• Abbie Smith

I follow a lot of reader and writer accounts on Twitter and Instagram. While I already have a huge “To Be Read” shelf, I am always on the lookout for new books. I’ll read just about any age group and genre, but I tend to prefer the Young Adult/New Adult genres. WINTERSONG by S. Jae-Jones kept popping up on Amazon, but I wasn’t sure just by the cover if it was something I would enjoy reading.

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Not feeling the greatest today, so it's a spend-the-day-in-bed kind of Sunday. Bought #wintersong a while back, time to dive in. 😁 #bookstagram #bookish #books #amreading #sjaejones #goodreads #goblinking

A post shared by Abbie Lynn Smith (@abbiewritesx) on Apr 16, 2017 at 7:31am PDT

On Instagram, one of the accounts I followed absolutely raved about this book. I remember her saying if there is just one new book by a new author to try, it’s this one. After several posts of positive reviews, I looked it up. The description of it immediately captured my attention:

“The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride… All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away. But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds―and the mysterious man who rules it―she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed. Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.”

My favorite movie of all time is Labyrinth. When I hear the words “goblin” and “king” together, I immediately think of big-haired David Bowie in tights, playing cruel master of Jim Henson’s world, singing Magic Dance or As the World Falls Down. I think of the goblins, gross looking and yet endearing at the same time. I think of the many lessons the story teaches to children like be careful what you wish for, or words have power. This book had so many references to Labyrinth, from the Goblin King’s physical appearance, to a ball in the Underground, to rotten peaches, to “I wish…”. Within just the first 30 pages, I found myself fangirling over all of the references. I was hooked immediately.


Now, WINTERSONG is not a retelling of Labyrinth. It’s sort of a cross between Labyrinth and Phantom of the Opera. The setting is 19th century Germany, and explores the life and times of those living then. The main character, Elisabeth (or Liesl), was easily relatable for me. She is the eldest of three siblings. Her character has sacrificed nearly everything for her siblings, including her music, her love, and, eventually, her life. Elisabeth goes on a journey to find herself, who she is, outside of her family or the expectations of those in her life. She has experienced bouts of suffering. This story is set in a time when women were expected to be runners of a household, a piece of arm candy, not career driven. The Goblin King gives her a chance to fully explore her talents with music in a way that she would not otherwise have had a chance.

What follows is a beautiful love story.

Jae-Jones’s words were gorgeously written, and they flowed like a composed piece of music. She captures the mischief and darkness of the Goblin King in such a way that one wants to know more about him, like most want to know more of the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera. Elisabeth is such a relatable character for anyone who has felt the weight of self-sacrifice.

The end of the book wrapped the story up where it could stand alone, but left it just open enough in case of a series. I discovered a sequel is coming, and I can’t wait to read it.

I started this book on a Sunday morning and finished it that night. That is how good of a book it was, to me. Not everyone will understand or adore the Labyrinth references, but if you like the movie, I would highly recommend WINTERSONG. If you like characters shrouded in shades of gray, read it. If you want to escape to the Underground for a while, read it.

This is, hands down, my favorite book of 2017 so far. The only book that comes close is KING’S CAGE by Victoria Aveyard (I adore the RED QUEEN series). It lived up to the hype, which, I find, is really rare for books these days (one example, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, call me a monster, I didn’t like it).

So, this was my first book review on this blog (I have two others that have been sitting in my drafts for months…oops). If you have any feedback, please leave it in a comment or reach out to me on any of my social media accounts.

Thanks for reading, Abbie

#BookReview #Wintersong

  • Abbie Smith

So it’s been a little while since I’ve posted a blog. It happens. Life gets busy!

I sent out HALFLIFE for beta readers on February 21. I’ve heard back from nearly everyone, and I am really excited about the next round of edits. So far, the feedback is pretty positive! I went on vacation last week, so I figured I could relax the deadline. Hopefully I’ll hear back from the other beta readers within the next couple of days. And then…EDITS! More edits. I hate editing.

Once I turned HALFLIFE over to my readers, I dove straight into book two. I found that I like writing a hell of a lot better than editing. Edits are a necessary part of any manuscript, but they get tedious. For me, once I’ve finished a draft, I don’t like touching it too much. There is such a thing as over editing. But I also find that I get bored exploring the same story. To me, writing is a fun process, and editing is the necessary evil. I like being able to explore the world without limitations, and editing makes me feel like there are limitations. Book two is coming along nicely. I am really excited about the journey the characters are going on.

Now, that being said, I have to return to book one. If this series is ever going to be published, the manuscript has to be refined. I was so nervous about handing my book over for betas, and there’s a part of me that was horrified that people might not like it. Considering a lot of people don’t know what a beta reader does, I gave a list of questions to my readers as a guideline, mostly about things I doubted. The questions are below:

1. There are five main characters in HALFLIFE. Did you feel this was too many perspectives? Was there ever a time you were confused about whose voice was in a specific chapter?

-I was incredibly worried about this. Most books that have multiple perspectives limit it to two or three. There are FIVE in my book, and I was really worried my readers would feel it was too much. I was worried the characters’ voices would not be unique and people would get confused with whose perspective they were reading.

2. The point of view of each character is in first person. Would you have preferred seeing these characters from third person point of view?

-In the original draft, this story was in third person. There was one chapter in particular where a male and female character were talking about another female character. The hes and shes got incredibly confusing. By taking out one of them, I felt I was able to convey the story better. In first person point of view, you can give a lot more of the internal of the character than you can in third person. Conversely, third person allows for more mystery (recently read the Throne of Glass series and third person kept the reader from knowing much about the main character, which I really liked). I’ve struggled with whether I wanted to keep the story in first person or maybe do a variation (The OUTLANDER books, for example, have multiple perspectives, but the only one in first person is the main character, Claire). Overall, no one disliked the story being first person, so I feel like the decision to keep each character first person is a good one.

3. Were there any glaring plot holes or continuity issues? For example, Kate’s eyes are blue in chapter one, but green at the end of the book.

-This is something any author needs readers to keep in mind. I’ve changed little details, such as hair color, or the outcome of a character. I always try to make the updates, but the readers were able to point out several plot holes I missed so I can fix it.

4. Did any chapter feel random or out of place?

-This book started out centered on Dominick, the main character. When I wrote it centered around her, I found there was so much more to the story that we were missing. One thing my writing partner told me as we talked about HALFLIFE was that the supporting characters make the story. I had actually considered scrapping this and taking the voice of one of the supporting characters because it seemed everyone loved her more than the main character. But the truth is, this story isn’t just about Dominick or Kate or Caleb. It’s a culmination of all of these characters. The point here is, there are times where I’ve had to add a chapter from another character as a filler, and if it didn’t feel like a natural chapter, I wanted to know.

5. Did you have a favorite part of the book?

-This is purely for me. I wanted to know what the readers liked. So far, each reader has different parts they liked, and that tells me the story can appeal to a broad group of readers. I felt like I had a very diverse group of betas, so I could touch on different audiences. The only thing I didn’t have was a male perspective (if you’re a guy and want to read my book, please reach out to me!)

6. Did you have a least favorite part book?

-Again, purely for my knowledge. As a reader, there are times when I read a book and literally throw it because I didn’t like something. Not because I want the author to do something different. Because it made me feel something. Besides, if everyone came back saying the same thing, it would give me an opportunity to pause and rethink if that is something I should keep. So far, this hasn’t happened.

7. Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

-I love every single character I’ve written. Whether they have a perspective or not, I am biased. They are people that I’ve created that live in my head, and I was curious to know if others liked them. Most of them like Kate, who, unsurprisingly, is a version of my best friend. I was glad for that, because I feel like it is a dedication to who she is in real life.

8. Is there something you wanted to see by the end of the book, but didn’t? If so, what?

-It’s always good to see if a reader has suggestions. There are books that I’ve read and felt dissatisfied because the author could have done this, or could have done that. I wanted to give an opportunity to readers to tell me what they missed. I was not disappointed.

9. This is the first book in a series. Would you pick up book two based on this first story?

-For those keeping score, I have five books planned in the HALFLIFE series (plus, there’s a prequel story that may or may not be a series). It could end up being more, if the books do well, but as of today, five is the magic number. This made me incredibly happy: every single person said that they would continue reading. One even volunteered to beta book two because they wanted to read what happened next. For a writer, that is a glorious feeling.

On a more personal note, in addition to writing, I’ve got a lot going on in my life right now that I felt the need to share.

-Four years ago, I lost a lot of weight and I recently gained it all back. I’m working really hard to get it off. It’s been more difficult than it was before. I am the type of person who eats my feelings. I’m happy? Let’s celebrate by eating! I’m sad? I need to eat to feel better. I’m overwhelmed? Food will make it better. I’m bored? I need to eat something!

-I have also quit smoking. I picked it up when I was young and never really thought it would be this big thing. But it is. I smoked my last cigarette on Sunday. Words of encouragement aren’t necessary, but they are definitely appreciated.

-Vacation was fun! My parents and I went on a week long cruise to Jamaica, Cayman Islands, and Mexico. While seven days on a boat is a little too long for me, I had a great time doing something new. Now I can say I’m an international traveler!

-Lauren and I are working on a hardcore overhaul of one of our books. Progress has been slow (life has gotten in the way for both of us), but I’m excited about the changes and hopeful the story will be better off in the long run. We’ve also determined that series is four books, instead of the three originally planned.

To those beta readers who have provided me with feedback, please check your email. It may have gone to your SPAM box, so be sure to check there as well. Thank you again. It means a great deal to me to have such awesome people in my corner.

Thanks for going along on this crazy journey with me!

Abbie 🙂

  • Abbie Smith

Last Saturday, I spent about eight hours finishing up my second full draft of HalfLife. I love those productive days where it is so easy to get sucked into the manuscript. It is rare that I am able to just take an entire day and really dive in, so I appreciated the time immensely.

Through my writing process, alongside my partner in crime, I have learned a lot about the book industry and how it works. You can’t just send a book in somewhere and have it published. Because there are literally thousands of people trying to become published authors, it is actually very difficult to get published. The steps, as I’ve learned, are as follows:

  1. Write a Book

  2. Get an Agent

  3. Agent obtains Publisher

  4. Publisher publishes book

Those are the four big steps. Seems simple, right? I’m here to tell you that isn’t the case. Within those four steps, there are sub-steps. Just as in writing a book, there are main plots and subplots.

Take Step One: Write a Book. I have learned that a first draft is just that: a first draft. Advice to new writers: never, ever, ever submit a first draft to an agent or publisher. I speak from experience. A first draft is getting the story out, the bare bones, if you will. What agents look for is a work that is as close to being publish-as ready as possible. It can take three, four, five drafts before it’s ready for publishing, or ready enough to obtain an agent.

Therefore, I provide you with Step One, Section A: Edit your Book! HalfLife is only on its second full draft, but I’ve been editing and reworking and developing backstory on it for years. Do I think it’s ready for an agent yet? No. The point of a first draft is to get the story down. The point to an edit is to take out and revise and add and develop. My favorite quote about first drafts: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” The revision process is very important. Not only do agents and publishers want to see a work as close as possible to being publish ready, but how can you be sure there isn’t more to the story if you stop after a first draft?

I want to build castles, not just shovel sand. 😉

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Eighty-nine thousand, eight hundred, eighty-eight words. Holy hell. I've been hovering around the 85K mark in my manuscript. I added nearly five thousand words through the process of working this draft. I spent 8 hours working on it today. I am so incredibly proud of this project. It's taken a lot to get here (first draft was finished almost a year and a half ago!). . That said, time to talk next steps. I'm looking for beta readers! If you are interested, check out more information about HalfLife by going to abbielynnsmith.wordpress.com and click on HalfLife at the top. If you would like to be a beta reader, please shoot me an email at abbielynnsmith0711@yahoo.com or message me on any of my social media outlets. #writer #amwriting #amediting #HalfLife #betareader #betareaders #manuscript #publishme #ineedanagent #magicalrealism

A post shared by Abbie Lynn Smith (@abbiewritesx) on Feb 18, 2017 at 10:28pm PST

Step One, Section B (This is where I am!): Beta Readers! Last Saturday, when I finished this draft of HalfLife, I put a post out on Instagram and shared it to my other social media accounts. I was proud of the work I’d done. In that post, I put out a request, that if anyone wanted to beta read my manuscript, to please let me know. I thought maybe I would catch the attention of a couple of friends. I also reached out to a couple of people who posted ads to beta read for authors through Goodreads.

What I got back surprised me! I had over ten people volunteer to beta read. The thing is, most of those messages started out with: I don’t know what a beta reader is, but…

I am absolutely floored by the support and outreach so many have given to me. I expected I would have to fight tooth and nail to find folks willing to read my work. To everyone that volunteered, THANK YOU!! To those who I reached out to for email addresses, your copy of the manuscript is in your email if you haven’t already found it. 🙂

So, this post boils down to that very question: what is a beta reader?

The best way to polish a manuscript is to have feedback. You don’t know how your work is going to be received unless you actually let people read it. The point to betas isn’t to have a line by line edit done, but to have people read it, tell you what they do and don’t like, point out any glaring plot holes, and give you an honest opinion as to whether they like the book.

As a writer, I have to tell you, this has been the most terrifying step so far.

When I began the HalfLife journey ten years ago, I don’t know that I really thought I’d ever get to this point. I always hoped I would, but I’m a realist and psyched myself into thinking it would never be a fully workable manuscript. I’d like to think every author goes through this phase. The “What if they don’t like me?” phase.

This project is my baby. And I worry that people won’t like it. But, the truth of the matter is, if I don’t try it, I will never know, and I have to know if this story is as good as I believe it is. I know there are still places for improvement. Trust me, ever since Saturday when I finished the draft, I’ve been pointing out spots where I need to do more, be more consistent, or just downright remove the fluff.

But I won’t know how people feel about it until I let my baby go and walk on its own.

Again, thank you to every single person that volunteered to beta for me! I felt bad having to turn folks away, but, believe me, this isn’t the last project and I will absolutely need betas in the future. I am very touched by the support. I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of years feeling like I was lost, or alone, and I realize now just how wrong I was. It means the world to me that there are so many people out there who want to support my journey.

I’ll come back to the steps and sub steps of publishing in the future, hopefully while I’m climbing the ladder myself.

As always, thanks for reading, Abbie 🙂