Writing with Detail: How much is enough?

Hi, guys!

We all want to find that perfect balance of detail in our books.

Too little might not accurately depict the scene in our head, which could result in a serious miscommunication between you and your reader.

Too much will slow your reader down, possibly driving them out of the book.

So how much detail should you use?

The short answer, unfortunately, is…

It depends.

I know, that isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s the truth.

But here are some things to consider to help you decide what level of detail you need to provide for your reader.

Is it an action scene or a sex scene?

Is it the opening scene?

What genre are you writing?

Action scenes and sex scenes need to be gripping. They need to flow. They need to glue the reader to the page and keep them on the edge of their seat, holding that book in a white-knuckled death grip.

And if you stop to describe the brocade on the settee…

That won’t happen.

So maybe skimp on scenery detail unless it’s important to the action or “action” of the scene.

If you’re working on your opening scene, avoid info dumps at all costs. Don’t pile descriptive detail and world building and character backstory and the history of the type of garment the character is wearing into your opening scene.

Opening scenes need to have some pull, some gravity.

Hit your reader with some sort of interesting event or conversation, something to draw them in and keep them reading, and they’ll still stick around for the details later in the book.

As for genre, if you’re writing contemporary romance, you don’t have to describe every detail of the world. We live in it. There are certain things you can take for granted.

Modern readers know what a cell phone is. We know what it means to work full time. We know what a cat is.

You don’t have to explain these things at any point in time. You can say the basic name for what’s happening (“Ugh, I have overtime, again.”), and your reader will know that your character just got hit with an extra shift at work.

But if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, there are going to be a lot of things that require some explanation.

Your readers won’t see the name of your country and automatically know what kind of government is in place. They won’t just magically know how time is measured in that world.

So, there will need to be more details in a book of that sort.

And then there’s your own personal writing style to consider. Some writers are just more detailed than others. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The trick with detail is to spread it out. That way, your reader gets the information they need without feeling overloaded or bogged down.

And if you’re ever in doubt, enlist the assistance of a beta reader, alpha reader, or critique partner. You can always ask them to go into it with the intention of keeping an eye out for the level of detail.

Or, you can ask them after they read it if there was anything that needed clarified or any scenes where it just felt like you were beating them over the head with adjectives and scenery.

Now, I have a strong personal bias on this matter. I don’t like loading up on extra detail. I like my books to be “punchy.” As such, I have a tendency to multitask with the details I choose to include.

If you want more information on that method of employing of detail, check out this blog post:

Just disregard the little update section. Soul Bearer came out last October. I’ve released two other books since then, with another coming out this November, so the writing progress section of that blog is… outdated. Lol.

If you’re new here, don’t forget to subscribe down below to stay up to date on all my future book releases, giveaways, and blog posts.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Writing self-sabotaging characters

Hi, guys!

Last week, I talked about writing believable romance and compelling chemistry, exploring the things that might draw two people together.

But if one of the people involved tends toward self-sabotage, the normal conventions no longer apply and relationships tend toward… dysfunctional.

If you’re writing a self-sabotaging character, it isn’t enough to just put them in a bad relationship. You need to understand why they’re there, so you can write them, and the ensuing relationship, accurately.

There are several types of people who do this. People who fear change and sabotage opportunities to prevent change. People who want to make others feel better about themselves.

And the most common, which is the one we’ll be talking about today, people with catastrophically low self-esteem.

People who genuinely hate themselves or feel intrinsically broken, perhaps due to trauma or a broken home or depression/anxiety, aren’t likely to look for someone who would be good for them. There’s a reason so many people end up in shitty, abusive relationships.

They don’t value themselves worth the effort of improvement or worth taking a good person off the market. They probably don’t even realize what they’re doing to themselves, but they’re seeking the shitty treatment they think they deserve.

At such a low point, something small might be enough to draw them in. Attention of any kind from someone who has even one quality they like, even something small like an outgoing nature, a cool tattoo, or good fashion sense, might be enough to draw them in.

Why?

Because they’re surprised they got attention or compassion from anyone.

And since they’re getting attention from someone, which is more than they think they deserve to begin with, they overlook glaring faults (drug abuse, cheating, domestic abuse, etc.) with ease. There’s a good chance they’ll internalize all of that, blaming themselves for their partner’s philandering or the abuse.

They’re likely to push good people away and seek out shitheads. Meeting someone good isn’t going to magically fix them or show them that they deserve happiness.

Until they learn to value themselves (which takes a hell of a lot of time and work), they won’t seek a functional relationship.

And that may very well be their downfall.

These characters can be absolutely heartbreaking to write, partly because it’s all too real. Far too many people destroy their own chances at happiness simply because they don’t believe themselves worthy of it.

So, if you decide to write one of these characters, keep these things in mind. It will be one hell of a journey, with a lot of time spent in darkness.

Now, on to the progress report. I’ve come to realize that Second to None may end up being a novella. I tend to write far shorter than the average length, regardless of genre. I write very punchy stories, sparing very little time for fluff.

I use my characters to build my world and vice versa, something I explained in a previous blog, which I’ll link below. (Ignore the progress report at the end of that one, because so much has happened since then that it’s irrelevant.)

Now, fantasy tends toward an average of 110,000 words (roughly), but mine lean toward an average of 70,000 or 80,000. Thrillers tend to be about 70,000 words.

So, with my writing style, I expect Second to None to total around 40,000 words. I’m currently sitting at about 7,500 words.

I’ve also made some strides toward releasing A Heart of Salt & Silver, and I’ve been reveling in the recent release of World for the Broken. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, it’s available wherever books are sold. (Amazon link: mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken )

For now, I’m going to keep working away on editing Allmother Rising and writing Second to None.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

P.S.- Here’s the link for the blog explaining the concept of using your world to build your characters and using characters to build the world.

Writing an Unreliable Narrator

Hi, guys!

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

Unreliable narrators.

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

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

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

They almost certainly are not perfectly self-aware.

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

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

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

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

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

Which is where we get unreliable narrators.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so can studying psychology.

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

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

It’s a mess.

And it paints a mess across the entire world.

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

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

Now, as for what I’ve been up to.

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

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

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

mybook.to/WorldForTheBroken

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

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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.

Sorry, Try Again

Hi, guys!

With the rerelease of The Gem of Meruna coming up, I thought I’d delve into the reason I’m REreleasing it, to begin with.

You’d think that after a book is out…that’s it. And, aside from a fuck ton of promoting, that’s true.

Unless you do it wrong the first time.

Then, you have to fix it. Or shove the book into a dark corner, write under a different pen name, and pretend it never happened.

I’m not going to lie to you guys. I seriously considered the latter option. It would’ve been easy. I published The Gem of Meruna under my maiden name, after all.

But it ties into my sci-fi series. Yeah, it’s a standalone, but it’s still in the same universe. And I intend to allude to it in the second book of the series, providing a bit more background.

So now I’m fixing a nearly six year old mistake.

There are a lot of ways to publish a book, and some of them…are downright scams.

The first time I published The Gem of Meruna, I knew jack shit about the publishing industry. I didn’t know what a publisher was supposed to do or not supposed to do. I had no idea how much work went into a proper book launch or how much of that was supposed to fall on me.

All I knew was that I’d written a book and wanted it published. A few google searches brought me to the publisher I went with (I won’t name them here).

When they said they’d publish my book, I was ecstatic.

When they said they’d need a payment of $600 (which they said was a deal, because that premium package would normally cost $1,500), I thought that was normal.

I didn’t know any better.

So I paid up.

Without hesitation.

I supplied the cover art (my husband did it for me, and I turned it over to them). I did the editing (though I knew next to nothing about proper self editing back then).

They formatted it, filed the copyright for me (under my name, thank goodness), and put it online. They’re essentially a self-publishing company that…charges exorbitant amounts of money for their “services.”

Now, they stated everything they were going to do very clearly and put it in the contract. It was all very legal.

But it was very much a “this author literally knows nothing” scam.

When it came time for advertising?

You guessed it.

Another bill. For subpar marketing. (The press release literally said that I was doing a marketing campaign. Like…duh. If a newspaper receives a press release, it’s pretty fucking obvious that there’s a marketing campaign going on…)

And then there’s all the phone calls…

They switched me from one marketing rep to another, hoping the new one would be able to talk over me enough to persuade me to buy another marketing package. The reps always had hard-to-pinpoint accents coupled with conspicuously American names.

They called again and again and again, on days that I told them I had to work, often calling until I gave up and answered (then complained about the noise of the factory I work in). When I worked overnights, they perpetually called on Friday afternoons (aka when I laid down to prep for a 12 hour overnight shift, aka a time that I told them not to call) For a while, I even blocked their number because I was tired of being talked over/talked down to.

And that’s a horrible way to go about your first book release. It’s something that should be celebrated, not regretted.

And once I realized my mistake, I was always afraid someone would find out HOW I got published. I was afraid that I wasn’t a real author because they’ll print anything, so long as you’re willing to pay them.

When really, I just got taken in by a company geared for that because I didn’t do enough research.

So listen up. If a publisher tells you that you have to pay them hundreds (or thousands, like another company told me) of dollars to publish your book, run as fast and far as you can. That is not self-publishing. That’s a vanity press.

*grabs spray bottle*

Get away from them.

*sprays water*

So let’s break it down.

Self-publishing requires a lot from the author. Everything (editing, formatting, cover art, publicity, etc.) has to be done or arranged by the author, but you get to decide everything. (Flipside…you have to decide everything. There are no experts telling you when you’re making a mistake.) You get royalties for every sale.

Traditional publishing requires a lot less of the author and is packed with experts who know better. But leaves you with less control and takes absolutely fucking forever to even get your book picked up. Like…years. You either get royalties for each sale or you get an advance and then royalties if you sell enough copies to out-earn your advance (not likely. They’re pretty good at figuring up how many copies will be sold).

Vanity presses take your money.

That’s literally it.

Yeah, they give you royalties for each sale, but given that most books never sell more than 200 copies…making back that ridiculous sum of money that you paid them isn’t likely.

And unless you pay the vanity press even more, all the responsibilities of a self-published author will fall on you. So you either have to do all of those things (editing, cover art, publicity, etc.)…or pay someone else to do them.

So don’t publish with a vanity press.

Learn from my mistake.

Now, almost six years later, The Gem of Meruna has been polished to the standard it should’ve been published at originally, and will be available on New Year’s Eve. I’ve been working hard to finalize everything this past week.

For those who read it when it was published the first time around, thank you. The story hasn’t changed. So, unless you want the new cover, you don’t need to buy it again.

I also finished another round of edits on After (soon to be renamed) and got back to writing on my Sci-fi series. Thank goodness.

Not writing was driving me a little batty. October did more than enough toward that end without the whole not-writing- thing.

For now though…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Bad Guys, Advice, and…Salads?

Hi, guys!

In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d talk about book villains and what makes them good.

Well, good villains, at any rate. Obviously they’re not good, or they’d be the hero.

Now, villains don’t have to be super maniacal. Hell, they don’t even have to be a person.

They just have to do two things.

1. They have to oppose your hero, providing obstacles and difficulties for them. They’re the antagonist, so obviously they have to antagonize. (See what I did there? Lol)

2. They have to do it for a reason.

Being the bad guy…just because bad guy

Doesn’t work.

Your antagonist needs to be fully realized, every bit as much as your protagonist.

They have to have motives and a purpose. Even inanimate objects have a purpose, so why the fuck wouldn’t a fully fledged person?

Btw, chances are, the antagonist will fully believe in their purpose. If they don’t…you have to tell us why. Are they in denial? Are they being pressured by someone worse? If so…what are the motives behind THAT person’s actions?

Antagonists have feelings (unless they’re a sociopath or an actual inanimate object).

All of this needs to be taken into account, and they need to act accordingly. Even if you don’t devote page after page after page to their backstory, there still needs to be a clear set of patterns and emotions governing your antagonist’s actions.

If that isn’t the case, if you just write a bad guy because you need a bad guy…your story will fall flat.

If we were talking about some random side character that has a single line of inconsequential dialogue…you could write a less-than-half-assed backstory, and literally no one would know the difference.

But this is the main antagonist we’re talking about, here.

They play a huge role in the story, setting up a DIRECT contrast to your hero. Stopping them and their evil plot is the whole freaking point.

If they’re flat, there’s no real challenge for the hero.

So today I thought I’d discuss what makes a good bad guy. There are so many types to choose from.

Of course, there’s the spoiled brat. Inflated self worth leads to tantrums and breaking others’ toys until they get what they want. It just so happens that toys as adults can mean a car…or a kneecap.

These can be pretty fun to write, but I fucking hate reading that type. Lol. Its so much more frustrating than other types.

Now, the sociopath is close to “bad guy because bad guy,” but there’s still a motive involved. They aren’t necessarily hurting others because they like it…empathy just doesn’t quite factor in for a sociopath, you know with the whole…lacking emotion thing. Maybe other people are tools to them, a means to an end.

A way to make their plans work whether it goes badly for other people or not.

Anti-heroes are fun as antagonists or protagonists, honestly. Deadpool, anyone? Or perhaps…my novella, Annabelle? These villains genuinely believe in their cause. Who knows, maybe it’s a good cause? They just cross the line when they go for it.

Maybe you’re writing a story about two people competing for the same lover, or someone trying to seduce someone’s partner? Why are they doing it? Even something so simple as this (compared to conquering kingdoms and such) needs a motive.

Why are they after that one particular partner? Is going after married people a habit for them? Did they have an ambivalent or absent parent? Were they cheated on? Maybe they feel that your protagonist wronged them, and this is simplest form of revenge they can come up with (that won’t land them in jail.

Whatever the reason, you need to know it.

Maybe they do terrible, terrible things to others because they want to feel powerful. Were their parents control freaks? Did they have no autonomy growing up, and now need so much power that they take other people’s rights away to feel better?

Your main antagonist could honestly be your protagonist. To a degree, every protagonist should also be their own antagonist. Not always the main one, not unless it’s strictly a story about dealing with yourself and getting out of your own way. But every person in history has stepped on their own toes, in some way, shape, or form, at some point in their life.

We all do stupid shit. We all make bad decisions. We all cause problems for ourselves.

Inanimate objects and mythical beasts are the only time its really acceptable to have a bad guy be bad by its very nature.

Even your villain’s fatal flaw, the thing the hero uses to finally win, needs to have a reason.

Do acts of kindness make them feel weak because they were never shown kindness and had to be “strong enough” to make it on their own? You decide.

But it can’t be something ridiculous like…they convulse uncontrollably at the sight of a salad.

I mean, you can do that, but you have to commit. Every other aspect of that story better be just as ridiculous as a mega-villain who seizes-out every time they see a salad. And even that needs to have a reason, goofy as the backstory for that may be.

If you’re stuck, if your story feels a bit flat…maybe the problem isn’t your fully imagined hero, with every second of their life mapped out in beautiful detail, who you’ve had rendered by three different artists just because.

Maybe the problem is the villain you gave five minutes of thought.

Making them more realistic and giving them clear motives and plans will probably make it easier to spice up the story.

Hell, even if your story is phenomenal despite a two dimensional villain (which…how?), think how much better it could be if your antagonist had a real goal besides…making your hero’s life hell just because they can…

And if you don’t like thinking about the bad guy?

Literally no one cares. Lol.

It’s part of writing, my dudes.

So get to it. There’s no better time than Halloween.

Now, as far as what I’ve been up to in the past week, well…I released a book. Lol. Soul Bearer is officially available, which is freaking exciting. The reading and the live were super nerve wracking.

But it was worth it. Thank you to everyone that tuned in, and an even bigger thanks to those of you who’ve bought a copy. I truly appreciate it.

This past week was another…tremendously chaotic and terrible week. But the book release and the response from all of you was a wonderful bright spot.

I’ve also been editing and formatting. I also did some resizing of cover designs, now that I know the page length (aka the spine width) of The Gem of Meruna. I’ll be announcing the official rerelease date later this week! I’ll be contacting ARC readers in the next week or so.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Soul Bearer: The Beginning

Hi, guys!

So, with Soul Bearer’s release date coming up (freaking tomorrow!), I thought I’d talk about the creation of the story. I’ve talked about my writing process (or lack thereof) before, but I’ve never really gone into specifics for this story in, particular.

The spark, the catalyst, was a dream, which I know sounds corny. But that’s what the prologue was. I woke up with a dream of a princess and a burning necklace and the return of dragons.

So I wrote down the bare bones of that scene and ran with it.

The princess in that scene just happened to fall into a trope I don’t particularly like writing. She’s prissy and overly concerned with her looks. She’s led an easy, privileged life and as such, follows whims even when they’re definitely a bad idea because well…what are consequences?

She doesn’t really know because she’s never faced them.

I hate that trope, that stereotypical princess type.

And she certainly wasn’t going to be the one fighting the dragon.

So her part ended, sort of, in the prologue. I can’t say how her part continued because spoilers.

But that meant I had to come up with someone else to sort out the problem of the dragon and a means for them to do so.

And therein lies the problem with writing something from a dream. It takes a lot of work to make it work. I know, writing a book takes work, in general, but dreams have a tendency to make little to no sense.

And fiction has to make sense.

You have to have a reason for everything. Anything you put in the story has to be justified by a fully built world and three dimensional characters whose backgrounds support the information you’re giving.

Everything has to line up.

Because if it doesn’t line up, you end up with plot holes and angry readers.

And no one wants that.

Now, I tend to have these little…half imagined bits of story floating around in my head, pretty much constantly. A character here, an encounter there. There’s always an assortment to choose from.

I just have to find the world, and the story, they fit into.

Well, Visan (the world of Soul Bearer) turned out to be the home I’d been lacking for Aurisye. I hadn’t named her yet,and her story ended up changing drastically by the time it was all said and done. I didn’t know she’d be so powerful before I found her home in this story. But the core of her, the basis of who she was before the dragons rose, was already in my head and it belonged in this world.

There was another little tidbit, a chance encounter, that eventually became her mother’s story. I had no idea it belonged in Soul Bearer until I got to close to the scene, though. Lol.

As for Rafnor, he was always a part of this world. He developed with it, grew with it. He was never separate from the world of Soul Bearers.

Now, there was something I was asked about by a couple of ARC readers: the names. They wanted to know how I came up with them.

So, in case any of you are curious, this is what I did.

I chose a few languages that I don’t speak, picked words that I associated with the characters, and then looked them up in those other languages. When I found a translation or translated synonym that I liked the sound of, I altered it to fit the sounds of the cultures in the book.

For the Elves, I mostly translated stuff to French. I wanted it to have a soft, seductive feel. It just seems like something that would whisper through the leaves of their wooded kingdom.

The Elves in this story (dark elves, btw) are intelligent and witty, but also conniving. Having such smooth sounds set up a nice contrast.

I wanted the Orcish names to be the exact opposite. I wanted their names to embody the harsh, rough culture (and climate) they live in. So I translated to German and roughed the words up a bit more, smashing consonants together.

For the Humans, I went with variations on old English and Nordic words and names.

No matter what word I chose, I always…massaged the spelling to make it sound how I wanted, though.

It took about 6 months to write the first draft of this one. Then, after many edits, I started submitting it to traditional publishers. Before it got accepted anywhere though, I decided traditional wasn’t the way for me to go.

I’ve been heading down the Indie road ever since.

Now, I’ll be posting a video on release day, aka October 22nd. (Freaking tomorrow!)

*gasp* A video?

I know, I almost never show my face. It’s almost like I don’t like being in pictures or videos…

But, for you guys, I’m going to get over it, and do something that I always dreaded back in school. I’m going to read aloud for the group.

I’ll be doing a reading of the prologue of Soul Bearer!

It’ll be posted here for sure. Possibly on FB or IG, if I can figure out how to get around the time limit on IG. It’ll be at 3:00 p.m. central time. I’ll post about it on social media when it’s up, and I’ll send out an email to all my subscribers to let you know.

Then, I’ll be going live for the first time EVER on Instagram at 4:00 p.m. central time to answer questions and….*drum roll* announce the winners of the giveaway!

Don’t worry. If you can’t tune in, it doesn’t null your winnings. I’ll message each winner directly to let them know.

It’s going to be an exciting week.

And I finally get all three of my days off this week! No overtime, just my actual 40 hour schedule. That hasn’t happened in a while.

Now, normally I would do a full-on update on how my week went, but this time, I think I’ll just say that I got a lot of editing done on one story, some formatting done on another, and managed to get through all of my days.

I might do a full blog about this past week…next week. I’m not sure yet. It’s been an absolute train wreck.

These three days off could not have been better timed.

For now, though…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Be better. READ.

Hi, guys!

So, we all read, right?

I mean, that’s the big unifier here. We’re readers and writers. Books are kinda the entire point of this blog and this website.

In one of the writing groups I’m in though, there have been several posts over the past month or so asking if you HAVE to read in order to be a writer…

And it just blows my mind.

Like…

How?

I mean, I guess you don’t HAVE to, but…

*shakes head*

I guess I just don’t get it.

On the one hand it’s as if they think they’re too good to bother reading anyone else’s work. Or too good to have anything to learn from another writer.

On the other hand…Don’t these people love stories? I mean…that’s the point of writing fiction.

Without a love of stories…why write?

And if you have a love for stories, why wouldn’t you want to read?

I’ve always loved reading. Seeing different worlds in my mind, living a million different lives, experiencing magic and dragon fights and run-ins with serial killers and secret societies…I just love it.

And it’s so deeply connected to writing. It’s literally the other side of the coin.

So, while it isn’t technically a requirement to be an avid reader in order to write, here’s why you probably should read.

A lot.

Now, of course there are the super obvious reasons.

First and foremost, reading is fucking awesome.

But also, it helps you see other perspectives and worlds and experiences. It opens your mind to other lifestyles. It allows for an escape when the real world is too much and an adventure when real life feels stagnant.

Reading sparks creativity and stirs the imagination.

But for writers, it also teaches us more about the thing we’re trying to do.

You’d be amazed just how much you can learn through osmosis.

Flow is massively important. You don’t want your readers to feel like they have to drag themselves through your book.

Guess what can show you what makes a book drag on?

Fucking reading a book, that’s what.

It shows you how to vary your sentence lengths to make your prose feel musical. It sounds better in your head, or read aloud, if you switch that shit up.

But if you never read…

How the hell will you know that?

You’ll turn out a whole book with all the damn sentences structured the same way and no one will want to read it.

Story structure can also be absorbed organically, just by reading. If you read a lot, you know that there will be a certain progression in a book, even if the author has taken it upon themselves to jump around in the timeline. You know that there will be a lot of build up, some twists, a big climactic event, and then a little bit more to tidy things up.

Naturally, you just know that most of the book takes place before the big Big BIG scene.

Reading also teaches you what you like and don’t like in a book. It shows you what’s common in your genre.

Which tropes work for your audience and which ones don’t?

What variations of those tropes have been tried?

Why were they successful? Why did they fail?

What would have made them better?

Wanna know how to learn that stuff? Open a damn book.

Reading teaches you little nuances of grammar.

It also teaches you that sometimes it’s okay to break grammar rules (hell, it’s okay to break pretty much any writing rule) if it’s appropriate for the style of writing or makes some sort of point in the story.

Stephen King’s short story, The End of the Whole Mess, illustrates this perfectly. I won’t say how/why/when he does it because spoilers, but he abandons spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, EVERYTHING in the name of the story, and it MAKES the story. I would’ve forgotten it in a heartbeat if not for this stroke of genius.

But reading doesn’t just make for a bunch of rule-breaking, outlaw writers. The only way you learn when it’s okay to break rules is by learning the rules.

Books do that! They teach you the rules, and show you why certain things are done the way they are.

When you read a book with 25 main characters and start losing track, you know not to do that. When you read a book that switches perspectives mid-paragraph and you have to stop and go back to sort out who’s talking…you know not to do that. It’s so much easier for the reader if you switch at the start of a new chapter.

The first time you read a 79 page chapter, you’ll see why things are usually broken up a bit more than that. So readers can find stopping points if they need to. To keep readers on their toes. To stop scenes in the middle and keep people turning pages.

Even if you read like me (aka slow as fuck), you’re still going to pick up on stuff.

So go read.

Stop asking if you should or if you have to read to be a writer.

Just read, already.

And speaking of reading…

Soul Bearer releases in just over a week!!!! Holy freaking crap!

Okay. So, I’m pretty excited. Obviously.

And you should be, too. I’ll be hosting a giveaway, in which TEN people will get a free, signed hardback copy of Soul Bearer. And some freaking awesome swag…designed by yours truly.

And one of those winners (this one chosen exclusively from my email subscriber list…hint hint) will also get a free, signed copy of my novella, Annabelle.

I’ll be posting the official rules, as well as pictures of the awesome prizes, Tuesday.

I have yet to decide whether it’ll be international or strictly in the United States (sorry). I’ll announce that with the rules, obviously, so keep an eye out for my posts on IG and FB.

International shipping is expensive as fuck and so are veterinary bills. And I’m a broke bitch from way back. So we’ll see how expensive it turns out to be when we pick up Mr. Pickles, today or tomorrow.

If you can’t tell from the fact that I’ve posted updates every day since he went to the vet, he’s kinda important to me. Lol. Plus, he’s my writing buddy and usually climbs all over me while I do my blog posts or edit or write.

So not having him on my lap right now is weird…

Anyway, I also have some special things planned for release day (Oct. 22nd). I’m going to try to record a reading of the prologue of Soul Bearer for all of you. I also intend to do my very first live on IG and FB, talking about the book and answering questions.

I just have to learn how to do both of those things…Lol.

If you saw the picture I posted on IG and FB of the guy laughing maniacally with his parachute on fire…Yeah, that’s my mind, a lot of the time.

Chaos and literally just doing things.

Anyway though.

Keep reading. (Seriously. Keep reading.) Keep writing.

Later.

Playing God

Hi, guys!

Today’s topic is a heavy one…Religion.

No, my beliefs are not being discussed or mentioned, at all. I’m not trying to make you believe or not believe something.

I’m simply talking about writing religion into your books, whether they’re set in the real world or a world you made up specifically for the book.

Religion is a huge part of society. Its one of those things that has the potential to completely shape how an entire civilization evolves. Its presence or absence has a huge impact on the world it’s set in, and as such, it should be treated with the levity it deserves, regardless of your own religious beliefs.

At the heart of religion, people want to feel cared for. They want to feel like someone more powerful has a plan for their life. They need an explanation for things they don’t understand, whether they’ve had a strange experience or are simply wondering what happens after death.

Religion provides these things. It holds answers and safety and structure.

It often demands certain practices in exchange for these answers and safety and structure, though, shaping day to day life for any who follow devoutly.

As such, you can’t just…glaze over it and expect no one to notice that not a single person in your story believes in any type of religion whatsoever.

Especially if you’re building your own world.

Whatever religion you believe in the real world may or may not influence what you write. You’re making up a religion and a world. It might have similarities with real world religions, but it won’t be exactly the same.

So go crazy.

It doesn’t have to be logical or easily proved. If it were easy to prove, it wouldn’t be religion. It would be scientific fact. Religion, by its very nature, involves some sort of faith in the unknown and unknowable.

If you want your characters to worship a dragon that lives in the stars and cries when they misbehave (maybe they live near an intersection of rivers and heavy rain makes it flood a lot, idk), go for it.

You just want to make sure it’s consistent within itself unless the story is about figuring out why the religion goes against itself. Tons of unintentional contradictions make for plot holes, things you definitely don’t want in your story. So be thorough.

One of the first things to consider if you’re building a world is whether your characters are surrounded by pagan or monotheistic religions.

Maybe they all believe in the same gods, but one tribe worships one god and a neighboring tribe worships a different one. Does that cause tension? Strife?

War?

Maybe one faction interprets the same religion differently than another faction. That certainly causes problems in the real world. Does it cause trouble in your story?

These are things you need to consider.

Now, unlike the real world where no single person can know for sure whether any one religion is correct, as an author, you know that about your world. You know if one is correct and another is wrong. You know if they all contain little grains of truth.

You know if maybe…they’re all wrong. Do any of your characters know the truth about their world and the gods that govern it?

Or maybe they think they know.

That one person would see the world very differently than the people around them.

You should probably also consider how the god views the world, or at least, how the people think the god views the world. People who think their god is forgiving are likely to conduct themselves differently than people who think their god is easily angered and vindictive.

And if they think their god just…doesn’t care? That the world was created, and then that was it? What then?

Easily angered gods might demand human sacrifices. Forgiving gods may wish only for repentance. Or perhaps, they’ll demand sacrifice to show sorrow over one’s actions.

It all plays a role in the world you’re building and the lives of the characters in it, and it’s your job as the author to figure that out.

Now, if you’re writing a story set in the real world, good news! The religions already exist. There are still some things to consider.

Again, not everyone believes the same thing. The people in your story need to reflect that.

Unless your story is set in an Amish community, and never leaves that community, the odds of everyone in the story being of the same religion…are pretty slim.

The world has become a hell of a melting pot. Diversity is everywhere. What people believe in regards to religion or sexual orientation or race or gender or whatever…differs.

Wildly.

The odds of two people believing exactly the same on every topic is pretty much impossible. Unless one of them has cult leader charisma, and brainwashes the other one. Which, to be fair, has been the basis of many stories.

But it’s typically set against the backdrop of other people who believe differently, so…you still have to consider multiple viewpoints.

Now, if your main character has the same religious beliefs as you…be careful. Yes, that means you have more insight into the inner workings of that religion and common dilemmas faced by those who practice it.

But you also run the risk of coming off a little…preachy…if you’re not careful.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe you’re trying to bring people over to your religion through your writing.

But that’s something that you need to commit to. Way ahead of time. And something that should be handled with tact.

A lot of tact.

Now, for the sake of realism, you probably need to show your character having doubts, at some point. It adds tons of extra drama and gives the character more depth.

For example, I set my post-apocalyptic novel, After (new title to be announced later), right here in southern Illinois.

A.K.A. The Bible Belt.

Christianity is huge here.

And the apocalypse is fucking fantastic at testing faith.

But different people react differently. Some people cling to their faith for comfort in the face of adversity. Others relinquish it completely. Some believe but get angry, while other people fall into spirals of doubt.

Some people do all those things in the course of a single particularly trying afternoon.

What happens to each individual character’s beliefs after trauma depends on their personalities, their life experiences to that point, the strength of their beliefs, their upbringing, their surroundings.

All these things play a role.

As do about a million other things.

All of which, you need to think about.

So, whether you’re religious or not, there’s a good chance that some sort of religion will influence whatever world you write your story in.

Somehow.

Some way.

Don’t be lazy and pretend no one ever heard of religion.

Anyway, this past week, I spent a decent amount of time editing my post-apocalyptic novel. I also did more work on book covers (a few options took a ton of time in photoshop) and well…played a lot of minecraft. Lol.

I know, it’s not writing related, but that game is so addictive. And it was nice to play a video game again. I’ve been so caught up in trying to get everything done that I haven’t played any game in…weeks? Months? I’m honestly not sure.

I’ll be announcing giveaway rules next week, so come back next Monday to learn how you can win a signed copy of Soul Bearer, along with a shit ton of swag and possibly a signed copy of Annabelle.

For now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Really…What are you waiting for?

Hi, guys!

So, I’m sure that, of the people here, the majority of you found your way here from Instagram or Facebook.

Which means that you likely saw the Shatner/Captain Kirk meme about novels not completing themselves. If not, don’t worry because that’s the gist of it.

Novels don’t write themselves.

There’s this problem called procrastination, though. It seems to get the best of everyone, at some point or another.

But it doesn’t have to.

Now, the first problem here isn’t actually the procrastination. It’s why you’re procrastinating.

Are you afraid your work won’t be good?

Here’s a hint, it can’t be good if you don’t write it.

Maybe you don’t know where to start.

Maybe try outlining.

I don’t do it, but it helps a lot of people.

Just don’t get so hung up on all the tiny details like the birthday of the MC’s fourth cousin three times removed, who plays no role in the story, but you feel like you should have everything lined out before you put a single word of prose into a document, when really you’re just procrastinating again.

Maybe you’re procrastinating because secretly you don’t want to write, but don’t know how to admit that to everyone you’ve already told that you’re a writer. (If that’s the case, you need to address why you’re afraid to be honest with those people.)

No matter what, you need to figure out why you’re procrastinating.

Then, you need to cut the bullshit.

Quit pretending all those DVDs need re-alphabetized, or whatever you’re doing to avoid writing.

If you don’t want to be a writer, that’s a different matter altogether. You have to come to terms with that.

But if you do, if you want to be a writer, then at some point…

You have to write.

That’s literally all it takes.

So get out of your way and write.

If you’re afraid that it’ll be bad, type one terrible sentence, just to get your fingers on the keys, then just don’t stop. It’s not like you’re going to write a bunch of stuff worse than that first sentence.

And if you do?

So fucking what.

First drafts aren’t perfect. They aren’t meant to be.

They’re just meant to be written.

You’re going to go through multiple rounds of editing, anyway, be it self-editing, having a friend who’s a grammar nut go through it, or hiring a professional.

And if you’re not editing anything, if you’re self-publishing your first draft, you’re doing this wrong.

That’s about the only thing in the writing world that can, without a doubt, be judged as right or wrong. Everything else is subjective as hell.

But if you’re not editing AT ALL before publishing, you’re doing it wrong.

So lighten up.

Get over yourself.

Your first draft will not be perfect.

And that’s fine.

It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be written.

Get rid of all the pressure of getting it perfect and write something.

Anything.

Even if you delete the entire scene from the final story.

So long as you’re writing.

Now, I’ll step off my soapbox. Lol.

This past week, I completed my last round of pre-professional edits on The Gem of Meruna. It’s going off for proofreading in October, at which point I’ll likely announce the official re-release date.

I made huge headway on editing my post-apocalyptic novel, formerly known as After. I’m changing the title because I don’t want my story to get lost beneath the pile of other stories called After.

I came up with a new title and put together a mock up for the cover, which I really like. It got a positive reaction from my husband, who knows a thing or two about art/design, and I’ll be asking some writer friends for their opinion soon.

I also decided to change the title of Salt and Silver to avoid clashing titles with a fellow writer, and even came up with a new one. And a potential cover design idea for it.

And…super exciting…I ordered the copies of Soul Bearer that I’ll be giving away! They should be here within a couple weeks, at which point I’ll plaster pictures of them all over the internet and announce the official rules and prizes.

And I started reading Bird Box. And made it like halfway through. I’ll post a review when I finish it, of course, but so far I’m enjoying it. I’m definitely glad I watched the movie first, thus avoiding the inevitable “I can’t believe they left that out, now I’m angry” moments.

Holy crap, guys.

I didn’t realize how busy I’ve been. Lol.

For now, though, I need some sleep. Work dragged on today, and I am exhausted.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.