Writing an Unreliable Narrator

Hi, guys!

Today, we’re talking about something that can be really fun to write.

Unreliable narrators.

They can lead a reader down a pretty wild path, and they’re not terribly difficult to write as long as you stick to their personality. You can write them in just about any style, whether you write as if an outside source is telling the story or from the perspective of a character.

Personally, I prefer first person, present tense, which drops you right into the mind of the main character. Everything is seen through their eyes, experienced through the lens through which they view the world.

And if you strive for any level of realism, your characters, much like real people, will NOT see themselves 100% accurately. Whether they have low self-esteem or are overly cocky, whether they have body dysmorphia or Stockholm syndrome, depression or maybe they’re just your average Joe…

They almost certainly are not perfectly self-aware.

On average, people rank themselves as being above average. Which is statistically impossible.

And yet, we all have something, some little thing we hate about ourselves that we focus on way too much and try to overcompensate for.

We all have some strange little thing that we learned in childhood that we thought was just… how everyone did things. And we don’t even think twice about it until we meet someone who has no idea what the fuck we’re talking about.

And if your characters are realistic, they’ll have all these little quirks, too.

Much like real people, their perception of themselves colors how they see the world, making their view of the world rather skewed, as well.

Which is where we get unreliable narrators.

Some personal bias they hold casts shadows on certain things, painting them as terrible or perhaps ignoring them completely, while putting too much praise on other things.

Maybe the character is racist, and they describe people with negative or positive traits depending on their race, regardless of the truth.

Maybe your character grew up rich in a happy home, and now, they don’t see any of the problems in their world until some other character pulls the blinders off and forces them to see their actions and their world for what it is.

I won’t say what story this character is in because spoilers (hell, I’m not even going to tell you their gender), but I’ve written one with full-on Stockholm syndrome. It shapes their entire perception of themselves, their world, their religion, their peers. Literally everything is shaded by this veil over their eyes, and it takes the entire story for them to see the truth.

In order to pull off an unreliable narrator, you have to dive deep into their mind. You have to stick to your guns and write everything how they would see it, not how it actually is. You have to know how it actually is, as the writer, then write it how that character would see it.

Only when that “Ah-Ha” moment hits do you really show the world and the character for what it is. Then, the reader can think back over it, and see what actually happened and how things were actually going down.

You need to find a balance with the details you put in before that eureka moment, though. There needs to be enough accurate detail for the reader to see it properly later on, but not so much that it stands out like a sore thumb at the time.

Beta readers, critique partners, and editors can help with finding that perfect balance.

And so can studying psychology.

The mind is a maze laced with mines, dead ends, and trap doors. It holds pitfalls and skylights placed directly under the balcony of someone else’s apartment, blocking the light. Its full to the brim with steep descents and hairpin turns.

Memories, constantly relived or questioned by others, can be shifted and tweaked. Things lie forgotten in our past.

It’s a mess.

And it paints a mess across the entire world.

Personal bias makes us all a little unreliable, so it makes sense for a narrator to be unreliable, as well. And it can make for a hell of a twist in a book.

So, have fun with it. Write a character that doesn’t see the world accurately every now and then.

Now, as for what I’ve been up to.

I’ve been getting so much done while I’ve been laid off from work. I finished writing Allmother Rising, finished a round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, and did a complete round of edits on A Heart of Salt & Silver. I’m almost through the first round of edits for Allmother Rising, and I just started the last round of edits on A Heart of Salt & Silver this past weekend. It goes off for proofreading next month.

I also got a finalized design for the cover for A Heart of Salt & Silver, which is super exciting. I have to adjust the size of it after formatting the manuscript for trims sizes and all that, but the design is done.

And if you somehow didn’t see it, World for the Broken is officially out, now! As of last Tuesday, it’s out there for you all to read. You can order it wherever books are sold, but here’s the Amazon link:

mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

Anyway, it’s time for even more editing. : )

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

World for the Broken: Behind the Scenes

Hi, guys!

Holy shit, it’s almost release day! It’s freaking tomorrow!!!!

*gasp*

I can hardly believe that, as of tomorrow, I’ll have FOUR books published. I’m ecstatic.

And in honor of release day, I wanted to share the origin of this gut-wrenching book.

It all started…with the trailer for an erotic film. Which is ironic since an actual sex scene is one of the only triggers not included in the book, even though a brothel features pretty heavily in the plot.

It was a high end, story driven one (obviously, since it had a damn trailer). Anyway, the trailer consisted of a girl wearing heavy furs and old-timey clothes tromping through the snow on a mountain side until she passed out. Then, some guy, also wearing furs and medieval clothes, found her and carried her to safety.

And for some reason, the idea of someone finding someone near-dead in the snow just stuck with me.

I’d been in a post-apocalyptic headspace for a while, so I shifted it to that rather than a fantasy setting.

Of course, I didn’t want the baggage of “Is he going to kill me or worse?” hanging over the love interest, what with the potential hostage situation, so I flipped the genders. I don’t particularly enjoy writing women who fall in love with men after thinking they might kill or rape them.

So, Chloe found Christian bleeding in the snow. Then, I just needed a reason for him to be there, which is where Karen (Christian’s sister-in-law), Jesse (Christian’s late brother), and Tate (Christian’s nephew) came in. I built the world around them, unintentionally throwing nearly ever potential trigger into the book.

I never even ended up watching the erotic film that inspired the story. Hell, it didn’t even get made. It just stayed a trailer.

This book sits so close to home, literally and figuratively. It’s set in Southern Illinois, aka the place I’ve lived my entire life. I took some liberties with town names and distances between them, but ya know…creative license and all that.

It’s also deeply emotional. So many of my own experiences have gone into this one. Of course, the experiences were changed to fit the story, some exaggerated, some downplayed with the burden split across multiple characters. And some things were just experiences I dealt with secondhand during my internship days getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Regardless, a lot went into this novel.

There were a lot of teary-eyed typing sessions. Some all-out blubbering. Sometimes over sad things and sometimes over sweet, touching scenes.

Some of the dialogue is pulled from real life to give the characters that extra bit of realism.

I’d even been getting into survival stuff a little heavier just before I wrote it. Over the course of about six months leading up to it, I took up archery, learned to clean fish, bought a pistol (.45 baby desert eagle…Chloe happens to prefer a .45 in the story), and brushed up on shooting. I put together bug-out bags and jumped into (very, very mild) prepping.

And then, I got the idea for this post-apocalyptic novel, and I realized most of my research was done.

As I said, sooooooo much went into this one.

If you want to learn more about the characters, check out the #WorldForTheBrokenWednesday on Instagram for all my character profiles and several excerpts from the story.

Preorders are still available everywhere until midnight, at which point you can just straight up buy this motherfucker.

Check it out on amazon at: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

I’ve got one hell of a blog tour lineup coming, with some chances to win free books (signed hardbacks!) and custom book swag.

Follow me on social media or subscribe right here for all the updates on the giveaways and tour information. (Links down below)

Keep reading. Keep writing. (And keep your eyes peeled. You never know where inspiration will come from.)

Later.

Treat yo’self

Hi, guys!

If you follow me on social media, you know that, as of a couple days ago, I finished writing Allmother Rising! This one took just under 4 and a half months (126 days, but short ass February fucked up the months.) It’s freaking amazing to have another book under my belt.

But the thing with finishing a first draft is that…there’s the initial lull of “what now?” that follows (quite similar to a book hangover when reading) and then there’s all the editing and the formatting and the cover design and then the metadata and the copyright and all that other stuff that needs done next.

But.

It’s important to take a second to appreciate the gravity of what’s just been accomplished, whether it’s your first book or your thirtieth book.

Yes, there is a lot of work to be done, still.

But people, events, worlds (if you write fantasy or science fiction) have just been created out of literal thin air. Synapses fired in your brain, and you moved your fingers over a keyboard, and magically, ideas and entire fictional lives exist.

And that is a magnificent thing deserving of celebration.

Normally, whenever I finish a book, my husband and I go out to eat to celebrate. I’m not sure if you’ve taken a look at the world lately, but that isn’t an option.

So, a massive, juicy grilled steak, grilled corn on the cob, and asparagus with a cold can of soda and Community playing on tv was the celebration this time around.

But that’s me.

I’m a major fan of red meat, specifically steak, so that’s a pretty special thing for me.

You can have cake or treat yourself to a new book. Buy yourself something special or take an extra long bubble bath (with salts and candles and bath bombs galore).

The point is, take a second to appreciate what you’ve accomplished. Look at what you’ve done and give yourself credit for it.

Celebrate where you’re at and how far you’ve come, regardless of how far you still have to go.

Because you’re doing things. And, to paraphrase John Mulaney, it’s so much easier to not do things.

For all of you out there kicking ass during Camp NaNoWriMo, celebrate the fact that you’re doing something with your time that most people only ever talk about. Everyone says they want to write a book, many say they could write a book if they ever had the time (which frustrates me to no end, and I did a whole blog about having time, link below if you’re interested).

But you’re actually doing it.

You’re not just talk. You’re not a hack or a poser.

You’re writing a goddamn book.

Soak it in. Really appreciate that. Because it’s huge.

Celebrate this, you magnificent do-er of things.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

(Ignore the progress updates in the linked blog below, because both those books are already published. Lol.)

World for the Broken: First chapter reveal

Hi, guys!

It’s so close to release day! Just 13 days… An unlucky day for a chapter reveal? Or perfect considering the terrible luck these characters have?

Either way, I won’t keep you waiting. Here’s the first chapter of my dark post-apocalyptic romance, World for the Broken. (Reader discretion advised. This book might hurt.)

Chapter 1

Christian

Snow crunches beneath feet, not far from my aching head. Dazed, I wonder how I could have let someone get so close. I try to lift my face from winter’s blanket, but the world threatens to fall out from under me with even the slightest movement. Head pounding, I struggle to center myself. Holding as still as humanly possible, I strain my ears to pick out the size of my newest friends.

A trickle of warmth slips through my hair, dripping over my scalp and down my forehead. It’s almost pleasant, except for the little voice in the back of my mind telling me that it shouldn’t be there. As if for emphasis, a cold wind sweeps over my back, the only part of me visible above the snow. Warmth has no place here.

I remember how to open my eyes, lifting my head as I do so, and see red swirling before my gaze. The ground tilts and whirls, mixing melting snow and blood in psychedelic patterns. I slam my eyes shut once more, letting my head fall to the ground. My face splashes in the watered-down blood.

My blood.

Another foot breaches the snow with a crunch. The danger that I’m in screams back into focus, so loudly my skull aches with it. Or maybe that’s just the head wound talking.

Fucking get it together, Christian.

I growl inwardly, but I’m excited that I can piece even that together amidst the agony bursting across my scalp.

Are these more of The Wolf’s men, come to finish the job?

Then, it all comes back to me, hitting like a ton of bricks. Tate, Jesse, Karen…Are they safe? I don’t know, don’t remember much, and that scares me.

We’d been on the run, having escaped Breyerville two and a half days ago with The Wolf’s Fangs dogging our heels every second. Poor Tate, just four years old, was terrified to fall asleep, as were we all. He’d only done so to the tune of Karen’s voice, singing a soft lullaby, nearly whispering through choking fear.

What if The Fangs were close? What if they heard her song?

What if they found us?

Then, the blizzard hit and made our tracks impossible to miss. The Fangs found us within a day of the first flakes falling. The scene bursts across my eyelids, like some horrible version of the instant replay used in sporting events back before the war.

We’d just stopped so Tate could go to the bathroom, which took an unfortunate amount of time given the layers the poor kid was wearing, and we were about to set off again. Not that we really knew where we were going.

Just…away.

Away from Breyerville and the brothel Karen was forced into. Away from The Wolf and his cronies, demanding payment and tribute from all locked within his stupid walls. The walls we all helped him build, back when he seemed like a decent human being, someone we could trust to help lead us through the end of the world.

Funny thing about the apocalypse, that. It brings out what’s hiding underneath the surface. Given time and power, The Wolf revealed his true nature, evil incarnate.

The Fangs found us unaware. Karen and Jesse had been arguing again, with Jesse lobbing some new unfair accusation at his poor wife. I’d been a little worried, thinking I may have to step in again and…calm my brother down.

Tate clung to his mother, burying his face in her legs. Her hands covered his ears, trying to spare him the worst of the argument, even as he shielded his eyes with tiny hands.

We heard the gun go off, loud and close. Instinctively, instantly, I ducked. A habit I wish I hadn’t had the opportunity, or the need, to cultivate. Another crack and a bullet meant for me sailed over my head.

A third shot was attempted, presumably to correct their mistake in thinking I wouldn’t drop to the ground. But the hammer fell, and the gun merely clicked. Empty. Luckily, they haven’t figured out how to reload their own ammo.

Before my eyes, my little brother fell. With a small hole in his forehead, blood trickling from it, Jesse landed in a crumpled heap. Thankfully, he was facing the sky. I’d rather Tate remember his father’s dead eyes than the state the back of his skull must have been in.

Four Fangs rushed us, giving me no chance to mourn.

One ripped Tate from Karen’s grasp and threw the kicking, screaming little boy into the snow. Heart racing, all thought gone from my mind, I threw myself upon The Fang whose boot hung in the air, poised above Tate’s head, and we went flying into a snowdrift.

I righted myself first, climbing atop the man, and pummeled him with everything in me. Rage filled me and boiled over. I remember the blood splattering across my face, some my own as my knuckles tore open a bit more with each hit, but mostly from The Fang, a dirty looking man with five o’clock shadow on his entire head. His hood fell back, and the scarf that covered half his face was soggy with blood.

Below each eye, the tattoos of fangs marked him as a bona fide member of The Wolf’s Fangs. The quality of the first tattoos meant he’d been a member for a while. Since before they ran out of traditional ink a year and a half ago and had to start making their own. Since before the legitimate tattoo gun broke a year ago, and they had to do it the old-fashioned way. He’d been a Fang for at least a year and a half. Maybe longer.

The number of fangs tattooed beneath his eyes, rimming the socket, denoted how many times this particular Fang had bitten for his master. Four beneath one eye, and five under the other. Nine times, he’d killed for The Wolf.

Another Fang followed, crushing snow beneath sprinting feet, leaving the other two struggling to contain Karen’s fury, all 5’4” of it. They shouldn’t have separated mother and child. Swearing and screaming and flesh-hitting-flesh rang out behind me, with Tate crying in the snow not far off to the right.

“Stay there, Tate!” I screamed, sending another fist into the face of the man who would have killed my nephew.

Anger almost got the best of me, and I momentarily lost track of the assailant approaching me at full tilt. As the Fang beneath me faded, head lolling to the side in death, I sprang to my feet. I spun, just in time for another Fang to barrel into me, a palmed blade ready to sink into my flesh.

Back down into the drift I went, and this time, I didn’t come out on top. The Fang hadn’t expected me to turn, so his blade merely gashed my side, rather than digging in. Unbelievable luck.

Twisted up in the cloth of my jacket, the spin also jerked the knife from my assailant, sending it flying off somewhere. A miracle.

But that’s where the good news ended.

With something clenched tightly in his fist, packing it for rigidity, The Fang landed a solid blow, unfortunately, located squarely on my temple thanks to the awkward way we landed.

I nearly passed out then and there, retaining only enough consciousness to hear Karen scream out, “Stop! I’ll go with you if you just stop! Leave my baby alone!” Tears choked her voice, but it carried, nonetheless. All motion stopped, even the man sitting atop my chest stilled, unafraid of his seriously dazed victim.

“Please,” Karen begged. “Please, just…we won’t cause any more problems. Just…don’t hurt him.” I heard her slump to her knees, heard the rustle of fabric, and Tate’s whimpering as she pulled him to her breast.

I saw the grizzled Fang standing behind her spit into the snow, mostly blood. Bright red gashes lined his face, leaking openly. He jerked his chin up at the man on top of me, and my chest got lighter as The Fang heaved himself onto his feet.

Karen’s hands clutched at her son, pressing him tightly against her. Her pale face was rosy with the cold, and her long, black hair tumbled in a tangled heap, spilling free from the hood of her jacket, partially concealing Tate from view. Between her hair and his too-big jacket, I couldn’t see the boy’s face.

Rather than walking away, my assailant turned toward me. With black eyes rimmed with seven fangs and a cruel smile lurking beneath them, he pulled his foot back and slammed it into the left side of my head.

I remember the pain, arcing through every synapse, filling every cell of my body. I remember curling onto my side, watching through eyes barely open, clouded with the blood that dripped into them, as Karen and Tate were led away, sobbing. All our packs were gathered up and taken, as well.

Now, lying broken in the snow, the reality of their absence wallops me, leaving me breathless and gasping.

They’re gone. All three of them. Jesse is dead. Karen and Tate…who knows. Will they kill Tate? Or use him against Karen to keep her pliable?

Disgust burns within me at the thought, simmering beneath the icy hands of agony as they steadily rip my heart to shreds.

And what of me?

I’d been so sure I would die, even as I slumped sideways, rolling onto my stomach. The snow fell around me, sapping the warmth from my body. When darkness took me, I thought it the end.

But now, shockingly gentle hands roll me over, and the ground tips beneath me. Stomach roiling, I worry I may vomit, but manage to hold myself together. Barely. My eyelids flutter, stars exploding in my vision.

A shadow takes form, just beyond the starbursts. A woman.

Brilliant red hair tumbles forward, hanging in loose waves just above my face. A gloved hand pulls the scarf down from her nose and full mouth, revealing pale cheeks flushed with cold. Meanwhile, surprise registers in her shining emerald eyes. Turning her head to the side, she speaks in a voice that sounds a hell of a lot like salvation. “He’s alive.”

She leans forward, no doubt getting her pretty hair dirty with the blood that coats my face as the delicate strands brush my skin.

“Can you hear me?” she asks, very gently.

I nod. Sort of. The motion upsets my already spinning equilibrium even more, and my eyes fall shut, robbing me of the sight of her.

“Please,” I murmur.

But what could I ask? Please save them? Please help me?

She owes me nothing. She and her companions will likely take whatever they can from me, from Jesse’s corpse, from the body of the Fang that I killed. They’ll desert me, likely take the shirt from my back.

Why wouldn’t they?

Before I can ask her anything, the darkness claims me again.

*****

I am so excited to finally share this with you all, and to get this book out. It sits so close to home, literally and figuratively. It’s set in Southern Illinois, aka the place I’ve lived my entire life. I took some liberties with town names and distances between them, but ya know…creative license and all that.

It’s also deeply emotional. So many of my own experiences have gone into this one. Of course, the experiences were changed to fit the story, some exaggerated, some downplayed with the burden split across multiple characters. And some things were just experiences I dealt with secondhand during my internship days getting my bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Regardless, a lot went into this novel, and I’m pumped to share it with you.

If you haven’t preordered your copy yet, all the purchase links are down below.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Amazon: http://mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/world-for-the-broken-elexis-bell/1136379380?ean=9781951335069

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/world-for-the-broken

Booksamillion: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/World-Broken/Elexis-Bell/9781951335076?id=7678409965374

All my books: http://www.amazon.com/author/elexis_bell http://www.elexisbell.com/my-published-works/

Book Research: Sometimes Google isn’t enough

Hi, guys!

We all know writing requires research, sometimes into unexpected subjects. I never thought my writing would require calculating space travel times and learning how bears show affection.

But here we are.

But there are things we need to research that can’t be found in a half an hour on Google.

Over the years, I’ve indulged quite a few hobbies. I’ve always been that person who got interested in what her friends were interested in. I never had my own thing (didn’t have the guts to) until recently. I’ve been writing creatively for over a decade and a half, but only recently did I begin to take it seriously.

And now, I’m grateful for all those other hobbies and still intend to collect a few more.

Because some things just need to be experienced firsthand.

For instance, before I ever picked up a bow, I assumed that the arm pulling back on the bowstring would get tired first. Nope. The other one does. It still has the tension of the bow being drawn, plus it’s holding the weight of the bow straight out from your body. Under tension.

Before ever setting foot into a garage, I never thought about the unbelievable strain working on a lowered car puts on your back. It’s much more comfortable to just plant your feet real fuckin’ wide and bring yourself down low enough to lean on the fender (with a microfiber cloth between you and the car…You don’t want to scratch the paint, you monster.)

Before I cleaned a fish for the first time, I assumed breaking a neck would be a simple trick of leverage. *shakes head* Nope. I’m pretty strong, and I struggled, hard.

Now, I do have a thin layer of insulation (thank you soda and candy) but I have trouble finding non-sweatshirt material jackets that fit me because my fucking arms are too big for women’s jackets. But I still had to hand that fish off to someone stronger and more experienced. I did clean it afterward, though, and it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Before getting into manual labor, I never truly knew the meaning of “farm strong,” because yes, it’s a fucking thing. Outdoorsy, hunting/fishing/farming types are probably pretty fucking strong, even if they have a belly from home-cooked goodies and beer. Because they have to be.

And while we’re at it, factories do not work the way you think. In theory, they should be streamlined and clean and smooth running, but they’re run for profit. Anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be fixed, won’t be.

Running a machine with a broken or malfunctioning part means that other parts have to be made to function in ways they aren’t meant to in order to pick up the slack. Which causes a domino effect of quirks and other malfunctions, and gives each machine their own unique “personalities.”

Before getting into video games, I didn’t realize Console vs. PC is a thing in the gaming world, with a lot of elitism involved. I also never realized that pre-built, store-bought gaming computers are never going to be as good as what can be built by the gamers themselves. So they build them, upgrading parts every so often or just building from scratch every few years.

To anyone who isn’t tech savvy (i.e. me), 3d printers can seem like magic. And just like magic, there are so many ways it can go wrong. Machinery malfunctions and improperly heated beds, errors or missing chunks in G-code, prints not sticking to the bed, filament breakage or clogging…The list goes on.

Drawing can be unbelievably messy if you’re using charcoal. And believe it or not, drawing a naked model in a room full of people…not awkward and certainly not sexual.

My point is, these aren’t things I learned from Google. These are things that came from personal experience.

They’re little quirks of doing something that aren’t strictly necessary in a generic how-to guide, but they make the experience human.

You don’t have to be an expert at everything your characters do. But maybe give their interests a shot.

(The legal ones, anyway. I don’t need any lawyers coming for me saying I encouraged their clients to try whatever they did.)

At the very least, ask someone who does those things. There are tons of real people in writing groups online, and stuff like this is where the massive Facebook groups, like Fiction Writing, really shine.

That’s where I learned that cremations of obese people can result in grease fires that get the fire department called over the amount of smoke. The former mortician answering questions in the group noted a preference to cremate larger people at night, for that reason.

So don’t spend every second of your life hunched over your keyboard. You need to experience things in order to write the little details that make your characters more realistic.

You need to live and be a well-rounded human being in order to write characters that seem real and well-rounded.

So get out there and try a new hobby. Your characters (and your readers) will thank you for it.

Now, if you haven’t noticed, we’re getting closer and closer to the release of World for the Broken. April 21st is just around the corner, barely over two weeks away.

If you haven’t preordered, you totally should. (You can do so here: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken )

I’ll be posting a special blog this Wednesday containing the ENTIRE first chapter. So, if you want a sneak peek before you order your copy or if you’ve already ordered and want to read a bit ahead of time, you’ll get your chance in a couple of days.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Work in Progress: Updates and Quarantine Goals

Hi, guys!

Well, I’ve officially joined the ranks of the “unessential.” I work at a tire factory, and several car manufacturers shut down for a short time. So, we stockpiled until our warehouse was full, and now we’re laid off for a couple of weeks.

Which means I now have a shit ton of time to work on my books.

As such, I’ve set a couple of goals for myself over my two week lay-off. Since the original purpose of this blog was accountability, I’m going to share these goals here, and we’ll see how it goes.

  1. I want to finish my first draft of my current WIP, officially titled Allmother Rising. I’m currently sitting at roughly 56,700 words, up 3,300 from last week, and have about 6-8 chapters left.
  2. I want to finish this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads. I have 85 pages left, but it’s basically a rewrite. It’s an older WIP, and I’ve learned so much since I wrote that one.
  3. I want to make some serious progress on my TBR pile. It’s gotten unreasonable of late, and I have so many worlds to jump into.

As of last Monday, I had a fourth goal for the shutdown, which was to complete another full round of edits on A Heart of Salt & Silver (official title).

But I started it that night, and burned through the entire fucking thing over the course of 4 days.

Yes, it’s a more recent work, so I made far fewer mistakes. (Still made some, don’t come at me. I know I’m not perfect. Just fewer mistakes than with older WIPs.)

But I also got sucked in.

Like…I gave myself a proper book hangover. Honestly, I just want to go back and do another round of edits on that one right now, just so I can be in that story again.

The fifth goal I was going to set for the shutdown (deciding on a cover option for A Heart of Salt & Silver) isn’t necessary anymore, either. I had a couple drafts prepared, sitting on my computer. But I was so caught up in that story that I ended up coming up with a new one from scratch that I love even more than the previous variations.

So, I’ll only have three goals for the next two weeks. Finish writing Allmother Rising, finish this round of edits on Where Darkness Leads, and read an absolute fuck ton.

I should probably restrain myself from doing yet another round of edits on A Heart of Salt & Silver until after those are complete, but goddamn.

Lol.

Now, it may seem crass or impolite to be so wrapped up in my own story. But you know what…I don’t care.

We need to be proud of our books.

We need to be confident in what we’ve done.

I know it isn’t perfect. That’s why I’m editing it.

But I fucking love it. Just like I love all my books. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t fucking publish them. I’d hide them away and pretend they never happened. They’d just be weird files on my computer, buried in a file within a file within a file within about four hundred levels of file inception.

But they’re not.

I like them enough to share them with others, which is saying something because I’m not typically a confident person who shares what they’ve made with others. I never have been.

So, while I’m certainly not bragging or saying my work is better than anyone else’s (because I’m not saying that), I’m excited with how all of these projects are turning out so far and with the growth I’ve made over the past few years.

Editing Where Darkness Leads alongside A Heart of Salt & Silver has shown me just how much I’ve learned and how far I’ve come.

So, to all my fellow readers, let’s knock out our TBR piles.

To my fellow writers, let’s be more confident in our work and the progress we’ve made, all while getting tons of stuff done over quarantine.

To people following along for the sake of my books, first of all, fucking thank you. Second, I fully intend to get all of these books out as quickly as I can, while still striving to produce quality work.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even have time to make some progress on The Regonia Chronicles during this lay-off.

For now, though, I’m going to jump into some edits.

Feel free to share your goals in the comments.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Be fucking proud.

Later.

Making magic: Things to think about when building a magic system

Hi, guys!

Now, if you’ve been following along, you know I like fantasy books. Give me a book with very little tech and a shit ton of magic, and I’ll eat it up.

But writing them can be tough. Magic systems can be taxing to put together.

So, to help you build a complex, SOLID magic system, I have a few things for you to consider.

First and foremost, does it have limits? What can magic be used for…and what can it not be used for?

Can it heal? Can it kill? Do people use it to manipulate time or elements? Can they summon things or people? Can they teleport or raise the dead?

Can they do some other thing I haven’t listed? The world is vast, and magic pushes the boundaries even further. So, feel free to be as creative as you wish.

But there will be limits. You need to decide what your magic is able to do and where to draw the line.

Second, are there different types?

Maybe different types do different things. Maybe there’s elemental magic and healing magic.

Third, you need to decide what those results cost.

Blood sacrifices? Does it make them tired? Or…maybe it doesn’t cost them anything, at all, though that’s less likely. (That’s crossing into the realm of supernatural/paranormal stuff with innate abilities. Vampires, demi-demons, werewolves, etc.)

You need to figure out what they have to give up in order to get what they want.

Fourth, how do they use it?

A series of hand gestures or waves of a wand? A complicated ritual? Maybe it comes down to a specific string of words, chanted in just the right way. Do they simply have to ask their god for power or is the magic stored in plant and animal matter, and they just have to mix the right things together in a potion?

There has to be a method of harnessing the power you’ve given them access to.

Fifth, is it widely available?

If your magic system is based on asking a god for power, obviously someone who’s never heard of that god won’t have access. Maybe it’s widely available and anyone can practice magic, they just have to learn how to do it. Perhaps, it’s hoarded by the rich and powerful or handed down through bloodlines.

All of these things define your world. Magic is linked to the very fiber of the fantasy world you’re building.

You cannot just say, “Well, it’s fine. It works because it’s magic,” and expect your reader to accept that.

Because it’s bullshit.

I’ve said it so many times, and I’ll say it again. You’re already taking the time to write a book…You may as well do it well.

Don’t half-ass it. Think this shit through.

In the end, you’ll end up with a better book. (Just don’t info-dump your world building on your readers all at once.)

Now, as for my own projects, I’ve jumped up to 53,483 words on my current WIP (whose magic system is heavily dependent upon their god).

Where Darkness Leads features many types of magic, distributed amongst the populace through blood lines and the amount of elements used for their creation. And I got a decent amount of editing done on it this week.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

So you want to write a fight scene: Five quick tips for writing violence

Hi, guys!

Last week, we talked about sex scenes. This week, we’re talking about fight scenes.

So, literally the opposite type of tension resolution.

I love a good fight scene. Whether I’m reading or writing, I need action in my books. But if the fights are all cheesy or forced or physiologically impossible, then it just ruins it.

And no one wants that.

(Side note: magic and supernatural abilities will alter some of these things. Exhaustion, pain, strength, endurance, etc. That’s a topic for another day, though.)

So, here’s a few tips to make sure your fight scenes are up to scratch.

First, do you even need a fight scene? Much like sex scenes, people tend to want to include a fight more often than they actually need to.

Does it fit with your character’s personalities? Is there enough on the line for them to come to blows over it?

If not, write in a shouting match, a heartfelt conversation, or some passive aggressive, bullshit move.

Whatever your character would actually do.

Because no matter how much you want to ramp up the tension in your story, sticking to what your characters would really do (according to their personality, their background, their opinions, and what’s at stake for them) is more important than forcing a fist fight onto the page.

Second, do some research.

Take a self defense class, watch a bunch of videos online, maybe even learn martial arts if you’re feeling particularly plucky. You need to know something about the fighting style your character is supposedly using. You don’t have to be an expert, but you need to know something.

At the very least, spend some time on the internet for research.

Second, exhaustion and pain are very real. They will take a toll.

Training helps people deal with them more effectively.

Adrenaline helps to keep both of them at bay, to an extent. But it wears off. And the human body can only take so much.

Study the limits.

You’re a writer. I’m sure your search history is already on a few watch lists. What’s one more eyebrow-raising search?

Google whatever you need to in order to attain a relatively realistic fight scene.

Don’t expect your readers to believe that a 105 pound, 5’1″ woman is going to take three punches to the stomach and a slap to the face from a mountain of a man, then run three miles and climb the side of a building to escape.

That bitch is probably going to puke. A lot. And she’ll have to stop to breathe. A lot. Likely puking even more. She will not look pretty doing any of this. Her sweat will not be a graceful glitter upon her skin. Bitch is gonna drip sweat. Like…too much of it.

The world will tip and sway beneath her feet, and her face is going to scream in pain from being slapped.

Bloody nose? Sure. Temporarily seeing a bright light? Sure.

Getting slapped is no laughing matter.

A three mile run and then free climbing? Not gonna happen after that level of assault from a big ass dude.

Honestly, it could result in internal bleeding or broken ribs (if he didn’t quite hit the fleshy part below the ribs, which might poke something vital), and she could die before she gets to that building she’s supposedly going to scale.

Now, when the adrenaline wears off, your character will feel it. They will crash. They might shake or cry. They might do both, or some other thing. Research is your friend, here.

Third, don’t focus too much on their surroundings. During a fight, the person is obviously going to be paying attention to the fight. They probably aren’t going to notice a lot of their surroundings unless they have a lot of military/police training or perhaps specialized in a field related to that particular aspect of their surroundings.

So don’t tell me what period the art on the wall is from unless they teach art history at the college level and happen to throw someone up against that painting.

In that case, they might lament the destruction of such a thing…as their opponent tears the canvas.

You need the scene to be fast and gripping, not bogged down by excess details. Don’t worry about the pattern of the lace on the tablecloth by the window across the room, painstakingly stitched by the character’s great aunt on their father’s side of the family before she died of natural causes, disappearing from their lives quietly in the middle of the night.

Worry about the look in their opponent’s eyes or the feeling of a drop of blood dripping from a busted lip. Focus on quick breaths and all-consuming rage burning them from the inside out. Show us clenched fists slamming into a nose and the ensuing crunch of cartilage.

Keep the scene moving forward. It’s a fight.

It needs to be active.

Fourth, people get distracted.

Emotions tend to seep in around the edges. Unless they’re a trained fighter, maybe even then, they’re going to think about the reason they’re in that fight. Maybe they’re worried about the person they’re trying to save. Maybe they’re worried about their own impending death.

If they duck behind cover or get tossed like a ragdoll, they might think strategy. Or they might dwell on the mistake that landed them in that position.

If chaos and fear sink gnarly teeth into their bones, they might spiral a bit, focusing on their tendency to make mistakes.

Just don’t spend too much time on stuff like that. Again, you want it to be fast and punchy. Always bring it back around to what’s actually happening in the conflict.

Fifth, use the appropriate amount of gore.

Certain genres and age groups tolerate/crave different levels of gore. YA contemporary calls for far less gore (probably almost none, maybe a bloody nose) than adult splatter punk (all the gore).

Unless you’re writing splatter punk or something akin to Dexter, you probably don’t need as much detail of the blood and body parts as you think.

Additionally, consider the effect it will have on the scene. Does the extra description add to the emotional value of the scene or slow it down?

If your character finds a loved one dead and cradles them to their chest, describing the blood that comes away on their hands or clothes could add to the weight of the scene. But it isn’t necessary to count each drop or describe the way it runs through every crease of their palm.

They won’t be focusing on that.

They’ll be focusing on the fact that…that blood should be inside their loved one. Not on their hands.

As for my own projects, I’m finally approaching the “landscaping their enemies to death” portion of my current WIP. So I’m heading for violence in that one. (Currently sitting at 48,817 words)

I’m nearing a lot of fighting in my edits of Where Darkness Leads.

And all the promo stuff for the April 21st release of World for the Broken (dark post-apocalyptic romance) is ironed out. And that one is chock full of fights.

Now, go forth and fill your books with as much violence as they call for.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

So you want to write a sex scene…Five quick tips for writing sex

Hi, guys!

We all know sex sells. So, the temptation to include it in a book is easy to understand.

But writing a sex scene is an art form.

Do it well, and it will improve the reading experience.

Do it poorly, and your readers might roll their eyes, skimming through it with a chuckle, or even put the book down entirely.

So today, I thought I’d share a few tips to help you write the best sex scene you can.

First and foremost, don’t psych yourself out. It’s easy to get embarrassed about this subject or to feel ashamed of including sex in your book. Plus, there’s always the ever-present fear that a family member will read it and be shocked.

But let’s face it.

Sex is part of life. It’s part of the human experience. And what’s more, it’s absolutely everywhere in modern society. Everyone knows what sex is. Almost everyone has done it, at some point in their life.

So chill the fuck out and write your book. If it needs a sex scene to show the bond between two (or more) characters, if it’s an integral part of the society you’ve created for your fictional world, write it.

Don’t cheapen your book by leaving out a crucial scene, just because your family might read it.

Your family members (unless they’re children, in which case, keep the sex book away from them) also know what sex is. They’ve probably done it.

So write the book however it needs to be written.

Second, integrate it into the plot. If your story doesn’t need a sex scene, don’t throw one in just for the sake of having one. If it doesn’t make sense in the story, don’t do it.

Don’t toss one into an otherwise chaste book.

Additionally, throwing a sex scene into a poorly written/edited book will not save it. If your book needs work, work on it. Don’t just make it sexy and hope no one will notice obvious flaws.

People will still see the flaws. And they’ll know what you’ve done to cover them. Give your readers some credit.

Third, don’t be too specific. Unless you’re writing hardcore erotica. Then, be detailed and descriptive. Show as much as you fucking want.

But if your book isn’t hardcore erotica, don’t fill your scene with overly detailed close-up shots. Anyone old enough to be reading a book with a sex scene knows what vaginas, breasts, and penises look like.

Hell, they’ve probably even seen a few in their day.

*gasp*

Vivid description of vein placement and a count of how many hairs…completely unnecessary. The shape of their manscaping…completely unnecessary. It won’t make the scene better to know that stuff.

By the same token, don’t prattle on about his right hand or her left breast. Leave the sides out of it. Some things should be left to the reader’s imagination. Perhaps the reader favors one side over the other. If you specify one side and they happen to be more sensitive on the opposite side, I guarantee they reword it in their head and imagine it the way they want.

All you’re doing is wasting words and bogging down a scene that’s supposed to be intense and riveting.

So, instead of over-describing everything, focus on general gestures, sensations, and emotions. The sensation of a hand sliding over bare skin, the prickle of goosebumps as fingernails slide up the spine, heat building in the air around them, hands twining in hair to pull questing mouths closer, the deep need to join together.

Things like that.

Because unless you’re writing really hardcore stuff, that’s more than sufficient. It gets the point across and evokes emotion. It reads quickly and intensely.

Which is what you want.

Fourth, don’t head hop. Pick a character for the scene, whichever one has more of a driving emotional need, whichever one the stakes are higher for, and write it from their perspective.

Don’t stray.

You’ll just throw off your reader.

You don’t want them rereading paragraphs to figure out whose thoughts they’re combing through. You want them rereading paragraphs (or the whole scene) because the emotions were high and the scene was captivating.

Last, but certainly not least, don’t say quivering member.

Please.

I beseech you.

That phrase is the height of ridiculousness. There are much better ways to refer to a penis. And if you don’t want to actually name it, if it feels too callous or unromantic, just say he slides into him/her. You don’t have to specify what part of him is going in, because unless you name some other part (finger, for example), people will assume that you mean his penis.

Again, give your readers some credit.

Now, go forth and write the smuttiest smut your book can handle.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

The Dangers of Comparison

Hi, guys!

Writers tend to want to learn from their favorite authors and writer friends. Which is good. We need to learn.

With the importance of maintaining a good author platform, social media has made it easier than ever for writers to network with each other and show their readers how they write.

That also means that writers see exactly how other writers write. Sometimes, that makes for a good bonding opportunity or lively discussion. Sometimes, it can be discouraging to newer writers who haven’t quite found their own creative process, yet.

Lurking on social media, comparing ourselves to each other…does very little good.

So what if someone else wrote more or less than you did this week Maybe they used a vacation day to stay home and write. Maybe they had a bunch of overtime.

Did a writer friend start a new project the same day you did? Maybe you were both psyched that you’d be working on your projects, side by side, but now…one of you is falling behind.

That doesn’t mean anything bad about either of you. It doesn’t mean one is better or worse than the other.

It just means that you’re not the same person, and the two of you approach writing in a different way. Maybe you edit as you go, whereas your friend types anything and everything that comes into their head. Of course, their word count will climb faster than yours.

If you like to plot your book ahead of time and your friend doesn’t, they’re going to jump in and write. If they have a few chapters written before you ever start writing? So what.

Your writing journey will be different than theirs.

There comes a point where we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and just write like ourselves.

After all, the thing that could truly make you a great writer…is your unique style and process.

There are so many options, so many ways to personalize your writing.

Trial and error is the best way to find your own voice. Practice writing and eventually, you’ll find your groove.

It might be a niche. It might be a wildly popular genre. Maybe you like to write in the mornings like Stephen King.

Maybe (if you’re like me) that just doesn’t work for you. Writing in the middle of the night instead of getting up at 5 am to write doesn’t make you less of a writer.

Maybe you like typing anything and everything that comes into your head and organizing/editing later. Or (if you’re like me) you make sure everything is halfway decent before moving on to another chapter.

As long as you don’t let that stop you from actually finishing your book, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Writing is a very personal thing. The creative process varies wildly from one person to another, and that’s a good thing.

There are so many different readers out there, all searching for something different.

3rd person or 1st? Both are good in their own ways.

Present tense or past? Both are good in their own ways.

Whether you love interpersonal drama or action, whether you like your prose flowery or quick and punchy…That’s up to you.

Your stile and process will develop naturally. You just need to practice and try new things with your writing.

And most importantly, stop telling yourself that the way you write is wrong because someone else writes faster/slower or different than you.

Keep learning. But stop comparing your progress. You will grow and write at your own pace.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.