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.

Before You Break

Hi, guys!

I’m almost done with my last round of edits on The Gem of Meruna! Then, it goes off for proofreading in October. I think I’ll be finalizing the release date soon.

I also went through Salt and Silver with Grammarly, and learned that…Grammarly hates when you write a character with an accent. But I don’t care. The editing program just had to get over that. Lol.

It really sets that character apart.

Which is important.

Not to mention the impact on the plot for him to have come from a different country. He’s seen more things than the other two MCs. He’s experienced things in coming to their country that shaped him into who he is.

So it’s plot related, thus Grammarly can shove it. The accent stayed, misspelled words and all.

Also, Soul Bearer is so freaking close…Officially less than a month, now! Release day is so close, and I’m super excited.

But I’m also…not where I need to be.

I should have called a bunch of places last week (local libraries and bookstores) about carrying my book and doing signings (something I’ve never done before). Honestly, I should’ve done all that long before now.

I went to a few places a couple weeks ago. I put on my big girl pants, and told myself I just had to do it. But…

I don’t do well with people.

The librarians I spoke with were so nice…

But my nerves were so frazzled from speaking to strangers, from trying to tell them my book was good enough for them to bother with, and by extension, trying to convince them that I’m a good enough author for people to bother with…

…my hands were shaking when I got back to the car. I sat there with tears pouring down my cheeks, telling myself I was stupid for crying.

I mean, all I did was talk to really nice librarians.

True, the bookstore I went to before that turned out to be disappointing. (They charge authors a LOT of money to do a signing. I don’t know if that’s normal, as this is the first attempt I’ve made at doing a signing. Possibly the last for a while if I don’t get a better hold on my social anxiety.)

Anyway, it took me far too long to stop the tears and still my trembling hands. I held it together while talking to the people, but after the fact, I fell apart.

I have no patience for myself or the ways that my body reacts. I’ve never had patience for myself. I always expect perfection in anything I do.

But this social anxiety…I’m so tired of it, you guys.

In the moment, I vented to my husband and to some writer friends, and they all told me what I would have told them, if the roles were reversed. “It’s how your body reacts. It isn’t stupid. You’re not stupid. This is just a stressful thing for you.”

And of course, they were right.

I’ve never handled social situations well. It just isn’t my strong suit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting better at it.

I push myself.

But it’s still holding me back, and I hate that.

Even more so, because this is my dream.

This is it for me. I’m a writer. I want to be a successful writer so I can stay home and write even more. But publicity and events and all that is such a vital part of getting my books out there, and I’m just…not sure I’m there, yet.

I’m sure it’s like tons of other things, do it enough and you get used to it.

And I’m sure I’m not going to let myself out of it. I’m not that kind to myself. I push.

But god…There should be a limit to how many times a person can fall apart. Lol. You deal with a set number of anxiety attacks over the course of your life, and then after that, your anxiety levels are proportional to the things going on in your life.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

I feel like I’m rambling.

Anyway…

I did take a bit of time for myself this week. I’ve been overextending myself lately, spreading myself too thin.

I’ve always been reclusive, and I’ve always needed that time to myself to recharge. But I’ve been people-ing nonstop for months now, never truly being alone.

It was running me ragged. I know it’s hard to tell on social media sometimes, but I’ve been incredibly cynical and flat, of late. (I always am, but it’s been really bad lately.)

So, this week, I did one nice thing for myself.

When it came time for editing a few days ago, I locked myself away in my library. I ignored my phone. I put in headphones, and tuned out the real world and all the people I needed to call or message, and all the things I needed to do that involved people.

I let my little sanctuary soothe me. I let the unbelievably mesmerizing scent of that room, with all its old books and candles and incense, take me away.

And I just sat there, by myself, editing my book.

And barring the absolute shit show at work the past couple days, I’ve been in a much better mood since then.

Surprise, surprise.

*rolls eyes at self*

God…

Guys, take care of yourselves.

Don’t be dumb, like me. DO something to help yourself cope with the world around you BEFORE you reach anxiety-attack-levels of stress.

You can even keep yourself productive while you do your self care, like I did, if you really feel like you don’t have time. (Another jab at myself? No…never…) I sat by myself with candles and music and chocolate and old books, and did some editing.

But chances are…you probably have time. Even if it’s just five minutes to unwind.

Stop scrolling, set the phone aside, and do something for you. Maybe stay up ten minutes later and go for a walk, clear your head.

Do something for you.

Please.

As always…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Frickin’ Goals

Hi, guys!

So, last week was mostly spent putting the final touches on Soul Bearer after receiving the proof copies (Centering the back cover and eliminating a few errant typos/unnecessary commas, that sort of thing).

I also made a decent amount of headway on the final round of (my) edits for the rerelease of The Gem of Meruna, and set up a date for it to go to an editor for proofreading.

All in all, not bad.

It’ll have me on track for the tentative release schedule I’ve set for myself. I’ll not be announcing dates until closer to time, because it’s all subject to change. I know very well that life throws curve balls.

But I have a schedule and I intend to stick to it as closely as possible.

It’s not an easy schedule, but I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got.

Which brings me to the main topic.

Frickin goals.

You need them.

They’re serious motivators. Humans (in general) hate feeling like they’ve failed. Setting a goal pushes you, it makes you feel like something’s at stake even if the only thing you stand to lose is a little pride.

You need goals for your life to keep you moving forward, to keep you from stagnating.

But you need good ones.

Whether you’re reading, writing, or working toward some other dream (maybe you want to sell ice cream on the beach? Idk), you need realistic, achievable, challenging goals.

If you say, “I want to read 300 books this year,” but it takes you an average of a week to finish a book, you’re probably not going to push yourself to reach that goal because you know it’s not going to happen.

Aiming for 52 books a year is more attainable, obviously. It holds you to reading, at a pace you know you can maintain. Wanna push yourself to read more? Go for 55.

On the flipside, if you set a goal of finishing your first draft (no editing, just first draft) by the end of this year and you only have one more chapter (and your average is a week for a chapter)…

Who gives a fuck about that goal? It’s meaningless.

It doesn’t push you to write faster or work harder. It’s just some silly arbitrary thing you came up with and didn’t care about.

Aiming to have it done by Friday rather than by Sunday? That’s a better goal. It’s more attainable, but still pushes you.

Achieving a goal provides a sense of satisfaction beyond the original satisfaction of finishing something, as well as a little ego boost because, hey, you freaking did it.

But if it’s something you knew you’d do and the goal was just kinda thrown in there for shits and giggles…that extra boost disappears.

For example, at work, we can build out.

Basically, what that means is, if we build the number of tires we’re supposed to build over the course of a shift before the end of the shift, we can stop working and still get paid for being there. We can sit in the cafeteria or go to the on-site gym. We just can’t leave until the end of the shift.

The rates used to be unbelievably high. Like…push-yourself-into-a-frenzy-all-day-long-and-if-one-thing-goes-wrong-you’re-done high.

And no one tried.

Because it was stupid.

Why exhaust yourself to get 5 minutes of sitting at the end of a 12 hour shift, knowing you’re going to be sore and dead on your feet the next day when you come back for another 12 hour shift?

Or worse, push yourself super hard, and then, with an hour left to go, get a cassette of material that’s absolute garbage, but there’s no more, so you just have to fix every single tire, and suddenly your build out disappears. But you’re still absolutely exhausted, and still working.

No thanks.

But recently, they lowered the rates. They’re attainable, now.

You still have to push, and any serious problem means it’s out the window….but it’s possible to have an entire hour at the end of the shift where you don’t have to run a machine.

So people try, now.

I try every damn day.

And most days, I get to spend 45 minutes to an hour and a half getting paid to sit on my ass, reading, while someone else takes over and builds more tires on my machine.

The company gets more product, morale goes up, and I get to read or write or work on a blog post at work.

All because of a challenging, but achievable goal.

So, as I said above, I’ve set a tentative release schedule for the rerelease of The Gem of Meruna and the releases of After, Where Darkness Leads, and Salt and Silver, all to follow the release of Soul Bearer.

I intend to finish The Regonia Chronicles by the time all those are out, and then those books will be added to the release schedule.

It’s going to be rigorous. It’ll be a lot of late nights (my preferred kind of night, honestly).

But I’m going to get these books out as close to the schedule as is humanly possible.

I’m pushing myself harder for a bunch of dates I literally pulled out of thin air.

Yeah, I made sure to leave time for life, while still keeping it challenging.

But now, I’m going to push.

And you should, too.

Set a goal for yourself, and push toward it.

Whether it’s a certain number of books to read for the year or a word count for the week or maybe something long term (starting a business or some such thing).

Believe in yourself enough to set a goal.

Then, fucking get it!

Feel free to leave tips or tricks for goal setting in the comments. You know, all that “like, comment, subscribe” stuff youtubers say at the end of their videos. It applies here, too, but I feel awkward as hell saying it. Lol.

As always…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Keep It Punchy

Hi, guys!

So, the hardback proof of Soul Bearer came in this week (the paperback should be in today/tomorrow, and I’ll put up pictures after that. Idk why they shipped separately). It’s so exciting to see it, to finally hold it in my hands after staring at it on a computer screen for so long.

It still doesn’t quite feel real. Lol.

Of course, there are a couple things that need adjusted, some things that didn’t translate to print how they should have (hence the need for a proof copy), and I’ll have to adjust those. But it’s in my library, now.

It’s on my shelf, and I freaking love it!

I’ll stop gushing now though, and get to the point. Lol. The physical copy sparked a conversation between my husband and I. He expected the hard back copy to be thicker than it is.

It’s not a super long novel, by any means, coming in at just over 70,000 words. High fantasy, nowadays has a tendency to run pretty long though, sometimes topping out above 100,000 words.

There’s this trend lately for books to be huge, lengthy tomes that, if used as a weapon, could knock someone senseless. (Ironically.)

Now, my husband is a huge fan of Andre Norton. He has about one sixth of her books (which is saying something, since she wrote several hundred). She wrote high fantasy and scifi. But her average word count was, I think, between 40,000 and 50,000 per book.

Nowadays, that’s considered a novella, not a novel.

So many people want big books, now.

Anyway, my husband asked how I get so much stuff into my books, without the books being far longer. And my answer kinda surprised me. Lol.

I hadn’t thought about it until the words came out of my mouth.

I told him that I use my world building to build my characters, and my characters to build my world. I multitask.

Doing the two things separately just fills the pages…for no reason.
I mean, the main characters are going to play a pivotal role in shaping the world they live in, especially in fantasy, otherwise they wouldn’t be the main character.

So showing their experiences relative to the world…makes sense.

For them to have motive to change things, they have to have been affected by the negative sides of their world at some point. So showing their world relative to them…makes sense.

Okay, I feel like I’m talking in circles, so I’ll give examples.

In Soul Bearer, Aurisye is looked down on and treated horribly for being half-Orc. That tells the reader that the two races don’t get along (they’re actually at war), and builds up who she is…an outcast.

Rafnor joined the military for equal treatment. He grew up poor, and was bullied over it (so money is important in their realm, another problem for Aurisye). But the military runs on skill and the ability to improve, rather than on basis of connections or finances.

Now, in Salt and Silver, Ness is a demi-demon. That alone tells you a few things about her world. It tells you that, in the world of Theran, demons are real, whether you believe in them in our world or not. It also tells you that they can, at times, walk the earth, and procreate with humans.

The existence of demons implies the existence of gods, otherwise a different word would’ve been chosen in place of demon. It sets up the juxtaposition to imply that yes, the gods are real and can be interacted with.

In the opening scene, she’s called a witch, telling you that magic exists in their realm.

Which brings us to the word choice topic again. I wanted to have one term for magic users, regardless of gender, and I wanted it to be one that would be instantly recognizable.

Choices?

Wizard, witch, mage, or caster.

Caster might not be recognized outside the gamer community, so it was out.

Mage works for Soul Bearer because it implies the use of spells, runes, and potions alike. Mage also has a connotation of prestige, of exclusivity. Since not everyone in Visun (the world of Soul Bearer) can use magic, that holds true. The term also lends itself nicely to high councils (which is a thing in Soul Bearer).

Wizard instantly conjures the wizarding world of Harry Potter, where only certain people can access magic, primarily through the use of wands. Sure, magical items, potions, and divination exist, but mostly, it’s commanded with wands.

And in Salt and Silver, that isn’t the case.

Anyone can access magical energy, but most don’t care to. It relies heavily on potion making, devotions to multiple gods or demons, and occasional sacrifices. Basically, it’s useful, but tedious and time consuming for mortals. It’s a skill that has to be developed, much like leather working.

For most, it’s easier to pay someone else to do it.

The term witch makes me think of potion making and lonely little cottages in the woods. It calls to mind paganism and a deeper understanding of nature.

And that’s what I wanted for Salt and Silver.

One word can have such a huge impact on the atmosphere of the world.

Making sure you have those pivotal words down can make a world of difference in the length of a book.

Another Salt and Silver example. I didn’t have to explain that their country is divided up into city states led by their own militaries, because when shit hits the fan, they consult the leader of the local chapter of Knights. That alone spared me several pages of exposition on the way their country is set up.

Basically, it all boils down to that old adage, show vs. tell.

If you show me your character sitting in a classroom, zoning out during a calculus lesson amidst kids who are just a bit older, I’m going to assume they’re in high school, taking advanced classes.

You don’t have to tell me what grade they’re in or what grade the other students are in. You don’t have to tell me they’re attending high school. You can let the character’s mind wander over the problems they’re facing (i.e. the point of the story), thus building the world and the character in the same scene.

If you need me to know that your character is having relationship problems, add in a flashback to a fight or have their partner’s voice echo through their head. That way you can show me the tone of voice, you can show why they’re fighting…how they’re fighting.

And all those things build the world that the characters are living in. It paints a picture of the life they lead, in addition to showing the personalities and desires of the characters.

Of course, there are times where you just need to tell something, and get it over with. A quick thought or comment could do that without devoting page after page to an explanation of the country’s history.

At any rate, there needs to be balance between showing and telling, and that balance lands in different places along the spectrum for every author.

I tend to lean more toward showing. Obviously. Lol. I like my stories…punchy.

The point is, it’s possible to write high fantasy in less than 100,000 words. Lol.

So, if you find yourself falling short of that mark when writing fantasy, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad about your writing. There’s the chance that maybe you missed something, but it could just be that you eliminate most exposition.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling, now.

Over the past week, I did some editing on The Gem of Meruna, and did some work toward the Soul Bearer release. I also added a chapter to Salt and Silver to fill in a plot issue pointed out by beta readers, and filled out the playlist for my sci-fi series.

Basically, I’m jumping from one story to another like a damn maniac.

And this coming week promises to be just as chaotic.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Building Character

Hi, guys!

This past week was mostly spent working on behind the scenes stuff for Soul Bearer. I’ve been reaching out to ARC readers left and right. I got a bit of editing done for the rerelease of The Gem of Meruna.

I also finished the pre-beta reader edits of Salt and Silver, and got it sent out to them. They found a few things that need adjusted, and I’m glad they caught it. Their response was overwhelmingly positive though, and I’m so freaking excited about it!

It’s a great feeling to know someone enjoyed your work.

And that story was so much fun to write. The characters are…interesting (a demi-demon with a conscience, a werewolf with a hero complex, a reckless mortal). lol.

Which brings me to the topic of the day…

Character development.

So, there are a lot of types of writers, and a lot of standpoints on how autonomous our characters actually are. Some people believe their characters have minds of their own, and have a lot of control on how the story develops. Some people believe all the control rests within the hands of the author.

And to be honest, as far as my next point is concerned…which side of that fence you’re on doesn’t matter.

Because, whether you think they’re forcing your hand or not, you need to think of them as fully independent people.

Whether you’re plotting carefully or running wildly through pages, the characters have to be people to you. Because if you don’t see your character as a person, your reader won’t, either.

You need to see all the facets of their personality. Otherwise, how will you ever figure out how they’ll react in a given situation?

If they’re a full person to you, it’s easier to figure out what they’ll do.

They can’t just be heroic because you say they are. Fiction has to make sense, ironically enough. Your characters have to have a motive.

Which is where backstory comes in.

Now, getting a normal ass person to leave a life with which they’re content to go chasing danger is going to take some persuasion. A person who has reason to hate their current situation…will go more readily.

Which is why backstories get rough.

But no matter what the backstory, you need to be consistent. If they have a history of running their mouth, they’re not going to stop whenever its convenient for the writer for them to not spout off at a superior or an uneasy ally.

It’ll take work for them to control that impulse, if they even see it as a problem. If they don’t, they won’t bother adjusting their attitude. And you either have to find a different way to move your plot forward or curb their temper in earlier scenes.

Because people change, but not instantly, and not when it’s most convenient.

Oftentimes, change is brought about by a low point. (Terrible backstory…reason 2.)

Now, there are a lot of ways to see your characters as real people.

Some writers do personality tests as each character. Some give each character a quirk, or a phrase that they use a lot. It makes them just a bit more distinct, a bit more human.

Whatever you do, each character needs a voice. You don’t want your reader to struggle to tell one side character from another. You definitely don’t want that struggle with your main characters.

The most basic thing you can do is figure out what they want. They’re not always going to want the same thing as your other characters, so there’s a pretty easy distinction.

Then, figure out why they want that thing.

This kinda brings us back to their backstory. What we go through has a huge impact on what we want out of life. And we tend to think about things we want…a lot.

Which means that a character’s thoughts (an important tool in character voice) will be informed by their past.

If someone went through something terrible…they’re going to think about it. If they want to prevent that happening to someone else, they’re going to think about that.

If one character is in love with another, and they’re going along on a quest to try to win affection…they’re not going to spend as much time thinking about the quest as the person on it for a personal vendetta. Instead, they’ll be preoccupied with how their crush is doing and how safe they are and what needs done to win them over.

That right there, the thing they focus on in the safety of their own mind…

That’s a huge distinction.

Take the backstory you’ve provided, and pick something (preferably plot-related) that makes your character anxious. That’s another huge difference between characters. Or maybe it’s something two characters can bond over.

Does your character have low self-esteem? Maybe that makes them befriend people who possess qualities they envy, because they want to be like them.

Maybe it does the opposite.

Perhaps they can’t handle being surrounded by the quality they admire, and they tell themselves that quality is dumb to ease the tension of not being good enough. Maybe they end up hating the person they know they should emulate, as a defense mechanism, surrounding themselves instead with like-minded people to avoid any cognitive dissonance.

Who knows?

There are so many options, so many ways to build messed up people for your stories.

At the end of the day, the best recommendation I can give is to learn about psychology. You don’t have to get a degree. You don’t have to be an expert.

But learning about psychology has so many benefits for writers.

You can use it to build people.

Believable people that readers can relate to.

And that’s huge.

It’s…kinda…the point. Or, a major part of it, anyway.

But I digress. I’ll stop ranting, now.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

Bah. Socializing.

Hi guys!

Last week was a hell of a week. I got Soul Bearer up and going, despite a shit ton of technical problems. It’s officially up for pre-order, in case you didn’t know from me posting all over social media about it. Lmao.

The official release date is October 22, 2019. So close! I’ll have information about the giveaway soon, I promise. But it won’t actually take place until closer to release day, anyway.

I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel real yet.

I also started contacting ARC readers, and powered through a SHIT TON of editing on Salt and Silver (WIP in preparation for beta readers).

I also realized just how much I’m working on. Lol. I don’t know if you’ve looked at my works in progress page, but damn.

I never really think about it until I talk about one of my stories with someone, and they mix it up with another, and I have to stop and say, “no, that’s a different one.”

I can’t wait to get all these books out.

I’m gonna need help maintaining my sanity over the next year or year and a half. Which brings me to the topic of the day.

The importance of finding a writing group.

I’m lucky enough to have a supportive husband and family, but a lot of writers don’t have that. From what I’ve seen in various groups, a lot of people have the opposite.

Which sucks because…writing isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Whether you struggle to write, or to edit, or to market (*cough cough* me + marketing = nightmare), there’s always some part of it that trips people up. I’ve yet to meet a writer who loved every single aspect of being an author.

And that’s fine.

It can be frustrating, at times.

Not to mention the drain of imposter syndrome. Feeling like you aren’t good enough, or like you’re not a real writer can really drag you down. Any creative profession is rife with self doubt.

On the one hand, it’s what tells you to keep learning and improving. But it also has the potential to stop you in your tracks.

And that’s why you need a group of people around you to keep you going.

And coming from me, that’s saying something. I AM NOT a group oriented person.

At all.

I’ve briefly touched on my social anxiety in past blogs, and how it dates all the way back to preschool. I’ve mentioned how I started preschool a year early to socialize, then didn’t talk to the teachers for a year and a half. Then, when it was time to do testing for kindergarten, I wouldn’t talk to them either, so they thought I needed special ed. My mom asked me their questions, I did fine, and they said, “just go to kindergarten.”

So I did.

But I didn’t talk to the teacher there for like…9 months.

So I don’t typically like groups or socializing or talking.

But writing groups are a necessity.

I’m in several. Lol.

The friendships I’ve built (with people who know the struggle of misbehaving imaginary friends) and the things I’ve learned from them…they’re definitely worth the initial awkward feeling of, “Oh, god! New people! What do I say? What do I do? Have I gone too long without saying anything? Did they forget I’m in the group? Are they glad I’m not messaging? Do they talk about me when I’m not in the group?”

Because when you push that aside and get past it, you get so much out of a writing group.

If you’re looking for one, I’m in World Indie Warriors. There’s a page on IG and FB. They’re wonderful, and super supportive. Not only are they amazing friends, they’ve talked me through a lot of tech problems (because I’m garbage with computer anything) and helped me with cover design and all manner of other things.

There’s also Fiction Writing on FB. It’s a huge group, so anytime you need a lot of opinions, that’s a great place to go. It’s also great for getting questions answered. With 90,000 members, there’s bound to be someone who knows the answer. Lol.

I recently joined Writing Bad on FB, but have been working, so I haven’t gotten to explore that one yet.

There’s also Fellow Creative Minds on IG and Women Writing Fiction on FB, but I’m not in either of those as much as I should be.

Even if you just join a small group, maybe five or six people, it can be super helpful.

Especially when it comes to writing quality. You NEED to have other people looking at your work. You’re too close to it to pick out every flaw. You know the scenes and the characters, so you don’t always see when you need to elaborate more. Maybe it’s the opposite. Some people over-describe.

If other people are looking at your work, they can tell you these things (in a constructive manner) to help you grow as a writer.

You need people to push you, to challenge you. You need people to help you become the writer you’re meant to be.

And that means…*dun dun dun*…reaching out.

Because even the most antisocial among us…sometimes just need someone we trust to say, “You’re good enough, you can handle this, and you deserve this.”

So, go join a group. All the ones I mentioned above are very welcoming.

I’ll stop screaming socialization, though. Lol.

For now…

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.