How to Design a Book Cover: Part One, Typography

We all know that a professional graphic designer is almost always the best option for your book cover. But some budgets just don’t allow for it, and believe me, I understand that.

So, for those of you who either can’t afford a pro or just want to make your covers yourself and don’t care if it’s advised against, I want to share some tips to help you do it just a little bit better.

Now, let me start by saying that I am not an expert. Just an author with a background in art who’s made some mistakes and learned from them.

So, I’ll be doing a two part blog series all about book cover design.

First and foremost, we need to talk about typography.

You might be wondering why I’m not starting with the images behind the text, because after all, it’s just text on the cover. The picture is all that really matters, right?

No. The words on the cover, their placement, the font, the size, the color, all of these things are incredibly important.

You cannot just slap some text on your cover and call it done. Bad typography can ruin a cover, even if you have a beautiful piece of art behind it. When you get it right, it can make a world of difference.

Since typography is so often underestimated, that’s where we’re starting. So, let’s dive in.

1. You don’t need a super fancy font.

I know, if you’re just starting out with graphic design, you might think you need all the curlicues and flourishes, or maybe a drippy font to look like blood if you write horror. But you don’t.

You need a legible font.

If people can’t read it, they probably aren’t going to zoom in and stare at it trying to figure out what it says.

Look at big name books. The fonts are simple so people can read them easily. There might be a little thing added here and there, but not many. The super ornate, cheesy fonts don’t get a lot of air time.

It’s hard to go wrong with a good sans or serif font. There are tons of fonts within either of those types. Just search for either “sans” or “serif” in the fonts of whatever program you’re using.

If you’re stumped (because there are a ton of these fonts), do a Google search to see what’s commonly used in your genre.

Some genres use a secondary font to make one word in the title pop, but for the most part, try to limit your fonts to one or two.

2. There is absolutely nothing wrong with black, white, or gray/silver text.

You don’t have to color match your text to your cover. Your main goal is to have that text be as readable as possible while still looking appropriate for the cover. The colors mentioned above are great for that.

And while we’re on this topic, avoid using one color for this and another color for that and a third color for something else and a fourth and a fifth…

Some genres use a bold color (or a cursive font, as mentioned above) to make one word in the title pop, but for the most part, try to limit your font colors to one, maybe two.

3. Center your text.

There are occasions where off-center text can help balance the composition of the art on the cover (a thing that we’ll get into when we talk about artwork), but the vast majority of the time, it should be centered.

4. Don’t be afraid to take up some real estate with your name and title.

Don’t squash all the words down, hiding them in a corner to show nothing but that art. Yes, the art is important, but that’s not what people are going to type into a search bar to find your book.

They’re not going to go tell their book lover friend, “Hey, you should read that book with the dragon on it.” And if they do, their friend is probably never going to be able to find your book.

The title and author name should be easy to read, and since the thumbnail of your book is the thing they’re most likely to see, that means the words need to be big enough to read even if the cover is shown at a small size.

Especially your author name.

If someone searches for your book title, awesome, they find your book. If they search for your name, they find ALL your books.

And for people who have read your work before, seeing your name might be all it takes to get them to buy another book.

But let me put it simply.

How do you expect to take up space in the market if you don’t even take up space on your own cover?

5. Big text means partially covering your artwork, and that’s okay.

People will still see that beautiful piece of art. The text isn’t likely to be big block letters that cover everything. And if it is, you can always play with transparencies to show the image through the text.

Just don’t do that with a really spindly font.

Now, with these tips in mind, review whatever cover you’ve created for your book. As with every art form, these are, of course, guidelines more so than rules. Every one of these things has its exception.

But they’re good guides to follow.

If you’re ever in doubt, get feedback from other authors, artists, and book lovers. And please, go into the feedback process expecting negative and positive feedback, ready to learn and improve and grow.

Come back next week for some tips about the artwork behind the typography.

Don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date on all my books, releases, and giveaways. I send my newsletter out every Monday with exclusive content and sneak peeks, and there’s a free short story ready for download on sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Plantsers, Pros and Cons: A Guide for New Writers

It’s time for the final installment of this little guide to writing methods, and today, we’re talking about the pros and cons of being a plantser.

Now, pantser and plotter get bandied about rather freely. But plantsers don’t get quite as much discussion, despite being the group that includes most writers.

So, in case you don’t know, a plantser is someone who falls somewhere on the spectrum between plotters and pantsers.

They do some planning, but go off the rails halfway through. Or maybe they do no planning to start, jumping in to get a feel for the world, and then they step back and iron out some details for the end of the story to make sure everything gets tidied up.

They might do detailed character bibles and maps, but leave the story arcs to develop as they go.

The point is, to some degree, they plan, and to some degree, they figure it out as they go.

There are a lot of things that can go right with this method and a lot of things that can go wrong.

So let’s go over a couple.

We’ll start with the benefits.

1. Freedom to adjust as necessary.

A major part of this writing style is centered around the belief that not everything is going to be planned out perfectly ahead of time. Things may need to change later on, and that’s okay.

This method allows the freedom to step away from the outline as needed.

2. Enough structure to cut back on writer’s block.

Of course, the dreaded block is still possible in any writing method, but having a plan of some sort, even if it’s just five bullet points and a page of backstory for your main character(s), can help alleviate the dread of staring at a blank page.

3. Those blessed A-Ha moments.

With this writing method, those wonderful little epiphanies can happen during the plotting stage AND during the writing stage, spurring you on in either part of the journey.

And now, some of the cons.

1. Meandering plot lines.

All that freedom means that sometimes the plot can wander a bit too far. There’s always the chance that you could get caught up in a tangent, falling down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with the main storyline, but it catches your fancy and you go chasing after it.

(Sound familiar? That’s because this is a potential pitfall of pantsing, covered in part one of this series.)

2. Writer’s block.

All that freedom could lead to uncertainty. Details, or even major events, that haven’t been ironed out ahead of time could trip you up later on, causing delays.

3. Rigidity.

You could end up sticking too close to the outline, even when the characters have grown into something different than you originally planned. This could lead to stunted characters. It could also lead to pacing issues if the story or characters develop at a different rate than you originally anticipated. (This might sound familiar, as it’s a potential pitfall of plotting that we discussed in part two of this series.)

Basically, all the potential pros of pantsing and plotting apply, as well as all the cons. Really, it comes down to how you mix and match the two writing methods. The biggest strength of this method is that you have the flexibility to pick and choose exactly which part of the other two to keep and which to discard.

And really, finding what works for you is the most important thing. Every writer is different. We all have different backgrounds and personalities.

There is no one right way to write a book.

That’s important to remember. There are many people who swear by plotting things out, and many who swear by writing by the seat of your pants.

I fall into the latter category, but I know that doesn’t work for everyone.

So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve written 20 books, if a piece of writing advice doesn’t work for you, throw it out. What’s important is that you finish your book.

The rules about how to write a book are more like guidelines and should be treated as such.

Play around with different writing methods until you find what works the best for you and keeps you writing all the way to the end of the book.

Come back next week for part one of my next blog series, Graphic Design Tips for Authors. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on all my book releases and giveaways, get exclusive content and sneak peeks, and even receive a free short story at sign-up.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Pantser Vs. Plotter: A Guide for New Writers

Last week, we covered the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing a novel. And I’ll be honest, it hurt a little to be so negative about my own writing method. But this is going to make up for it.

This week, I get to sing the praises of writing like a pantser (aka a discovery writer).

So, let’s dive in.

1. The story progresses at the exact pace it needs to.

If you write an outline and then start writing, strictly adhering to the outline, things may not happen when the characters and plot would actually get to them.

You may have a moment where a character figures something out that’s meant to be a eureka moment, but your reader figured it out seven chapters ago and has been wondering why the MC is so blind. Or you might have your character piece things together too quickly, completely blindsiding your reader.

As a pantser, revelations and developments come about naturally, thus evolving at the exact moment the story needs them to happen.

2. Characters can develop at the exact pace they need to.

Following an outline too closely can rush or drag out character development, just as much as it can hinder or expedite plot lines, leaving readers wondering why a character changed so quickly or why they seemed to stagnate for half the book.

As a pantser, the characters grow and change naturally, coping with the events of the story as they happen or driving the plot forward with their developments.

3. Authentic, realistic characters

Now, this is not to say that plotters can’t write realistic characters. They 100% can. It just takes more work ahead of time. By this, I mean character bibles or personality tests taken as the character or extensive mood boards or notes galore.

But when writing, it isn’t uncommon for pantsers to let the characters take the reins.

Which means those characters have to be whole people in the author’s mind in order to make these decisions and act/react in ways that line up with their personalities. They’re just there, like old friends whispering secrets and showing us the way.

4. The story can be changed as it needs to.

Sometimes, as you write, you realize that something just doesn’t work. Maybe you learn something new that reveals a piece of your book to be incorrect or implausible to such a degree that it might ruin the immersion.

Pantsers are accustomed to changing the story as is necessary to ensure plausibility, continuity, and entertainment.

In a situation like this, plotters who choose to stick too closely to their outline could endanger the viability of their story by refusing to change things.

5. Exploration

Pantsers get to experience the story for the first time as they write it, providing a sensation akin to reading. Writing this way means that you still get all the excitement and mystery of creation as the scenes unfold on the page. The writing process is punctuated with epiphany moments where things just fall into place.

Plotters can do that during the outline process, sure.

But epiphanies mid-writing session can really spur you on, and if they happen while away from writing, they can get you genuinely hyped up to get back to writing.

Now, I am biased toward the panster/discovery writer end of the spectrum, as I’ve mentioned that this is my preferred method. But that does not, in any way, mean it’s the only way.

For those of you just coming into this, last week’s blog was dedicated to the pros of plotting and the cons of pantsing.

Check that out here for more information.

Be sure to come back next Monday to learn about the writing method that most writers flourish with.

They’re the Plantsers.

And don’t forget to subscribe for a free short story, as well as exclusive content, sneak peeks at covers, and all the details on my upcoming book releases and giveaways.

Most importantly…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Plotter Vs. Pantser: A Guide for New Writers

Are you a Pantser or a Plotter? Or are you a hybrid? A Plantser?

This question is bandied about in writing circles rather frequently. For new writers, figuring out your writing method, and thus where you fit on that spectrum, might be difficult or confusing.

Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses. Since Pantsers and Plotters are basically complete opposites, the benefits of one tend to be where the other method falls short. And Plantsers get the good and bad of both.

To help clear this up (and help you find the writing method that suits you), I’m doing a three part series on the pros and cons of each.

Today, we’re starting with the benefits of plotting, and thus the dangers of pantsing.

Yes, there’s a reason I’m doing this one first. I’m a hard-core pantser, so I’m biased. So, for the sake of objectivity, I want you to see the upsides of plotting and downsides of pantsing before I sing the praises of pantsing.

So, let’s get started.

1. Plotting out your book ahead of time is a great way to avoid writer’s block.

You know before you ever start writing what will happen. So, when your outline is done and you finally sit down to write your first draft, you don’t have to figure out what to write.

You know what should happen.

When you stop writing for the day and come back to it the next day, you don’t have to recap what just happened or figure out the next scene. You can just look at your outline and start writing.

As a Pantser, that isn’t really an option. Unless you’ve been thinking about your book while away from your computer (which, let’s be real, I sincerely hope you do), then there’s the chance that you may come back to write and end up staring at a blank screen not knowing what to fill it with.

2. Plotting builds consistency into the book before you ever start writing.

With an outline, you can look at the bullet points, at the spreadsheets, at your story bible, or character bible and compare. You can cross reference all these notes to make sure that you never mix up a character’s hair color or backstory or mannerisms.

Pantsers… don’t have those things. If you do what I do (take notes as you write) then you have those to look back at, but even those are massively disorganized, in my case. I end up using the search function in Word. A lot.

3. Plotters have an end in mind, and thus, know how to resolve the conflict before they ever get to the climax of the book.

Any solid outline will include the ending, thus avoiding the problem that stopped me in my tracks with my sci-fi series when I finished (what I thought was) book one.

The bad guy got too big, too fierce. The final battle was going to be very one-sided. And that’s just boring. No one wants to read a landslide battle. There should be give and take, back and forth. No matter who wins, there should be a struggle involved in the final confrontation.

But I had no idea how to give the good guys a fighting chance.

I stopped writing to figure it out, working on other projects in the meantime. But a plotter would have figured all of that out before ever starting to write.

4. Plotholes can be filled in way ahead of time, potentially saving time on edits.

While making an outline or filling out a story bible, all plot points have to be included. Holes should stand out.

Whereas, if you just jump in and start writing, you may not notice a plothole until you’re 40,000 words in. (*puts hand up* I’ve been there.)

5. Your plot is less likely to meander.

If it’s all laid out in bullet points, it’s a little easier to keep that plot in check, making sure it walks a consistent, straight path.

Pantsing might mean that your plot follows one idea for a few chapters, then another idea for the rest of the book.

***

Now, this doesn’t mean that pantsing is bad. I love it. Honestly, it hurt a little to show only the bad sides of my favorite writing method in this blog.

But it’ll be rectified next week when I showcase the pros of pantsing and the cons of plotting.

Be sure to come back next Monday to check it out, as well as the Monday after that to learn about hybrid writers, the Plantsers. That’s the category that most people fit into.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on my writing progress, get exclusive glimpses at what’s in the works, and special behind the scenes tidbits. There’s even a free short story for subscribing.

(If you were already a subscriber before I set up the freebie, don’t worry. I sent you the free ebook. Make sure to check your inbox.)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

How to Avoid the NaNoWriMo Blues

As we near the end of NaNoWriMo, the writing community seems to be polarizing. That’s not to say the divide is intentional or discriminatory. It isn’t.

But it’s there.

Writers who are on track to meet that lofty 50k goal are growing more and more excited by the day, and understandably so. That’s a lot of words to write in a single month.

Other writers who have fallen behind are starting to get down on themselves, though.

And since I hate to see that, I want to have a little chat with you and offer up five tips for avoiding the NaNo Blues.

If you’ve “only” written 15,000 words on your story so far this month, that’s still 15,000 words. That’s still progress. You’re still writing and doing things and pushing forward.

50,000 words in a month is monstrous for anyone who isn’t a full time author. Hell, it’s a lofty goal, even for full time authors.

And we all know how few and far between full time authors really are.

So cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself. Life is fucking chaos, especially lately.

If you’re working full time plus raising kids plus taking care of animals plus you’re sick plus your house needs repairs plus all the absolute nonsense that has been thrown at us this year…

Not hitting 50k in one month is 100% understandable.

I’ll openly admit, there’s no way in hell I would have managed it if I’d decided to try Nano this year. No fucking way.

I made progress. I released a book and I wrote and I edited. But no way in hell did I write 50,000 words this month. There’s too much shit going on in my personal life, and I’m working on too many projects.

And that’s okay.

I’m human. You’re human. Our plans don’t always work out, and our lives throw curveballs.

So please, be kind to yourself. If November ends and you find yourself with 27,561 words in your story, celebrate.

That’s a fuck ton of words.

But I know it’s natural to feel disappointed if a goal isn’t reached. So, if you’ve hit critical mass and you know you can’t catch up to meet the 50k goal, here are some tips to keep the NaNo Blues at bay.

1. Don’t give up. I know this whole thing might be discouraging, but keep writing. Your story is still worthwhile.

2. Do some daydreaming, specifically within the world you’re writing to remind yourself why you love this story. It may even inspire a new subplot.

3. Take a bit of time to relax. Do something non-writing related that you enjoy, even if only for half an hour. It may just be the refresher your overworked mind needs to push forward.

4. Give yourself permission not to hit that goal. It might sound silly, but accepting that you’re human and that sometimes life gets in the way of our goals is a very liberating thing.

Paradoxically, it could actually lead to greater productivity because all the time and mental energy that goes into beating yourself up is suddenly free for making progress.

5. Make a new goal. Use this experience with NaNo to inform your goal setting process.

That nifty little word tracker on the NaNo site can be a very useful tool for analyzing how many words you average per day or per week, thus allowing you to set an informed target word count for your next goal rather than some arbitrary number set forth for you by someone who knows nothing about your life.

Now, I have to add a disclaimer.

To the people who spent hours and hours, day in and day out, scrolling through tumblr or tiktok, or sharing memes on Facebook, or playing games on their phone, or binge-watching three different shows instead of writing and now want pity because you fell behind…

This blog is not for you.

You need someone to light a fire under your ass to get you moving, not someone to make you feel better. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. That’s it.

I have a different blog for you:

How do you have the time?

Just ignore the progress report opening/ending. The books mentioned in that blog have already been released. (Soul Bearer came out 10/22/2019 and The Gem of Meruna cam out 12/31/2019)

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

A Heart of Salt & Silver: Themes and Meanings

Everyone always talks about the deeper meanings in books, and though I never start writing with a specific theme in mind, these things always find their way in.

So today, I want to discuss some of them with you.

Of course, there are the obvious ones. Good vs evil, love and redemption, revenge and second chances. Isolation and war, forgiveness and religion. All the big ones.

But there are others.

One of the biggest themes is the importance of growth and change. Two of the MCs (Ness and Nolan) are exes, star-crossed lovers, of sorts. They both have their faults, and each played their role in breaking up their relationship.

But people aren’t stagnant, never should be stagnant. So, we see them confront some of their issues, facing down the demons (pun intended, since demons are actually in this book) that wore them down (as individuals) in the first place, so that things might work better in the future.

Which brings me to another theme.

The differences between self-perception and how others perceive you.

With the vast majority of people, there’s a gap between these two things. Arrogant fucks tend to think far higher of themselves than others think of them. They see only their own strengths and don’t understand why others don’t worship them.

People with depression or anxiety disorders tend to think far lower of themselves than others do. They see only their own flaws, never seeing their strengths, and this creates a discrepancy, one that other people don’t always know about. If they know about it, they may not understand because the person they see is wonderful.

The downtrodden, self-destructive type shows up in this book.

Ness is… hurting. She believes herself to be inherently broken, less than. Nothing she ever does for anyone is enough to meet her standards. Nothing she says is kind enough. She’s so hung up on being half demon, so focused on the rage and the fury that could send her on a rampage if she lost control, that she fails to see all the good she does or just how well she controls her half-demon heart.

And she certainly doesn’t feel like she deserves love or happiness. And it takes her a long time, and some pretty extreme circumstances, to even realize that people might actually care about her.

Mainly because she doesn’t see herself (or her actions or motivations) accurately. Her childhood kinda skewed her perception of herself.

Being raised by your mortal enemy, a member of a religious sect sworn to kill you on sight who was bewitched to raise you, can do that to a person.

Which brings me to yet another theme.

The importance of being self-aware.

It’s awfully hard to grow and improve yourself if you don’t know where your issues lie. And it’s pretty hard to have the motivation to improve if you think you’re the worst person alive.

Acknowledging flaws and strengths alike is important for growth as a human being. Analyzing why you’re really doing something, rather than just taking all your actions at face value, is a necessary step. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up doing the wrong thing for the right reason or vice versa.

Motives can taint actions.

Being the hero because you need to be the hero… Yeah, people get saved. But maybe there was someone better suited to the task that stepped back because you needed to do it? Maybe other people are suffering because you had to be the one to fix something?

That’s one of the biggest problems for Nolan.

Elias also lacks self-awareness, but where Nolan has already started seeing and fixing things, Elias is barely aware that there’s a problem at all. His impulses drag him into a lot of situations that would have been better off left alone, and through the magic of luck, he hasn’t faced many consequences yet.

Running into vampire territory can change that pretty quickly, though.

And that’s just some of the character-related themes. There are others, and the world has its own themes.

Emotion vs. intellect is a big thing as far as magic and the afterlife are concerned in this book. Not to mention just how diluted and corrupted views of the afterlife can become when humans get involved, organizing it into neat little boxes with hard and fast rules that fit their particular motives.

That may seem like a lot to cover in one book. But life never tries to teach us just one thing at a time, and it never tries just one tactic for breaking us.

Lessons and traumas tangle together, piling one atop the other.

In life and literature.

If you want to watch these themes unfold amidst immortals and mortals in a magical world, if you want to get to know the characters and their lives, check out A Heart of Salt & Silver here:

mybook.to/AHeartOfSaltAndSilver

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Darkness and Grit: Why I Write the Way I Do

It’s no secret that my books play with darker themes and showcase the brutality of humanity.

I don’t mince words. I don’t pull punches. If a scene is meant to hurt, if a book demands a scene that hurts, then it’s going to hurt.

Of course, I do the opposite, as well, writing sweet, tender scenes when the book calls for it.

But I don’t recall ever covering why I write the way I write.

I don’t set out with the intention of writing something so dramatic and dark. It just kinda happens.

But there’s still a reason.

Well, more like several.

I haven’t had the easiest life. I’ve been through a decent amount.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had good times, and I’ve known good people.

But I know what it’s like to hurt.

So characters who’ve had it easy their whole lives are hard for me to relate to.

Pretty princesses whose biggest problem is deciding what to wear to the next ball… just don’t work for me. I can’t connect with them.

And since I’m a very emotional person (not that that’s obvious on the outside thanks to social anxiety, extreme introversion, and resting bitch face), not connecting with a character emotionally pretty much damns the story for me.

Characters who’ve hurt, who’ve hit rock bottom and crashed through (because rock bottom is just a muscovite illusion, because things can always get worse), characters who kept falling until they smashed onto a ledge, breaking into a million pieces with their head over the edge staring into the abyss, only to heal just enough to get up and start climbing because they know, yes, things can always get worse, but things can also always get better.

And they know they’ll never have it better if they give up.

Those are the characters I relate to.

So, those are the characters I write. Those are the characters that keep me writing or reading until after the sun comes up.

Because they’re the ones I can identify with.

Writing them helps me get my shit out onto a page. It helps me see the issue as separate from myself because I fictionalize it, changing the details to fit the story, but the emotions are still there.

And that helps me process them.

And I know that I’m not the only one trying to figure out their shit. And if seeing it on a page helps me, it’s bound to help someone else.

Next week, I’ll be discussing which themes come up in my new release, A Heart of Salt & Silver. There are… several.

But for now, I’ll leave you with a progress report.

I finished this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads a couple weeks ago, and promptly moved into a round of edits on Allmother Rising. This round will be done with special focus on beta reader feedback. So, it’ll be a full round of edits, but I’ll also be watching for a very specific thing to come up in the book to see what needs adjusted.

I’m about an eighth of the way through.

I’ve also been steadily writing on The Regonia Chronicles. It’s definitely going to be three books. Plus prequels. Two books for the main series is not going to be an option.

There are just too many planets, too many necessary POVs, too much ground to cover (or space to travel through). And it’s all plot-relevant. So, no cutting it down.

I’m currently adding chapters throughout book two to lay some groundwork for book three, then I’ll be continuing in book three.

And I got some incredible feedback on Second to None today. I’ll be making some minor adjustments, but I’m ecstatic.

Stick around for some snippets from A Heart of Salt & Silver on my social media platforms this week, as well as guest blogs and interviews throughout the blog tour.

I’m aiming to have the new cover for Soul Bearer officially available this week or next week, so keep an eye out for that, as well.

Thanks for being here.

It means a lot.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

A Heart of Salt & Silver: Deleted Scene

I promised, and now, it’s time to deliver. When I started to cut things from A Heart of Salt & Silver, I saved them all in a separate document. Some things were made redundant by later scenes. Others were eliminated completely because they no longer fit with character personalities.

This scene still fit with the character’s personality, but Elias was going to have to tell his story to Ness later. Including this scene and his later conversation with Ness would have been repetitive. It also got cut because Astrid and Alva (Elias’ mother and sister, respectively) don’t feature in the rest of the book outside of his thoughts and memories.

But I can show it to you here and give you a glimpse of his personality and my writing style.

***

“Elias, could you bring me your sister’s veil?” my mom calls from her bedroom.

“Of course, Mom,” I answer, grateful for something to do.

She and Alva have been locked in there for nearly two hours already, marking up the necessary adjustments to make Mom’s wedding dress fit Alva. They insisted I be present to see it pinned up, but of course, I’m not allowed in the bloody room until they’re done.

I’ve already tidied up, hauled in everything I could pick from the garden, and split some wood for the fireplace. I even stacked it carefully against the cozy, little house I grew up in.

What else am I supposed to do?

The delicate lace veil rests atop my mother’s writing desk, a dangerous spot considering the bottle of ink nearby. The cork sticks out of the top haphazardly, not at all secure. She never quite closes those things right.

Carefully, I lift my sister’s veil from the desk. I reach for the ink bottle, intending to close it properly, but stop mid-reach. Looking around, I search for a spot to place the creamy lace, but find none.

Oh, well.

I slide the band over my head.

Perhaps I’ll wear the damn thing into the room with them, get a little laugh.

I grab up the ink bottle, close it, and place it back on the desk. A stray drop, slopped over the side of the rim by the messily placed cork, falls on a letter, apparently written just before I arrived.

“Damn it all,” I whisper.

Reaching down to dab away what I can with my sleeve, my eyes notice the words next to the droplet.

“Dearest Everett,” it begins.

My brows furrow in confusion. Why, after all, would she be writing my father a letter? He’s been dead for 25 years, now.

Though prying isn’t normally my style, my hands lift the letter free of the desk, and my eyes roam the page. Not that it clears anything up. What difference is it going to make, telling him about Alva’s wedding?

He can’t exactly come. The Etherrealm doesn’t typically grant day passes.

The door behind me opens, and my mother gives a great chuckle. “I asked you to bring it here, son, not wear it,” she admonishes with another laugh.

Still holding the letter, I turn to face her. Across the small kitchen, I watch her face fall. “Oh, Gods,” she whispers, hand rising to cover her mouth.

My frown deepens. “Why are you writing to Dad?”

Taking a deep breath, my mother falters beneath my gaze. Her eyes fall to the floor, and sadness overtakes her features, pulling her entire face downward. “I forgot I’d put the veil just there,” she whispers, shaking her head.

Exhaling, she puts her hands on her hips, considering. When she finally meets my gaze, her eyes glisten with tears she won’t let fall. “Come in here. I’ve something to tell you.”

Hands falling to my sides, my mother’s letter dangling uselessly in my grip, I follow.

Stunning in cream satin and lace, Alva stares at us, mouth hanging open, as we enter the room. “What’s wrong?” she begs, dark eyes shining with worry. Blonde hair swept up hastily, bits and strands hang loose about her face.

I shrug and hand her the letter, hoping she can make more sense of it than I have.

“What is this?” she asks, looking to our mother.

Pulling in a shuddering breath, she closes her eyes to fortify herself. “Please, sit down.”

We do, pushing fabric aside, and clearing a spot on the bed. The lace of the veil tugs oddly as I sit, catching between my knees and the edge of the bed. Pulling it off, I offer it to Alva.

“Thanks,” she murmurs reflexively. Her fingers worry at the edges of the lace as we wait.

“Your father,” my mother begins, clearly struggling for words. She paces and turns her back to us. One hand on her hip, she dips her head, using her free hand to wipe tears away. “Oh, please, don’t hate me,” she whispers.

My heart clenches. In an instant, I’m on my feet, pulling her into my arms. “Mom, we’re not going to hate you. Just tell us. We’ll be fine. We’re tough.”

Her ribs expand with a massive breath, and I loosen my arms to accommodate her. The long braid which hangs halfway down her back pulls tight under my arms, so I lift it free.

Bending my knees, I stoop to look her in the eyes. One hand on her face, wet with tears, I say, “Mom, really, we won’t hate you.”

Long lashes sparkling with tears, face red from partial breaths, she nods. “Your father isn’t dead.”

The world around me stops, it must, for nothing outside this room exists, nothing beyond my mother’s face and the words still hanging in the air.

Behind me, Alva asks, “What?”

Yet, I still can’t form a coherent thought. My mind is a blur. Confusion and anger fight a vicious battle in my chest for, if he’s alive, where’s he been all this time? Why would he leave us to fend for ourselves? Why would he leave his children, two and three years old? Why would he leave his wife?

“At least,” Astrid goes on, “I assume he isn’t. Killing him is a rather difficult thing.”

Brows knitting themselves together, I find words, finally, “What do you mean?”

“Come, let’s have some tea. I’ll explain everything.” Then, she amends, “Well, I’ll try.”

We venture to the kitchen, and my sister perches gingerly in one of the chairs at the table, not wanting to dislodge any of the pins they’ve put into place in the dress. My mother begins to put on the kettle, but her hands shake.

Grateful for the activity, I offer to take over, pleading with her to sit.

“You’ve got to know that your father… Everett was, I mean, is a good man.”

Clearly.

He only abandoned his family.

I slam the kettle onto the stone counter a little harder than I intend. Trying to still the rage which boils in my blood, I grit my teeth. Pulling some herbs from the cabinet, I pour some into a little cloth pouch and tie it off. The string nearly rips as I tighten it.

Deep breaths.

He must have had a good reason to leave us.

I roll my eyes, thankful my back is to my mother. With everything prepared, I venture to the fireplace, careful to keep my expression neutral so she doesn’t assume I’m mad at her.

Setting the kettle by the fire, I sit on the hearth. Eyes closed and chewing away at the inside of my cheek, my temper flares. Every rough winter, all the times Mom had to work her fingers to the bone stitching away to scrape in enough coin for food, every hardship flickers across my eyelids.

All those birthdays, missed. All those nights, Mom was alone. And for what?

That bastard…

Shaking my head, I tap my fingers on the stone.

“Do you know why he left? What makes you think he’s alive?” Alva says, voice weak and small.

Finally opening my eyes, I see my mother shake her head. Bits of sunlight slip through the windows to glisten on the tears that stain her face. “I don’t know why he left. But he was part of the Pack. They don’t die easily.”

“The Pack?” I ask, incredulous. “Are you serious?”

She nods, and my world collapses around me.

“We lived with them, at first. Then, we had you two. The first full moon after your first birthdays, neither of you showed signs of having inherited it, and werewolf children don’t exactly play like normal children,” she says, words tumbling out now that she’s finally resolved to explain.

“Neither of you would have survived, so we moved here. He went back and forth, staying here most of the time, but he had to be there for every full moon, and a few days before and after them.”

Leaning her head forward into her hands, she goes on, “For a week before he left, he acted so strangely. I think it may have just gotten to him, being so far from his Pack, from his Alphas. I don’t know. There were a few others in the Pack that managed just fine living in town…”

My head spins.

Dad’s a werewolf?

He’s a werewolf, and he’s probably alive?

It just… doesn’t seem right. All this time, he’s been in the forest, just…not showing up for his family?

“You two were used to him disappearing for a week or so at a time, and you were so young,” she pauses, drawing the word out. “But two weeks in, a month in, I didn’t know what to say, anymore. It didn’t look like he was coming back. Eventually, after months of telling you over and again that he’d be back soon, after months of you asking when he’d be back every day, I just told you both that he was gone. I didn’t want you to think badly of him. If it was because of what he was, he couldn’t help it.”

“And if it wasn’t?” I ask.

Beside me, the tea comes to a boil. Mom notices first, rising to her feet and gathering cups from the cabinet. She kneels beside me, pouring tea into the cups. “I don’t know, son.”

“That’s not good enough,” I say. Standing, not bothering with the tea, I rush for the door.

“Where are you going?” my mother asks, concern lacing her words.

“I’m going after him.”

“What?” my mother and sister say in unison.

Alva stands abruptly, pushing her chair back with the motion. It nearly topples over behind her. “You can’t be serious!”

“This isn’t right! We deserve answers. He should BE here,” I say, voice rising with every word. Then, tone softening considerably, “He should be here to see his daughter get married.”

“So you’re going to confront a werewolf? Are you stupid?” Alva asks.

“Sometimes,” I say, placing a hand on the doorknob. “Obviously, this is one of those times.”

“What do you expect? Do you think he’s going to apologize? To offer to be a part of our lives now, after all this time?” Her voice breaks with pain.

Mom sits, hunched over the kettle by the fire with a cup in one hand. Her eyes are tight, and her braid hangs over her shoulder. Mouth working uselessly, she struggles for words.

“I don’t know what he’ll do,” I say. “But I have to try.”

Mom drops the cup, and it shatters against the stone. Pushing herself to her feet, she rushes to me and throws her arms around me. “Please, just let it rest. I’ll send the letter. There’s plenty of time for it to reach him. The wedding isn’t for another three months.”

Her tears stain my shirt, but I know I must go. My bones, my very blood cries out for answers. “I have to see him. I have to know.”

“It’s dangerous, though,” Alva pleads, approaching me slowly. “What if you don’t come back? I can get married without him. I can’t get married without you there.”

“I’ll come back, I promise. I wouldn’t miss your wedding for anything.”

I pull her into my arms, smashing her and Mom to my chest. Their shoulders tuck nicely under my arms. They fit there so comfortably, like they’re a part of me.

But I have to do this.

***

And then, he set off, all by himself with very few provisions. He ran into the Forest of Immortals, intending to cut through to save time on his journey to Tor, the city the Pack calls home.

Only, his trip didn’t quite go to plan. If you’ve read the blurb, you know that he and Ness meet while he’s being chased by a vampire… nowhere near Tor.

If you want to know more, A Heart of Salt & Silver is officially available at all major retailers. You can even ask for it at your local bookstore or library if you want to help support them.

If you want to stay home, chilling in your jammies, click here for the Amazon link.

Don’t forget, I’ll be live on Instagram at 3pm CST for a reading of the first chapter followed immediately by a Q&A session. Follow here to catch the live stream.

And as always…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

A Heart of Salt and Silver: Inspiration and Process

Do you ever struggle to turn your brain off when it’s time to sleep?

Like… it just keeps going, anxious and desperate to pick something apart, and all you want to do is sleep because you have things to do the next day and it’s already so late and it isn’t getting any earlier, except that it sort-of is because now it’s early morning instead of late at night, but that thought doesn’t really help, it only makes you more anxious, which only makes it harder to sleep.

That’s the kind of evening that A Heart of Salt & Silver is born of.

Or rather, a series of those nights.

You see, there’s this little thing that I do on nights like that, a little trick to calm my restless mind.

I curl up and close my eyes. I picture a character, just fabricate them on the spot. Then, I drop them down in the middle of my head and see where they end up. My brain starts scrambling to put together a world for them rather than scrambling to assemble a to-do list for the next three months.

And then, I just watch it play out in my mind, letting that character wander through some random scene, some random event.

And it centers my mind.

Gone are the worries of the day. Banished are the stressors that have yet to hit me, the arguments that I’ve never had and never will have that my brain insists on playing out.

All that remains is that character, that scene, that world.

And I relax.

And eventually, I fall asleep.

If I have several of these terrible nights in a row, or if I have one a few weeks later, and happen to like the person my mind conjured, I’ll pick the scene up where I left off. Because my mind is a bit of a steel trap for these things. I’ll pick up the thread, and follow it wherever it goes until I decide that I like it enough to start actually writing.

And that’s how I got this book.

I imagined Ness, this demi-demon hiding in plain sight, disguised in human form, out in the middle of the forest. I conjured a man being chased into the little meadow she was trying to relax in, crashing through brambles and sprawling across the ground. I pictured the bandits chasing after him, one of them even stabbing him.

Then, Ness unleashed hell.

And I had to write the book.

Now, I don’t plan my books. But of all my books, I knew less about this one when I started writing it than with any others, with the exception of my current WIP.

What I said above is all I had.

I didn’t know why Ness was trying to relax in that meadow or any of the things in her past that she was hiding from. I certainly didn’t know the route her thoughts were travelling or the… act she was about to attempt, laying there thinking about her ex, Nolan. I didn’t know Nolan was werewolf.

I didn’t know that the bandits weren’t bandits, that one was a vampire and the other his pledge, a Nether witch, or why Elias was wandering through a forest chock full of dangerous immortals to begin with.

I just knew that those lives all converged at that one point, and I wanted to figure out why.

So, I started writing.

I got a few chapters in and realized that one of the bandits was a vampire, so I had to go back and adjust the first chapter to reflect that. Then, a few chapters later, I realized that the “bandits” were assholes.

More adjustments in chapter one.

And it just kept going. I found out more about the characters’ internal lives and even the premise for the book in chapter two, or at least part of it. I started pulling at that thread, and quickly realized that I didn’t have the whole plot yet.

About halfway through the first draft, I had an epiphany about the characters, one that solved all the problems I was struggling with at that point. It, quite humbly, stared me in the eyes and demanded an entire rewrite of everything I had, including the complete elimination of a few chapters, one of which I’ll be sharing with you tomorrow.

Things just kept spiraling, and what I thought would be a simple romance novella that just happened to be set in a fantasy world with immortals quickly became a dark and gritty novel with stakes so high that their world could shatter and so many fucking love triangles that it was more like a square with an X inside.

Normally, I hate love triangles, but the story had many demands. They were just one of them.

And it actually ended up being one of my favorite character dynamics in any of my books, because it isn’t just a simple “Oh, no, two hotties are into me, how will I ever choose?” type thing. (Btw, if that’s what you like to read, go for it. It just isn’t my thing.)

These love triangles are rooted in genuine psychological and emotional struggles.

And if you’ve read any of my books, you know that psychological and emotional struggles are always at the heart of every story. They’re my bread and butter. They’re the thing that hooks me.

The ones in this book, though not the darkest I’ve ever written, certainly aren’t light.

But I love the way they turned out.

It’s been such an amazing journey getting this book written and edited and ready for you to read. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Release day is tomorrow! Can you believe it? I can’t.

I’ll be posting a deleted scene tomorrow around noon (CST) and going live on Instagram for a reading of the first chapter and a Q&A session. Follow here so you don’t miss it.

Preorders are available here.

And as always…

Keep writing. Keep reading.

Later.

A Heart of Salt & Silver Blog Tour Schedule

It’s time! The blog tour is upon us, and the first stop is today.

Links are provided below if you want to check out any of the bloggers, along with the dates that I’ll be appearing on their sites. Some stops have guest blogs written by me, others have interviews with special behind the scenes info and personal tidbits. These have been listed in bold print.

And of course, there will be a giveaway running throughout the duration of the tour. Stay tuned to learn how you can enter to win one of five signed hardbacks, each with their own swag pack.

Tour Stops:

October 26: Midnight Musings with Bertena
https://vocal.media/authors/midnight-musings-with-bertena

October 27: JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder (Interview)
https://jbbookworms.blogspot.com  

October 28: SImply Kelina
http://simplykelina.blogspot.com

October 29: Bewitching Book Tours
https://bewitchingbooktours.tumblr.com/

October 30: Westveil Publishing
https://www.westveilpublishing.com

November 2: Bewitching Book Tours FB
https://www.facebook.com/BewitchingBookTours/

November 4: Roxanne Rhoads FB
https://www.facebook.com/RoxanneRhoadsAuthor/

November 5: Momma Says: To Read or Not to Read
http://mommasaystoreadornottoread.blogspot.com/

November 6: The Book Junkie Reads (Interview)
https://thebookjunkiereadspromos.blogspot.com/

November 9: Lisa’s World of Books
http://www.lisasworldofbooks.net/

November 9: Sapphyria’s Books
https://saphsbooks.blogspot.com/

November 10: Fang-tastic Books
http://fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com

November 11: Other Worlds of Romance (Guest Blog)
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Paranormal Romances
http://lindamooney.blogspot.com/

November 12: Paranormalists (Interview)
https://paranormalists.blogspot.com/

November 13: Roxanne’s Realm
http://www.roxannerhoads.com/

November 16: The Pimpettes FB
https://www.facebook.com/bookpimpettes/

November 17: The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom (Guest Blog)
http://creativelygreen.blogspot.com/

November 18: Jazzy Book Reviews
http://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com/

November 19: Fang-tastic Books FB
https://www.facebook.com/FangtasticBooks/

November 20: T’s Stuff (Interview)
http://www.tsstuff.net
 
November 23: Supernatural Central (Interview)
http://supernaturalcentral.blogspot.com

November 23: Serena Synn
https://serenasynn.blogspot.com/

Be sure to check out each stop! Some of those interview questions were pretty intense.

I’ll be back on all my social media platforms throughout the week with a deleted scene and giveaway details.

If you’ve already pre-ordered (ebook, paperback, or hardback), don’t forget to send me a picture of your order to be entered for a chance to win a swag pack to go along with that new book. (This international giveaway is open until release day, aka November 3rd.)

If you haven’t pre-ordered and need some gritty paranormal fantasy in your life (chock full of shifters, magic, and deep psychological scars), you can order your copy here:

mybook.to/AHeartOfSaltAndSilver

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.