Today I am so pleased to welcome Effie Calvin to Joyfully Jay. Effie Cavin has come to talk to us about her latest release, The Empress of Xytae. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!


People ask me for writing advice fairly regularly, which is always awkward because I don’t feel qualified to give advice on any aspect of being a human, let alone something as esoteric and subjective as creating a work of art. Like I could probably guide you through the act of popping a bag of popcorn but anything more complex than that is probably left to instructional YouTube videos.

Unfortunately, as an author, questions about writing are kind of inevitable. I’ve always felt like the only wrong way to write a book is to not write at all, a concept so self-evident that I feel like a pretentious asshole for even typing it out. But it’s true! People ask me about my writing routine, and I’m happy to explain I try to write five hundred words per day, usually while sitting in bed and plowing through an entire box of chocolates. I also find I work best early in the morning, and I prefer not to have music in the background. But this is just what works for me. This might not be what works for you. You don’t need to write like Effie, you need to write like you.

Today I’m not going talk about technique or exercises or wordcounts. I’m going to talk about mindset. My personal philosophy boils down to this: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

A lot of people think of art as a very serious and sophisticated thing. But I’ve found when we put art up on a pedestal, it becomes a lot more difficult to attain. We, as creators, hold ourselves up to a standard that is usually unreachable. Then we inevitably become discouraged when the flawed reality of our creation does not match up with our beautiful vision.

This kind of mindset also makes it difficult for us to improve as creators. If art is serious, then we must be serious about it. We can never laugh at our own mistakes—sometimes we can’t even acknowledge them, because a work can only be Good or Bad and if it is flawed in any way then obviously it is Bad and therefore garbage. This sort of all-or-nothing mentality invalidates any growth a creator might have undergone since their last piece. And it sucks the joy out of both creating and consuming art.

I started writing because it makes me happy. Getting feedback and making friends and occasionally getting paid is nice, too. But I didn’t start out because I wanted to be famous or rich or change the world. It was just a way for me to escape a pretty unhappy childhood for a few hours. I’m still not a massively successful author, so I’m not going to claim I have it all figured out. But I can say my best work has happened when I stopped trying to write something profound and started having fun. Like happiness, artistic merit is mostly easily attained after we stop seeking it.

Writing is not always easy. I’m not going to pretend I always make my daily wordcount, or when I do it’s not at exactly 11:59pm. I’m not going to pretend that it never feels like a chore! But I will say that it became a whole lot easier after I stopped holding myself to other people’s standards and started telling the stories that matter to me.


Crown Princess Ioanna of Xytae has kept her truthsayer blessing a secret for twenty years. In any other nation, her powerful magic would be cause for celebration. But Xytae’s patron is the war goddess Reygmadra, and the future empress is expected to be a brutal warrior.

Reserved and peaceful by nature, Ioanna knows the court sees her as a disappointment. She does her best to assuage their worries every day, working quietly beside her mother to keep the empire running while her father is away at war. But when news of the emperor’s untimely death reaches the capital, Ioanna finds herself ousted by her younger sister Netheia, who has the war magic Ioanna lacks.

Princess Vitaliya of Vesolda has come to Xytae to avoid her father’s upcoming wedding, which she sees as an affront to her mother’s memory. Vitaliya has absolutely no interest in politics or power struggles and intends to spend her time attending parties and embarrassing her family. But when she saves Ioanna’s life during Netheia’s coup, the two are forced to flee the capital together.

Despite their circumstances, Vitaliya enjoys travelling with Ioanna and realizes that the future empress’s shy and secretive nature is the result of her unhappy childhood. Ioanna is equally unaccustomed to being in the company of one as earnest and straightforward as Vitaliya, for she has spent her life surrounded by ambitious and cutthroat nobles.

Ioanna cannot allow her sister to continue their father’s legacy, and plots to rally supporters to her side so she can interrupt Netheia’s coronation. Vitaliya knows she ought to leave Xytae before the nation is ripped apart by civil war but finds she is unwilling to abandon Ioanna. But Ioanna’s enemies are always watching…and they’ve realized that Vitaliya is a weakness to be exploited.


Effie is definitely a human being with all her own skin, and not a robot. She writes science fiction and fantasy novels and lives with her cat in the greater Philadelphia area.

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Effie has brought a $10 NineStar Press gift code to give away to one lucky reader on her tour. Follow the Rafflecopter below to enter. The giveaway has been extended and will end on January 17, 2020. 

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FILED UNDER: Giveaway, Guest Post
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