Samantha Arthurs

author, reviewer, here for a good time

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That Time I Accidentally Wrote A Series

When I wrote the first draft of A Crooked Mile for National Novel Writing Month 2017 I fully intended for it to be a stand alone novel. I had absolutely no plans to feature Rust in any other books, and that was the end of the road for Alec, Ramona, and Bryson.

In fact it stayed a stand alone book for a full year while it was being edited and beta read and queried to agents and publishers. I never pushed it as a series or trilogy, just one book and one book alone.

Then it came time to start planning for NaNoWriMo 2018. I had a random idea then, something that just hit me out of nowhere. What if I wrote a sequel novel about Bryson and how his journey continued after book one? He was just a second character, albeit one that people seemed to like, and he was definitely the type that could be expanded upon. So, just like that, I went from having one book to a duology!

Sometime that following January I had made myself a nice chart of writing goals I wanted to accomplish, and I was brainstorming a third book that would be a prequel to both the current novels. It was an in-depth look at Alec and everything that had happened leading up to the events of A Crooked Mile. I really had enjoyed writing him, and I wanted to dig deeper into his story.

I finished the first draft of Before That Winter in about two weeks and then I thought that since Alec got a standalone story, Ramona deserved one too! So her story became the fourth and final (finally!) book in the Rust series.

It was a bit of a shock to me when I really sat back and took a look at what I had done. I had gone from a stand alone novel to an entire series without even meaning to do so. I felt proud of myself though, because I had never felt like the type of writer who could really sit down and plan out something so intricate and interwoven and here I had done it completely by accident!

I’m now working with One Odd Bird Press to publish them all this year, though we have whittled things down to a solid trilogy as opposed to four books. Alec’s story will be combined with A Crooked Mile into a much heftier book one. This will be followed by A Different Shade of Blue, which follows Bryson, and then The Way Home which is Ramona’s story of growing up and finding redemption within herself.

I’m honestly pretty proud of myself for what I created here, both the characters and the place that they all called home. I love Alec, Ramona, and Bryson and while it was hard to finally let them go, I’m glad that I got to the point where I could. Maybe down the road I’ll dust them off again for some small novellas or something, but as of now their stories are done and they are ready for the world to meet them.

For those of you who already read A Crooked Mile, I hope that you’ll purchase the book upon it’s re-release and give it a shot. I think if you liked it the first go-round that you will love it even more in it’s new volume, and that you’ll enjoy getting to delve deeper into the world of Alec Davis and what made him tick.

As of now I’ve written several other books that need editing, and one or two do feature characters and worlds that could be expanded upon. I’m not planning anything specific yet, but lightning struck once so maybe it will again!

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Book Excerpt – The Heart of War

This week I pulled an excerpt from my 2019 NaNoWriMo novel The Heart of War. It’s currently in the editing process, and I’m going to try my best to get it out there sooner rather than later.

The Heart of War is the story of Sadie and Jude Rees who met in Wales on the cusp of 
WWII. The novel begins in our present, when their granddaughter discovers a trunk in 
the attic filled with letters, photographs, and other mementos of their life in Europe
before, during, and immediately following the war. 

In this excerpt the end of the war is looming closer and closer, though they don't
know that quite yet. Sadie is trying her best to scrape by on little news and, 
admittedly, very little hope. 

            While Jude Rees was fighting his way across Europe, his heart remained in Wales. Sadie was still working her job at the munitions factory, one of the largest of the Royal Ordinance Factories for munitions that was operated in the UK during the war. They primarily made naval shells, and the nearly 20,000 employees were almost entirely women. It was their way of doing their duty for the war effort, though for Sadie it was also much more of that.

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Life List Item 65: See Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore is one of those iconic American places that everybody wants to see at least once in their life. Or, well, that most people want to see. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who don’t give a care, but those people are just missing out! When I started planning our 2018 trip out west I wanted to include a stop here, both to satisfy my curiosity and to check another national monument off my list. Two for one is always the best deal!

We ended up in the Black Hills area when we were staying in the Badlands. On this particular day we had gone horseback riding in the morning, and decided to hit up Rushmore on our way back to camp. The place was swamped when we arrived, and we had to get in a bit of a queue to get inside to park. We actually ended up with a prime spot in the parking garage though, right on the ground level in the front. I thought for sure we’d end up having to trek pretty far, but it ended up working out.

Let me just include here that while you don’t pay to see Mount Rushmore, you do pay $10 a car to park. I have no problems with that, the park service needs that money, but just know before you go that if you’re going inside you have to pay for that parking pass!

I had done a ton of research going into this trip, and had read a lot of reviews and blogs about other people’s experiences in all the various places we would be stopping. There were so many people who were disappointed with Mount Rushmore, which I didn’t understand prior to our trip and still don’t understand now. A lot of people seem to complain that it’s smaller than they imagined!? It’s four giant faces carved into the side of a mountain, but it’s somehow not impressive to some folks. These are likely the same people who are unimpressed with the Grand Canyon. I just don’t get it at all.


Anyway, I digress. Let’s continue!

There was something just so absolutely cool about walking through the entrance and seeing Mount Rushmore in the distance. I really love too that they lined the walkway with flags of all the states, and that they had pillars that provided information about each one. We enjoyed walking up to the overlook, where you get a really great view of the monument. Despite all the people it actually didn’t feel crowded, there was plenty of room, so we were able to get some great photographs of the monument and us posing and all that.

One of the things I had heard so much about was the ice cream here and how great it was. So, naturally, we had to partake. I ended up getting hand scooped ice cream with wojapi sauce, and oh my dear lord was it amazing! It was a huge serving that I could not manage to wholly consume, but that was okay because what I did manage was absolutely fantastic. All the people who sang the praises of the Mount Rushmore ice cream parlor were entirely correct, and I recommend you go there if you’re stopping by to see the monument. You seriously will have no regrets about it!

We browsed the gift shops for a while then and bought up our souvenirs before heading out. Getting out of the parking garage was quick and easy, and the drive from the Badlands to the Black Hills was actually really lovely.

If you’re in the area or just passing through, put this on your list! I promise it’s just as wonderful in person as you will hope for, people who think it’s too small not withstanding.

Life List Item: Complete

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Book Excerpt – Rag & Bone

This weeks excerpt comes from a book that is still in the editing process, but that I hope to publish potentially by the end of the year. What is Rag & Bone about? Well, I’ll tell you!

Rag & Bone is the story of Avery Carstairs, a teenage boy who finds himself utterly alone after a deadly virus wipes out everyone and everything he has ever known.  Life has become less about living and more about raw survival, and we watch as Avery and his dog, Tilly, try to make a place in this new world. 

In this excerpt we join Avery in the middle of his journey. He is young, he is alone, and winter is coming sooner rather than later. Will he survive? Or will the Ruger virus succeed in destroying humanity in it's entirety?
Read the full excerpt from Rag & Bone below.

The world was a quiet place, but it hadn’t always been that way. Two years ago there had been the steady buzz of electricity, the muted conversations from the television, the honk of car horns and the revving of engines. Now there were only the whispers of nature, the sounds that nobody had ever really regarded as more than glorified background noise. Now there was just the faint hiss of the wind blowing through trees, water flowing over rocks, and animals prowling through under brush. Sounds that became more prominent, that were brought more to the foreground now that everything else had fallen away.

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Keeping Organized In 2020 + Writing Resolutions

So here we are, a week into a new decade and a new year! That is pretty wild, but at the same time also kind of nice. It’s always interesting to start over with a new year, to try and do things differently to see if they work better.

One thing I always try going into a new year is getting organized. Getting there is, of course, the easy part. It’s keeping things that way that I tend to have a bit of trouble with. This year though I have a lot more going on than usual, so I decided it was time to fall back on a trusty college lifesaver: the planner.

A co-worker of mine gave me a little planner for Christmas, and I keep it in my car so I can write down things that come up while I’m out or at work. To keep track of my many projects and things this year, however, I needed something a bit larger. After a lot of searching, reviews, and generally exhausting the strangely vast world of information on planners I settled on The Legend Planner.

It came today.

I am very impressed.

It basically allows me to keep track of my goals (yearly goals and three months goals), my inspiration, my moods, my month overall, and my week broken down. It’s pretty, it’s efficient, and it will probably save my life a few times over the course of 2020.

Besides the planner, I’m also trying to just overall more organized with my work as far as writing goes. I want to set aside dedicated time, and make achievable goals for myself each week. I tend to write a lot at once, burn out, and then take a break. I don’t want to be that person anymore if I can manage it.

I have a lot of ambitious plans for myself in 2020 though! First there’s the publishing of all three Rust books. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve been told more or less. They plan to try and get all three books out this year, which is super exciting and I’m so ready for it.

The biggest challenge there is combining what would have originally been books one and three into one solid novel, and also doing re-writes and editing on what is now book three. I’m not happy with it at all, so it’s going to take some considerable work to get it where it needs to be for publication.

Besides the Rust books, however, I have a bunch of other stuff I’m working on. I went to finish at least three to four other novels this year. I don’t mean just editing them or polishing them up, I mean full out writing them. I have one already near completion, but the rest have to be written into a first draft.

I also want to get better with editing this year. I’ve never liked to self-edit, and I want to set aside each week to do a couple of hours worth on different novels. So that’s another thing for the planner!

It’s going to be a busy year, but I think it will ultimately be a good one! When I have a publication schedule for the trilogy I will share it, and if I have any publication updates for the other books I have I will share that as well! Who knows, maybe 2020 will see me self-publish something else!

What are you guys doing for 2020? Are you writing a new book? Publishing? Let me know!

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Book Excerpt – Rust Book #1

So I wanted to start out in 2020 doing something a little bit different. This is going to be a busy year, and it’s also going to be a year that focuses a lot more on my writing in several different aspects. There’s the publishing process going on at the moment, as well as writing and editing other novels on the side. That being said I really want to show case the things I’m working on, and more specifically the things that will be readily available to the public sooner rather than later. That means I’m going to attempt to post a weekly excerpt for you folks to read so that you can get a bit of a glimpse into what is coming up and what my writing style is like.

We’re going to kick things off with a little blurb from what was once Before That Winter, but what will soon be combined with A Crooked Mile to make the first book in the new Rust trilogy. This is a book that nobody but myself, my two previous editors, and my new publisher has seen before. So this little blurb is completely knew to everyone else, which I think is sort of exciting! Anyway, without further ado, the first weekly excerpt of 2020 (I will try to post one every single week, likely on Saturday evenings seeing as that is when this one is appearing)!

Read the excerpt below from the current Chapter 13 of Rust Book #1

Alec’s first glimpses of Rust, Montana were in the dark. They had flown from Colorado to the airport in Billings, where they picked up the car in the short term parking lot. They stopped to have a meal at an Italian restaurant his father picked out, and after that they were on the road for several hours heading on toward home. Everything outside the windows of the car was snowy, a blanket of white seeming to cover the entire world. The landscapes were beautiful though, lots of mountains and rolling hills, though after a little while Alec fell asleep with his head resting against the cold glass of the window.

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Here Comes 2020!

I can’t believe that we are only two days away from a new year and a new decade! How wild is that? I decided that I would do one last blog update for 2019, and talk a little bit about what is coming in the next year.

The first, and biggest, thing is the release of the Rust trilogy with One Odd Bird Press. As most of you know I published A Crooked Mile independently through Amazon back in the spring of this year, but it has recently been pulled thanks to my new contract. If you already read this book, trust me when I say it is going to be bigger and better on the re-release! We’re combining A Crooked Mile with book three (Before That Winter) to make one cohesive novel and start to the trilogy. A Different Shade Of Blue will likely follow quickly in publication, since it is already finished and just needs revision, with book three somewhere up ahead. I have it written, but it needs a lot of work so that will take some time.

As of right now I don’t have any potential release dates, but when I do I will certainly let everyone know via social media and this blog!

I finished other novels in 2019 that have yet to see the light of day, though I wish very much to change that. I’m interested in working more on revising and editing Rag & Bone, and I’m a short bit of writing away from a first draft of A Shark In Lola’s Pond. That’s another I’m interested in editing and getting out there fairly quickly. Not to mention I need to get illustrations done for Bookish, and I also want to start revamping and tweaking my NaNoWriMo novel The Heart of War. I think it has potential, so hopefully we might see that too!

Mostly what I want to do is set myself a good writing schedule. I’m applying for a new job that would change my schedule if I got it, but I will still be able to write around it. It’s just a matter of finding a new groove. If I get hired, that is. That remains to be seen since it hasn’t even posted for application yet.

The point is that once I know what is going on heading into 2020 then I can make a solid writing schedule for myself. It worked well for me this year, setting monthly goals and personal deadlines, and I’d like to continue that. For now though my priority is the Rust trilogy, followed by polishing up some other finished works to get out there into the world.

2020 is going to be a good year, I can just feel it! Things are on the up, I think, and I’m just really excited to bring more of my words into the world. For those of you who followed me this year and who fell in love with Alec and Ramona, I thank you so very much. It’s been a crazy time, but I feel very lucky and very elated!

Happy new year!

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Something Exciting Is Happening!

Signing my new contract!

If you follow my Facebook, then you would have noticed an announcement a day or two ago about the publication of A Different Shade of Blue being put on hold. I gave no explanation at the time, as nothing was set in stone, but as of today I feel that I can finally put it into the world: I’ve been talking to a publisher and they have offered me a contract!

I know, right? I’m in a total state of shock right now too!

I was approached several days ago by a small indie publisher who had received information about A Crooked Mile from a different publisher that I had solicited over a year ago. I don’t know who told them about me (I know the publisher name but not the specific person), but I thank them immensely! They felt that my story might be a good fit for this publisher, and they requested to see the entire manuscript. Caught completely off guard I gladly sent them the full, which was the last edited version that became the book I self-published. I mentioned that it was part of a series, and after reading book one they requested to look at the other three.

Long story short, they talked to me about some extensive editing that would need to be done and some ideas that they had. It was decided that books three (Before That Winter) and one (A Crooked Mile) would be merged together into one single novel to kick off a trilogy. They will be followed by A Different Shade of Blue and then the Ramona story that is currently called The Way Home. A lot of work will have to be done to make all of this happen, but honestly I’m over the moon.

It feels good to know that someone enjoys and believes in these characters and their stories the way that I do. Especially since this came out of left field and I didn’t see its approach from ten feet away. It’s certainly a surprise, but the best kind in my humble opinion. They have a great marketing plan focused on utilizing all different types of online media, and they seem to have good heads on their shoulders. They’re people who are familiar with the business in many different ways, and that makes me feel comfortable handing all these words of mine over to them.

This obviously means that, for now, A Crooked Mile has been pulled from publication and everything going on with A Different Shade of Blue has been halted. Once I know more about everything I’ll of course let all of you know too, since this experience is a newish one for me.

I have worked with a publisher before for Endless Numbered Days, but that experience ultimately left a lot to be desired. While they did offer editing and cover design and that sort of thing it was clear that authors were expected to do marketing entirely on their own and the company itself didn’t really utilize social media to garner sales at all. While those folks were nice and believed in my story, it wasn’t exactly how I thought that it would be. I have much higher hopes for this situation, and I think that these ladies are really passionate as both authors and readers which will motivate them to make each book the best that it can be.

Right now the biggest hurdle will be fusing two novels into one good, cohesive story that melts nicely from one part into another. I’m sure they have some good ideas about that, and as I am a terrible self-editor their guidance in this particular matter will be well met. Once things are in motion properly and I have an idea of dates and that sort of thing I’ll make sure to post in all the appropriate places.

If you purchased and/or read A Crooked Mile in its original format, I implore you to give the new version a chance when it arrives! It will be better, I think, and will give a lot more insight into the characters and how they got to the point they were at when we arrived in their lives in book one. It won’t just be a rehash of the first book with a new cover, not at all, and I don’t want anyone who loved the first book to miss out!

So yes, that is the big news and it’s super exciting for me! I also want to thank Mandi and Jess for all their hard work helping me edit A Crooked Mile and for the work they also did on Blue. Also a big thanks to Mandi for her gorgeous cover art that gave us so much grief when it came to formatting, and at least now she doesn’t have to fret with Blue! I couldn’t have published the first book at all without their help, and I hope they know how much I appreciate everything they did for me, these books, and these characters!

2020 is going to be a good year, guys! I can just feel it in my bones!

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Looking Back: A Decade of Writing

I did not publish my very first book until almost halfway through the decade. Endless Numbered Days was published in the early summer of 2014, after a couple of years of tedious work on it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to finish a novel before then, I very much did, I was just a time in my life when there was a lot of other stuff going on. I had just gone back to college after some time off, and was setting out to obtain a degree that I had thus far taken absolutely no classes for. Switching to criminology from English and creative writing was a big step, but at the time it felt like the right thing even if I was undertaking a lot of course work. It was also during that time that I was attempting to finish END, which had been my NaNoWriMo novel a couple of years prior. I wrote in my spare time before and after classes, working around homework assignments and spending extra time getting ahead in mathematics. As soon as I finished the first drift I began to query, and things just went from there.

I ended up working with Martin Sisters Publishing, a very small independent publisher full of great people who were just as excited as I was to see my book out in the world. It was very encouraging, though despite that encouragement it would be quite some time before magic happened again.

Ultimately looking back I realize that I was very, very unmotivated in my writing for a rather lengthy period of time.  I had some pretty nasty writers block, so much so that I worked on the same thing for a couple of years just trying to get it right. It wasn’t until 2017 when I sat down to write A Crooked Mile for NaNoWriMo that I found my footing again.

Man, did it feel good.

Something about A Crooked Mile sparked my motivation back into existence in a way I hadn’t seen in years. I was suddenly overcome with ideas, and I wrote that first draft in about 11 days. It was invigorating, and it helped me make a lot of decisions. Even though I have a job where I work six days a week, and even though writing will likely never pay the bills so to speak, I knew I wanted to finally fulfill my childhood dream of being a writer. I want to write stories that people love, I want to create characters that people can identify with.

So I simply just started to write more.

I wrote the upcoming sequel to Crooked, A Different Shade of Blue, in another whirlwind of frenzied writing and ideas. That was followed by the prequel, Before That Winter, which I wrote during the month of February this year. I also finished a second manuscript in February, a post-apocalyptic novel which was a genre I had never wrote in before. It was crazy, but it still felt so good!

Then the ideas just…..kept coming. I wrote them all down, did outlines, tried to pace myself. I’m just a few chapters away from finishing yet another, and that’s not counting my NaNoWriMo novel for this year. 2019, it seems, was all about the writing for me and I honestly loved it! Now if I could only feel that way about editing….

What I hope for in 2020 is the release of a couple of books and the completion of a couple more. I’m trying my hand at different genres and ideas, everything from horror to mystery to romance. Will any of it make me rich? I doubt it, but this is what I want to do for me. It’s therapeutic to let all these words out, and to see my name stamped on the front of a cover that’s going into someone’s hands. I want to write just one persons favorite story, that is my ultimate and most fervent goal.

I’m not sure yet how much I will actually accomplish in 2020, I only know that I really want to try. Editing is hard for me, but I want to get better with it. I want to have a better turnover rate, I want to publish more titles in a shorter span of time. It took me 5 years from the publication of Endless Numbered Days to the publication of A Crooked Mile, and I don’t want to take another five years for the next.


What are your goals as a writer for 2020? Or as a reader? Let me know!

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My Writing Process

This whiteboard rules my life.

For me the writing process begins with a simple idea or a thought that catches me off guard. Every now and then these ideas just come to me out of nowhere, completely unprompted and just right there at a moment’s notice. More often than not, however, something in the world around me triggers a story idea that I otherwise wouldn’t have come up with on my own. It can be something as simple as a place I have visited, other times it is brought on by a person or an emotion evoked from a situation. I’ve written several stories before, including two full length novels, after experiencing a sudden and devastating loss in my life. While I tend to write best (in my opinion) based off of actual experiences, I think I prefer those stories that just came on suddenly and take shape all on their own. They feel like things I’ve worked that little bit harder for, if that makes any sense at all.

It’s everything that comes after the initial idea that requires all the work and effort. I used to try and be the type of writer who gets an idea, sits down, and just starts writing without anything to go on. After a while though my story would be all over the place with no real direction to lead the way, and that would result in frustration and a lot of unfinished pieces. It took me a couple of years to figure out that I’m just never going to be that kind of writer and that it’s okay. Everyone is different, and I just had to find a way of doing things that worked for me.

After I get that first glimpse of a story idea, I write it down. If I don’t write it down I’ll forget it promptly, which is what I absolutely don’t want to do. I keep two different notebooks with me at all times, and a pen on hand too. The smaller notebook is for “jotting”, which is just where I pen down the quick flashes of ideas, thoughts, or lines that help me piece together the puzzle. The larger notebook is for “plotting”, where I start to layout the stories bare bones and what steps I need to get to in order for it to be worthy of publication. It can be a little bit overwhelming when I first begin, but all those steps and details also keep me motivated to get to the end, which is what I’m always trying to do.

Once I have the basics down, I start the oftentimes grueling process of doing a layout for the story. It’s here that I start to create the characters and the location(s), because those are my preferred jumping-off point. I can’t put the characters into situations just yet, because I have to first know who they are. I think about the story I want to tell, what the context is, and go from there. I give them names, ages, places of birth, backstory information that might come in handy later, and what they look like in my head so I know who I’m writing about. Location is a huge thing for me too, I often shape the entire story around a central location, so getting to know the main setting is very important to me. It seems like a lot at the time, especially when I don’t know much of anything else about the story yet, but it’s what I need to get going.

From there I consider how long I want the story to be, or at least what my end goal is as far as word count goes. I don’t always reach the desired word count, and other times I exceed it (which is rare, I won’t even lie), but it’s another motivating factor for me. Once I kind of have any idea of the scope of what I’m trying to write I put together a layout of each chapter as a sort of guide to get me to the climax of the story. This takes a considerable amount of time usually, and if it’s a story that requires historical or accurate real-world context it can take even longer. This is also the point where I do my research on things that will be included in the story, and flesh out the characters and the place a little bit more. It is also almost a given that at some point in the story I will deviate some from the layout I created, by thinking of things I want to include or how I want to flesh out this plot point or that scene there. When that happens it’s perfectly okay, it doesn’t throw me off at all, I just have to watch myself and make sure I’m not straying too far from the storyline I want to convey.

I’m one of those people who can knock out the first draft fairly quickly if it’s a story that I’m totally immersed in. It’s the rest of it that gets me big time. I’m not a good self-editor, and I have a hard time picking up on my own flaws. I have friends who thankfully beta-read/edit/critique for me and me for them, so that works out pretty well. It’s just all the tedious stuff that comes with working a first draft into a properly good novel that gets me big time, but I try my best!

Everyone has a different writing process, and I think they’re all pretty fascinating! What’s your process like? Did you go through a lot of trial and error before figuring out what works best for you? Let me know!

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