characters are introduced; and the big, bad villain is more vicious than Felix could ever be.

I’m so excited to get the book out – I think you’re going to have a lot of fun with it! And now that I’ve finished that story, I’m ready to dive into another story – no time to rest, what are you, nuts? – that will be another NA title with a unique spin on Reapers.

I hope you’re all having a terrific week! I’m off to road trip it to see my BFF (and cover designer) at the beach so we can celebrate her recent marriage…and probably begin to create the cover for BURNED 🙂

Gift Glossary – Unique Powers Special to the Gifted World

As promised, I wanted to help any confused readers by handing over a glossary to keep track of the superpowers I’ve used so far in my Gifted world-building. Below is the short, yet ever-continuing list of terms I’ve used for my Gifted world. You’ll be able to refer back to this page any time you visit my blog on the top section of pages so that readers can easily check in for any questions they have or new powers I add as time passes. If you have any suggestions or powers I simply HAVE to add, I’d love to hear them! You can let me know any way that’s best for you (Facebook, Twitter, email, or leave me a comment here) and I’ll consider adding it to the glossary as well as possibly include it in a Gifted world book!

Gift Glossary – Unique Powers Special to the Gifted World

Airspinner: One who controls the air around them; can create wind, blow large gusts of wind using their mouth/breath. Often used with tornados, wind storms, etc.

Collector: A rare gift; beings often hide this information from others as it has a bad reputation. One touch from a Collector can take away an individual’s gift, leaving them a normal human for a period of time. Amount of time holding another’s gift depends on skill level; they may return the gift at any point or it will naturally leave them and return to the owner after time passes, assuming the owner is still alive – if they are dead, the Collector may hang onto it until releasing it for another. Unknown if they can “trade” a gift with another in certain cases. A Collector may only hold one gift at a time.

Doubler: An individual capable of “doubling” themselves; they create a second image that mirrors the person’s every move. Given enough skill, they can control the image to speak or fight on their own movements.

Earthshaker: One who can create earthquakes with a stomp of their foot. Size and damage of quake depends on skill.

Empath: A being who feels other people’s emotions. Must spend several years learning to control it so that they do not confuse other’s emotions with their own. With enough skill, an Empath may learn how to harness their emotions, manipulate and warp them into other feelings. Empaths make good therapists in the real world.

Firestarter: A being that can control fire and is usually impervious to its harm. They appear human; can be hurt otherwise, etc. Each talent has different levels, usually depending on age, practice, etc. Firestarters with enough power are capable of killing lesser Firestarters, though this information is not well-known for obvious reasons.

Types of Firestarters:

1.)  Passive—they can only touch it or pass through it. They cannot create or control. They cannot create, but can use outside sources (such as lighters, campfires, candles, etc); given technique they may control it to a certain degree. Also called Carriers.

2.)  Aggressive—can control and create it using energy and heat from body—most control through palms of hands. Some have “better than others” attitudes. Their tempers are usually the worst and most are wary of this group. It takes many years to control their Gift well, typically into adulthood. Also called Creators.

Influencer: One who uses their eyes or touch to get what they want. They may use this gift on other gifted but is especially powerful on humans. In the wrong hands, a particularly dangerous gift as it destroys free will and commands them to do as the Influencer says.

Runner: One with the ability to run at lightning-fast speeds. Length of speed depends on skill.

Shapeshifter: There are two types of shifters – those who can shift into other humans and those who can shift into animals. No cross-shifting exists. A shifter must touch the object of transformation before they can turn.

Telekinetic: A being who controls an object’s movement with their mind, eyes, or hands. Skills start small and grow to larger object such as buildings or heavy machinery after years of practice.

Telepath: One who hears other’s thoughts. Range and volume depend on skill level. Often times Telepaths retreat to quiet spaces to get away from the noise.

Timekeeper: A being who can control time. Several different levels of this gift. Most may only freeze time (and with it, the people and objects around them); they have the capability to unfreeze certain people while still maintaining an overall freeze.  Others may slow down and speed up time, usually for their own benefit. Lastly, and it is very rare, but some Timekeepers are able to go backwards and forwards in time, though it is not recommended as there is imminent danger in altering history.

Tracker: One who can sense the use of a gift. Depending on skill level, a Tracker may often be able to tell what gift was used, as well as the skill level of the user. Cannot trace to exact user (for example, a Tracker can tell a powerful Firestarter used their gift, but cannot name the culprit or find them as a bloodhound might).

Translator: A being who can speak any language after briefly hearing a few words and cadence from a native speaker (those who choose to live in the human world often become translators for political members or language instructors). Note: Most translators are for human speech, but a select few can speak with animals (these beings make excellent vets, animal trainers, and circus travelers).

Transporter: One who may travel from one place to another in an instant. Distance and the ability to carry others depend on skill level. They must often study their grounds and learn how to get within certain places before moving on, for example going from a spot in the US to a spot in another country.

Unbreakable: A being with the ability to withstand most injuries, as well as have impenetrable skin. Most often they are able to lift certain amounts of large weights (even up to cars, buildings, machinery). People often mistake their strength for immunity; most are immune to pain and sickness, but they can die of old age, as well as other incidents such as drowning, fire, disease, etc (“from the inside out”).

Volter: A being who creates electric blue lightning from their hands. Often used to kill or maim. A rare, dangerous gift not often found amidst the public or human world as it is difficult to hide. History includes a few Volters using their gifts for science or medical fields (such as an EMT bringing a stilled heart back to life). Not much else is known about these beings.

Waterbearer: One who controls water; certain beings can create water from their bare hands, while others must have water nearby to “borrow” for their creations. Can create water orbs or other shapes, as well as large waves with enough skill and practice.

YA Indie Carnival: Settings!

Today’s YA Indie Carnival post is about SETTINGS! And there’s nothing I like better in my book than my setting. (Well, that’s only a little true, but I do love it). Gifted‘s setting (if you couldn’t tell by the cover image to your right) takes place at the circus. It’s a really important part of the story, not only because Lucy runs away to live with them, but because it’s a main staple of the Gifted world. These beings, the creatures who can’t disguise themselves as normal, they hide within circus shows because people will think it’s fake. They feel safe inside the circus, where no one can find out their identities and they can be themselves with Donovan family. Then there’s the actual story of the Donovan Circus and its members as they pertain to Gifted history, which is a whole new ballgame. Moral of the story, settings and location are ridiculously important to any story, but it’s almost a character itself in Gifted.

For my research, I looked for different terms, old layouts of real circus grounds, and the real-deal lingo. When it came to the actual circus setting, however, I studied up by watching (and rewatching) the PBS documentary Circus to learn about how they set up their grounds. I also knew going in that I was only looking for inspiration; I couldn’t copy their grounds exactly because obviously my world has magic in it, so things are going to be tweaked. My characters would be nowhere without their settings, obviously. And within each story I write about the Donovan Circus, the main setting will stay the same despite their travels to different cities. I plan to show new sections of the grounds with each story, which in turn will introduce new characters specific to their roles there (which also means new gifts to learn!).

I wanted to give a little peek into the Donovan Circus and how the troupe operates. Lucy has just arrived to the circus and met her new roommate Delia. Lucy is returning to the circus for the first time in around 12 years, so I don’t blame her for being surprised by what she finds!

Gifted, a Donovan Novel excerpt:

“We passed the grouping of campers and continued through the maze. The campers were grouped behind the tents and booths, and I could hear the low buzz of people nearby. Workers had just finished getting up The Big Top tent, the main attraction where the performance occurred each night. It sat on the back corner of the lot, guarding the living area with its side entrance providing easy availability to the performers.

“This way,” Delia said. She motioned for me to follow her.

We followed the already worn walkway around a corner, where a sea of activity blinded me. Whereas the campers were quiet, the actual circus grounds thrived with members preparing for the day.

My senses hit overdrive—colors, smells, and sounds assaulted me. Costumes covered in sequins and feathers were traded off between artists; my nose detected popcorn machines, sawdust with hay, and sweat, both human and animal. And the sounds! It was so loud between the people yelling, animals’ screeches, and equipment in use to set up stands and booths. I would have to shout at Delia to be heard.

I suddenly became very aware of why Sheffield and Delia warned me against being surprised. People made no secret of their gifts in safe company. I saw another Runner dart in and out of the crowd while Levitators floated seamlessly between the bodies. Birds flew all over, carried messages or small objects such as tools or costume props. The air filled with sounds of conversation, animals protested their displeasure of cages, and men barked orders on the best way to get tents up fast.

My heart jumped when I saw two other male Firestarters walking together. One was dressed in half a clown costume. The other one flicked a lighter and began to juggle fireballs with the clown; they walked simultaneously as they tossed them back and forth to one another, gradually creating greater space between them. Walking five feet apart, they continued juggling and while most troupe members simply walked around them and rolled their eyes, a few walked through, seemingly oblivious to the fire whizzing past their heads.”

So there you have it, my vision of the Donovan Circus. Hope you enjoyed it and of course, there’s lots more setting in the rest of the book. I’m really excited to explore more within the grounds! It’s important that my setting drive my story sometimes. It’s up to the authors to take the readers on adventures, to escape within worlds we wouldn’t normally see. Hopefully we achieve that most days 🙂

Be sure to check out all the authors who participate in our YA Indie Carnival for their fantastic blogs and books!

In Defense of Character Building (Or, “I Meant to Do That!”)

I received a review on Amazon this week that made me finally want to speak up and attempt to explain a lil somethin-somethin’. This review was good–4 out of 5 stars, certainly nothing to cry over (so I’m not). But they made a good point that’s come up in another review, too. They both mentioned my protagonist, Lucy, has a problem with FEELING. That she doesn’t show emotion nearly as much as someone in her situation would in the real world.

Quick catch up: Lucy is a Firestarter, a being who can create and control fire. In the Gifted world, a person’s gifts are completely emotion-based (all of ’em, including the happy ones). When Lucy is ripped from her circus childhood, she enters into the human world. You can imagine that a Firestarter in the human world is a dangerous notion and Lucy’s father teaches her how very, very important it is for a Firestarter to keep a firm handle on their emotions. She’s never allowed to simply “get mad” or “be joyful” because it could set her effing neighborhood on fire. Therefore, most Gifted are extremely careful with how they react to situations and people, because otherwise it might end up a blazing inferno (or a swimming pool or whatever that particular Gift is attributed to).

Here’s a bit of the review that hit home for me:

“…the only thing that bothered me was the sensation that I kept waiting for the main character to FEEL about something. We go into the story with her mom being dead only two weeks, and it’s like it never bothers her. Same sort of this with some of the other very traumatic events that happen in the book. I understand that part of her story is the need for the main character to keep her emotions under control, but it definitely made her feel less real to me.”

I knew going into the story that Lucy’s downfall would be her lack of emotions. In all honesty, I kinda MEANT for it to be that way. I want her to be real and it’s okay if readers get frustrated with her–she SHOULD have flaws, habits that might drive readers crazy but they keep reading to see if she ever evolves. After years of hiding her true self, of swallowing every emotion and bottling it up, it’s not easy to simply change within a few weeks. And Lucy’s answer to dealing with emotions is to simply not. She denies until she’s blue in the face. She thinks if she denies and pretends it didn’t happen, she won’t have to deal. If she throws herself into work and concentrates on her new life there, she doesn’t have to deal with missing her mother, with being scared to be alone. But we all have to deal with our demons eventually. We must all progress.

That’s the ticket, right there. Every character must evolve in someway (even if it’s technically DEvolving). I had hoped that by the end of my first book, Lucy would have progressed in her emotions. And she tried, she really did (I’d list examples, but I don’t want to include spoilers). But after 10+ years of being told to keep her shit under wraps, it’s not a light switch she can flip on and off. So even at the end, after all was said and done, Lucy still whispered, “I’m not ready to face the feelings yet.” She refused to just change overnight and I can respect that. A sudden change in character isn’t believable; it’s an author wrapping loose ends up neatly for the reader. (*cough twilight 3rd book cough*)

Several people have said Lucy should’ve shown more emotion after a particularly traumatic near-sexual assault. I absolutely agree–to an extent. Lucy’s so used to hiding everything from everyone, it’s in her nature to hide it away, to tuck away the fear and memories so deep down that she can pretend it never happened. It’s her coping mechanism thanks to years of high school bullies and hiding her secrets. I often used to think that if something like that were to happen to me, as much as I’d like to say I’d run to the police, I might be so upset I run and hide in my house for weeks, too ashamed or horrified to explain what happened. I don’t think I could ever tell my mother; I couldn’t bear to put my pain on her shoulders. Many victims DON’T go to the police, instead choosing to continue on as it never happened. From what I know, however, it always catches up with you at some point later in life. So Lucy’s definitely got an outrageous amount of emotions when it comes to this incident, emotions she refuses to acknowledge because she fears it will mean she is weak. She would never admit to anyone she’s weak. So instead, she chooses to pretend it never happened. This WILL, as it always does, come back to bite her in the ass. I simply ran out of pages, instead opting to include it in Book 2.

I decided to address more of the aftereffects of her shock and discoveries in Book 2, sort of as a new beginning in Lucy’s journey back into her Gifted world. It’s there she’ll begin to face her emotions head on to try and have more control over her Gift. She can’t control and be the best at her gift if she doesn’t face her emotions, a small fact that Sheffield will constantly remind her of. It’s going to be extremely unpleasant for Lucy to finally have to acknowledge what’s happened to her in the last month. She’s going to learn that accepting her feelings does not, nor will it ever, make her weak. In fact, it might even make her that much stronger.

This is where I, the author, admit that some of Lucy’s flaws come from me. Not as a writer, but literally, me as a person. The Irish hide their emotions behind a wall of whiskey and denial, and Lucy and I definitely hold up that stereotype. I might be stubborn and quick-tempered, but I am, for the most part, an incredibly locked up person, feelings-wise. I don’t share a lot of lovey-dovey sentiment, I hide behind sarcasm and humor, and I laughed as awkwardly as Lucy does when boys admitted their feelings for me. And it’s not about “not liking Lucy, not liking Liz” either. It’s just that as the author, I know Lucy is, how she reacts, WHY she reacts, and what happens in the future. Readers of course don’t know any of this–they shouldn’t! They’ll learn it as they go along (hopefully). That’s why I’m not so much upset about reader reactions–you SHOULD be annoyed with Lucy! She’s a right pain in the ass sometimes and she definitely should show more emotion!

It’s what, I think, makes her and Gabriel’s relationship so interesting. Because of his gift, an Empath, he feels ALL THE EMOTIONS all day, everyday. From everyone except Lucy. It’s why he likes her so much; he doesn’t have to try quite so hard to keep his own mental walls up. He avoids emotion as much as she does, though for different reasons. I love their relationship because despite them both wanting to be different from each other, they’re scarily similar with their personalities and defense mechanisms.

I know how this post sounds, like a whiny baby all upset over a single point in a 4 star review. It makes me sound childish, but that’s not how I want it to come off. I don’t wanna be “that author” who defends every. single. thing. that’s criticized in reviews. They’re not mean reviews–they’re incredibly-appreciated, GREAT reviews that are invaluable to me as a writer. I hope I can take the major overall problems readers have and try to fix or address them in later books.

This is where it’s frustrating for a writer. We know everything about the story, including where it’s headed next (even if we don’t know exactly all the details). I don’t want to come off like an ass, either, so I’d never shove my “I meant do to that” down a reviewer’s throat. It means I’m going to have to sit and take it, know there’s nothing I can do because it’s an opinion (and it’s not wrong!). So I’ll hope that everyone likes it enough to read the 2nd one and hopefully it’s there they’ll have their questions or frustrations answered.

I’m hoping that despite my readers’ annoyance over Lucy’s flaws, they get that there’s a reason why. That they understand that Lucy is only beginning to come out of her shell and realize what she has to do in order to become who she wants to be. I expect many people will say similar things and I hope they come to this post (help point the way, friends?) and understand I did it on purpose (though now I realize I should’ve let her shell crack a little more in the first book). She isn’t a weak character and I suppose some of my own worries filtered through in thinking if she DID show more emotion, readers would think she was weak. See? Now you’re seeing MY flaws.

I guess the main point is: don’t worry, kids. Lucy might be completely emotionally constipated, but she’ll be (forced into) facing the problem head on in Book 2. And as all authors say…

I meant to do that.