Why You Should Let Your Readers Use Their Imagination

Hi, guys!

I was talking with a friend a couple days ago about 2 sentence horror stories. I don’t know if you’ve looked any up, but there are some really good ones out there.

And they are absolutely beautiful in their simplicity.

Because sometimes, it isn’t so much what’s said as what isn’t said. It lets the reader’s mind fill in the gaps with all sorts of horrors, personalizing it to fit their individual fears.

But simplicity shouldn’t be reserved for 2 sentence horror stories.

We don’t live in the Edwardian times, anymore.

You can write like that if you want, of course, supplying the reader with literally every detail of every object within sight. You can use an absolutely overwhelming amount of descriptors to tell your readers the exact curvature of a sphere.

But do you have to?

No.

Should you always do that?

No.

Certain scenes demand a simpler, less detailed account. (Fight scenes, sex scenes, transitional scenes which just show the passage of time, etc.)

Personally, I prefer books that don’t beat me to death with the color of the throw pillows or the shape of each doily (complete with the pattern and the type of stitch most commonly used to attain that pattern).

I like fast-paced books that let me fill in the decorations with my own imagination. It’s certainly active enough to supply the details.

Character development and plot are far more important to me than the number of freckles on a person’s face.

Because that little bit of personalization, that little bit that’s different for every reader is part of the magic.

There’s the magic of sharing an entire world that you’ve created with other people. And there’s the magic of that world meaning something different to each person that enters it.

That makes it more real.

We don’t notice every detail of every object in our lives. Why the fuck would our characters?

Why should the reader?

Let them get tunnel vision when the book draws them in. Let them get so wrapped up in a climactic scene that the background becomes just that… background.

Now, as for my own work, I’ve been reading through what I have of The Regonia Chronicles to reacquaint myself with the characters. And it’s shown me just how much I’ve learned, even just in the last couple of years.

Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely love the story and the characters.

But I’m gonna have a lot of editing to do. Lol.

I’ve also been prepping some cover reveal stuff for A Heart of Salt & Silver and finalizing the map. I’ll be moving on to formatting, soon.

Which means I’ll be announcing a release date, soon!

Subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any of the big announcements (or the upcoming giveaway).

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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/

“Important” Books vs. Fun Books (Does it matter?)

Hi, guys!

Today, we’re talking about “important” books. Yes, the quotes are one hundred percent necessary, there.

There are so many people who go on and on about writing or reading the next great American novel. So many authors feel pressured to write books that others will deem “important,” and tons of readers feel pressured to read all the classics and all the high brow literature they can get their hands on.

But you know what…

Fuck that.

Read and write whatever you want. Books don’t have to be “important” to be valuable. They don’t have to be profound or life changing or satirical. They don’t have to make some insightful commentary on society to be worth reading.

There’s nothing wrong with a book that’s meant to be fun and entertaining.

So chill out.

Stop shaming each other for what you read or write.

Stop letting others shame you for what you read or write.

Just live.

We all love books.

Can’t that be enough?

If you want to spend hours analyzing every book you read to find every possible meaning, do it. You do you.

Maybe become an English teacher and get paid for that shit while you’re at it.

If you want to write books that are deep and meaningful, going into the writing process with the intention of writing something truly powerful…fuckin’ do it.

But.

Not everyone reads to find the hidden meaning.

Not everyone cares why the curtains were blue.

Sometimes, sitting down to read or write is just about going on an adventure instead of being anxious about bills.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Every time I read or write, I do it because I want a story. Not because I have wisdom to impart or need the sage advice of the elders.

Do I learn from books? Yeah. All the damn time. But that isn’t usually why I read or write them.

I want to see another world or a different version of this world.

I want to meet interesting new people without…actually…having to meet people.

I want to go on daring adventures and face mythical, magical beasts…from the comfort of my couch with little-to-no risk of being disemboweled.

Sometimes that’s all you need to feel a little better about life.

So. Do you. Read whatever the fuck you want. Analyze it to whatever degree you want. There is room for readers and writers of all kinds within the book world.

I promise.

*steps off soap box*

Now. Progress report!

All formatting on World for the Broken is done! I have to adjust the cover size for the paperback, because I changed my mind on the trim size at the last minute.

The pages will be slightly larger, which means more text will fit on each page, which means about 130 fewer pages. Good news: that means the paperback will cost less than it would have otherwise.

Same content. Same print quality. Less expensive.

So I’m excited about that.

Since I’m just about done with it, I’ll be revealing the cover this week, which I’m also excited about. I love how it turned out, and I can’t wait to show it to you all.

Now that I’m not actively editing something (mostly doing marketing images and metadata, as well as exploring blog tour options), I can get back to actively writing my new story instead of just squeezing in writing time around the World for the Broken edits.

As of right now, I’m just over 22,000 words. Which isn’t bad. But I’m hoping to get quite a bit done on it this week.

But now, it’s time for me to get some sleep.

Keep reading (whatever you want). Keep writing (whatever you want).

Later.

Beta Readers: Why you need them and what to expect

Hi, guys!

Last week was all about self-editing, and one of the steps I mentioned was beta readers.

For those who don’t know, beta readers read a manuscript after some editing has been done. Where people bring them into the process at differs. I send my work to beta readers roughly halfway through the editing process.

No, I don’t mean edit half the manuscript one time, then send it to them. That’s more like an alpha reader, someone who reads after a first draft. The only person who ever reads my first drafts, aside from me, is my husband.

I just mean after roughly half the rounds of edits have been done, I send it to my beta readers.

When you choose to send yours to beta readers is up to you.

After reading, they give the author feedback. You can ask them questions afterward to get more detail. If there are things that you know you struggle with, you can even ask them to go into it with those things in mind.

At its core, this phase is meant to get more eyes on your work. After going through your novel time and time again, your brain is going to fill in gaps. You know what’s supposed to be on the page, so of course it makes sense to you. But it might not be as clear as you think.

That’s where beta readers come in.

They tell you what works and what doesn’t, what needs explained more and what’s over explained. They can tell you where the book drags and which scenes kept them on the edge of their seat.

Pay attention to what they say.

If all your beta readers (yes, you need multiple) say that a specific scene was so slow they didn’t want to keep reading, you need to fix that scene.

If they all agree that a certain scene was riveting and had them gripping the book with their noses pressed to the page, maybe leave that scene alone.

If they find a typo or say something doesn’t make sense, fix it.

Because these are the opinions of readers.

AKA the type of people you want to buy your book later.

If one beta reader says something that’s completely subjective and the others gave the opposite feedback, consider it thoughtfully and make a judgement call.

Books are, after all, very subjective. Each person has a different experience with each book. That’s part of the magic of reading.

And beta readers clue you in to how readers perceive your book.

You need that, especially if you plan to self-publish, because you won’t have an entire publishing company full of experts and professionals guiding you in the right direction.

Now, you can find beta readers in a lot of places.

You can ask trusted friends or family members (if you can count on them for honest feedback), or you can ask writer friends in various writing groups.

Btw, if you’re not in writing groups, mingling with other writers…you need to be. You’ll learn a lot more than you think and form some amazing friendships with people who understand the trials of writing and publishing.

There are also countless groups across social media specifically tailored for connecting authors with beta readers. Literally, just type into the search bar on your preferred platform “beta readers.”

I know it can feel awkward asking, but think of it as practice for all the marketing you’re going to be doing later. Because whether you’re doing traditional- or self-publishing, you’re going to be marketing.

Now, what to expect from beta readers. Because let’s face it, not all beta readers are created equally.

I finally have a good group, but it took some time to get here.

There will be some that agree to read, then never speak to you again after you send them a manuscript.

There will be some that agree to read, then life shits on them, rendering them unable to read in the time frame you need.

Some give mean, unhelpful feedback laced with pettiness. You’ll have to sort them out and determine what feedback is actually helpful. Discard any rude, belittling comments for what they are: useless.

So if a beta reader tells you that your novel is garbage and that you’ll never make it because you’re a talentless hack, “thank” them for their feedback and never send another manuscript to them.

Crap comments like that won’t help you grow or learn or better yourself or your writing. It’ll only hold you back. You need constructive criticism and positive reinforcement. Not bullying.

So, grit your teeth and keep going. There are good beta readers out there. (I promise. I’ve found several.)

Some are wonderfully helpful and thorough. Some go above and beyond the call of duty, sussing out typos, continuity errors, inconsistent character behavior, etc., in addition to giving general feedback.

Obviously, those are the ones you want.

Now, prepare yourself. The feedback you get won’t always be positive. Sometimes, your beta readers will find flaws.

*gasp*

But that’s literally the entire point.

So keep your chin up, remember that every manuscript has flaws, and fix the fucking problems.

Your book will be much better for it, I promise.

If you’re worried about someone stealing your work, Microsoft Word has a watermark feature. Do that, then send it out. You hold the copyright as soon as you write the manuscript. In the US, of course, you can’t sue for financial compensation without registering it, but I’m fairly sure you can pursue a cease and desist.

Now, for my weekly progress report. I wish I had more to report, but some stupid cold/flu bug has done everything in its power to knock me on my ass this past week. (It did knock my legs out from under me once, actually. Coughing until you gag/dry heave so badly that you fall to your knees…not pleasant.)

Anyway, I finished my final edits of World for the Broken. I’ll be announcing the official release date this week! The cover reveal will follow, probably next week or the week after, depending on how long the formatting takes.

I typed a little (roughly 2,500 words) on my new WIP and planned (*gasp*) several scenes for later in the book. I even made a timeline.

I really was sick. Lol. I was plotting.

I never fuckin’ do that.

Anyway, hopefully this stupid sickness doesn’t come back for round three so I can actually get shit done.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Self-Editing: How to do it well

Hi, guys!

If there’s one writing rule that I believe applies to every piece of writing, it’s that you NEED to edit. Don’t publish a rough draft.

That’s just bad juju.

But editors are expensive (for good reason). Editing is work.

It takes a long time and a lot of effort.

Many people say never ever publish without a professional edit.

But sometimes, that isn’t feasible financially.

That is NOT an excuse for publishing poor quality content, though.

It just means you have to do even work yourself.

So, if you’re a broke bitch from way back (*raises hand*) and have to rely on self editing, here’s the process I put my work through.

It isn’t fool proof. Some typos hang on, fighting tooth and nail, to make sure they make it into the final draft. That’s why there’s an industry standard of allowed typos. (1 for every 10,000 words, I think? Don’t quote me on that, I may very well be wrong.)

But this process helps me to feel better about the standard to which my work is edited.

For starters, study grammar. Learn that shit. If you struggle with commas, study comma usage. (I overuse them, so I’ve been writing with Grammarly open, letting it yell at me to break the extra comma use.)

If you struggle with showing possession on a noun that ends in an “s,” fucking study it. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I once read a traditionally published book wherein the author gave the MC a last name that ended in an “s.”

(I’m going to say Childers, though that’s not the name from the book.) The possessive form ranged throughout the book from the correct Childers’ to Childers’s to Childerses, and even Childerseses.

My brain melted when I read that last one.

Please, if you’re going to self-edit, study grammar.

Now, the actual editing routine.

I do something a lot of people say not to do (in addition to self-editing, because apparently I’m a rule breaker). I edit as I write.

Any obviously misspelled words are fixed immediately. Like, before I type another word. I keep flow and pacing in mind as I write and adjust accordingly. My style uses sentence fragments, so I make sure the only ones in there are 100% intentional.

Since I’m a pantser, sometimes I come up with new things or realize I have a plot hole. That means I have to go back and fix stuff.

And I do. Right then.

Most would say to include a note somewhere and do it in edits. But I don’t. I fix it then, adjusting what needs adjusted before continuing to write.

So by the time I finish my “first draft,” it’s more like a second draft.

If you have trouble finishing manuscripts, I don’t recommend this. Just do another round of edits later.

Now, there’s some debate as to whether you should do a round of edits immediately after finishing writing (with it still fresh in your mind) or put it away and come back with fresh eyes.

I say, do both.

If you’re self-editing, you need to be thorough as fuck, anyway.

Now, there are several types of editing. Proofreading, checking for continuity errors, making sure it flows, looking for grammar and syntax errors, etc.

You can do each one separately, but I do all of them, every single time I edit.

After a few rounds, it’s time for beta readers. Because you need someone else’s eyes on your work. After a while, your brain is likely going to fill in details or skipped words because you know what’s supposed to be on the page.

But beta readers don’t. They can tell you when something doesn’t make as much sense as you think it does. They can tell you whether it works or fits in the genre you’re aiming for.

You can also find critique partners in writing groups. You read and critique their work, and they do the same for yours.
That allows for another perspective, i.e. someone who knows about formatting and marketing and flow and all that stuff.

Now. Please. For the love of all that is good, take their opinions into consideration. If they point out a blatant mistake, don’t get defensive. Just fix it.

If they have a valid point about a potential plot hole.

Fill the plot hole.

If they point out a style choice that they don’t like, consider it. Give it some thought. Decide whether it’s a flaw in your story or personal preference. (Books are, after all, very subjective.) But if all your beta readers have a problem with the exact same thing, chances are, it needs fixed.

Now, implement all the beta reader/critique partner feedback.

After that, you guessed it…another full round of edits.

After that?

I recommend getting Grammarly or some sort of computer editing program. There are a lot of them out there. I use Grammarly because it came highly recommended and it’s super easy to use. It plugs right into Word and pops up in the task bar, ready for use.

Whichever program you choose, go through your manuscript with it. I usually do that during another round of edits, fixing the things Grammarly finds when I get to them.

It might be alarming how many errors it finds, especially if you write fantasy and have a bunch of made up words/place names/species names. When I first opened Grammarly on Soul Bearer, it had something like 1500 errors.

Then, I added Aurisye’s name to the dictionary and knocked off a few hundred errors. Lol. Then, I added Rafnor’s name to the dictionary. Knocked off another few hundred. Each name (or place name) made a huge difference.

So did cutting all my extra commas.

And Grammarly fucking hates characters with accents. Be prepared to add a lot to the dictionary.

So don’t panic if it’s a huge number.

Then comes the “read aloud” round. No, you don’t have to read the whole thing out loud, yourself, chugging water to moisten your parched throat.

Word has a feature that will read whatever’s on the page to you. It mispronounced a lot of things, but it also shows you when a sentence doesn’t flow. Each word is highlighted when it’s read, so follow along looking for typos.

Plug in some headphones and listen to that emotionless voice coldly stabbing you with every sentence that needs shortened.

Then, maybe do one more round of normal edits.

And then, after all those rounds of edits (what was that, 8 rounds? 9?), your book should be good to go. As long as you did that first step and studied grammar. It doesn’t do any good to look for errors if you don’t know what to look for.

Anyway, this has been an incredibly long blog, so I’ll keep the update part short. I’m now 96 pages shy of finishing the final round of edits on World for the Broken, and an absolute fuck ton of handwritten stuff to add to the 17,721 words that I already have typed for my new WIP.

Don’t forget, the ebook version of my novella, Annabelle, will be on sale in the Amazon US and UK marketplaces the entire last week of January. Just 0.99 (dollars and pounds).

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

How to make it as an author

Hi, guys!

Not only is it a new year, it’s a new decade. (Sick of hearing that yet?) Let’s start this shit off right.

Everyone has dreams. Or at least, everyone should.

But so many people give up on their dreams or spend more time fantasizing about the dream come true aspect than they do actually working for it.

Humans love short cuts and easy little tricks to cut the work load in half. We love the idea of things just happening for us even better.

But.

(Yeah, I know, I’m a terrible person for this next part.)

That isn’t how it works.

Not unless you’re in the 1%.

For the vast majority, making your dreams come true takes time and effort. It takes work.

That’s it.

That’s the big secret, the little trick.

Effort.

Actually. Fucking. Trying.

Some parts will be easier than others, of course. Some parts will be so hard that you want to smash something to bits.

But you still have to put in the time to get to the “dream come true” part.

Now, I’m not 100% there yet. I’m not living my dream, and I admit that freely.

But I intend to, at some point.

As such, even with family visiting for the past couple weeks and the stress/busy nature of the holidays, I’ve still spent time on my books.

I’ve made it through a third of the final round of edits of World for the Broken and put together promotional materials. I did promo stuff for The Gem of Meruna and rereleased it. I even managed roughly 3,500 words (idk exactly, I don’t remember what my word count was a couple weeks ago) on my new WIP and started working on a cover. I know that’s not a lot of words over two weeks, but alongside all the stuff for my other projects, it’s decent.

Basically, even through the holidays, an author’s work never sleeps. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the worlds I’ve built for these stories and want to share them with you.

That means spending time in those worlds, in the minds of those characters. (Which certainly isn’t a bad thing.)

And eventually, that time and effort (spent doing something I love) will lead me to my dream of being a stay-at-home author. Yes, I’m going to daydream about what it would be like to already be there.

But I’m also going to do the work necessary to get there.

That means that when I want to relax, I explore the worlds of my stories more often than the worlds of the video games I used to sink months’ worth of play time into. When I get off a 12 hour shift on a Sunday night and want to go to bed, I still do my blog. Every week. So that I can post it early Monday morning before I go to sleep.

Your schedule will obviously be different from mine, and you can adjust it as need be. But the effort has to be there.

At some point, you have to stop talking about it, stop daydreaming, and just do. Take a step.

No tricks.

No short cuts.

Because that isn’t how life works.

So please, whatever your dream is, give it the time and effort it deserves. “Life” is not an excuse to set your dreams aside. Your shows will still be there after you do some shit to make your dreams happen. So will the closet you keep telling yourself you’ll clean out, so stop staring at it, thinking of what to do with it just to procrastinate. That won’t help you reach your goals.

Life is always going to happen around you. You just have to make things work.

Because when life steps aside, it’s too late for dreams.

Now, that got a little darker than I expected when I started this blog…but what the hell? That’s pretty normal for anything I write.

In short, don’t fucking slack. DO YOUR SHIT.

K, thanks.

Lol.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later. 

The Gem of Meruna: The Inspiration…And the Winners

Hi, guys!

It’s giveaway time, bitches!

But first, I want to talk a little bit about what brought me to this point.

I’ve talked before about the reason I’m rereleasing The Gem of Meruna (vanity press, not understanding anything anout the publishing world, etc.). Today, I want to talk about the inspiration for the story and the process of fleshing it out from there.

So, this story started out as a dream. I woke one day with visions of a girl with vivid purple eyes venturing through a dangerous forest and riding a massive (several stories tall) pure-white stag. In my dream, she was after a magical Gem that perfectly matched the color of her eyes.

But I didn’t know why.

That part wasn’t in the dream.

Now, since I tend toward the macabre, my conscious mind filled in corrupted animals controlled by a vicious dictator, slaughtering people left and right. That’s enough to motivate someone to want change.

But I needed a reason for Kiluna, specifically, to try to change things.

And that’s where her grandmother’s part of the story came in, with tales of the world before they lived in fear, tales of a magical Gem that could right their world…tales that no one else dared speak.

But Kiluna’s grandmother told her all these beautiful stories, told her that things could be better.

And thus, our heroine and her quest were born.

Of course, the story has blood and action, because my stories always have that. And romance, because I fucking love romance in my books.

But anyway…

This has been a hell of a journey. From start to finish, this book took about 4 months to write, but it’s been years coming back from the nightmare of the vanity press. For so long, I contemplated just shoving it in a dark corner and forgetting that it existed, mainly out of frustration and not knowing my options.

But I’m so glad to finally have this book out on the market in a state that doesn’t embarrass me. The original was woefully under-edited, but now that’s fixed.

It was so difficult to restrain myself during edits though. My style has changed a lot since the original release, and the temptation to make it conform to my new style was definitely there.

But that would have required a near-total rewrite.

Which felt a bit like cheating.

For the sake of not making it so that everyone who bought the original would feel the need to buy the new one to know the new story, I did no story edits. Only grammar/spelling stuff. I cut redundancies and tightened up sentences, but left the story as it was originally intended.

And now, with all the irritations of the vanity press finally behind me, I can move into the new decade with confidence.

And let me tell you, 2020 will be a big year, if I have anything to say about it. Lol.

I’ll be releasing World for the Broken and at least one (maybe two) high fantasy romances.

But for now, the thing that brought you here…

The giveaway winners…

*drum roll*

The winner from Facebook is Erin Brown and from Instagram, we have Taryn Chester. Both will receive a signed hardback copy of The Gem of Meruna along with all the accompanying book swag!

The grand prize winner, receiving swag, a signed hardback copy of The Gem of Meruna, and a signed copy of Annabelle, drawn from my email subscribers, is Rae Watson!

Congratulations to all of you!

I’ll message the winners individually later today (it’s fairly late, I just got off a 12 hour shift, and have to get up early), and I’ll need addresses to ship the prizes to. If I don’t receive a response within three days, I’ll have to choose a different winner.

For everyone else, pre-orders are still open until tomorrow.

Because holy freaking crap, release day is tomorrow!

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why we need “controversial” books

Hi, guys!

There’s a trend here lately, leaning our society toward sensitivity, and it’s creeping into literature. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for being thoughtful in your actions and your words. There’s no reason to hurt people unnecessarily.

It’s just that…there have been a lot of books throughout time, especially lately, that have been considered controversial.

But let’s be real here.

Sometimes…that’s exactly what we need.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Books about tyrannical governments can show us if our own government is…maybe taking advantage of its citizens.

A book about suicide might be the one that cues someone into the signs their secretly suicidal friend is sending out. That might be the book that gets someone the help they need.

Maybe someone in denial about the abusive, manipulative tendencies of their partner will read a book that features an abusive relationship and identify with the character.

Maybe they’ll be in denial about it still…until they hear someone else comment on how abusive and manipulative the love interest was, citing little behaviors that the real life person is dealing with on a daily basis but minimizing and hiding from others. Or until the love interest gets a little more abusive and kills the MC. (Or if you want a happy ending, maybe they try to kill the MC, but the MC fights back for the first time, and wins. Who knows.)

Maybe that’ll show the real life person that they need to do something about their own life before it’s too late.

A book about sexual abuse might show someone that they’re not alone and give them the courage to reach out. Knowing I wasn’t alone was all it took for me to tell someone what happened to me.

My point is, not all books need to be about role models who learn lessons from every experience in their life. Not all books have to feature relationships that are #goals or love interests worthy of being a book boyfriend.

Sometimes literature needs to show us the grit, the worst case scenario.

Sometimes it takes seeing the bad to realize what we need to do to fix our own lives, and books are a safe way to do that.

Sometimes books are meant to show us the less pleasant option.

Other times, they’re just meant to be realistic.

People have flaws. People make mistakes.

People do bad things and hurt the ones they care about.

It happens, whether it should or shouldn’t.

It’s part of being human.

So stop banning books because they aren’t fluffy enough. Stop banning books or shaming authors for having the guts to write about difficult topics or mean people or abusive relationships.

Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need in our books.

To show us what not to do or put up with. To challenge how we see things.

Now, the is rant over…Lol.

Guys, The Gem of Meruna rereleases in just a week and a half! I’m so excited to have this book out the way it should have been released the first time. It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s finally going to be made right.

Don’t forget to preoder your copy!

I will be hosting a giveaway, I’m just waiting for the books to get here before I officially open the entries. Just in case they get damaged or lost in the holiday mail or something.

So stay tuned. As soon as the giveaway copies get here, I’ll be announcing it. There will be stickers and magnets and bookmarks to accompany them. As with the Soul Bearer giveaway, the winner chosen from my email subscriber list will get a copy of my novella, Annabelle, as well.

(I just got a freaking amazing review for that one from Magic Book Corner, btw. If you haven’t yet, check out themagicbookcorner.com for loads of book reviews.)

Anyway, I’ve been busily editing Where Darkness Leads and hammering away at writing my new story, as well. I started on some formatting for World for the Broken.

All in all, last week was super busy.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Why my book title had to change…

Hi, guys!

I finally announced the official title for World for the Broken this past week, and today, I thought I’d explain why I changed the title, to begin with.

Originally, World for the Broken was called After.

It was simple and easy to remember. It fit with the post-apocalyptic theme as well as the themes of coping and resilience.

But then the After series by Anna Todd hit it big. Then, it became controversial and absolutely blew up.

And I knew my novel would be buried under the avalanche of posts about her books.

I wen’t back and forth on whether to change my title or not. I toyed with the idea of keeping the title simply to have it show up in the same searches, but the people looking for her books (contemporary romance, possibly YA)…probably aren’t looking for a visceral, intensely dark post-apocalyptic romance.

Then, when I came up with World for the Broken, I fell in love with it. This title stands out quite a bit more. Obviously, it still fits the post-apocalyptic narrative.

And I’m so glad I changed it.

I had a similar thing happen with Salt and Silver. Not exactly the same, because the title wasn’t exactly the same. And the other book has yet to be released.

But I want my books to be unique, just like any other author.

So, here are a few quick tricks for making sure you have a good title for your book.

First of all, get feedback.

Just like every other aspect of writing, working in a vacuum without any outside influence isn’t the best idea. You need more eyes on your work and more opinions than just your own.

If you have a few potential titles in mind, don’t be afraid to ask other writers or perhaps book club members for their opinion. They know books. Of course, it’s best if they know the genre you’re working in, but ask away.

Second, think about which one embodies your book best. Genre, themes, and all.

Abandon catchy and trendy for just a second and dare to twist words around for effect. Words are so versatile. Double meanings abound. Maybe use a contradictory double meaning to your benefit, if both meanings fit your book.

Swap words around. Try synonyms. Try different variations of whatever you’ve come up with.

Okay. It’s time to go back for the catchy, trendy shit. Consider it briefly. After all, trends are trendy for a reason. People like them. And they work. Look at titles within your genre. Is there a pattern that tends to pop up a lot?

There are a lot of books out there that are “blank of blank” (City of Ember, Crown of Conspiracy, House of Night). Lots of book titles lately have just been a list of three things in the book, often with the first two obviously fitting together but the third being “random.”

Do those formats fit your book? If they do, use the shit out of them.

They obviously work.

Now, the advice lots of writers hate when it comes to the actual book, itself. Cut unnecessary words. For the love of everything good, there’s a reason book titles aren’t usually a full paragraph. It’s too hard to remember and no one wants to type a 14 word title into a search bar to pull up a book they heard about and were sorta interested in but wanted to look it up to learn more about it.

There’s a good chance that’ll drive away buyers that were on the fence.

Last but certainly not least, type it into amazon or google. Make sure there aren’t an absolute fuck ton of results. If there are, I don’t care how good your title is…you probably need to change it.

If a couple hundred things come up, your brand new book is not going to be at the top of the results. Not without a shit load of work on search engine optimization, a ton of build up before launch, and probably some paid ads.

Believe me.

I didn’t think about it when I titled my novella, Annabelle, and it DOES NOT show up unless it’s typed in with my first and last name.

Because…well, you know. Ghosty-possession movies or something. Some doll. I don’t know. Lol. I don’t watch horror movies often, so I haven’t watched them.

Anyway.

Picking a title is hard. I know.

But it’s important. Which means it’s worth doing it well.

Now, to hold myself accountable for the past week…

I’ve been alternating between knocking out some more edits on Where Darkness Leads and writing my new novel. I think I wrote about…3,000 words? So, nowhere near as much as I wanted to. That was only two good writing sessions.

But I have to keep editing so I can get these other books out. Lol.

I also sketched a quick map for the new story, made a gif and a trailer for The Gem of Meruna. I’ll be unveiling the trailer soon. I already posted the non-looped video from the gif.

All in all, not a bad week.

For now though, I’m exhausted. Work was…well, exhausting. Lol. It’s time for me to sign off and get some sleep.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.