Cover Reveal!!

Keepers Cover Book One FinalIt’s in! The cover for Windmill Keepers, Book One is finally done! Please click on the image to enlarge it and see the details! I. Kemp put her fancy art degree to use and created something totally unique for our first YA novel. I’m still amazed at how she managed to capture the vividness of their world, but reveal the dark undertones of the story. Keep reading for a small blurb from I. Kemp about the art side of Windmill Keepers.

~A. Kemp

P.S. Normal updates resume this week.
I really always wanted to be a graffiti artist but never had enough rebellion in me to secretly paint on any walls. So here I am, attempting to live out my dreams by making stencil painted book covers. Please like and share this artwork to your heart’s content!


P.S. I will gladly do very, very reasonably priced covers for any other indie/self-published artists who want something drawn or painted instead of photographs! Just send me a message any time!

Diversity and Character Creation

Whenever I sit down to write a new character, I end up pausing to double check my research. I think one of the most important aspects of literary casts is diversity, but it’s something you have to do right. It is dangerous to fall into the trap of describing unfamiliar characters through stereotypes. I believe, however, that it is equally as bad to ignore a character’s culture.

We live in a vastly complicated world, and it’s not pretty by any means. Racism, sexism, and countless other deplorable beliefs exist in our day-to-day lives.  Some of us are lucky and do not encounter these problems very often. Others, not so much. This is something I became increasingly aware of as I learned to be more socially conscious with my writing.

When a character comes from a specific culture, they bring their baggage with them. You cannot take a white character and change their race without that shift affecting their lives. When you face different prejudices, you develop a different mindset, after all.

In the case of a devout Muslim character, for example, they are going to carry some of their religious background with them. That background is going to be vastly different from that of a devout Catholic. In that same regard, a Muslim character in Somalia is going to encounter different problems than one living in France. Location, history, and sociology are all things one has to consider when they try to introduce minority characters.

Ignoring a group’s social struggles and pressures paints an untrue picture of the world. It does not mean that a character can’t be an anomaly from their social group. In fact, that could be a huge part of their personality. This variance, however, is something the author should point out. I feel this is especially true when writing for young audiences.

And this is where things get tricky in terms of balancing a character. While a person should carry some marks of their culture, these imprints should not be counted on to create an entire character. Humans are far more complex than that.

In my book, for example, I have a girl from India who bears scars of abuse for being an unwanted daughter. Female abuse and infanticide is a serious problem in India. While it does not represent all of India, and there are many Indian families that love and cherish their daughters, it is a problem that still exists throughout the country. This character carries this maltreatment in the burns on her back.

Her scars, however, do not define her person in its entirety. She has managed to rise above the psychological trauma. She is fashionable, physically strong, a loyal friend, a feminist, a romantic, funny, and just a little bit strange. Her culture encouraged the growth of these traits through both good and bad experiences. She is the product of her society, but not the embodiment of it.

I want to see more honest depictions of different cultures in literature, especially where children are involved. And while I’m trying my best to get everything right, I know there are points where I am going to mess up. I’m not from the cultures I am trying to represent and so there is no way I could write them with perfect accuracy. I have struggled with this notion for some time. I worry that I am doing more harm than good, but whitewashing my books feels worse.

There has recently been a movement to see more diverse books, characters, and authors in our bookstore. While I cannot and should not be the forefront of this movement, I hope that I can help support it. The most I can ask is that if I get something wrong, then someone will let me know. Explain to me where I messed up. That way, I can acknowledge my mistake and take steps to never make the same error. I want to make things better, not worse.

Empowering Girls, One Book at a Time

I’ve written about empowering young girls before on a previous blog, but I felt like it needed to be mentioned again. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and very little of it is good. Still, I don’t want to give up hope that our generation can turn things around.

As a writer, I want to see the world get better instead of worse. For that reason, I’ve always tried to be socially conscious when writing. After all, books had a profound impact on me as a young teen. Every time I sit down at the keyboard, I try to create real characters. They’re people of different races, from different cultures and backgrounds. I’m of the view that minorities shouldn’t be tokens you get gold stars for (such as: “my main character has a black friend, so I did a good job”). They deserve to be main characters, and our increasingly diverse population of young people deserve to see themselves reflected as heroes in literature.

I try to fight against misconceptions that I had as a young child. Hijabs do not equal oppression, a boy crying does not make him weak, and having a mental disorder does not make someone violent or evil. These are some of the messages I try to send. Young female characters, in particular, hold a special place in my heart.

As a child, I read dozens and dozens of adventures with boys as the main character. Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Kidnapped, Oliver Twist, The Yearling and even Watership Down (which was about rabbits) all had male heroes. Modern day books such as Holes, Harry Potter, Airborn, Looking for Alaska, and Unwind also feature male heroes. Needless to say, there were a lot of heroic, adventurous boys on my schools’ required reading lists and not a lot of girls. Thankfully, things have started to change.

In the YA genre, female writers have been making great strides, and they’ve brought a lot of their girl power with them. Female-centered stories with strong leads began to emerge in rapid succession once a new generation of writers got their turn at the plate. Now, a huge section of the YA market is dedicated to female protagonists. Male writers have also started creating stronger female characters. Kenneth Oppel’s Kate de Vries and Scott Westerfield’s Deryn Sharp played hugely important and powerful roles throughout their respective trilogies. It was a change I was glad to see happen.

It always pleases me when I see girls being depicted as powerful, be it though traditional or nontraditional roles. IN addition, diverse female characters send the message that women can be masters of their own story. This should be true of every female, regardless of their race, if they are boyish or girly, fat or thin, weak or strong.

Girls hold up half the sky, and they deserve the same respect and rights as men – be it in literature or real life. This is a message I am always trying to send through my female characters. After all, it’s hard to be a girl. Every woman on television is thin, beautiful, rich, well-dressed, and overwhelmingly white. Our lives are determined by corporations and governments that are 80% to 97% male. Women are 51% of the population, but we are voiceless when it comes to determining the laws that govern us. This is one of many reasons why we need feminism to achieve equality. In literature, I feel like women are finally starting to gain ground.

When I was young, I wanted to write, but I also wanted to get into robotics and engineering. My science teachers never encouraged me. I was told by a teacher in grade school that girls had a harder time in math and science. When I grew up and learned why such statements were wrong, I promised to do better. I hope I’ve done just that.

Responsibility in Writing

Creative writing is hard – a lot harder than people think. There are dozens of elements to consider when typing out a new story. Characters, world building, syntax, flow, and even vocabulary become a balancing act. Get too wordy and your flow is lost. Too much world building? Your plot becomes an afterthought. Focusing too much or too little on your characters’ backstories can lead to dis-attachment and disaster. It’s easy to get lost and, as readers, it’s easy to spot when it’s happening to other people.

One of the things so few people realize about creative writing is how personal it can be. Certain scenes can be ripped from our very lives. Villains are old bullies, and heroes are terrific friends. When we criticize using harsh words, we may unintentionally criticize someone’s life. So, when an author shares their work with someone, its a very brave act. Bravery and personal feelings, however, cannot serve as an excuse for careless writing in the YA genre.

Stephanie Meyer’s infamous Twilight series is a common target when it comes to accusations of harm in the world of YA literature. It’s no secret that Meyers modeled Bella after herself. A great deal of the story parallels with her own life. While some call this un-creative, and others accuse her book of being a “Mary Sue,” I say it’s no different than what most writers do. We put a bit of ourselves into every character and setting we create. If an author says they’ve never done it, they’re lying.

Where Twilight falls short isn’t even in the abusive romance of the book. The relationship between Edward and Bella is, by all accounts, unhealthy. Meyers wrote at least a dozen arguments in the first book alone that prove as much. By no accounts is this a bad thing, either. Abuse is something people experience, teenagers especially. Meyers fell short when she failed to acknowledge the relationship for what it was and glorified it instead.

Being a teenager introduces you to all sorts of firsts, one of which is usually dating. Sometimes, teens look to pop culture for guidance when trying to navigate these new relationships. Many young men and women can find themselves in abusive relationships. How can they know anything is wrong when the books they read and the songs they hear tell them this is the way it should be?

If Meyers had addressed the story in a different way, I feel it would have been received in a positive light. After all, it was nice to see a different twist on the tired vampire tale. But if Bella had called Edward out on his abuse, if she had gotten out of the relationship, or even if Edward had realized where he was wrong and worked to change his hundred year-old ways, then the book would have gone from a status of ignorant to socially aware.

If you make YA your genre of choice, it should be, in part, because you care about your audience. Those amazing and terrible firsts were like a roller coaster when we were younger. We lived through extreme highs and lows. Sometimes we loved those years. Some of us hated them. Writing for the YA audience means going back and creating the kind of adventure or tale you wanted.

And sometimes, it means writing the one you needed.

Loss, Grief, and Windmills

When I was still in college, I made it a goal to seek out the strangest classes for my theology and philosophy requirements. If I was going to be forced into an entire year’s worth of studying morality and the Bible, I was at least going to make it interesting. One of my most memorable semesters was spent studying death and suffering and its explanation in religious texts. What I learned stuck with me long after the final exam.

According to the Kübler-Ross model, there is a set of emotional stages that most people go through when experiencing a loss: Denial, anger, gambling, depression, and acceptance. I recognized these stages as something I went through after the death of a friend and classmate at the age of twelve. Loss, however, doesn’t always come in the form of a funeral. It can be the feeling of losing anything, such as the destruction of a home, the death of a dream, or the loss of a job. Sometimes, it’s not even tangible.

In Windmill Keepers, I introduce a number of characters attempting the navigate the choppy waters of grief. Loss and mental illness are a huge part of the story. It’s a topic that appears in many of my pending works and for good reason. Grief never asks us when it’s convenient to pop into our lives. Loss swoops in out of nowhere and leaves us shell-shocked in its wake. I believe it is extremely rare for someone to make it through childhood without losing someone or something they cherish. In adulthood, it’s impossible. That’s why I think it is important for YA novels to explore these concepts.

I chose to write for children and YA for several reasons, but I most often come back to the end of my childhood and the length of my teenage years. While I was growing up, I knew I would eventually lose someone. As things would turn out, I experienced more than one type of traumatic loss. For years, I told myself that mourning these losses was unreasonable. After all, not all of them were a situation of life and death. I thought I was being strong. That wasn’t the case, and it wasn’t healthy. To this day, I still struggle with this mistake and its consequences. I once wished I had found the right characters and stories to help me navigate my sorrow and understand that I wasn’t abnormal or alone. Now, I can be the writer I needed for someone else.

It’s the best apology I can give to myself.


A week ago, a co-worker from my waitressing days died unexpectedly. We were never very close, but she touched a lot of lives in her few, short years. I saw dozens of condolences appear on her facebook page, and even more attendees at her candlelight vigil. It reminded me of fourteen years ago, when I saw the same turnout for a classmate’s memorial service at my elementary school. It made me think about my own life a great deal.

I’ve never been one for late night parties or huge social gatherings. When my peers went out, I stayed in. Sometimes, I think my classmates forgot I even existed. I always held a certain respect for those who could make friends during these nighttime adventures. It takes me ages to get to know someone, but others can have an instant impact on the people around them. All it takes is a smile. I guess it’s the price I pay for living inside my head so often.

The death of my co-worker reminded me of an important promise I once made to myself. Before I moved from one coast to the next, I swore to live my life to the fullest. I would have great adventures, see amazing things, and meet all sorts of people. I would learn to smile more often. I would make friends. So far, I haven’t been keeping that promise. I let work and schedules absorb my life. I have lived twenty minutes from the Pacific for the past two months, yet I haven’t laid eyes on it. My co-worker never would have stood for this. My classmate would never have stood for this. I shouldn’t stand for it either.

We never know when we’ll draw our final breath. It could be when we’re a hundred or it could be tomorrow. But even without the promise of another day, there are some people who put living on the back burner, silently promising that tomorrow they’ll start working on their bucket list. I’m one of those people, and it needs to stop.

I thought about my co-worker all through IT class the day after she passed away. I wasn’t sure how to express what I was feeling in words. So instead, I wrote it out. It reminds me to go on a journey, seek and new skyline, and make some noise on the departed’s behalf.

So here’s to all the people who died too young, and to those who are still alive but have yet to truly live.


We’re here but for a moment –
a flash, a blink, a sigh,
a single breath in autumn rain
exhaled into the frigid sky.
We run through fields of winter snow,
prints quickly filling in our wake
like the waxing tides of summer seas,
our imprints their’s to take.
We bloom like flowers in the spring –
vivid, sudden, sweet –
gorgeous for the drop in time
before we’re stolen by the heat.
You were fleeting in this life,
and danced a single step before your leave.
But in that solitary leap you danced a song
more beautiful than eternity.

When Windmill Keepers Was a Thought

If you’ve ever fancied yourself an artist, then you know there are inspirations that grab hold of your heart and refuse to let go. Once, I was the victim of such a creative attack. A song and a warm breeze created an image that carved itself into my mind and infected my dreams. To this day, I find it unbelievable that single tune pushed me from the water I was treading and onto unfamiliar roads. After all, I never thought I would have so much gratitude towards a piano.

I was partway through college, struggling to balance several jobs and personal conflicts. It was unusual for me to find free time, but I didn’t mind, since free time gave me an opportunity to worry. On this day, however, I was the solitary employee at a wine and imported cheese shop. The owners – bless their naive souls – thought that an improvised city on the outskirts of St. Louis would be the perfect location for such a specialized store. During its drastically short life, the store saw fewer than thirty customers. This was a day where I wouldn’t see any. I needed a distraction.

Spring had settled over the Midwest like the morning river-fog. It rolled in from the banks and into the soybean fields – wet, brief and sweet. With the rain clouds finally pulling back, I decided to prop open the door, hoping it would attract a customer. To aid in my quest, I took control of the radio system, playing instrumentals from my broken-down laptop.

The breeze came in, warm and soft with the scent of damp soil. I closed my eyes, trying not to think of the piling bills or looming papers in my agenda. That’s when the song stated to play. It from a show I’d marathoned the week before. But this was the first time I heard the tune without characters talking over it. Ailes Grises. Gray wings.

Somewhere between the stirring earth, the gentle wind, and the sad, hollow tune, an image formed in my imagination. I saw a young girl, her hair tossed in the wind, balancing on a wire between two turbines. Something about the scene caught caused my breath to catch. I played the song again, and again, and another time after that. It was still playing in my head when I locked the doors and scurried to my server job at the Greek restaurant across the street.

At night, I added more. There were windmills everywhere. The world was overcast, and the sky cracked with gray clouds. But the breeze was warm. I imagined it swirling around  this girl’s frigid fingertips like a gentle current. The promise of spring and brighter skies kept her moving towards the next mill. For days, I thought of toolboxes and climbing rigs. I couldn’t get her out of my head. At times, her orange hair and freckles felt more familiar than my own features.

I put up with this for two years. Sometimes, as I navigated the choppy waters of adulthood, I would add something from my life to her’s. My volunteer work with the Commemorative Air Force made her into an engineer. The wonder I saw in props and engine hoses became her obsession. I developed a disliking for milk and she developed a taste for it. As my voice grew with confidence, her’s softened with insecurity. We evolved to be unlike one another and I loved her all the more for it.

I’ve wanted to write since I was three.My parents saved picture books I made from my grandpa’s graphing paper and ballpoint pens. They said I would dictate stories to them like an infantile Homer. It seemed inevitable that one day I would need to write her tale. While listening to a panel on female literature in YA, the inevitable became the present. That night, I typed the first sentences of Kite Lyons’ journey.

In the background, I was still playing that song.