ASPIRE: indies taking the world by storm / Kara Swanson


"the only way in or out was by plane," Kara recalls, of the place where she grew up, wewak, papua new guinea. here she spent fifteen years of her life, and cultivated her talent for the written word - living with her missionary parents, in a tribal community. "I was raised in the jungle; my earliest memories are of swimming in crystal-clear rivers and climbing palm trees."

i came into the conversation prepared with the perfect cup of coffee, an open google doc, a gel pen and a few sheets of blank graph paper (i almost never use the lined stuff). i logged onto google hangouts, and Kara and i talked for what felt like merely an hour, but in reality was over two. as if her background story isn't enough of a conversation starter, the eloquent and passionate dialogue that seems to come effortlessly to Kara will grab you by the throat and draw you in like a good story does. twenty one year old Kara is all bright, sparkling eyes, a beaming smile, and a contagious laugh.

"I feel like growing up abroad, in Papua New Guinea, with such a crazy unique backdrop, must have really helped to shape and inspire you as a writer." i comment, imagining the landscape as she describes the rural community where she lived in Wewak.

"As the only English-speaking girl my age in the tribe, I quickly found that my best friends consisted of ink and paper. My time there, surrounded by a completely different world, helped me to realize that books can transport you.” 

"was there a specific ah-ha, wow, i know I want to be a writer moment, or was it just a slow evolution?"

“I never really had a distinct point of ‘i want to be a writer’ - it was just what i did. It started with co-writing a story with a friend. I remember this shot of confidence when I finished, and I knew that it was something I wanted to pursue."

both C.S. Lewis fans, we geeked over Narnia, inevitably. 

"I was home schooled," a smile spreads across Kara's face, and you can see in her eyes that she is back in that small village of her childhood. "at night, in between some required reading for our education, my dad would read us Narnia as a reward. we loved it! Narnia was really a turning point for me as a writer too. It was a major example of how beautifully allegories can be written into stories."

allegories and themes - something that's important to Kara and something that she spends much time and energy weaving into her stories.

"The Girl Who Could See reflects a lot of what I was going through at the time that I wrote it... many of Fern’s struggles are reflective of my own battle with Lyme.”


"All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?"


this captivating tagline is one of the first things that greets you on Kara's new release's Amazon page - and an impressive stack of shining five-star reviews to back it up.

i take a sip of my coffee, glancing over the many notes i've already taken. "did you find that writing helped you through your battle with Lyme?" i ask.

Kara nods without hesitation. "I contracted Lyme just before heading back for another term overseas, when I was 15. It manifested slowly, starting with dizziness, fatigue, and grueling joint pain. Doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong. By the time I was 17 I was experiencing so much pain on the daily, I would find myself laying on the floor in pain, just trying to get through simple things like school work. Finally, I was tested and we discovered it was Lyme."

i had just seen an instagram post from Kara several days before, a photo in which she proudly holds up her drivers license, now able to drive after years of Lyme making this an impossibility. 

"During that time, one of the few things i could do was write…" she says, thinking back, "I was experiencing slight hallucinations on the regular, and struggling with brain fog, but when i sat down to write, it was like everything just clicked and my brain would clear. That was actually when I started working on The Girl Who Could See. I incorporated a lot of what I went through into the main character. That feeling of, what am I really seeing? Is this real?"


"That's intense. that's amazing that you could pull something out of a dark experience like that and use it for good, and use it to convey a story that will help other people."

"I wanted to communicate that sensation  of standing between two worlds and feeling like you don’t fit in either of them," Kara says thoughtfully, "but ultimately coming to the conclusion that sometimes it’s actually better to stand out."

i scribble down a few notes as she speaks, smiling because as she says this, i'm thinking "wow, that should be on like a tee shirt or something."

"You went indie with The Girl Who Could See, and you're doing some pretty amazing stuff with that. as an indie author, what advice would you give to an aspiring author who's thinking of diving into the indie publishing world?"

"hold it loosely," is Kara's mantra-like response, "think about what your goal is and what you want to do with the book, and what you hope to accomplish. what's your intent? what's your purpose? That is what will drive you forward. Give you the passion to truly do this--and you can do it. realize that publication is not an unattainable goal--but a mountain that can be climbed. And done so with great success. But only if you don’t see that mountain as the only path, but realize that your story is important because it’s yours. A special gift that only you can give, in whatever way that is. Find your why and keep a loose grip on your work... and realize that it's not yours, it's God's."






Grab your copy of The Girl Who Could See


- and get her short story, Seaglass




aspire: indies taking the world by storm / Abbiee


You can tell a lot about someone and how they operate by what you find on their desk - and an ipad, a camelbak full of water, a macbook, a stack of pages to edit, and an agglomeration of wires to hard drives, chargers and various other equipment is what you can find scattered across the dining room table on most mornings.

Abbie sits by the window with her eyes closed and her earbuds in. she tips back her head, and i can see her eyes twitching beneath their closed lids. is she listening to music? at a first glance, most would say yes. but i am at an advantage... i have known Abbie for over two decades, and i can tell you for certain, that is not what she is doing; she is feeling the music.


my sister, younger by two and a half years, has eyes like portals to a cloudless sky, long, poised "piano fingers" and the sort of eyebrows you see on the silver screen. she sits at the piano and she stares, wide-eyed at nothing, her fingertips resting on the ivory keys. she sits at the dining room table we've occupied since we were both kids, and she closes her eyes and she feels the sound, running her hand back through her short hair.

she smiles, the kind you can hear, because with her smile almost always come her laugh-- her bright voice as she flips the computer screen around.

"what do you think of this..."

a phrase we have swapped like trading cards since before I could remember. for Abbie, when she asks this question, it could be a line she wrote in one of her multiple novels. it could be a poignant verse in a song, or a sweeping flow of a music video she just edited.

Abbie is completely unashamed and bold in her simple mission statement: multitalented

"Most of us are told from a very young age that we must choose something to do with our lives. Preferably one thing. We go to college so that we can get degrees and, ultimately, get good-paying jobs. But let me ask you a question: What is better? A job that you might end up hating? Or a life that you might end up loving?"

Anyone who knows Abbie knows that when it comes to talk or action, she's action every day of the week - this concept is far from something she just talks about. she actually lives it.


"I like to make a daily schedule, double spaced, and check things off as I go," she says, always. "I love the feeling of accomplishment I get each time I check something off."

on that list you will find things like write a chapter of WIP, finish writing song, do yoga, meditate, answer blog comments, schedule posts, edit video, record vocals - the list goes on. Abbie is a firm believer in doing more than one thing - and doing it well.

"how many novels have you finished - like-start-to-finish finished?"

she pauses, making tea in the kitchen. she taps the count out on her fingertips.

"eight." she says.

"how many songs have you released in the past year?" I ask.

"four -  three of them were covers and one was a single," she recaps, "the single is called Back to Normal, and I wrote it because I feel like normality isn't really normal. and maybe we're part of something more divine and important than we think."

"what to you is normal?"

"i think we define normal incorrectly," she leans over her light blue macbook. "i think it's more normal to be superlative than to be ordinary. in fact, there are a few parallels to Narnia in the song, because i feel like maybe we are the kings and queens of Narnia, but we think we're "just kids"."

"so you believe we're not just kids?"

"exactly."


"and you just finished a novel."

"I am wholly in love with the novel i just finished. it has a theme that's very close to my heart and it's probably my favorite fictional work to date."

"do you feel some correlation between the songs and stories you write?"

"yeah i feel like theme is very important for me in both fiction and songwriting, and i want to use both art forms to deliver the messages i feel most convicted about, in the most poignant way possible."

she built her own recording studio.

"it's full of potential," she laughs, "big awesome incredible dreams are going to be made in that room. I loved getting all the equipment and putting it in there, and just... feeling that commitment to doing it professionally. it's a very good feeling."


"what drives you - and if you could give another aspiring indie a few words of encouragement, or a mantra to carry with them, what would it be?"

"you are full of potential. you can do anything you want to do. there is no limit to what your future can contain - if you set your mind to something you can achieve any goal. you have the same physiological makeup as your greatest hero."










7 REASONS WHY 2017 was the BIGGEST YEAR OF MY LIFE



hot dang. 2017. i did so many new things, met so many new people, made new friends, and learned so so so many things. 2017 was a year of growth - one that has shaped and changed me in many ways.  i think it's safe to say this was, in fact, the biggest year of my life. here's a few reasons why:


#1 I GOT MARRIED


this is the biggest one. I mean, holy smokes, WHAT??? WHAAAAT. *endless happy dance* after a long deployment which involved months of being apart, we were so ready to promise ourselves to each other forever. I'm so pumped about this guy. he's kind of a big deal to me - a huge deal, in fact, I could rant and rave about him for hours, but I will control myself. he's amazing, he's supportive (he's ridiculously attractive), he's my best friend, my love, my favorite adventurer, and my husband (woohoo!!). deciding to get married is, we've agreed, our favorite. decision. ever.


#2 I PUBLISHED MY FIRST NOVEL


this one still feels so surreal. I've dreamed of being able to type that sentence since I was eleven years old. I've written many stories - many. but when i wrote The Blood Race, something clicked inside me, and I knew this would be the first one i would send off into the world. it's such a personal book. i swear it swallowed my heart and soul, and now i'm forever trapped inside the Dimension. (not that i'm complaining. at all.)


#3 I WROTE ANOTHER NOVEL


I wrote the second book in The Blood Race series... *collectively screams into a pillow* I'm just a little tiny bit excited about it. I wrote it, finished it, edited it, sent it off to my wonderful editor and got the final round of revisions back (about to get started on those). so a TON of the process for book 2 took place this year - basically all of it. this one for me, is... pssshhhwooww. how to describe??? straight magic. I love this book. I loved writing this book, and I am pumped as heck to share it with you guys. you can read a bit about it here.


#4 WE BACKPACKED THROUGH EUROPE


my husband and I decided to skip the wedding, (except for the cake we never skip cake) elope, and proceed to run away to Europe and live out of backpacks. we both thought this was a fantastic idea so that's exactly what we did. we carefully documented our crazy adventures with loads of snapshots and a heck of a lot of video.(if you've been following my recent wandering posts, you've seen a lot of Rome and Venice). We walked the Spanish steps in Rome, where Tyler bought me a rose while i pretended to be Audrey Hepburn, we ate gelato and rode a gondola among the twinkling lights in Venice, and we wandered the Louvre until our feet ached, and picnicked on paninis & french fries at the base of the Eiffel tower in Paris. as a christmas surprise, my beautiful sister Abbiee completely blew my mind with this video, documenting our trip. have a watch above.


#5 WE MOVED INTO OUR FIRST PLACE


we were pretty darn stoked to move into our own little habitat, tucked away among the many, many many, pine trees dotting the base of one of the many mountains in this beautiful state. we spent most of the spring making this place our own. Tyler helped build it, and assemble all the complicated furniture, and i helped with the many many hours of designing and implementing our ideas. basically we played Chip and Joanna Gaines. was it fun? ooohhh yes.


#6 I GOT MY FIRST CAR


yes, it's both of ours - and our first as a married couple. BUT, but, I say my first car, because this is also the first car I've ever owned. so that's just a little exciting. I'm looking forward to strapping some surfboards on the roof and hitting the road with this baby!


#7 I STARTED WRITING THE THIRD BOOK IN MY SERIES


... i guess it's safe to say this series has me hooked. i dove into book 3 after only a week (or so) from finishing book 2. I'm not going to say a single word about book 3....but... ohhh man, I'M EXCITED.


_____________________


so there we have it -  a few highlights from the past year. a year, which, i might add, was even more amazing because of each and every one of you who have left comments, sent messages, written reviews, and supported the book. i seriously cannot express my gratitude (i know i say this all the time, but it does not get old for me) for each and every one of you. i love you guys.


WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE 2017 HIGHLIGHTS? name your top three favorite 2017 adventures and/or discoveries! Oh, and what about 2018 plans?? Any special goals??? I want to hear all about your year in the comments below!  hit me up!






lOVE,
kATE

Cover Reveal + Announcement of Giveaway Winners!



I would like to say a great big GIANT THANK YOU to each and every one of you who entered the giveaway and showed your support for my series The Blood Race. You guys are truly amazing and I couldn't be more grateful. Keep in mind that I'll be hosting numerous giveaways throughout the coming year [I'm already scheming something pretty fun for you guys leading up to the release of book #2] so fret not if you weren't selected this time. Be sure to go hit me up on social to stay updated on upcoming events, etc: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Book Instagram.

AND, and, if you haven't read The Blood Race in the series yet, you can actually snag the first 9 chapters for free right here on my site.



OKAY, without further ado, the 6 winners of the giveaway! [In order, first two names = first place winners, second two names = second place winners, last two names = third place winners]

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations to the winners! I'll be hitting each of you up via email so you can let me know where I should send your goods. *confetti rains down like FIRE FROM THE BLACKENING SKY* And a massive thank you to everyone who entered, shared and made this so much fun. Truly, you guys are special.

okay, guys. you know what happens next. you know why we're here. THE TIME IS HERE. THE HOUR HAS COME.

you honestly don't even want to read this introduction. you probably didn't even. you probably just scrolled down to see the cover didn't you - DIDN'T YOU??? just kidding, I love you. (what i just described is literally what I would do, so no worries. ;))

If you have already read book #1, keep scrolling if you wish, beautiful soul - but if you haven't yet, here's the lowdown on the series before you check out the cover:




credits for this stunning movie book trailer go to the incredible Abbiee, who also happens to be my beloved sister. [I know, I'm ridiculously blessed, you don't need to tell me. go hit up her blog and show her some lovin]

Now, let's get this done:


THE BLOOD RACE SERIES

BOOK #2




*cannot contain self*

You guys need to comment below and let me know what you think of the cover! I am so pumped about this one for so, so many reasons. But first, let's just talk about the cover, and let's also talk about how I seriously don't understand how my sister is so extremely multi-talented and downright gifted, because she designed this cover. Yeah. *mind = subtly blown*

There's so much meaning behind the cover, and behind the name, Worlds Beneath. I can't really say much without spoiling the story for you guys, so I will zip it, but let's just say I am extremely stoked for you to read the story and see the elements here explode into streaming technicolor.





SECOND SURPRISE:


In Worlds Beneath, Fin has a point of view. 

If you read book #1 in the series, you know that the story is told through two alternating points of view - Ion and Hawk. Don't worry, they'll be right there with you in Worlds Beneath, but... this time, their voices will be joined by a third voice that many of you wanted to hear more of. Not only is Fin spectacularly engaging to write, his point of view in Worlds Beneath is critical to the story, and I honestly cannot wait for you to see why. I hope you guys will enjoy getting to know this superpower-wielding Dublin native a bit better!





- EXTRAS - 



THE PLAYLIST:


I for one LOVE listening to book/writer playlists, especially when they are attached to someone's amazing brainchild of a novel. So, if you're as into that as I am, hit up/follow the 'official' playlist for Worlds Beneath. This is the music I listened to while I wrote the book, and these are songs that remind me of scenes, characters, and overall themes in the story.





THE BOARD:



My sister, once again, gets credits - the Pinterest board is all her (she is queen).

I seriously love you guys so much, and I can't thank you enough for your comments, love, support, & readership. If you haven't read the first book, the first 9 chapters are available free right here, so definitely take advantage of them - that's why they're there. :) Or give it an add on Goodreads.



Well guys, QUESTION TIME! What do you think of the cover and title?? Are you stoked for Worlds Beneath??? Have you read The Blood Race - the first book in my series? Are you a writer, a reader or both? 


lOVE,
kATE