If you’re here for the Heartmender review, read on. If you’re here for Kelly’s life updates, just scroll down a bit!
Narnia meets Dante’s Inferno in this Christian-inspired YA fantasy by V. Romas Burton
4 out of 5 stars
Meet Adelaide Tye, an outcast girl who will do anything to save her brother, even when it seems hopeless. Addie has a strong heart, but she struggles with anxiety. Enter Silas, the strong/silent type who takes care of her (and her grandmother, because he’s that sweet), despite the social stigma.
Addie is quickly thrown into another world entirely, full of terrifying creatures that may once have been human. Here we meet the mysterious Claire, who reluctantly becomes Addie’s guide through a series of tests mirrored after the seven deadly sins. You might think you know what’s coming next, but there are several plot twists that lead up to a strong climax with high stakes.
Heartmender explores real issues like anxiety and feeling alone. There are also messages of the power of familial love and the importance of relying on God’s strength when you are weak.
I gave 4 stars instead of 5 because I think it needed another pass-through of editing to tighten and strengthen the language. With that, I think it would really wow. (I’m optimistic for book 2. The excerpt at the end of book 1 already shows improvement in this area.)
Overall, this story is fast-paced with vivid descriptions, relatable characters, and a strong message of hope. I quite enjoyed it and would recommend it for those interested in Christian-inspired YA fantasy.
Also, it’s currently $4.99 on Amazon Kindle, so jump on that!
It’s been a crazy summer! In the spring I registered for a writing conference recommended by several friends. When I signed up for my various appointments, including pitch appointments, I realized I would have to put a hold on my writing to start putting together a book proposal.
Oh sure! Let’s just take a week to do that. It’ll be great.
Let’s walk through this process for a minute, shall we?
- Cover page
- Title: Spend a day brainstorming titles for book one. Realize that you don’t like any of them. Consider that you’re writing a series, and wouldn’t it be nice to have titles that sound good together? Spend a day brainstorming titles that work together for books one, two, and three. Wait a week. Decide you don’t like them. Toss out the idea of three titles that sound good together and focus on just the first one again. Spend a day brainstorming new titles. Ask your friends what they think. Have your friends tell you the original one you came up with was the best. Sit on it for a month. Realize your friends are probably right. Still feel uncertain about your decision.
- Author name: Get excited, because you’ve known for a long time that you’ve wanted to pick a pen name. Your own name is pretty common, but it’d be good to pick something similar so you actually answer to it and can sign it easily. Pick a name you like. Search on social media. Realize that five thousand other people already have that name. Experiment with various spellings of that name. Tweak it more. Search. Tweak. Search. Tweak. Ah ha! Go to every single social media platform you can find and create an account with that username. Claim the gmail address. Buy the domain name. Switch your wordpress blog to that username (did anyone notice that?). A week later, worry that you don’t like the name. Stick with it anyway. Find a good profile picture. Upload that same pic on every social media platform. A month later, discover that since you haven’t actually done anything on twitter, you’ve been banned. Send twitter many emails. Stress. Eventually get things figured out, but despise twitter on principle anyways. Also eventually decide that you do, in fact, like the name you chose.
- Genre: Debate between declaring your novel as epic fantasy vs YA fantasy. Realize that YA fantasy wasn’t really a thing when you were growing up, so you haven’t actually read much YA fantasy. Ask your friends for book recommendations. Read 26 YA fantasy books over the course of three months. Realize that you find most YA fantasy characters immature and annoying, at least at the beginning of the book. Wonder if you picked the right genre. Read Skyward. Wish more YA fantasy authors wrote characters like Brandon Sanderson does. Realize that’s a really high standard. Go with YA fantasy for now despite your slight misgivings, because your main character is 16, after all, and it’s a coming-of-age story (at least book one is…).
- Guys, that was just the cover page. I haven’t even started the rest of the proposal yet.
- One sheet
- Hook: Research what makes a good hook. Spend a day writing stuff that maybe might somehow summarize your 100,000 word novel in one sentence while being intriguing, accurate, and unique, while also not giving too much away, but giving enough away so that people are interested. And also hopefully this one sentence is not a thousand words long. Hate everything you came up with. A week later, try again. Feel dissatisfied. Squash a bunch of your ideas together and come up with five passable options. Show these options to your friends. Have one of your friends come up with a sixth option that is by far the best. Realize that while this option is accurate, it focuses on an aspect of the beginning of the story that maybe isn’t the most important. Review the plot of your book. Decide you want to rewrite the first quarter to include a larger focus on this thing. Groan. Set that aside for later.
- Sales blurb: Research how a hook is different from a sales blurb. Realize that even people in the industry call things by different names sometimes. Decide to follow the guidelines of one of the people you’re pitching to at the conference. Realize that your sales blurb might actually one day grace the top of the back cover of your book (or maybe even the front), and must therefore be amazing. Look through the remains of the stuff left over from writing your hook. Also write a bunch of new stuff. Come up with a few options that are actually really good, but give away a character death that doesn’t happen until a quarter of the way through the book. Growl peevishly. Decide to use one of them anyways. Make it slightly more vague about who dies, but hey, it’s actually not that bad.
- Back cover copy: Research what makes good back cover copy. Spend a day writing up a bunch of different options. Be displeased with all of them. Ignore it for a week. Spend ten minutes writing up something brand new and completely different. …Really like it?! Realize that the best part about it is a world-building detail that you decided recently that hasn’t even been included in the book yet and will take a major rewrite. Shrug. Move on before the terror sets in.
- Author bio: Write something snarky. Be done with it. Several weeks later, have a friend recommend that you present yourself more professionally and delete the snarkiest bits. Sadly agree and do as you’re told.
- Author pic: Search through all the pictures you have of yourself on your phone, computer, and facebook. Realize you haven’t had a picture taken of just you in three years. Decide that your college theatre pic is too out of date. Reconsider all the pictures you just looked through to see if you can crop a friend out of your picture in a way that looks natural. Find one that might work. Spend several hours photoshopping. Apologize mentally to your friend. Realize that your printer doesn’t have color ink. Spend more time making sure the black and white version of this photo also looks good.
- Guys, all this content fits on one page. Despite how much time it took to write. One. single. idiotic. page. Moving on.
- Include everything from the one sheet
- Synopsis: Realize that it’s actually been six years since you finished writing this book (you’ve since been working on books two and three), and you’re not sure you remember what happens at some parts. Dig through some old writings to find a one page summary you wrote a year ago (here’s lookin’ at you, snowflake method!). Read through the summary. Delete a whole bunch of unnecessary details. Decide it’s actually too short. Reread your entire 100,000 word novel from start to finish, breaking it into chapters (yeah, you hadn’t done that yet) and summarizing each chapter on a notepad. This will take you several days. 100,000 words is a lot. (As you read, sometimes feel proud (hey, that part is pretty good!) and sometimes feel awful (wow, I wrote that? gross).) (Take a moment to appreciate double parenthetical references.) Rewrite your synopsis from scratch using your chapter summaries. Feel pretty good about yourself. Remember some plot changes you wanted to make. Decide they should go into the synopsis, even though you haven’t written them yet. Have a friend comment that three of your major characters have names starting with “Ra” (in the past six years, you’ve managed never to notice this). Brainstorm a new name for one of these characters, then change it everywhere.
- Series potential: Write up a few sentences of summary for books two and three. Feel surprised at how easy this was to do in comparison to the mess of everything else. Realize it actually makes a little bit of sense, since you finished book two last year and are currently writing book three, so they’re fresher in your mind.
- Comparative titles: Consider each of the 26 YA fantasy books you read over the last three months and pick three to five that you think are similar to your novel. Research and record the title, author, publisher, and publication year for each of these books. Then write a paragraph explaining how each book is similar and different from your own. Make sure to mention several times how your own novel does not have romance. Apparently this is a novelty (ha ha).
- Marketing: Sigh. Sigh again. Give in to the monstrosity that is instagram. Dive into the world of bookstagram. Look up various book challenges. Pick books that fit. Find a place in your house that has good light at this time of day. Fail to artistically display your book(s) along with various knick-knacks in a matching color. Edit several photos until they look passable. Debate between the finished photos for at least fifteen minutes. Finally pick one (that you will later regret) and upload it to the app. Spend twenty minutes typing up a hopefully meaningful caption and adding boatloads of hashtags. Look longingly at your computer keyboard, where typing is so much faster than on the blasted tiny mobile thing in your hands. Reread everything and fix all your typos. Share. Wait expectantly for every beautiful like and follow. Respond within seconds to each comment. Scroll endlessly through gorgeous photos you couldn’t hope to replicate. Repeat this process every. single. day. Realize that someday you will have to approach twitter and facebook with similar determination. Type up a detailed plan for how you will approach marketing your book. Look sadly at every place you wrote “I will” instead of “I am” because, let’s be honest, it’s going to take you a long time to get there. But feel encouraged at the good start you’ve made. In the meantime, design business cards! Get 250 of them printed, because it only costs $25. (Have 240 left over after the conference. Don’t worry. You can use them for bookmarks.)
- Writing sample
- Chapter one: Realize that you have less than a month until this must be submitted. Realize that you haven’t looked at book one’s chapter one for five years. Read it. Decide that it’s pretty terrible. Read through old comments from friends. Decide that one friend had a good idea for an alternate beginning. Spend a weekend writing that. Spend a week editing it. Send it to some friends. Revise thoroughly after each friend’s comments. Finally, heart in throat, submit it. Wait two months. Receive a document back with 53 comments. Head-desk multiple times at each comment that tells you how bad you are at show-don’t-tell. Apologize mentally to every English and writing teacher you ever had. Eventually appreciate the fact that individual instances have been pointed out in a way that is actually extremely helpful. Smile giddily at the positive comments. Knock out a few of the easier comments. Get overwhelmed at the sheer amount of work that needs to be done on this one single chapter. Avoid it for a week. Eventually come back to it and pretty much rewrite the entire thing. Verify that you did in fact rewrite two-thirds of the chapter by doing a document comparison. Hope you did a good job at show-don’t-tell this time.
- Chapter two: Spend a week writing a chapter that seems logical to come after your new chapter one, even though it’s nothing like your original chapter two. Realize that if you continue on this way, you’ll be rewriting the entire book from scratch. Feel overwhelmed and decide not to think about that right now. Get excited that you’re doing better about the things that were a problem in chapter one. You’re becoming a better writer! Huzzah!
- Chapter three: Feel stressed because you only have a week left before this needs to be done. Feel less stressed because this is the absolute last thing in the proposal, and probably no one will get to it, at least during the conference. Spend a couple days writing something you’re pretty happy with. Realize it’s getting a bit too long. Decide to end it on a cliffhanger, because then it will be done. Read through it and shrug. It’s a thing.
So that’s what I spent three months working on. Then I went to the conference (armed with five printed copies of this 38 page proposal, along with 10 copies of my one sheet). Then I went on vacation. Phew.
I would love to tell you all about the conference and what I’ve been doing since then, but that will have to be in another post, as this one is already getting long. However, I do want to share one wonderful thing that came out of the conference and my involvement in bookstagram (which you maybe noticed at the top of this post): I was offered a free ARC (advanced reader copy) of a book in return for an honest review and posting about it on social media.
My initial response was, “Umm…me? Are you sure? I’m really new at all this social media stuff.” But the author replied that she was specifically looking for people she thought would enjoy the book, and my instagram profile fit what she was looking for. I think that’s pretty cool! And it seems like a good situation for both of us.
So my review is at the top of this blog post! You can find out more about Heartmender (and my other bookstagram adventures) if you follow me on instagram (shameless plug for my new and blossoming author platform).
This has been an episode of crazed writing adventures with Kelly Johnson *ahem* Kell Jasmer. Thank you for reading.