Are You Querying Too Early? How to prepare yourself for the trenches.

Though I ultimately chose to self-publish, I did take a run at the query trenches. There are a lot of reasons for agents and publishers to reject a book, even if it’s a good book.

One thing you can do to up your odds of getting your manuscript accepted by an agent or publisher is to make sure you’re actually ready to submit it to them.

How do you know if you’re ready?

Here’s a little checklist.

Finish your book first.

Partial books and outlines are not ready for submission. (Not unless you’re already famous for something else.)

Almost every writer I know has unfinished books lurking on their computer that may or may not ever get finished. It happens. A lot.

Sometimes the author loses steam with the project. Sometimes a new story idea distracts them. Sometimes the aspiring author just decides they don’t want to write at all anymore.

And agents and publishers know this happens.

They will not accept submissions for incomplete manuscripts because they don’t want to even risk wasting their time.

Do a couple of rounds of self-edits.

Submitting a completely unedited manuscript only hurts your chances. You need to look through it, make sure your characters are consistent in their behavior and appearance through the book, check for plot holes, that sort of thing.

Anything you can fix before submissions will only up your odds.

Have beta readers go through it.

You need other people to look at your book. After spending tons of time in that world/with those characters, you know exactly what’s supposed to be on the page. Your brain will fill in the gaps.

A beta reader can find those gaps, those places where you didn’t explain a concept that you understand (because you created it). They’ll find plot holes. They’ll find things that your characters do (or don’t do) that just don’t feel consistent with their personality.

And it’s so much better for them to find these things (so you can fix them) than for an agent to find them (and reject your book for something that could have been addressed).

Research Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing.

Traditional publishing is not for everyone. It works for many authors, but not all.

Querying is a grueling process. Going through it only to realize months (or years) later that self-publishing is the better route for you personally… is a waste of time and effort.

Do some research before submitting to any agents or publishers to make sure this is the right path for you. Weigh the pros and cons of both.

For me, self-publishing makes more sense, but that may not be the case for you.

I’m willing to take on the extra work of formatting and metadata and copyrights and lining up editing and cover art in exchange for the creative control allowed by self-publishing.

But if the idea of that extra work makes you cringe and you just want someone else to handle it (even if it means they get the final say over what they book looks and reads like), then traditional might be better for you.

Look into it for yourself.

All of the above steps are necessary early steps whether you go with self-publishing or traditional publishing, but from here on, it’s specific to the query trenches.

Research publishers and agents.

There are so many out there, but they don’t all want your book. Each publisher and agent has a network in place for books of a specific genre, a specific age group, specific tropes, etc.

Furthermore, they don’t always accept submissions.

Many have specific dates/times of the year where they open for submissions. Agents can only work with so many authors at a time (varies from agent to agent), and publishers only publish a certain number of books a year (varies from publisher to publisher depending on the size of the company).

Some publishers only accept submissions from agents, not directly from authors.

So do your research here. Compile a list of places to submit that accept your genre, age range, level of gore, level of sexiness, tropes, etc.

Submit to the ones you can. Set reminders in your phone to submit to places that open later in the year.

Prepare your submission materials.

Every single agent or publisher has a whole slew of things they want submitted alongside the manuscript (or a portion of the manuscript). Take the time to get these right.

If you don’t include a cover letter when they specifically requested one, they might not even bother to read your first page.

If you don’t format your manuscript how they want it formatted, they might not read the first page.

If you give them a three page synopsis instead of a one page synopsis (Because you already had a three page one and surely that’s good right? That’s giving them extra.) they probably won’t read the three page synopsis. Or your manuscript.

These submission materials are basically like a job interview. They’re seeing how well you pay attention to basic guidelines, how much you’re going to fight and try to slide by with stuff they don’t let fly. After all, anyone they offer a contract is going to have deadlines and things they have to do (to the agent/publishers standards) within that time.

But these materials are also meant to show them if your book is a good fit for them and make it as easy to digest as possible. They look at thousands of manuscripts, and they have to be able to pick out the ones they want relatively quickly.

Making their lives difficult probably won’t get you a book deal.

Personalize the submission materials.

Show them that you actually looked at their website, their catalog of books, the authors they work with. (Which you should do to see if your book is actually a good fit for them.) Show them that you did some research, that way they can take your submission seriously.

Check out Query Shark.

This website has a lot of help for getting a solid query letter. Don’t just submit yours to them for critique though.

Read through the ones that have already been critiqued/revised and apply the advice to your own query letter.

You can find those here.


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On the Dilemma of Genre Hopping

In the past week, I’ve worked on writing a literary fantasy romance and editing a literary sci-fi fantasy epic, thought of ways to advertise my recently released literary thriller romance, and came up with ideas for a sci-fi novel and a literary zombie apocalypse romance.

So, to say that I hop genres might be an understatement.

Now, every big marketing expert whose classes I’ve taken said that hopping genres is a bad idea.

Truthfully, it does make marketing a great deal harder.

But.

I can’t imagine sitting down to force myself to write something I hate just because it’s in the same genre as something else I wrote. The idea of spending months with a story or world or plot or character that I just couldn’t sink myself into seems exhausting, and I’m pretty sure it would ruin writing for me.

So I refuse to settle into one genre.

And I don’t have the energy to maintain a social media platform for pen names for every genre.

Which means that it does make marketing harder.

But it isn’t impossible.

You just have to find the unifying theme in all your books and really lean into that. In blurbs, in ads, in social media posts, everywhere you talk about your books, lean into that unifying theme.

For me, it’s the grit and psychology, the character development and the fact that these characters go through real shit (even if the world they’re in is far from real).

That, and my writing style. Lyrical, full of sentence fragments and short paragraphs for the sake of flow, providing only necessary details, first person/present tense.

Those things all together mean that my books, even when they’re fantasy or sci-fi or a thriller, are literary fiction.

So, I need to lean into that.

Character profiles and details about their struggles, their traumas, their strife.

Things like that.

So if you’re debating on whether to hop genres, you need to make a decision.

Which is more important, writing what you want or having a more straightforward marketing path?

If you plan to hop genres, going wherever your heart wants with your books, then you need either multiple pen names or you need to find that thing that unifies your books.

Maybe it’s that all your books have a love triangle. Maybe it’s that they all contain a clean romance tucked within the larger plot. Maybe it’s that you prioritize world building.

Lean into that in your marketing efforts so you can attract the right readers, people who’ll want to read all your books, regardless of the genre the story is contained within.

(My main problem so far, if I’m being completely honest, is that I tend to prioritize every other aspect of the writing and publishing process over marketing/advertising.)

But if you really lean into that unifying theme across your books (and actually market and advertise), you can hop to your heart’s content and still build a fan base that will follow you through the genres.


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Plot Armor (And How To Avoid It)

We’ve all seen it. The character that always scrapes by because they’re the main character (or the main love interest), no matter how ridiculously high the stakes are and no matter how unrealistic it is for them to come out okay.

Some genres demand a happy end for the book (Romance, in particular), but that doesn’t mean that your characters should just have everything work out through sheer force of luck and having you on their side.

That level of un-realism takes away from the story.

So here are a few things you can give your character in lieu of plot armor.

Knowledge

Give them the information necessary to realistically survive what you’re throwing at them. Some battles are best won with brain rather than brawn.

Build a subset of knowledge into their background (a hobbyist in the family who liked learning about the things they’re facing or maybe a previous job that had parallels). Make them research and plan.

Or just straight up give them a teacher.

Mentors can be excellent side characters.

Skills

Make these people practice. Make them learn combat or lockpicking or endurance running.

Maybe they ran track in high school. Maybe they were in the army or your book’s equivalent. Maybe they dropped out and lived on the streets, stealing what they needed to get by.

Or maybe their life changed at the beginning of the book and they found a mentor for the skills they’d need. Trial and error is a pretty harsh teacher, but also an option.

Allies

More than one person working toward the same goal will almost certainly increase the chances of achieving it.

Now, these people aren’t meant to be bullet sponges or cannon fodder, though some may end that way.

But a prepper friend can teach your MC about filtering water and keep them from getting dysentery in the apocalypse.

A friend who’s also a cop could help them talk down (or subdue) an assailant.

The Ending

Maybe give them the realistic ending. Tragedies may not be as common now, but they are part of literature. And though it might mean a genre change for some (dark romantic fantasy instead of dark fantasy romance), it could be worth it to stick to what would really happen.

That last one is the choice I would go with, but that’s just me.


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Writing Rules Are More Like Guidelines

There are so many rules for writing that it’d be hard to count them all, even more so if you consider all the advice that’s out there.

Show don’t tell, don’t edit as you write, write every day, avoid adverbs, write in the morning, write at night, write drunk/edit sober, avoid passive voice, plan your book, don’t plan your book, write to market, don’t use sentence fragments, avoid dialogue tags other than ‘said,’ avoid using the dialogue tag ‘said’…

The list goes on and on and on. It’s enough to make your head spin.

Following them all is pretty much impossible, especially when they contradict each other (like some of the ones I mentioned up there). Not to mention the fact that following every single one eliminates any wiggle room for personal style.

Which is why I like to think of them as guidelines.

Everyone is different.

That’s a pretty well accepted fact.

And it means that everyone works differently and likes different things.

So, for the sake of standing out from the crowd, for the sake of truly expressing ourselves and the stories we have in our heads, for the sake of allowing ourselves to write in a way that actually works for us and our lives/personal challenges, some rules must be broken.

Or at least bent.

I use sentence fragments and short paragraphs all the time. I start sentences with conjunctions (which is technically a correct sentence format but everyone thinks it’s wrong). I don’t write every day, I never plan my books, and I always do some level of editing while I write.

Because those are some of the rules that just don’t work for me.

But it is important to learn the rules, to understand why they are the way they are, so you know when to break them.

For example, writing every day is a good way to get into a habit and keep the creative juices flowing.

But allowing myself to skip a day of writing helps me not feel guilty so that when I do write, I’m not psyching myself out by trying to make up for lost days. I don’t have time on days where I work twelve hour shifts, and sometimes I need to edit instead of write.

So, skipping days is fine for me. I don’t need the habit to get myself to finish my books.

Another thing I do that isn’t necessarily correct according to rules… Sentence fragments, short paragraphs, and starting sentences with conjunctions.

People just aren’t typically accustomed to these things. There is the risk of pushing a reader out of the narrative simply because these aren’t the norm. Same with first person/present tense.

But.

They work for my writing style, my author voice. They go a long way toward establishing flow, getting the cadence just right. And for me, that’s important. It fits with my writing style.

So, take the time to learn some of the writing rules. You should know them, really. But don’t be afraid to step outside the lines and move beyond those rules.

Writing is, at the very core of its essence, an act of creativity.

Just like some painters throw colors together that shouldn’t go together (and somehow make them work) and some musicians combine genres that just shouldn’t work (and somehow make them fit), writers have the amazing ability to do things that just shouldn’t make sense…

And somehow, make it work.

Learn some rules, and then decide if they work for you, your story, and your style.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to help fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

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A Message To New (Or Experienced) Writers About Doubt

Do you ever feel like a hack? Like a terrible writer masquerading as someone worth reading?

I do.

I wish I could tell you that it goes away, that once you write a certain number of books or sell a certain number of copies, you’ll magically feel better about your writing and never have doubts ever again.

But that isn’t quite how it works.

How do I know that?

I’ve written 12 books, working on number 13 at the moment, and I’ve published 7 of those so far. I have a small group of people who love my books, who follow me from one genre to another because they like my writing style. I’ve sold a respectable number of books (not a bestseller by any means, but respectable).

But this past weekend…

I’ve been questioning everything, wondering if I’ve lost my touch, if I ever really had it at all, if this next book will be the one that shows everyone that I’m actually terrible and should be shunned or laughed at.

All authors go through that, time and time again.

Self-doubt and imposter syndrome are pretty common among creatives.

It’s an unfortunate side effect of working with such subjective mediums. Whether it’s painting, writing, sculpting, playing music, whatever. Anything so subjective as art leaves the artist (yep, that includes writers) open to potential criticism that might conflict directly with praise from another source. It makes it hard to evaluate our work objectively.

And that’s where doubt comes in.

It makes us wonder which piece of feedback was right, and the worst part is… sometimes it’s all correct because opinion plays such a huge role.

Add in the struggles of actually writing (writer’s block, the absolute mountain range that is advertising, avoiding scam publishers, etc.), and there are a lot of things to get a writer down.

And it all contributes to the self-doubt.

Some days, you feel equal to the task at hand. Other days… not so much.

So how do you combat it?

First, by learning to trust yourself and accepting that you’re human. Which means that achieving perfection isn’t possible.

Second, by getting feedback from multiple sources. Assess all feedback for common threads. Then, hold onto the positive comments and learn from the negative.

Doubt doesn’t have to be a stumbling block.

It can be a tool to hone your skills.

After all, a person who never doubts their abilities never sees either a need or a way to improve.

Third, and most importantly, write anyway. Even if you’re doubting yourself, write anyway.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to help fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

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A Day in the Life of a Writer

I’ve been asked a few times what my writing schedule looks like, so today, I want to show you.

I don’t exactly keep a normal schedule. But I still get a surprising amount of stuff done. Never as much as I want to get done thanks to my high standards for myself, but I think that’s probably true for most people.

With my job and my writing, I tend to stay up until about 5am most nights, 3am if I have a 12 hour shift the next day.

But basically, I get up and take care of my small army of cats, then catch up on social media and do my post for the day.

Then, if I’m off work, food. If not, I get ready and go to work for 8 or 12 hours, using whatever precious little downtime I get to type up a sentence or two on my phone, a whole scene if I’m lucky.

If I’m home for the day, errands and cleaning and maybe a dash of video games or reading end up taking up about as much of my day as work would.

Sometimes I end up starting early, organizing book tours or researching things for ads in normal daytime hours.

But usually, I start on my books between midnight and 2am and do something book related until about 5 or 6am.

I’m almost always working on multiple projects, so I try to do something with each one in that time.

Right now, I’m working on three projects (writing Sihetva, editing A Blessed Darkness, and editing The Regonia Chronicles), so I try to do a chapter of each. More, if I can.

But sometimes I don’t get to all three projects.

And that’s okay.

The last half hour of my book time is usually spent wracking my brain to figure out what to post on social media the next day or two. I’ve tried the whole planning-posts-a-month-ahead-of-time thing before, and it just didn’t work for me.

It just felt like the massive block of time I was using for that month’s worth of planning was about the same total time as doing it day by day.

And it felt less personal, somehow.

Like it was removing the normal day to day stuff from my platform, and since one of the main purposes of an author platform is to let readers get to know the person behind the books, I didn’t like that.

Now, there are a few days that are exceptions to this. Days where I work a 12 hour shift go a little differently. The night before is cut off at 3am, so I only get about an hour for my books those nights.

And Sunday nights are usually rough.

I get home after a 12 and two or three hours later, I finish everything else done that I couldn’t do thanks to work and sit down to do my blog and newsletter for the week.

Which usually means I’m too exhausted to actually write or edit by the time I get those done and posted/sent out at about 4 or 5am Monday morning.

I’ll be honest, every week, I consider not doing a blog simply because I’m tired. Lol. Every week, I consider doing the blog and newsletter a different day or cutting them back to once a month, but there’s a reason I started them at this day/time. Because I know I won’t skip a week. I’ll get it done, even if I’m tired.

And that leaves all my book time throughout the week open for me to work on my books.

Forcing productivity, I suppose, because I don’t skip out on newsletters or blogs.

Every Sunday evening/Monday morning for… maybe two years? I’ve kept this up, and fully intend to continue doing so. Honestly, I’m a little proud of myself for not missing even a single blog.

There have been a couple times where I forgot to post about the blog on social media, but there’s always been a blog post. Lol.

And with as many projects as I work on and as quickly as I get them out, weekly newsletters seem appropriate for keeping readers up to date with what’s going on.

Now, I need to get better about advertising. I need to just block out a chunk of time every week to deal with that beast, to tweak the ads I have going and figure out how to make them work better. But before I can get any ad to actually do well, I have a feeling I’ll be enduring many more advertising classes.

Which I’m sure you can tell I’m really looking forward to.

Honestly, advertising is still the bane of my existence. Which sucks because it’s kinda necessary.

But in time, I’ll figure that monster out too. I’ve learned many a skill for the sake of my writing, and one day, I’ll be able to add that one to the list.

But for now, it’s not a daily activity.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to help fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

Self-Publishing Resources That Have Helped Me Out

There are a lot of steps involved in self-publishing. And I mean a lot. From searching the internet for good keywords to making pretty pictures of your book to post on social media, there’s a lot to do.

But there are also a lot of awesome resources at our disposal.

The trouble is, they’re hidden in all the garbage floating around online.

So, today, I wanted to give you a list of resources I’ve discovered in the past year that have really simplified things for me.

Some of these things are free. Some are not. But now that I have them, I can’t imagine not having them and having to do all this stuff by hand.

Category Finder

Figuring out what categories to put your book into can be an absolute nightmare. But there’s an awesome tool that finds all the categories a comparable bestseller in your genre is in so that you can use those categories.

Just go here.

Then, in a new tab or window, go to Amazon and get the ASIN or ISBN-10 of a book similar to yours that ranks in the top 100 in your genre.

Paste that number into the site above and let it work its magic.

And by the way, if you didn’t know (because I didn’t until this year), if your book is published through KDP, you can contact their support team and have them add your book to more categories. They allow two in the setup phase, but you can add an additional eight!

KDP Rocket/Publisher Rocket

This one’s useful for a lot of reasons, though the primary thing I use it for is finding keywords for my books. If you type in a keyword you think might be good, it does some tech magic and finds a bunch of stats for that keyword, as well as any similar keyword that’s been entered into Amazon.

It tells you: how many times that keyword is entered into Amazon and Google per month, how much the books with that keyword average in sales per month, how many books use that keyword, how competitive it is, and a few other things.

A recent update even color codes those stats to show you at a glance whether or not those stats are in a good range.

This one is not free, but it makes keywords so easy that I think it’s worth the $97 (USD) price tag.

Instant Data Scraper Plug-In

This little tool put Goodreads to work for you. You just find a list on Goodreads that has books similar to yours, give this plug-in the requisite link, and let it extract the information. With a little work in Excel to clean them up, you’ll end up with a bunch of book titles to target in ads.

Mock Up Shots

This site charges $198 for lifetime access, but gives you tons of professional mockups for your book. Just upload the cover and download as many of them as you want for as many books as you want mockups for.

Book Report Plug-In

KDP has a decent sales reporting system, at least compared to Ingramspark. But this plug-in shows you a more comprehensive view of your royalties, even breaking it down by individual books. Which is pretty helpful if you’re running a sale or an ad and want to know if a specific book or series is selling.

It’s easy to set up and use. Somehow, it reports sales that might not show up in KDP’s sales reports.

It only works for KDP books though. If it was published through any other publisher, the sales won’t show up on Book Report.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to help fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Self-Publishing

The choice to pursue self-publishing or traditional publishing is a tough one, and the “right choice” is different for everyone.

For me, it was self-publishing.

But there are a few things I wish I knew ahead of time.

Today, I’m sharing them with you. 

It’s difficult.

This path takes so much work. You’re not just the writer. You have to be an entire publishing house.

That means that everything falls to you.

Unless, of course, you hire some of the work out. There are a few aspects of this route that most would recommend working with a pro (covers and editing, for example).

So, it can get pricey.

And it is definitely a lot of work. 

This should not be done alone.

I know, the “self” in self-publishing implies otherwise, but working in a vacuum is a dangerous thing, for multiple reasons.

You need feedback from others to know what works and what doesn’t. You’re too close to your work to see all the flaws, sometimes because of attachments to characters and sometimes because we know what’s going on and our brain fills in the things that aren’t (but should be) on the page.

But also because this shit gets stressful.

Having a group of writer friends, people who understand all the intricacies, or a few non-writers willing to learn about publishing through your venting, is pivotal. It really helps alleviate the stress sometimes.

And who knows, they might see a solution you don’t.

Or in the case of writer friends, they might have experienced the same problem you’re experiencing, and maybe they already have a workaround for it.

Start your author platform now.

I used to hate social media. I avoided it like the plague. I dragged my feet, posted inconsistently, and hesitated to start my newsletter.

But now, my author platform is kinda the only reason I’ve sold any books.

At all.

It’s how I reach people, how I meet other authors, how I connect with reviewers and readers.

And it takes time to build a solid author platform. I started late, so I’m not where most would like to be after releasing seven books. But I’m getting there.

And if you haven’t, you need to start building yours.

Even if you haven’t finished a book yet. 

You can post things about you, about how you write, what books you like to read (extra points if they’re in the genre you write in because that’ll draw in people who read in that genre).

Figure out which platform you want to start with and go for it. Start a newsletter ASAP.

And if you’re counting Instagram out because “What would I post pictures of?”… You. Books. Bookshelves. Character art. Mood boards. There are infinite possibilities.

Take some marketing and advertising classes.

Marketing and advertising (yeah, they’re different things) are the main reason I considered traditional publishing. Then, research revealed that a good portion would still fall to me even if I went the traditional route.

But instead of doing the smart thing and throwing myself into classes and figuring out how to do those things properly right at the outset, I… didn’t.

I don’t know why, honestly.

Dread, I think. Social anxiety and intimidation.

But I’ve been taking classes off and on, and trying to figure them out. I still have a long way to go, so I’m not about to do any advertising blogs, but I do suggest learning how to market and advertise your books.

As a self-published author, it falls to you to get your books out there, and it is not an easy thing to do. There are literally millions of books out there, and it’s up to us to figure out how to get people to first, see our books, and second, buy them.

This is a valid publishing route.

The self-publishing stigma is intense. So much so that for a while, I was ashamed of my choice. Of course, part of that is just me. (I tend to worry too much about what others think and whether or not I’m letting them down.)

But after more research, after talking to other (much more successful) indie writers, after seeing what’s out there, after paying attention to which books are indie and which aren’t (and seeing monstrosities and absolute gems in both publishing avenues), I realized that this is a valid publishing route.

And shame has no place in it.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to help fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

Things Left Unsaid: Read the Prologue Free

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how it’s already almost release day. It doesn’t quite make sense, and I’m not sure where the time went.

And yet, somehow, release day is tomorrow.

But this time, since I’m still getting over this century’s plague and about to start physical therapy for my carpal tunnel, I’m going to cut myself a break.

Rather than stress myself out even more with a live reading (because social anxiety plus reading aloud for people on the internet is stressful as fuck), I’m going to leave the prologue here for you to read at your leisure.

Fair warning, the prologue is from the perspective of the bad guy. And he is definitely a bad guy.

Prologue

Kurt

The car bumps along on the old dirt road as Ian hits yet another pothole. Elbows dig into both my sides as Jake and Kerry ricochet in their seats. I hold myself rigid, digging my feet into the floorboard to brace myself.

You’d think they’d try a little harder to keep from jabbing me. It isn’t that hard to keep control of your parts.

Staring forward at Ian and Ariella in the front seats, I seethe, wishing I could sit there. But my hips are narrower than Ariella’s, making me a better fit for this stupid seat. And it’s Ian’s stupid, tiny car, so of course, he’s driving.

And she called it, so eager as she shouted, “Shotgun!”

My eyes roll as I stare out at the trees choking the road. Yet again, I question the point of this trip.

Her words from yesterday echo in my mind. “Come on, Kurt. You know I love haunted places. And I haven’t seen Ian or Jake or Tori in so long.”

Now, she sits in front, bathed in sunlight and beaming at Ian. They laugh together, recalling old college memories. Their arms bump together on the armrest with each dip in the road.

Ariella tips her head back, laughing deeply. She covers her mouth with her hand, but when she puts her arm back on the armrest, it lands skin to skin with Ian’s.

And she barely pulls away.

Heat surges through my veins as anger burns me. I grit my teeth.

Ian swerves, hitting another pothole. Laughter fills the front seat as their arms brush again. Elbows dig into my sides. Again.

Fucking bastard’s doing it on purpose…

And suddenly, I hear her voice, really hear it, as she begged me to go on this trip. I hear the way she lingered on his name. In my mind, she rushes over the other names, not caring whether she sees them again or not.

She didn’t even try to hide it.

Who knew I’d end up with someone just like my whore of a mother.

And when she called riding shotgun, her eyes lit up brighter than the fucking sun. I watch it play out in my mind, and this time I see the soft smile on his lips, see the way he leers at her.

Fucking Ian.

Kerry sits forward, craning her neck to see the road. She leans toward me, peering out between the seats and stealing my view of Ariella’s betrayal. “Shut up, you guys,” she tells the harlot and the casanova. “It wasn’t that bad.”

But I missed what they were laughing about.

Beside me, Jake laughs at his wife. “It really was.”

She reaches over me to lightly smack his knee. Confined as we are, she hits my knee too, and I barely suppress a glare.

“Oh, sorry, Kurt,” she says. Briefly, she leans her head against my shoulder in a sorry excuse for an apology, and her long brown hair tickles my arm. “See what you guys made me do!” she shoots at Jake. “You made me smack Kurt!”

Ariella’s eyes dart upward, meeting mine in the rearview mirror. Dark eyes pulled tight with worry, she holds my gaze.

Is she afraid for Kerry?

People don’t usually hit me and get away with it.

But she doesn’t know that yet.

I hold myself in check, clenching my jaw. My hands ball up in my lap, but I cross my arms, tucking tight fists under my elbows.

Still staring at me, Kerry asks, “Are you okay?”

Ariella turns to look at me, waves of black hair spilling over the armrest. Long, silky tresses swirl over Ian’s arm, and his eyes tear away from the road for a quick glance at her. His eyes sparkle in the waning sunlight, and the corners of his lips lift into a wistful smile.

My stomach sours.

“Kurt?” Kerry prompts, stealing my attention away from the philanderer in the front seat. Her crisp blue eyes stare into mine, edged with concern.

“I’m fine,” I say, voice tight. “Just carsick. Always happens in little cars.”

She accepts my lie, but when I look forward, Ariella’s brows reach for each other, huddling in confusion. I’ve never been carsick in my life, and she knows it. I’m not that weak.

“Sorry, man,” Ian says over his shoulder. “This is a pretty bumpy road. That probably doesn’t help.”

A deep breath puffs out my chest as I stare hard at Ariella.

“Do you… need to switch seats?” she offers, but I hear her reluctance.

After all, why would she want to give up her seat next to Ian?

“Oh, no,” I answer quickly. “I’ll be fine.”

Her lips purse as she considers me, but only for an instant.

Ian taps her knee with the back of his hand, and she turns forward, not even sparing me a second thought. “We’re here,” he says.

Everyone else stares out the windows at the rickety old farmhouse and the shitty barn behind it. They gape and chatter excitedly about the murders that happened here in the early 1900s and the ghosts rumored to haunt the place.

But I stare at the lecher moving in on my woman. Blond scruff decorates his chin and his short blond hair is a mess.

Yet, she thinks she’ll leave me for him?

I shake my head.

I’ll be second to none.


Let’s just say… Kurt doesn’t handle things very well on their trip.

If you want to find out what he does, you can get your copy of Things Left Unsaid here.

It officially releases August 31st (tomorrow), but preorders are available and it’s free in Kindle Unlimited.

If you want a thriller now, you can check out Annabelle and her weaponized parasol here, also free in Kindle Unlimited.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to help fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).

How to Find Time to Write

One of the biggest problems most writers face is time. There never seems to be enough of it.

And while that’s certainly true, especially since most of us work another job (or two) and have families, there are a few things that we do to get in our own way.

So, buckle up. This isn’t about organization or getting yourself into the writing zone faster with music (though that does help me).

This is about getting real with yourself so you can stop hindering your own progress.

Prioritize your writing… By dealing with deeper issues.

If you want to write your book, if you want to publish it, if you want to pursue this seriously, you have to make it a priority.

But it isn’t that simple, I know. Sometimes, blocking out a day or an hour to write can be done, and we just don’t do it.

You need to figure out why you let this dream of yours get shoved to the back burner, and then confront that. Stop dealing in symptoms and start dealing in root causes.

For a long time, I didn’t think myself worthy of having a dream. Which made it awfully hard to make that dream a priority. Dealing with self-worth issues isn’t a quick thing, and I still struggle with it often, but it has to be dealt with. For many reasons, obviously.

But without confronting that, without realizing that was holding me back, I never would’ve started on this path, let alone made it a priority in my life.

Fear of failure held me back for a while, too. I didn’t treat my writing time with the respect it deserved because I was afraid that I’d fail, that I wouldn’t be good enough, that no one would care or want to read what I wrote.

So why bother, right?

I didn’t sit down to write when I should have, when I clearly had time, because who would care one way or the other?

But self-sabotage is a terrible road to walk, and it has to be confronted if you truly want to achieve things.

So, if writing your book is important to you, figure out the real problems stopping you. Then, deal with those problems. If you won’t do it for you and the obvious fact that things like this need dealt with, then do it so you can make your dreams the priority they need to be.

Do it so you can stop wasting the time that you do have to write.

Tell the people in your life that this is important to you.

This part can be scary, but if no one knows your writing is important to you, then they won’t consider your writing time to be sacred. They’ll interrupt you or try to persuade you to do other things because they don’t know it means something to you.

Most people who don’t write don’t understand the bond between a writer and their characters or the need to get these stories out of our heads.

Not unless we explain it to them.

Stop procrastinating.

This gets back into that self-sabotage thing that I mentioned earlier, because that’s all procrastination is. Self-sabotage. But it’s such a major pitfall, that it had to have its own section.

Social media is absolutely flooded with memes about procrastination. I know you’ve seen them, usually something along the lines of:

*opens laptop*
*opens Scrivener*
*prepares to write*
*gets on instagram*

It’s infuriating!

Stop cutting yourself off at the knees and write your damn book.

That might mean less time scrolling through social media. That might mean less time watching TV. It might mean less time sitting on the couch staring into space in existential dread. (Yes, I’m a millennial. Why do you ask?)

But if you want to write your book, you have to freaking write. It isn’t going to just write itself. You aren’t going to wake up one morning, having fallen asleep at your computer, only to find the next Pulitzer Prize winning novel has materialized in the night.

Someone has to do the work and put in the time, and if you want it to be your book that gets written, that someone is you.


Check out my gritty, literary sci-fi and fantasy books here.

Want to help fund this blog and my writing efforts? You can support me directly here.

Subscribe for sneak peeks and updates on my upcoming books (and get a free short story).