The Christmas Spirit Is Here!

I put my Christmas tree up yesterday. A lot of people I know decorate on or directly after Thanksgiving, but I always wait until December begins because I don’t want to get sick of Christmas too fast. This is the first year I’ve had a full-sized Christmas tree, because I live in a bigger place now and I have room to put it. I always had a table top tree before. That means it’s my cat’s first year coexisting with a full-sized Christmas tree as well…

Look how sweet and innocent I am. How dare you insinuate that I would assault a Christmas tree.

We’ll see how she gets along with it. So far, she’s been ignoring it, but sooner or later she’ll get bored, I’m sure.

Do you celebrate Christmas? Have you decorated yet? Feel free to show off your tree/decorations in the comments!

On a completely different note: Black Mountain Magic got an awesome review at Up Til Dawn Book Blog. Stop by and check it out!

Gatlinburg

Today my heart and thoughts go out to the people of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, who were devastated by wildfires over Monday night and Tuesday morning, resulting in almost all of Gatlinburg being burnt to the ground. The destruction is terrible and many people lost their homes and livelihoods. Unfortunately, most major news outlets barely gave any airtime to the story, instead continuing to rattle on ridiculously about politics. I find it disgraceful that most people had to rely on the internet for any information at all. I’ve never been to the area, but it looks beautiful.

If you would like to know ways you can help, here is an extensive list of places and charities taking physical and monetary donations.

I Just Don’t Care

I’m going to admit something today that will probably get me shunned. Something that some of you may have a hard time accepting. I fully understand if you want to unfollow my blog after this. Are you ready for this confession?

I really dislike Star Wars.

I was going to say I ‘hate’ Star Wars, but I realized I don’t have an intimate enough relationship with the franchise to actually hate it. I very much don’t find anything enjoyable or entertaining about it. I have an aversion to it, really. That sounds more reasonable, I guess. If you love Star Wars you probably shouldn’t read the rest of this post, because I’m not going to change my mind and give it any credit before the end.

Okay, for everyone who stayed:

Perhaps I don’t like Star Wars because, with a few exceptions, I don’t like sci-fi in general. I entirely don’t like space opera-y type stuff. Star Wars is just not my thing. I never even watched any of the first three (or whatever sequence they’re in, I really don’t know) movies until my mid-twenties when my ex-husband (who very much likes Star Wars) made me watch them. I found them so unremarkable I barely remember anything beyond the pop-culture references and that, like–some people were being squished in a room? Siblings kissed to make the space jock guy upset?

A few years later, a friend of mine (who also very much likes Star Wars) dragged took me to see Revenge of the Sith. I can confidently say until this very day, I have never seen a worse movie. From the wooden acting to the fact the ‘plot’ was just a vehicle for the special effects, I had never been so underwhelmed in my life. But here, we come to the actual writing point of this post!

One thing I still remember being driven home for me at the time, for I was a writer then too, is that they sort of foisted upon the audience that we’re supposed to identify with Anakin’s angst over Padme because for goodness sakes she’s his wife. Amongst all the other horrible tropes in the movie, we’re just supposed to implicitly feel emotional about it because they’re married. This sat so wrong with me then and underlined such an important rule of writing that even all these years later, I’m reminded of it everytime I see it in action.

The issue is this: Revenge of the Sith was not by far the only movie–or book–where the author(s) simply expect the viewer/reader to care about a relationship based on what it fundamentally is. “Of course you must understand/identify/have an emotional connection because character x is character y’s wife/husband/brother/sister/father/mother/best friend/cousin!” I mean, who can argue with that?

All well and good, but not all of us have the same life experiences. Some of us don’t have a wife/husband/brother/sister/father/mother/best friend/cousin, or we don’t love/care about our wife/husband/brother/sister/father/mother/best friend/cousin. Some of us don’t speak to those people or would like to see them buried in a pit. You’re not going to make me instantly identify with the connection characters have just because they have a socially-recognizable relationship. For example, I don’t understand anecdotes about the close relationship between cousins because I don’t actually have any cousins.

So how can you make sure your readers come to identify with a relationship they may not have–or that they may have, but are not going to readily accept because you say so? This is done by building character and by showing the relationship in action, and in peril. Saying ‘our bond is strong because we’re married/related!” is not enough to make us care. Show us why we should care. Show us the relationship, the emotions, the things they love about each other and how they connect and interact. Give us a reason to care beyond ‘because everyone cares about that person!’ Show us what they’ve been through and why their bond has survived it.

  • What mutual interests or concerns do they share?
  • What has their life been like together? What have they been through?
  • What do they tell each other–and what secrets do they keep?
  • How do they resemble each other? How are they different?
  • Why would it be hard for one to live without the other, beyond the formalities of their relationship?

I never cared about Anakin and Padme, mostly because they were little more than accesories in a CGI-fest, but also because I’m not going to feel their angst just because they’re married. If it makes you feel any better, I thought Mr. and Mrs. Smith was an awful movie too, and didn’t emotionally connect just because they were husband and wife.

I apologize to any Star Wars fans out there. Maybe the movies got better, but I don’t plan to find out. Thank you for not breaking my knees because I used it to make a writing point! Please don’t break my knees, I need them to walk.

Ten (More) Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Cats

One of the most popular posts on this blog is Ten Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Cats. Since, like that day, I’m struggling to come up with a topic, I thought why not find ten more lessons to keep you laughing? So here we go:

Ten (More) Life Lessons We Can Learn From Our Cats:

  1. If you don’t like your food, complain until someone gets you something better.
  2. Sometimes you just have to let the hairball it all out.
  3. If you hear a weird noise at night, it’s best to be over-alert and anxiously on guard. It might have been just the wind, but it’s probably an axe murderer breaking into the house to chop you to pieces.
  4. On that note: always overreact and hide from most noises.
  5. The most comfortable sleeping positions are weirdly the ones that twist you into strange shapes.
  6. Find a high spot and watch the world from above, with an air of superiority. That’s why you’re up there, after all, because you’re better than everyone else.
  7. Don’t wait for treats, find them and take them.
  8. A sunbeam is a good place for a nap.
  9. If someone accuses you of something, just give them big eyes and make cute noises, they’ll forget about it.
  10. If you don’t want to be touched, bite.

Have a great Wednesday!

A Writer’s Gratitude

This week is Thanksgiving in the US, and for that reason it’s time to reflect on what I’m thankful for when it comes to writing. Feel free to tell me why you, too, are thankful to be a writer! You don’t need to be from the US or be celebrating Thanksgiving to share your joy.

I’m thankful to be a writer because:

  • I get to make up stories and share them with others–and sometimes, they even like them and want me to share more!
  • Writing is a form of therapy for me.
  • I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since a young age. It always gave me focus and direction, and a dream to follow.
  • Language is fun to play with.
  • I love the stories that others give the world, and I love being part of that community. Being one of them.
  • If there’s a story I’d love to read, I can write it.
  • Writing is an ever-growing skill and there’s always something new to learn. It’s never boring.
  • As a writer, I can understand the structure of and what goes into making some of my favorite stories and entertainment. Knowing how it works doesn’t ruin the magic, quite the contrary!
  • I have a ‘calling.’
  • Though I don’t make much money from writing, the fact that anybody pays me at all to do what I love is a miracle.
  • When I’m screwing around on my laptop, I can still pretend I’m working.😉

Those are just a few of the reasons I’m thankful to be among the ranks of those who create stories for the enjoyment of others, and just as importantly, for themselves. What about being a writer makes you thankful?

Meet The Characters

Black Mountain Magic came out on Tuesday and I’m still basking in the glow of a new release! Need some incentive to get your copy? Meet the main characters:

deaconbmm

lorenabmm

bmmbanner

If you have an e-copy, remember you can always ask me for an Authorgraph, on this, and any of my books!

Also, today is the last day to enter to win a paperback copy!

Have a great weekend!

Black Mountain Magic Release Day!

Black Mountain Magic comes out today! Do you like your paranormal romance with a little southern humor, a lot of misbehaving Lycans, exasperated witches, and monsters roaming the deep, dark woods of Appalachia? Get a copy today!

Black Mountain Magic – Kentucky Haints #1

Witches and Lycans and hillbillies, oh my!

Lorena Mills is a witch, but she’s not very good with potions and incantations. Working for a government agency that puts down dangerous uprisings of supernatural creatures, she does much more paperwork than spell casting. When her less-than-magical job lands her in the small Appalachian town of Blue Ditch, Kentucky, in the shadow of Black Mountain, her life starts to get a whole lot wilder.

In the forests surrounding the town, Wolvites—twisted, bestial creatures who hunt and kill humans—are posing a threat. When handsome, charming, and altogether reckless local Deacon Kelley insists on taking matters into his own hands, Lorena has more than monsters to worry about. He won’t stay out of her way, and he won’t take no for an answer.

Deacon is a Lycan–in modern terms, the non-shifting descendants of werewolves–and he and his family have protected Blue Ditch for generations. But now, something too sinister to be controlled by their efforts alone is stirring, and the Wolvites are far more vicious than they’ve ever been. Will Lorena be able to stop the threat and uncover the deadly secrets surrounding it before it’s too late?

To keep the town, and Deacon, safe, she’ll have to—and she’s really starting to like this town.

Read the first chapter

Buy it at:

Amazon | Barnes & NobleKobo | Smashwords | iBooks

I’m also giving away two paperback copies on Goodreads! Enter for a chance to win!

How Long Should A Series Be?

All my full-length novels are part of a series. I’ve never written a ‘stand alone’ book (at least not one I’ve published) and I don’t know if I will in the future, either. In the genres I write in–romance and urban fantasy–book series are staples. Authors and readers tend to enjoy ongoing worlds and stories that stretch across multiple books.

The question is, how long should a series be? So far, most of my work is in trilogy form, though that may change. I’ve planned for trilogies and found myself at the end of the third book wanting to answer more questions and continue the story thread. Some very popular series are trilogies, and some very popular series are much longer and even still being expanded upon. I think there’s two important questions you should answer when asking yourself how long your series should be: what do the readers want, and how long can you write in this universe without running out of ideas or getting bored?

If readers love your series, of course they’re going to encourage–and even demand–more. Being caught up in the heady thrill of readers turning ravenous over your work is great, but it can also be dangerous. Make sure you don’t do your readers a disservice at the same time you’re trying to please them. It’s easy to drag things out or wander into the realms of the absurd when you’re trying to pump out ideas to satisfy others. Put the story and what it needs first, always. Know when it’s time to stop, or when you’re overdoing it for the sake of having material.

You need to pay attention to your own brain, too. If you want to move on to writing new things, if you’re no longer ‘feeling’ this world, and writing feels more like a task than a pleasure, that sentiment will bleed into the work and the prose will fall flat. If it’s time to wrap it up and you can no longer stand the sight of these characters anymore, it’s important to acknowledge that. Don’t stay in a dead relationship with your universe if you can’t bring a spark back to it.

So, how long should a series be? As long as it needs to be. You may have a general idea of how much you want to produce and end up finding it actually needs less or much more. The important part is that you should enjoy the writing, and the story is still doing a service to your readers.

Have you ever written a series? How did you know when to stop, or are you still going?

Release Day Is Almost Here!

My first self-published release, Black Mountain Magic, will come out on Tuesday! I’m really excited about it. You can pre-order a copy at all major online retailers right now if you like.

I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff on my first self-publishing excursion. I’ll share with you some of those lessons, if you’re planning on doing the same and still need advice:

Thing I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing

  • Use a simple, non-fancy font on your cover flat. I learned this the hard way, after I received copies of it. The cover flat is the back and front of your physical book, that you upload to a place like CreateSpace. The font I used for the blurb on the back looks wonky. No one I’ve shown the book to so far has even noticed it, but it bothers ME, so I’m in the process of re-doing it. Making a cover flat and getting it to fit right is harder than you think. You might have to tinker with it over and over again.
  • Don’t be afraid of reviewers. I sent my book to a bunch of reviewers pre-release and some of them actually said they’d review it! I found them through reviewers who had reviewed my traditionally published works, as well as through the tour service I do blog tours for, and Manic Readers. You can also just Google ‘book reviews (your genre).’ Make sure you read each reviewer’s guidelines for submitting books and MOST will tell you if they review self-pubbed works.
  • Have a Goodreads giveaway! This is only possible if you have physical copies of the book to give away, since you can’t do an e-book giveaway. It’s free, and tons of people have entered my giveaway, much to my surprise. A large portion of those people also added it to their to-read shelf and a few pre-ordered.
  • If you publish through Smashwords, they will distribute your book to places like Kobo and B&N as well. I didn’t even realize this. Whoops.
  • If you don’t publish through Smashwords and use Nook’s self-publishing platform, you can’t put your book up for pre-order. However, if it’s distributed by Smashwords, you can do pre-order on Nook.
  • Most people have no idea your book is self-published unless you tell them. I haven’t had a single person ask who my publisher is. Most people don’t buy books based on the publisher, either (unless they’re looking for books from a publisher-specific imprint).
  • If you made your own cover, don’t tell people. Let them see it first and get their honest reaction before you tell them.😉 I was pleased so many people exclaimed “oh, I love the cover!” only then did I buff my nails and do a little bragging.
  • Don’t check your sales obsessively. Seriously, doooooon’t.

I’ll come back AFTER it goes on sale and I’ve had a little experience with that and let you know what else I’ve learned. I’m sure there will be plenty!