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.

A Heart of Salt & Silver: Excerpt and Playlist

Holy shit. There’s just over two weeks until the release of A Heart of Salt & Silver!

November 3rd is so close, and I’m freaking excited. So much so that I can’t resist sharing some more with you.

Down below, you’ll find an excerpt from this dark and brooding Paranormal High Fantasy Romance, as well as the playlist I listened to while writing.

Shall we start with the excerpt?

I pulled this one from chapter 12, taking you deep into the action. Ness and Elias are in some trouble, but since she’s immortal and Elias isn’t, she’s facing down a pack of Howlers (animals in a state of suspended/delayed death under the magical control of our big bad evil guy) all by herself.

~

Behind me, the alpha struggles to gain its feet, slipping in its own gore over by the tree. I turn to show it mercy, but the remainder, a small black wolf, grabs my right thigh in its jaws. It shakes its head back and forth, pulling my leg out from under me.

The ground rushes up to meet me, and I feel my nose break with the impact. Pain explodes through my skull. Blood gushes out, pouring down over my lips when I roll onto my back. The Howler drags me toward its alpha, arching its back and jerking as it does.

Thrashing, I swipe a hand at its face, desperate to end the pain for the both of us. My slash falls short, merely catching the flesh of her muzzle with my nails. It tears away in a bloody hunk. The poor thing screams, and the sound is just a bit too human.

It pierces my soul, sending shivers through my body.

But she lets go of my leg.

Scrambling upward, pain exploding through me with every move, I pull the wolf’s head to my chest. Holding her still against me, I take her head in both hands and snap her neck. She goes limp in my arms, and I set her gently on the ground.

Her eyes shine with nothing more than firelight, finally lifeless in death. As they should be. The bone around them glows against her black fur, matted down with dried blood.

Finally gaining its feet, the massive alpha charges, barreling into me as I wipe tears from my face. Its teeth find my left arm, sinking in deep. Lightning bursts of agony explode across every fiber of my being.

Pulling my hands apart, I pry the Howler’s jaws from my arms without ever touching the beast. A single twirling finger secures its jaw with a Nether binding, a thing I probably should have done from the start.

Another thing I’ll regret later…

Pulling the great grey beast against me, I hold it tight, despite its thrashing, finally finding a use for my unnatural strength. Staring into its eyes, I see pain.

And fear.

With one hand on the side of its face, I fill my own eyes with compassion, letting my emotions seep into the beast. Another seldom used ability. I’m much more likely to keep my feelings to myself.

But here, now, it soothes this poor creature. The beast lays down across my lap, staring up at me.

Snarls become whimpers, and howls morph into soft whines. I feel death in the poor thing. His body is cold, and thick blood drains from its gaping stomach. Eyes like caramel stare into my soul, aching for release.

Twirling one finger counterclockwise, I release Elias from his Nether binding in the tree and free the wolf’s jaws. He won’t bite me, now.

With tears streaming down my face, I place my right hand atop the wolf’s head. My savaged left arm lies limp across the beast’s side. Stroking gently and hiding a grimace of pain, I try to show this poor animal a bit of comfort.

Then, I place one nail over the top of his head. He whines softly, and I make gentle sounds of reassurance.

“Shhh… It’s okay, now,” I whisper, petting the poor animal slowly and driving my talon through his skull.

Black blood oozes out around it, but for a split second, before the life fades from his eyes, he finds peace. His muscles go limp, finally relaxing as they should have when he first died.

Heaving a great sob, I haul the massive wolf’s head to my chest. My cries drown out the sounds of Elias climbing down from the tree. I hug the cold, dead wolf to me, weeping into matted fur.

My body shakes with sobs, and my chest aches. My world goes black, wiping the stars and the moon from the sky. My breath catches in my throat as my fingers tighten around dirty fur.

~

Can I just say that I cried writing this scene?

God, the poor animals. They went through so much. And they tore Ness up pretty badly before she could put them out of their misery.

Needless to say, there are some truly sad songs in the playlist. There are also some happy ones, some songs full of romantic tension, and a few that just sound fucking bad ass.

So, if you’re looking to broaden your musical horizons, the playlist below (assembled on YouTube Music) has 94 songs from all different genres. If you don’t have YouTube Music, I’ve also included screenshots of the playlist.

Who knows, you could listen to it while reading.

If you haven’t entered my preorder giveaway, it’s open until release day. Preorders are still available.

Links are down below.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

A Pantser’s Guide to Tackling Continuity Errors

So, you don’t plan your books ahead of time. Me either. That doesn’t mean our work has to be riddled with continuity errors or plot-holes.

And avoiding those pesky problems is far easier than you might think.

I have three tried and true tricks to keep things consistent within my books, and today, I’d like to share them with you.

First (and easiest) of all: Take notes.

I don’t mean print it out and highlight key sections. I don’t mean fill notebook after notebook with every detail. At that point, you may as well just plot the book and take out all the fun of discovery that drives us to be pantsers in the first place.

What I mean is this.

When you start a new project, start two documents. One for the story, one for the notes. In the notes document, when your story unveils a new character, jump over into the notes document and jot down their name and whatever information you have about them (hair color, eye color, height, if they’re an asshole, etc.).

Then, jump back into your story and keep on writing.

Don’t stress about their background or what role they’ll play in the story to come. You’ll figure that out later.

This is just so that, when you come across that character later, you have an easy way to refresh your memory. That way, you don’t have a character with blonde hair and freckles show up later with dark hair and a tan.

Whatever develops for the character as you go, feel free to drop it over in the notes document.

You can do the same with world building stuff.

If you come up with a detail you know you’ll need to remember later, put it in your notes. You don’t have to flesh it out right then and there. You can let it marinate until it comes up in the story with more explanation later.

But at the very least, you won’t have to scour your entire WIP looking for what color fur you gave that one animal you made up that your MC’s little brother liked when they were growing up.

Second: Get other people to look at your work BEFORE you publish.

This one is significantly more difficult than the first little trick, because showing your precious to someone is nerve-wracking to say the least. But honestly, you should be doing this anyway.

There are so many things you need a second (or third or fifteenth) set of eyes for.

They come into it without expectation. They don’t know what the world you’ve built is like. They don’t know these characters.

Which means that they’ll see it differently than you do.

They’ll see it how it is.

Not how you meant it to be.

Our brains fill so much in. Words get mixed up or left out, but since we know what’s supposed to be there, our brain fills in the gap.

That also means that sometimes little details get glazed over.

We know what’s supposed to be there, so when a detail comes up that doesn’t quite line up with the previous scenes, our brains just make the correction and keep going.

But other people come into our WIPs with fresh eyes. They haven’t been staring at these pages for weeks/months/years. So when we focus too hard on the big bad evil guy or the incredibly specific personality quirk we want to shine and miss little details…

They stand out to other people.

And wouldn’t you rather fix them before the book is available for the public?

I would.

So, reach out to friends and family, talk to writer friends, get critique partners and beta readers. There are tons of groups specifically for that on Facebook.

Get eyes on your work.

Third: Build REAL people, not just characters. Build REAL worlds, not just words on a page.

This one will potentially require the most effort, but it’s my favorite one.

If your characters feel real to you, they’re more likely to act in real ways. If they feel like old friends, you probably won’t forget what color their hair is. If they move the plot on their own, making choices and doing shit, those actions are a little more likely to be in keeping with their personality and their circumstances.

The same is true of the world. If it feels real, you’re less likely to have a character start a scene on a beach and then magically end the scene in an office building. Unless you’re writing portal fantasy.

So, if you have to go for a walk and daydream about what your characters like to do when they relax to make them feel more realistic? Do it.

If you need to study psychology to get a better grasp on personality development or how people deal with a specific issue or sociology to see how different societies effect the people within them? Do it.

If you need to draw on real emotions from your life to inform your character’s reactions to events in the book? Do it.

Make them real, and their details will be harder to forget.

Now, go forth and write books with undeniable continuity. People will be impressed.

Or, more likely, they won’t notice, which is kinda what you should hope for here because seamless continuity goes unnoticed, whereas continuity issues stand out and jar the reader.

Stay tuned on social media in the coming weeks for the reveal of Soul Bearer’s new cover and a preorder giveaway featuring A Heart of Salt & Silver book swag.

Yeah, I said giveaway. It’s about that time.

Release day is less than a month away, after all.

Preorders available here: mybook.to/AHeartOfSaltAndSilver

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Of Projects and Progress: Where I’m At

I’ve kinda been slacking with telling you where I’m at with my current projects, and it’s time I rectify that. So, buckle up. This may take a minute, because I’m covering them all today.

A Heart of Salt & Silver
Dark Paranormal High Fantasy Romance
Status: Fucking prerelease!

I’ve been hitting the ads hard, though I hate marketing. I’ll be seeking ARC readers soon. Like… this week, if all things go according to plan. *hysterical laughter at the thought of things going according to plan*

The Regonia Chronicles
Dark Science Fiction
Status: Writing

This series is coming along really well. Since the middle of July, I’ve written nearly 50,000 words, bringing the grand total to 128,054 words so far.

And these characters still have a couple planets to travel to, alliances to broker, and a whole ass war to fight.

My previous prediction of this getting split into three books rather than two is pretty damn likely at this point.

And since I’ve stopped and started working on this series between writing other books, learning new stuff all the while, the editing process is going to be interesting. It’ll be like watching my writing skills evolve. I’m dreading it and also looking forward to it.

Where Darkness Leads
Dark Romantic High Fantasy
Status: Neck deep in a rewrite

I’ve already cut 10,000 words, and these bitches aren’t even to the mountain, yet. (For the sake of a reference point that actually means something to you, I’m almost exactly two thirds of the way through.) And this is on top of the 10,000 words I cut in the last round of edits. So basically, I’ve removed a novella from this book.

This is an older manuscript, and I used to be a lot wordier and do a lot of telling rather than showing.

Gotta get this bitch polished.

Allmother Rising
Dark High Fantasy Romance
Status: Beta Readers

I have feedback from most of my beta readers, and I’ve made most of the adjustments.

After I get the feedback from the last betas, I’ll go back to this one for adjustments and then more editing.

Second to None
Thriller Novella
Status: Beta Readers

This baby just started it’s beta reader stage. It’s had two rounds of edits so far, and I’m starting to send it to beta readers.

Thrall
Paranormal Flash Fiction
Status: Beta Readers

This one is also just beginning its beta journey, though I already have fantastic feedback from one.

Soul Bearer
Dark High Fantasy Romance
Status: Released

I’m giving this book a new cover for it’s birthday (later this month). The cover is done, and I fucking love it.

Whew.

There’s a decent amount going on, as you can see. I never have just one project going, though I only ever actively write one project at a time. I’ve attempted to write two side by side, but I always get pulled into one and have to finish the other later.

I have countless ideas for new stories, but as ever, there isn’t enough time in the day. I’ll just have to get to them after I finish The Regonia Chronicles.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

10 Amazing Romance Authors: Guest Post By Beth Linton

There’s nothing better than discovering a new author but often we discover those new authors by recommendation. Below, in no particular order, are some authors I have recently discovered and thought you might enjoy!

The Guardians’ Trust: Ana by Beth Linton

Beth Linton lives in North Wales and loves books, coffee, growing things and her young ‘un. Ana is her debut paranormal romance and is the first of a series (books 2 and 3 are due out soon). If you want a romance that has passion, shapeshifters and an almost magical connection with Mother Nature then this story will hook you.

Blurb:

Some women are born identical – one in the human world, one in the jungle of the Other Realm. It is their fate to change places. In The Guardians’ Trust series Doubles embrace their fate with the men born for them…

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU LEARNT THERE WERE TWO OF YOU?

Dr Ana Jones learns it is her destiny to leave the human world and cross into an Amazonian realm to join the Resistance who are fighting for survival – a fate that is akin to stepping back in time… no iPads, running water or underwear! A Double, one of a pair of identical women born by Mother Nature to swap places, she must cross into an Amazonian world to join the Resistance who are fighting for survival within the Other Realm and marry a stranger to help them win the war.

HE WAS BORN FOR HER

A warrior, leading the Resistance is Brenin’s life but Ana is his fate. Brenin embraces his marriage, and the shapeshifting gift his mating brings, but will her love be enough to help both man and panther survive the war?

Werewolves Only by Carrie Pulkinen

Carrie Pulkinen is an author of spicy, haunting romances. Like me, she is fuelled by coffee. She loves her dog and the worlds she creates in her series. We share a similar fascination with shapeshifters which is what first attracted me to her books – If you like sexy shifters and fated mates, you’ll love this thrilling paranormal romance.

Blurb:

Macey doesn’t know she’s hunting demons.

Luke is making sure she never discovers the truth.

Detective Macey Carpenter has been on the trail of a vicious attacker for weeks. The evidence keeps disappearing, and it seems she’ll never solve the case. Finding love is the least of her worries, but she can’t deny her attraction to a mysterious man who knows more about the crimes than he should.

A man who may be more than he seems…

When Luke falls head over tail for the feisty human detective, supernatural secrets aren’t the only things at stake.

He has to mate with another werewolf or he’ll sacrifice his position as alpha. But as heat builds between the pair, he discovers Macey has a few secrets of her own.

She may hold the key to ridding New Orleans of its demons…

But his feelings for her will tear his pack apart.

Stripped Down by Mae Harden

Mae Harden is an author of contemporary romances and, talented lady that she is, she also co-hosts a podcast. Harden started her love of romance by reading Harlequin just as I did and she shares my enjoyment of writing strong female characters. Her novel, Stripped Down is definitely going into my TBR pile. Hot!

Blurb:

Brooks

Contractor. Loner. Stripper? Not usually, but I’ll do anything to get the Bachelorette party in the room next door to settle down. All I want is a good nights sleep so I can focus on work. I never expected my entire world to shift when she opens the hotel door with her wide green eyes and sweet vanilla scent.

She’s just in town for the party, there’s no way I can have her. I certainly shouldn’t have pinned her against the wall and kissed her on my way out. After all, it’s not like I’ll ever see her again, right?

Olive

Baking is my thing. Running a successful, expanding business is my thing. Bachelorette parties are not. Surprise strippers even less so. But I’m pretty sure this guy isn’t really a stripper and if he is, he’s pretty bad at it.

On the other hand, he’s very very good at kissing. I’ll never see him again but at least I’ll have something to fantasize about when I’m baking muffins tomorrow morning.

Peterson Estate: Birth of A Witch by A. R. Grosjean

A. R. Grosjean is an author of multiple genres including Fantasy, Romance, Suspense, and more. She describes herself as ‘a head in the clouds kind of author’. I have chosen this book as not only is it the first in this series but you can also get the e-book for free when you sign up for her newsletter. Her new novel Stolen is out in October and sounds like a great read. Read an excerpt here.

Love, Art, and Other Obstacles by Sadira Stone

Sadira Stone writes contemporary romance set in the Pacific Northwest and this novel is book 3 of her Nirvana series. Stone is a star because she not only writes great romance stories but she also promotes fellow writers as well.

Blurb:

She’s a free spirit. He’s a one-woman man.

Rejected by her family for her bisexuality, graphic artist Margot DuPont yearns for a life with no fences, no limits, and no family ties. Between college, work at Book Nirvana, and an art competition, she barely has time for her part-time girlfriend much less a flirtation with her competitor.

Dumped into the foster system at a young age, ceramics artist Elmer Byrne craves a big, loving family of the heart. His artist tribe almost fills that need, but something is missing…until Margot. But when he offers his heart, her thorny defences shatter him.

Thrown together in an art competition that could jump-start one artist’s career, but not both, their irresistible attraction forces them to reconsider the meaning of success.

Bishop Takes Knight by Mckenna Dean

Mckenna Dean’s Instagram profile hooked me from the start: she loves putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are – like tea bags, she says, only sexier. Romance, heat and humour all promised within one sentence! Her style is slow burn, crockpot paranormal.

Blurb:

Redclaw Origins: The year is 1955. Rebel without a Cause and The Seven Year Itch are playing in the movie theatres. The Chevy Bel Air is the most popular car in America. Gas is 25 cents a gallon and you can get a hotel room for $4 bucks. This flirty, fun series takes us back to the beginning and shows us how Redclaw Security got started.

Bishop Takes Knight (Redclaw Origins Book 1)

New York, 1955. Former socialite Henrietta (“Rhett”) Bishop, desperately seeking work, gets hired by Redclaw Security. But Redclaw is no ordinary operation. Part detective firm and part enforcement agency, Redclaw regulates matters involving the growing population of shifters who have emerged since the onset of the nuclear age.

Peter Knight is a nuclear scientist shattered by the death of his wife. Blacklisted by the government and scientific organizations, he drowns his sorrows while searching for the people behind his wife’s murder.

Together they form an unlikely partnership to search for a missing cache of mysterious technology stolen from Redclaw. But when a dangerous person from the past turns up to start a bidding war on the artifacts, Bishop and Knight wind up in a fight for their very lives.

A Heart of Salt and Silver by Elexis Bell

Elexis Bell writes books that sweep you off your feet, and tie you to the chair. Her style is romance sprinkled across high fantasy, sci-fi and post-apocalyptic novels. Whatever you chose to read of hers, they are always dark. Fans of gritty fiction, compelling romance, and imaginative takes on magic and the afterlife will love this dark paranormal high fantasy romance. A Heart of Salt and Silver (out November 3rd) is available for pre-order.

Blurb:

Ness, a demi-demon with a conscience, just wanted a peaceful afternoon in the Forest of Immortals. But Elias, a reckless mortal, went and spoiled it. Not that he wanted to be chased by psychotic vampires.

After saving his life, Ness agrees to help him find his estranged father and his Pack. But that means facing Nolan, the werewolf ex that holds her heart.

Now, Ness must decide. Use Elias to forget Nolan at the cost of his soul or crawl back to her ex and hope he still wants her even though she broke his heart.

But when the vampires come calling, broken hearts might be the least of their worries.

Hunting for a Highlander by Lynsay Sands

Lynsay Sands is a New York Times Best Selling author. Her stories are packed with not only romance but wit and humour. For both steam and a good laugh, her books are gold. Sands says that this story is much sexier than many of her others. Enjoy!

Blurb:

Lady Dwyn Innes feels utterly out of place among the eligible women who’ve descended on Buchanan Keep, vying for the attention of the last unmarried brothers. She isn’t long-legged and slender like her sisters, or flirtatious and wily like other lasses. Since her betrothed died, Dwyn has resigned herself to becoming an old maid. Yet a chance encounter with a stranger in the orchard awakens her to a new world of sensation and possibility…

After weeks away, Geordie Buchanan returns to find his home swarming with potential brides, thanks to his loving but interfering family. But one lass in particular draws his attention from the moment he spies her climbing a tree. Lady Dwyn is not nearly as plain as she thinks. Her lush figure and eager kisses delight him, as does her honesty. But the real test lies ahead: eliminating a hidden enemy, so that he and Dwyn can seal their Highland passion with a vow.

Highland Crossfire by Monica McCarthy

Monica McCarthy is a lawer and a hugely succesful author. Many of her books are historical and based in Scotland and, believe it or not, it was writing a legal paper on the Scottish Clan System that led to her love of Scotland.

Blurb:

At eighteen, Annie MacGregor thought the worst thing that could happen to her was a broken heart. But she was wrong. Caught in the crossfire of warring clans, Annie’s ravaging at the hands of the hated Campbells has nearly destroyed her. But she is determined to put her life back together, and that life doesn’t include Niall Lamont, the man who broke her heart two years before and has now appointed himself her unwanted avenger and sentinel.

Niall made the biggest mistake of his life when he told Annie that he couldn’t marry her. By the time he realizes his mistake, however, it’s too late. His clan is nearly destroyed by the Campbells for harbouring her kinsmen, he is outlawed, and the woman he loves has been brutalized. With time running out, and the king’s men closing in, Niall will do whatever he must to earn Annie’s forgiveness—even if it means teaching the stubborn lass to defend herself. But Annie is a MacGregor, and if there is one thing the persecuted clan knows how to do, it is fight. Forgiveness, however, is another matter, and Niall begins to wonder if some wounds just might be too deep to heal.  

Exorcism by Penny Jordan

Penny Jordan is the queen of romance. Writing for Mills & Boon, she writes around four books a year and is, arguably, the jewel of M&B’s crown. Jordan prefers to write about virginal heroines as a shorthand to convey her character’s attraction to the hero, so if this is your preferred trope then have look at her huge collection!

Blurb:

Could she exorcise her dreams of love?

Looking back, Christy realised that Simon hadn’t wanted to fall in love six years ago – while she’d had no other choice. Still, she shouldn’t have assumed he’d want to marry her.

She’d naively planned their future together until the day Simon accused her of trying to trap him into marriage. Apparently, unlike her, he hadn’t needed to be in love to experience desire.

Now he was determined to have her accompany him to the Caribbean to research his new book. Did he really expect her to put the past behind her?

Word count got you down? Don’t worry about it.

When trying to find a metric to measure your story by, word count seems to be the go-to. That’s how you separate novellas from novels, flash fiction from short stories.

Too often, people get hung up on the length of their story, trying to pigeonhole it into a specific category.

But you know what?

Your story will tell you when it’s done. Whether it’s too long or too short for the category you wanted it to fit in, it’s done when it’s done.

Cutting the juicy bits so it can be submitted as a short story or adding a bunch of extra bullshit so you can call it a novel instead of a novella isn’t going to improve your book.

It just fucks up the story.

And the story is more important than what category it falls into.

If you primarily write standalones in a genre filled to the brim with series (First of all, if it’s fantasy romance, hit me up. I’m always looking for a standalone fantasy romance. Second of all, looks like we’re in the same boat.) that doesn’t mean that your books are less worthy. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It doesn’t mean your books won’t sell.

It just means that your stories, to date, are not the norm.

And that isn’t a bad thing.

It just means marketing might be more difficult because each book is a bit of a blank slate, whereas marketing a series means that each successive book already has an audience that you can build upon.

But if you intentionally stretch a standalone into a series, adding fluff here and there, it’s going to detract from the overall quality.

Same goes for cutting stuff out specifically to slip it in under a word count threshold. The character you cut because they added one too many subplots might have been the character that provided relief for a dark story or the character that provided the edge necessary to offset an abundance of silliness.

They might have been the character readers would fall in love with.

Is that sacrifice really worth getting the story finished at a certain length?

No.

Of course, add or cut things when you need to. If something needs more backstory, provide it. If something needs less exposition, get that shit outta there.

But don’t do it for the word count.

When I started writing The Regonia Chronicles, I intended it to be one book. Not a series with a prequel and everything. But then, it expanded to include a second alien race and three additional planets (It already had a couple).

Now, each time I sit down to work on it, it looks more and more likely that I’ll be splitting it into three books rather than two. Because that’s what the story needs. All that other stuff was necessary to make the original story idea make sense, I just didn’t know it when I started writing because I’m a pantser.

A Heart of Salt & Silver was intended to be a novella, but it blossomed into a novel.

Meanwhile, Second to None came in at half the word count that I thought it would.

And you know what that means?

It doesn’t mean that I didn’t fill enough pages or that I filled too many. It means that the story ended exactly where it needed to end.

It found its natural resolution.

Writing a good, solid story is far more important than meeting a specific word count. There’s an audience for every length of story within every genre. Some of those audiences hide better than others, but they’re there.

So stop stressing over word count and just write the damn story.

Do it the justice of letting it be the length it needs to be.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing with Curse Words: What to Consider

Should you write with curse words?

This question gets bandied about in writing groups far too often. It seems like people are afraid to break certain rules, and cussing is just one of those things where readers either don’t care at all or they care A LOT.

And the people who care A LOT about cussing tend to get super offended by it.

So I see where there might be a bit of trepidation when it comes to putting cuss words in your book.

So, should you do it?

It kinda depends. The answer for me and my books is… Fucking go for it. Lol.

But that answer might be different for you. Which means we have to get back to that “It depends” part.

First and foremost, what age group are you writing for?

I write books meant for adults, so it’s no problem for me.

But your book is going to be a hard sell if you drop a bunch of F bombs in a children’s book.

Unless it’s a “kid’s book” that’s actually meant for adults. Like “Go the Fuck to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach. Then, it works.

YA isn’t real big on cursing either. Despite the fact that most people reading YA novels frequently use those words, within typical guidelines for that age range, cursing is to be kept to a minimum.

As always, there are exceptions to the rule. Ellen Hopkins might use some cuss words, I don’t remember. It’s been a bit since I read her books. But she tends to go for the gritty depictions of real life struggles that teens face, so cuss words make sense in her books.

You should also consider your genre and the conventions within it.

Christian fiction isn’t going to have curse words. If they appear, it might be a little slip on the worst day of the MC’s life, and it probably won’t be any worse word than “crap” or “damn.”

And the character will likely regret it.

Unless it’s a reform/convert type book, in which case there might be a flashback, but even then, the foul language would likely be kept to a minimum.

Aside from those things, you should also consider setting. If you’re writing a book set in the Vatican 200 years ago… There probably won’t be any cussing.

Whereas, if you’re writing something in a modern day bar and you don’t include cussing, the flattened dialogue will almost certainly break the immersion.

But do you want to know the most important things to consider when deciding whether your books should include cussing?

It isn’t whether it’ll be embarrassing if your family or spouse or close friend reads it. That should never dictate what you write.

It isn’t whether the market hates or loves it, because there’s a market for just about everything.

The two most important things to consider are:

1. Is it right for the character?/Does it line up with their personality?

2. Is it right for your author voice?

If the answer is yes, then damn the doubt. Damn the fear of what others will say. Write those fucking cuss words.

If the answer is no, leave them out.

It’s really that simple. If it’s the right thing to do for you and your book, just fucking do it. If it isn’t right for you and your book, then don’t.

Give yourself the freedom to write your book the way it needs to be written.

Just be sure to market the book accordingly so you don’t get people who want grit reading clean books or people who expect clean books reading stories that have been carpet bombed with cuss words.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.