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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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 Write like a Reader

Sometimes, as writers, we ignore one of the greatest resources at our disposal: our own experiences as readers.

A vast well of knowledge resides within us, but sometimes we get caught up trying to figure out the rules and completely forget about that.

Our pet peeves as readers should guide us as writers.

Examples from my own personal pet peeves (and thus, my personal guides for my own books):

Blurb vs Review Quotes

I can’t stand a back cover full of review quotes. I want to see the blurb when I turn a book over, not some quote calling it “derisive” or “nebulous.”

Kindly fuck off with that shit.

I want to turn the book over and see what it’s about.

So when I publish, I put the blurb on the back cover. I might have a pull quote somewhere on there, but the blurb is front and center. (Well, back and center because it’s the back of the book.)

Series Numbers

I don’t typically write series (my current, almost completed wip being the exception), but from my experience as a reader, I will have Book One or Book Two or Book Whatever Number The Series Reaches on the cover and spine. There have been so many times that I’ve picked up a book and learned after reaching the end of it that there are 4 or 7 more books.

It’s infuriating.

So as a writer, I won’t do that to my readers.

Inconsistent Characters for Convenience

I hate when characters make stupid decisions that don’t line up with their personalities but are convenient for the plot. So as a writer, I won’t do that.

Head Hopping

I love books with multiple POVs, so I often write them. But I hate when the point of view changes without warning/within the same scene or chapter. Even worse… within the same paragraph.

So for the sake of my readers, when I change POV in a book, I start a new chapter and put the characters name below the chapter number, because that’s how I prefer to read it.

There are so many little things that we’ve learned as readers that can make us better writers or improve the reading experience as a whole for our readers.

So, next time you’re faced with a decision about your cover or your formatting or whatever, switch from writer brain to reader brain.

Do whatever wouldn’t piss you off as a reader.


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).

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.