Novels, Publications, Writing

“A Second Chance” Alternative Epilogue

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR

“A SECOND CHANCE”

Well, hopefully that warning was obvious enough!

I wanted to share a little outtake from “A Second Chance”. For those of you who have read my contemporary romance know how it ends. But…that wasn’t the first ending! Below is the original ending I wrote for the story.

I ultimately decided to take out the epilogue for two reasons. One, not everyone’s happy ending involves marriage and kids. I wanted this to be a story all could enjoy! Second, I was actually thinking of making this a little “series”, one book for each brother. I’m still on the fence about it, so if you have an opinion one way or another, let me know!

Anyway, as a special thank you to all of you for your support and encouragement during this chaotic year and during publication, I wanted to share this little epilogue that wasn’t in the book. I hope you enjoy it!

Just please note it is unedited! XD


“A Second Chance” Alternate Epilogue

Five years on and the one gift only rule was still in play. Both of them agreed it made for the best Christmases.

Their second Christmas, Lucian’s gift to Raina had been an engagement ring. As she’d opened the box, he’d gotten down on one knee, asking her to be his wife.

To date, it was Raina’s favorite gift. Just like this year was going to be Lucian’s favorite; Raina was certain of it. She sat on the couch as she heard him thump down the stairs. To draw it out, she had sent him on a scavenger hunt. He ran from room to room, searching for the clues. They were little pieces of paper that would fit together like a jigsaw puzzle for a final clue that would lead him to the gift.

In hindsight, she should’ve made it less complicated, but the game seemed to be going well.

“No more scavenger hunts!” he called out, making her laugh.

“Oh, come on, Luce! I promise it’ll be worth your while!” she shouted back to him encouragingly. He only had a couple more clues left; he could do it. Just a few more hints, and she would be able to see his reaction.

Not to toot her own horn, but…toot toot!

At that thought, Lucian came in and gave a deep sigh. “I’m never going to figure this out.” He pouted. “Come on, babe.”

Giggling, she asked, “Which clue are you on?”.

“The one that was on the back of all the others.”

Raina thought for a moment before she got up and read the clue. “Come on, Luce. This is easy. The final clue is hidden in the place you hate to go…”

He mumbled something about the laundry room.

“There ya go!” She gave his butt a playful slap as he moved towards the laundry room.

When he was out of the room, she made sure that his gift was still in her back pocket. Yep, best gift ever.

“Raina? This doesn’t make sense,” he whined as he returned to her, holding a small piece of paper. “Is this another clue?”

Raina nodded.

Sighing, Lucian pulled her close. “You are so infuriating, woman, you know that?”

“You know you love me for it,” she said lovingly as she leaned up to kiss him. “So how about you figure out that last clue so you can get your gift, and if you want…I can give you another type of gift?” She gave him a playful wink.

He turned his attention to the paper. “All right, it says, ‘If your present you want to see, you must first get down on one knee. With hands cradled, just like so, you will find it. You’ll just know.’” Lucian paused for a second. “I don’t get it.”

Raina rolled her eyes. “Let’s take this one line at a time. What’s the first line?”

“‘If your present you want to see.’”

“So…if you want your present, you have to follow the directions.” She giggled, giving him a playful shove.

He then read the next line. “‘You must first get down on one knee.’” He knelt in front of her.

Raina’s heart started to pound.

“‘With hands cradled, just like so…’”

Raina reached down and moved his hands into a cradling position up in the air.

Confused, he read over the last line. “‘You will find it. You’ll just know.’” Lucian stayed still for a moment, his hands still held up, down on one knee. He looked around for a second and then frowned. “I still don’t get it.”

“Lucian!” she groaned and hung her head. “The headlines are going to read, ‘Lucian Pereli mocked to death by his wife because he couldn’t take a hint!’” She then let out a lighthearted laugh and took his hands, guiding them to her abdomen. She gave his hands a little squeeze as Lucian’s annoyance melted away into shock.

He glanced up at Raina for a second and then back to her stomach. “Raina…are you?”

Raina reached in her back pocket. “Merry Christmas,” she murmured as she pulled the positive pregnancy test out of her back pocket.

Lucian’s face lit up as he jumped to his feet and wrapped his arms around Raina, going in for a kiss. Unfortunately, the speed with which he stood caught Raina off-guard, making her tumble to the floor. “Luce!” she shouted in surprise as she fell.

“Oh, god! Raina, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, baby,” he said as he pushed the hair from her face, giving her a deep kiss. After a moment, he pulled away with a huge grin on his face and looked down at her stomach. “I’m sorry to you too, baby.” He lifted up Raina’s shirt and laid a soft kiss on her belly. Tears filled Lucian’s eyes. “I can’t believe I’m going to be a dad. Raina, you’re going to be a mom! I love you, Raina. I love you, so much. And I will love our baby with everything I have.”

“I know you will, Lucian. I know.” She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him close as they both cried tears of joy.

Their relationship had ups and downs, days of pure joy and pure frustration, but they worked for their little slice of happiness. And now this was just another piece of that sweet pie.

Events, Novels, Publications, Writing

Romance Rendezvous Book Blast (August 21st, 2021)

I’m so excited to be getting ready for the Romance Rendezvous Book Blast (RRBB) in August. I have attended many years as a reader and I’m overjoyed to now be one of the attending authors! This event will be taking place in Cedar Falls, Iowa and is FREE TO ATTEND! There will be many romance authors (of a variety of sub-genres) with fun games, raffles, and swag. It’s a great way to find new authors to follow and new books to read.

As you can see, there are MANY authors you could visit and talk with — I’m only one of them! I have been spending the last couple months getting ready for this event and publishing my first contemporary romance novel, “A Second Chance”. I’m so excited that I FINALLY got my copies in and am now ready to go!

In addition to selling “A Second Chance”, I will also be selling my other two publications: “Goodnight, Little Grubb” (Children’s Picture Book) and “Fae Spreads: 2020” (Tarot Spreads Book). In addition, I plan to have lots of fun swag and even a raffle basket for those who purchase a book or sign up for my newsletter!

I hope you all will consider attending the Romance Rendezvous Book Blast. It is sure to be a lot of fun! Until then, happy reading and be sure to follow me on my other social media platforms for more updates and sneak peeks! ❤

Novels, Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo (July) — Justice (Book 1)

This month is another Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I always love participating in these challenges as it pushes me to write more and really get into my stories. This month, I am focusing on my newest novel, “Justice”.

“Justice” is the first book of a dark fantasy trilogy I am working on. I have so many ideas and so very little time to write. But I’m hoping Camp NaNo will put me back on track!

My goal this month is to edit the first draft I wrote back in November and hopefully get a more concrete draft completed. Until then, check out the sneak peek and buttons below to learn more about “Justice” and the inspiration I have for this new trilogy!


Summary of “Justice”

When the world was ruled by chaos and evil, the gods stepped in and blessed two individuals to bring peace and balance, Justice and her Knight. Together they oversee law and order in the land. The line of Justice has gone strong for hundreds of years, until now.

As the peacekeepers and magistrates work to keep the world in balance, they struggle to find a new Justice. And when they do find the perfect candidate, she doesn’t want the job. Unfortunately for Arra, the young woman who passed the test, they plan to use her–whether she likes it or not.

Sneak Peek of “Justice”

***This is a sneak peek from the unfinished draft. This may be changed in the final story.***

“What are you?”

Arra sat on the hard ground with her knees up to her chest. Her treasured pressing book sat next to her as she contemplated her latest collection. The bloom twisted and twirled between her fingers as she looked closely at the nearly iridescent red petals, the little pop of black in the center with the thick stem.

Letting out a deep sigh, she leaned back, propping herself up on one of her elbows. “You look like hibiscus, but…” Arra put the bloom under her nose and breathed deeply. A wonderful scent filled her, a crisp and nearly fruity scent. It wasn’t like the strong and nearly overpowering scent of the local hibiscus that grew wild in the forest. Her mother loved having that variety in her morning tea so she would know that scent anywhere.

It was a puzzle, that was for certain. Perhaps one she could piece together in town.

Shifting over onto her stomach, Arra pulled her small book over to her and opened it to the last press she had pressed, a bit of lavender from her mother’s garden. She pressed it with such care, hopefully a gift for Magda’s upcoming birthday celebration. Her best friend loved lavender, whether it was the scent, the tea, or the plant itself. This would make a lovely little gift, something personal and special. Since Arra didn’t have any extra coin to purchase a gift, she hoped Magda would enjoy this one.

Arra flipped past the page of pressed lavender, went about ten pages later and then gently laid down the strange bloom. She took care to twist one of the leaves around so it faced up, arranging the petals perfectly so they would lay flat once pressed between the pages of the book. If she had the time, she would have taken it back to the house and made an afternoon of it, but she knew her father would be coming soon to collect her for a trip to town.

A quick press would do for now. She could always come back for another sample once she identified this one. Speaking of which, perhaps she could use the Peacekeeper’s library to see if she could identify it? The thought make her nearly giddy. There was nothing she loved more than exploring that small, ancient library.

It would also suit another purpose. She needed to speak to him about her letter anyway.

The letter.


Check out Inspiration & Details for This Novel

Writing

Books That Inspire Me

It’s a question I get asked a lot: “Shanna, what inspires you and your writing?”

The truth is, I pull inspiration from multiple places. I sometimes have dreams that I turn into novels, movies, music, books, conversations I hear at a coffee shop, or even random thoughts that pop into my mind. However, I thought today’s blog post I would focus on sharing books that have had the biggest impact on me as a writer.

If I had to pick a single book that has been the biggest inspiration to my writing, I wouldn’t hesitate to answer “Loch” by Paul Zindel. I first discovered this book in grade school at my school’s library. I can still remember exactly where it sat (near the back door on the lowest shelf, three from the right). I found it by accident, actually. My class was taken to the library and told we needed to pick a book to start our spring book reading. I wandered around a bit, not finding any right away, until a blue spine book caught my eye.

I think the reason this book inspires me so is because of how drawn into the story I get (no matter how many times I read it). It was the first book that really sparked my imagination. I spent days after reading thinking about the plot and wondering what I would’ve done in that instance– (Spoiler) how I could have done more to save the people and keep the creatures from getting hurt (end spoiler). I remember wondering if I could ever write a story that impacted and excited someone as much as this book excited me.

I read this book every year, over the summer. I even have a signed, first edition on my shelf (thanks to my AMAZING husband who gives the best gifts ever). Each time I read it, I find myself inspired for new plots and new stories to tell.


The next book that really impacted me was “The Two Princesses of Bamarre” by Gail Carson Levine. I can’t say what about this book speaks to me, but I find it a great book to read when I get writer’s block. It has an unwitting heroine, an amazing love interest, all about women power and sisterhood. There is also magic and love and old-time heroes and prophecies. It just has everything!

This book is always a comfort read for me. But even more, it really gets me thinking about fairy tales and happily ever after’s — and how sometimes the most unexpected ending is the best one. I think this book sparked my interest in “twist endings”. I won’t go into too much detail in case you haven’t read it (no spoilers here), but I think this was one of the first books that really surprised me with the ending and I try to do that with many of my own stories as well.


There are so many books to choose from, but I don’t want this post to be overly long, so I will give just one more story that has inspired me (a more recent one). Last year, I dove into the world of “A Court of Thorn and Roses” by Sarah J Maas. I was drawn into this book as it has a “Beauty and the Beast” vibe to it’s story (and I LOVE a Beauty and the Beast story). However, her series had such twists and turns. How her books moved from one to the next, seamlessly, and how some happy endings weren’t forever, really inspired me.

In fact, the big reveal in book 2/3 (I won’t put it here, no spoilers) and how it reshapes how you see book 1 really made me think about my own writing and how you can bend and break the rules of “happily ever after” to give a story more depth and realism. In fact, this has inspired an entire fantasy series that I am working on!


As I said, there are so many books that have inspired me. So many movies, music, and more (perhaps posts for another day). However, I feel these three stories are the ones that are inspiring me the most (especially right now).

If you haven’t checked out these books yet, I would encourage you to! And if you have any stories that inspire you that you would like to share, be sure to comment below.

Happy Reading,

Shanna Pikora

General News and Updates, Writing

My Writing Process

A banner for Camp NaNoWriMo 2021. It has pictures of a forest with camp tents.

Last week I hosted an event for my NaNoWriMo Region, in honor or Camp Nano, where I discussed different types of readers (Alpha, Beta, & Sensitivity Readers). In that event, I talked about my own personal writing process and how I tackle a novel idea. It was a lot of fun, but a few people at the event said they wished there was more information out there about how they can organize their writing and strategize for publication. Although I’m by no means an expert, I thought I would share my own process for anyone who is interested!

I do want to make a note though, that this is MY process and that every writer is different. You are welcome to take a shot at my schedule and planning, but if it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine! With time, you will find your own perfect process. With that being said, let’s go down the rabbit hole!


I’m a very organized person. I have three-ringed binders, calendars, spreadsheets, and more to keep me on top of my writing schedule. I know it sounds a bit excessive, but I learned early on in my writing journey that deadlines make my world go around! If I don’t have a hard deadline I tend to drag my feet. Thus, “the system” was started.

As I mentioned, I utilize a three-ringed binder system. Each story gets its own binder that then contains everything about the world, plot, characters, and other research within it. I know there are many platforms that help you organize your materials, but I prefer having physical copies — it makes the process easier down the road. It’s also nice when I’m traveling because I can just toss the binder into my suitcase and it is all right there!

Picture of the bottom shelf of a black bookshelf with multiple three-ringed binders on each edge of the bookshelf. In the center of the bookshelf, there is a cat laying on top of a couple binders he knocked over.
Here’s a peek at my binder system. As you can see, my cat Loki also enjoys the binder system as well!

To utilize NaNoWriMo terminology — I’m a planster (a mix between a planner and a panster). I like to have a bit of planning and prep done on a story before I begin drafting, but not so much that I feel locked in during the drafting process. I like to just write and see where the story goes. It usually makes a very rough first draft, but it gets the story started. Some advice I read a while back in “How to Write Fiction for Dummies” (Ingermanson & Economy) said to let yourself write a really crappy first draft, because you can always fix it later. I took that to heart and wrote myself a little contract years ago to help me remember.

A lined notecard with the following written on it: 5/6/2018. I have full permission to write a really bad first draft, because I know that most first drafts by most authors are mostly lame. I'll get it right on the revision. Shanna Pikora.
This notecard is an exercise given in “How to Write Fiction for Dummies”. I would really recommend checking out the book!

I really enjoy drafting during NaNoWriMo in November. It allows me to be able to enjoy the writing process with my local community and have extra support. I make sure to have a complete first draft by the end of NaNoWriMo — even if it’s the worst first draft in the history of first drafts. Then…I wait.

I like to take some time between drafting and editing to let the story “marinate”. Sometimes I think of ideas or a plot points to include and change. To be honest, the 6+ months of setting my story aside is where I have my best lightbulb moments. I mentioned before that I have schedules and spreadsheets, so I do have a specific plan. I draft in November and then don’t edit the story again until July the following year (during Camp NaNo!). This editing process takes on two steps:

  1. Re-reading and Plotting
  2. Editing & Revising

I always spend the week or two before I begin editing to re-read my story. It lets me brush up on specific details and make notes on what I want to change. I go through so many steno pads during this process, you have no idea, but it’s nice to have my notes broken down by chapter so I know what to target with changes.

What can I say, Loki REALLY likes to get involved in my writing process. I don’t know why, but he seems to really like attacking my pens while I’m writing…even though he has an abundance of toys.

Once I have my notes, I go back through and begin editing. I mainly focus on plot, but if I notice spelling or sentence errors I tackle those as well. Grammar and sentence structure is my weakest skill when it comes to writing (as you have probably noticed) so I utilize a professional editor to help me with that.

After I have edited the entire manuscript, I lock it away again for more “marinating”. I pull it back out in April (the other month for Camp NaNo). Now, if you have been following the timeline, you’ll notice that this means I am now in year three with the novel. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but the good news is that each year I have new novels in the works — so I’m never bored. I’ve tried shortening my timeline but when I do I feel my story isn’t as well developed.

This next round of edits I again do my re-read and then make the appropriate changes. Then off it goes to my amazing Alpha Readers. Alpha readers are special readers (and in my case are friends and family) that read the novel before major editing (which in my case means before I send the story to an editor). These readers help me with characters, settings, and plot development. It’s nice to see what parts of the story readers enjoy, which characters they love to hate, and what spots felt lacking so I can fix them in the next round of edits.

A picture of an office desk, dark brown. There is a computer open, showing a page of a manuscript draft. To the left of the computer is a binder and piles of papers and steno pads with notes.
This is my older set-up for editing. I have a few new pieces of office furniture that lets me spread out!

After I make changes inspired by my Alpha Readers, I do one more edit (August) and then send my manuscript off to the editor (if I feel it’s ready). This is where I make a judgement call, because I want a polished piece before sending to the editor. I would like to give a quick shout out to the editor I used for “A Second Chance” and I would like to continue using in the future: RoseLark Publishing.

RoseLark is a fantastic editing and pre-publishing service. They offer so many amazing services for the indie author — at reasonable prices too! If you’re looking for a wonderful team of editors or sensitivity readers, check out RoseLark!

RoseLark Publishing logo. The words with a rose to the left of the words.

I will of course do another round of edits after I get notes from my editor. However, this time I plan for at least two months. There are always so many notes to go through, great considerations and changes to think about, so I like to give myself extra time. It also lets me think about how small changes impact future scenes in the story as well.

A computer being attacked by a cat, who is laying on a blue blanket.
There is no part of the writing process Loki won’t photobomb…or stick in his mouth, apparently — first a pencil and now my computer!

Once I am done with making changes from my editor notes, my manuscript will go out to my Beta Readers. Beta Readers are like Alpha readers, only they are giving notes on a finalized manuscript, a final look at your novel before it is published. What I really love here is to see reactions as well as notes from my Beta Readers, as it helps me identify what parts of my books could be favorites to future readers!

I will do one final edit after going through my Beta Reader notes before going forward towards publishing — whether that means querying agents or independently publishing. I would really like to be a hybrid author, an author who does both indie and traditional publishing – based on the project.

I would note, that at some point during this chaotic process, I like to do a paper edit (most of my edits are done directly on computer). It takes time, but it really does help me focus on the story and the changes I’m making.

A page of a manuscript marked in red with edits.
This is from the novel I’m working on currently “After the Storm”!

I learned the hard way that I have to save my paper copy edit until the end of this process…otherwise what you see above happens and I end up rewriting most of the page — so many hand cramps! However, I really do recommend this at least once for a story, because it forces you to slow down and really read and analyze the words.


There you have it, my writing process. I realize it seems a bit chaotic, so let me break it down a bit easier for you…

Type of EditDates of Editing
First DraftNovember (Year 1) – NaNoWriMo
First EditJuly (Year 2)
Second EditApril (Year 3)
Alpha ReadersMay – July (Year 3)
Third EditAugust (Year 3)
EditorsSeptember-November (Year 3)
Fourth EditDecember – January (Year 3-4)
Beta ReadersFebruary – April (Year 4)
Final (Fifth) EditMay (Year 4)
FormattingJune (Year 4)
Release/QueryingJuly (Year 4)
My writing schedule for ONE novel!

I will add more edits and steps, depending on the novel, but this is my general outline! Some of you may look at that and begin to panic, but it really does help me to know what I’m doing when, especially when I have multiple novels going at once — and many more novels in my “Ideas Notebook”.

Picture of two notebooks laying on top of a blue blanket. One is in an ancient Greek style and says: Decomposition book - Shanna's Story Ideas. The other book says "Anything is Possible".
My Idea Notebooks!

There you have it, the method to my madness, the organized chaos. This is what keeps me on track and excited to start new novels each year! Currently, I’m working on the following novels:

“A Second Chance” (Contemporary Romance)

“Rhys of Novia” (Fantasy Romance)

“After the Storm” (Contemporary Romance)

“Justice” (Fantasy)

My four year system in action! Be sure to keep an eye out on future updates for each of these stories, and if you would like, follow along with my schedule so you know when you can expect the next novel to be released or when the start of querying begins!

Happy Reading & Happy Writing!

Shanna Pikora

A pink binder with the words "Stories by Shanna P" in red, with Shanna Pikora's signature.
Main binder that holds ALL my schedules: Writing, Social Media, Alpha/Beta Readers, Etc.

P.S. I felt guilty that my cat Loki got all the attention above, so here is my other cat, Frey (they are brothers). He makes sure I take regular breaks! XD

A grey tabby laid out on Shanna Pikora's lap. She is wearing penguin patterned sweat pants.
My cat Frey as we “marinate” over a plot point!