Creating fast and easy graphics for your blog

A long time ago, when I started Paper Beats World, I didn’t worry overmuch about graphics for my blog posts. If you’ve been following me for that long, you’ve watched the evolution of my graphics. I’ve gone from allowing my crappy logo be the image for every post to some slick looking graphics.

I’ve found that, since I’ve started creating good looking graphics, I’ve gotten more traffic. People click on my posts from social media more, because the posts catch attention. And, of course, I love creating images for the short fiction that I sometimes share.

Today, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned. So that you as well can up your graphics game.

Watch for copyright infringement!

Please be careful about this! There are all sorts of great images and pictures that are fair use, but millions are not! Check where you’re getting your images from, do not just do a google search! I don’t want to see any of you sued.


Now that my PSA is taken care of, let me tell you about two places to find good stock photos. The first is Pablo. This is fantastic for creating blog images, social media pictures and anything like that. I think I’ve talked it up a few times before. But seriously, it also is part of Buffer. So you can create an image and toss it right into your buffer queue.


I’ve used Canva to create two book covers. I used to use them all the time to create blog images. They’ve got a ton of graphics, fonts, and styles. You can pay for some, but I’ve never needed to. You can also upload your own images, and mess with them. So if you don’t have photoshop, it’s a good way to go.

Taking your own pictures

I generally don’t post my own pictures outside of Instagram, because I’m not good at taking them. All I have is my tablet, and it’s not the best equipment.

But if you take decent pictures, and you can invest in a nice camera, this is probably your best option. It’ll cost some money on start up, but might be worth it in the long run for you.

If you’re going to go that route, I suggest taking a look at By Regina’s website. She talks a lot about taking unique, creative pictures for your blog.

I challenge you this week to create some graphics for your blog posts. See how it impacts your social media reach.

Blogger recognition awards!

Holy moley, I’ve never been nominated for anything before!

First off, I can’t thank Mercedes Prunty enough for nominating me. I love her blog and her writing, so it’s a real honor to be nominated by her. Here’s a link to her blog. I highly advise you check her site out, especially if you’re an inspiring writer.

I always love talking about how I started writing Paper Beats World, because it’s a story of how badly I needed to be a writer. And how blogging helped me achieve that.

I’d been a writer when I was younger, but when I had my daugther stopped writing. I’d write some short stories, start on crappy novels. I wrote a whole novel, then shelved it. I got a job I hated, got divorced, met a great guy, got another job I hated that paid better. Moved in with the great guy, became a step mom.

I was miserable! Mostly because my job (retail management) blew. But also because I wasn’t writing.

Finally, I realized that I neded to feel like a writer again. I started writing a story about a boy who weaves visions. I prayed that this story wouldn’t die. (If you read PBW a lot, sorry. I know you’ve heard this story before.)

Then my daughter said the worst thing in the world to me. She said, “I want to be a writer when I grow up, but not as my job. I want to do it as a hobby, like you.”

Shut. the. front. door!

I am not a hobbyist. So, I started chronicalling my journey to publication on PBW. I figured it would keep me accountable. I kept writing what became Broken Patterns. I posted about writing and nerd stuff. I worked my crappy job, and I was a little bit happier.

Then my daughter was kidnapped from school by her biological father.

Then I was fired from my crappy job the day after Black Friday. Did I mention that my great guy is a homemaker, and mine was the only income?

Then my great guy ended up in the hospital with a sever heart condition two days before New Year.

It was the closest I’d ever come to losing my mind. I’d lost, or come close to losing, everything that was important to me.

Except for my writing. The writing saved me.

It gave me the confedance to go for a better day job. I got it, and I’m still there. It gave me the courage to go into court and fight to get my daughter back. (I just imagined what my female lead, Lenore, would do. She doesn’t take any shit.)

This blog, and writing, saved me in my darkest hour.

So because of that, here’s my advice to new bloggers.

It doesn’t matter if anyone’s reading your writing at first. You aren’t a writer for other people. You’re a writer for yourself. So write what makes you happy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Here are the people I want to nominate for this award.

Rules for accepting the AWARD!!!

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Write a post to show off your award.
  • Brief story on how your blog started.
  • Advice to new bloggers.
  • Select 15 bloggers to nominate award to.
  • Comment on each blog so they know they have been nominated.


Planning a Facebook launch party

We discussed earlier this month that I wasn’t thrilled with my launch for Starting Chains.

I don’t think I mentioned then that, despite messing up the paperback, I did things that I had never done before for this launch. And they turned out really well. I was on two podcasts (one of which hasn’t aired yet) I did interviews for several websites.

And I hosted a Facebook Launch party. Which had been a completely foreign concept to me a few months ago.

Now that I’ve attended quite a few, and hosted one of my own, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned about them with you. This is what I did, and what I saw others do, that worked exceptionally well.

Invite other authors to do takeovers

If you’re confused as to what an author take over is, it’s a time during your launch party that you allow another author to post about whatever they want on your event page. I’ve done a few of these, and they’re fun.

I suggest getting a crew of people to take over your event for an hour or half hour at a time. This means that they’ll invite their fans and friends to come check you out, and help get some people excited.

Promote it

Obviously, no one’s going to know this is happening if you don’t talk about it. But don’t just talk about it on Facebook. Make sure to share it on Twitter, on your blog, on Instagram. Tell people you meet on the bus about it. (I’m kidding.)

The point is, get the word out, and keep reminding people! A Facebook party is one of those things that are easy to forget about.

Have some nice graphics

I made some graphics that matched the ones I’ve been using for the last three months to promote Starting Chains to announce each new author as they join the party. It’s something small, but it’s a nice touch.

They were pretty straightforward to make. I just used Pablo. By the way, if you’re not using Pablo, I can’t suggest them enough for social media graphics.


I’ve played some legitimately fun games during these launch parties. One that I made up, and had a lot of fun with, was this.

Tell me your favorite cereal, and I’ll tell you how you’ll die.

Of course, these were just made up off of the top of my head. But everyone enjoyed it.

I’ve seen several other games that are similar. One launch party had everyone make a wish. Then someone would grant the wish in a horrible way. And, of course, name generators are always popular. Use your imagination with these games.

Get people involved in the conversation

When you’re hosting a launch party, or if you’re doing an author take over, don’t forget to get people engaged! Ask questions, ask for people to ask you questions! Get people talking not just about your book, but about things that are related to your genre. What was your first favorite fantasy book? Who do you think would win in a fight, Mal Reynolds or Captain Kirk? That sort of thing. (Feel free to answer either one of those in the comment section, by the way. Personally, I think Mal would win. He’d pull an Indiana Jones and just shoot him.)


Just like with a physical launch party, you want to have some party gifts. I gave out a free copy of Starting Chains during this last party. When I took part in a cyber con earlier this year, I made a free wall paper for Station 86. Think about what you enjoy getting for free online, and see if you can make some nice downloadable items, especially for people who come to your launch.

Do something original.

I attended a launch where everyone who did takeovers was asked to appear as characters from their books. I attended another where the theme was that we were on a space station that something malicious was crawling around on.

Have some fun with this, it’s a party! It should be a fun time.

If you’re having a book launch, I definitely recommend hosting a Facebook party. Let me know in the comment section if you’ve done one or attended one that did something cool.

Preparing for the season

It’s finally Fall!

Actually, I’ve been in a Fall frame of mind since September first, but we won’t get bogged down with the details.

I love this time of year more than any other time. Every day from September first I wake up with anticipation, looking forward to all the exciting, wonderful things that are happening.

That’s a damn lie, and you know it. The holidays are coming, and my kids are freaking thirteen years old. The pressure to make the holidays magical is real. I also suffer from seasonal depression. So if we’re to compare the holidays to running a marathon, the holidays when you have seasonal depression are like running a marathon with a fifteen-pound bobcat perched on your back.

Even so, I do genuinely love Fall. I love the holidays, even if they are stressful. I want to have a good holiday season. I want to even be productive this time of year because I’m trying to run a business.

More than anything, I want to be ready to face January second. It’s my least favorite day of the year, no lie. All the excitement of the holidays is over and I hit a wall hard core. But I’ve learned ways to avoid that hit.

So I want to share with you today how I’m transitioning my schedule and my habits into Fall and prepare for the dreaded January 2nd.

18 before 18

What’s the best way to avoid feeling depressed? Feel productive! During the holidays I’m busy, but I’m also able to keep myself mostly happy (or at least faking it) because there’s a lot of activity. So, I’m knuckling down on my 18 Before 18 list. -Link to post-. If I can get these things done, then I’ll feel successful. Or, at least not as lazy.

Self care

I’ve said it before, but I feel that it bears repeating. If you have depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, talk to your doctor about the best way to manage it.

I find that often I’ve dropped self-care during the holidays. I’ve disregarded my good eating habits, forgotten to drink water, not taken time out for myself. None of this leads to a happy Nicole. And if I’m not enjoying the holidays, none of the rest of my family is. So what’s the point of it all?


I discovered Hygge in the Summer when it’s not quite as fun. So I’m actually pumped to start practicing it full on now that the weather is cooling down. Starting with lots and lots of crocheting. Anyone who follows me on social media should prepare for pictures of blankets. Lots of blankets.


Are you tired of me telling you to meditate? Too bad, because I’m not tired at all of telling you to do it. At very least, use it to drown out the Christmas music that’s going to be playing everywhere in about three days.

Careful planning

I set out a plan of action for the holidays on September second. When I’m working on Halloween decorations when I’m buying cards and gifts. When I need to start crocheting Christmas presents. (September third was when I started that, by the way.)

I just refuse to put myself into a panic by delaying things this year. I refuse to be blindsided because I wasn’t thinking ahead. The holidays are not an emergency, they’re the same time every year. So I’m going to plan for them, damn it!

Putting family time first

I think that it’s just crazy how stressed out people get over the holidays. First off, the whole point of the holidays is that they’re supposed to be fun! They’re supposed to be a nice break from the every day, something to look forward to. They’re not supposed to upset us so much.

And if they do upset us, then maybe we shouldn’t do them! Or, at least we should only do the parts we like. We’re adults, after all. If having your family over stresses you, don’t do it! If you don’t like writing Christmas cards, don’t! You don’t have to celebrate the holidays unless you damn well want to, and that’s the honest truth.

If you’re going to celebrate, do it in ways that make you happy. Spend time with your family doing things you all love. My family has so many traditions for every holiday (most of which revolve around tv shows and movies). They don’t cost money, they just require us all to spend time together. Yes, we buy gifts and go trick or treating and bake a turkey. But we all actually like doing these things. We wouldn’t do them if we didn’t.

The next three months can be the hardest or the best months of the year. There’s a chance they might be a little bit of both. It’s entirely up to us.

How I messed up my launch, and what you can do to avoid it

Ten days ago, Starting Chains came out. I’m still kind of recovering from that. It was a hard launch.

I mean, it was a really freaking hard launch. When I published Station 86, everything seemed to go like clockwork! All of my e-book launches have run smoothly, and I haven’t had a worry with them.

I don’t know if it was because Starting Chains was bigger, or if God decided I’d had it too easy, or if it was because I got cocky. But this launch went sideways really, really badly.

And to be honest, I don’t have anyone to blame but myself.

So I wanted to share with you what went wrong with my launch for three reasons. The first is that I want you all to know that I’m not perfect and that I mess up hardcore sometimes. The second is that I want to be able to print this out and stick it somewhere visible so that I remember what I’ve learned the next time I’m going to launch a book. The third is that I’ve learned a lot from this botched launch. Hopefully, you’ll learn from me, and not make these mistakes to start with.

I also want to point out that, as dumb as I was, I did manage to get the book out on the date I announced. So I’m also going to list the ways I kind of righted the ship.

What I did that was stupid

I announced the launch date before everything was ready, and really most of my issues stemmed from this mistake right here. I said the book was coming out on September 8th before I had things like a cover or a solid plan to publish the physical book. Before I had a cover turned out to be the big thing.

I had a friend make the cover for me. Unfortunately, that friend, well, life happened to that friend. It’s not in any way his fault, and I don’t blame him for not being able to finish the project. But I was left, two days after the due date he and I had discussed months before, with no cover at all.

Fortunately, another friend stepped up and made the cover for me. But he couldn’t do a graphic image, which meant that it didn’t look good when rendered in print. Which means that the cover, if I had printed the book, wouldn’t have been a high enough quality.

I didn’t do hardly any of the promoting that I wanted to do. I wanted to do a Thunderclap, and do a launch kit for a ton of blogging friends. I wanted to create some wallpaper images to give away, and maybe even make one of those cool book trailers I see people do.

But all of that should have been done months ago before I even announced a freaking launch date! Once again, I didn’t give myself enough time to get done what I wanted to get done, largely because I didn’t have a cover ready.

I planned the launch for a time I had to know I was going to be busy. Like, the second freaking week of school! Which means that I was promoting while I was on vacation, shopping for school supplies, getting my kids back into the swing of things. Even if I had gotten the cover in time to properly promote, I don’t know when I would have slept.

I didn’t research my plan enough. I thought that, because my first book had been inexpensive to print, this one would be, too. I was wrong. The cost of printing through Amazon was going to be almost $16.00 per copy! Which meant I would have been charging at least $17.00 just to make a profit after shipping. I couldn’t do that. So now I’m going to be researching printers.

I didn’t have money set aside. Especially not after back to school and vacation ate up all of my money for a while. So I wasn’t able to really order copies of the book, even if I did print them because I couldn’t afford to!

What I did that was smart

I got the e-book out, instead of scrapping the whole thing. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t fun, but I did do it. And I think the cover that my friend made turned out really great. It took some late nights, but I did manage to at least get the damn book out.

I kept my cool, for the most part, which is why anything got done at all. Now that the dust has settled I’m looking back kicking myself. But while I was in the thick of things, I just did what I could every day, as much as I could, and let the rest go.

I didn’t go complaining online. And I’m not really complaining now. I’m not bemoaning about how terrible this was, I’m learning from what I did wrong. Admitting that you screw up isn’t bad. Bitching online is, especially when launching.

I upped my social media presence before the launch, even if I didn’t do as much as I wanted. I was on a few podcasts, had a few interviews. I was posting a lot more on Facebook and Twitter, to make sure no one forgot that the book was coming out. I put in the time, and hopefully, it got the word out.

I made some neat graphics months in advance, which you might have noticed. These took a little time to make, but I used them for two months!

I bowed out of my launch event as gracefully as I could. That wasn’t a fun call to make, but I made it. I explained to my contact at my local book store that I couldn’t justify putting an expensive book I wasn’t happy with on their shelves, and that I hoped they would allow me to reschedule. They took it well and agreed to reschedule with me.

What I learned from this experience

Don’t announce a launch day until everything is damn well done. I can’t stress this enough. I will never, ever, announce a launch date until every damn thing from the book to the cover to the graphics is done!

Work with professionals. Which isn’t to say that my artist didn’t do a good job. But I need a graphic artist to do a cover. I might even hire someone to put together my e-book and physical book for me, just to give me more time to advertise and write. I think that the money would be worth it.

Schedule life first. Don’t schedule launches during busy seasons. It’s a simple as that.

Start promoting as early as possible. I started three months early, but I started without proper tools in hand.

Give people lots of time to help you. I had a launch squad of willing people to help, but I couldn’t get the info to them fast enough. Many of them had to bow out, and I don’t blame them.

I can always promote when the books already out. Which is what I’m going to be working on the next few months. I’ll be doing some major promoting during the holidays, for instance. I’ll be getting the book into the hands of some critics, and hopefully making that book trailer I wanted.

Keep calm, and it’ll work out for the most part. This is probably the biggest lesson I learned. I messed up, but the book’s out there now. No matter how bad you mess up, you can always make it right.

Living My Best Life

Have you heard this phrase yet, living your best life? It’s one of those buzz wordy kinds of phrases that I keep hearing but didn’t really think anyone understood what it meant.

So I thought about what living my best life might mean. Does that mean that I need to live my dream life? Quit my job and write full time? Seems like that would be great, someday.

Does that mean I can’t live my best life until then? Or did it maybe mean that I was interpreting that phrase wrong?

Maybe I’ll just decide what my best life should mean to me. Here’s what I came up with.

Choosing the nicer options of things you enjoy, and choosing to save on things you don’t care about.

Let’s say you’ve got to make a purchase. Anything from a cup of coffee to a new car, you have several options, generally ranging in quality and price.

Most of the time we focus on the cheapest, most convenient thing, especially if it’s for ourselves. That’s not always a horrible idea. We have budgets, we have families. We have savings plans. So maybe we can’t afford to get the best car, the $38.00 lipstick. It’s not realistic.

But what if you spend a little extra for that one car feature you really want? What if you get some inexpensive lipstick to afford some rocking foundation that makes your makeup look perfect? What if you just splurge and get a nice cup of coffee once a week to treat yourself?

Making time for fun

I am blessed to live within easy walking distance to our local park. So, sometimes the monsters and I pack up a lunch and go have a picnic there when the weather’s good. Sometimes we’ll all sleep in the living room after marathoning scary movies. And, of course, the weekly episodes of our shows are an event.

Little things that cost little to no money can make a week so much better. If you’re looking at your calendar and see nothing but chores and appointments, then you’re not excited about your life.

Putting a little extra in for yourself.

What are some little things you can do to upgrade your day? For me, it’s things like packing a nice lunch for myself, getting whipped cream for my coffee in the morning, or buying a body wash that I really love. It’s getting up a little earlier so I can put on makeup and spend some quiet time writing in the morning.

These might seem like simple things that shouldn’t matter. But think how much better your day with them.

Here’s an exercise I want you to try with me, especially if you feel like you’re just dragging yourself through most days. Grab a piece of paper, or flip to a blank page in your bullet journal. Start writing down things that you can do, that are in your control, to make a day a really good day.

Take your time, don’t rush. Keep going for as long as you can, thinking of as many wonderful, happy things as you can.

Once you have your list, pick one thing, and do it every single day for the next week. Then, pick something else from your list. See how much happier you can make your day.

Like your home

Full disclosure, I don’t like my house. It’s old and drafty and has un-ending plumbing problems. The walls in the living room are these nasty fake wood paneling, and the carpet is this awful dark hunter green.

But trying to find a house with three bedrooms and a yard in my price range is all but impossible. So I’m stuck with what I’ve got, at least until the kids move out.

I’ve learned that liking my house, liking any home, requires several things. Fortunately, they’re things that you can do anywhere.

  1. My bathroom must always be ready for an emergency spa day. That means face masks, bubble bath, scented candles and a nail file.
  2. My kitchen needs to always have quick snacks. I don’t ever want to be hungry in my own home.
  3. My house needs to be in order.
  4. I need a couch. (We lived without one for years. I don’t advise it.)
  5. My house needs to smell good.

If I can tick off all of these boxes, then it’s good to be home.

Like your job

I like my day job. It’s not writing, but it’s not torture. I’m respected, I’m good at what I do, and it’s not boring.

You should like your job, even if it’s not your dream job. You’re going to spend a lot of time there, at least until you get to do your dream job. So you should like it.

If you don’t like your job, then maybe you should find a new one. Think about what would make you happy to do every day. Or, at least, what wouldn’t make you miserable.

Learn to cook

I’m not super great at cooking. I’ll be honest, it’s because I lack patience. I have accidentally blown eggs up because I forgot they were boiling.

But over the years I’ve learned to make a week’s worth of meals that I and everyone in the house enjoys. I’ve made good friends with my crock pot because that is the best way to handle a cold day when you have to go to work.

No matter how bad of a cook you are, you can figure out a couple things you’re good at making. Or, at least you can make them in such a way that you like. And maybe it’s just because I’m very food oriented (it’s the southern in me) but if I know that the meal I’m having at the end of the day is a good one, I’m going to have a happier day. A good day is made better with a good dinner, and a bad day can be soothed.

Making every day good

Everyone loves vacations. We love day trips to amusement parks, days at the beach. Snow days where everyone’s home and enjoying everyone’s company. We love holidays, and movie premieres, and book launches. We love special days.

Not every day is a special day. The vast majority of days are average days. We get up, get the kids to school, go to work, come home and make dinner.

The thing of it is, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! If we wake up to a nice breakfast and a good cup of coffee, surrounded by people we love, to go to a job we enjoy, then come home to a home we adore and a good dinner, then that’s a pretty good life.

That’s your best life.

What I Want To Tell My Generation Today

I don’t think I’ve ever done a September 11th memorial post. I’ve not necessarily avoided it, I just haven’t done it. There are a lot of good reasons not to do it. I don’t generally post outside of my schedule, I don’t want to rehash things that everyone else has said.

Mostly, though, it felt cheap. I felt like, no matter how sincere I was being, people would see a 9/11 post as pandering.

That’s the last thing I want to do, here.

See, I was fifteen on September 11th, 2001. I was a high school student, just two years older than my daughters are now. I didn’t care about much of anything, but I was starting to. I was on the school paper, and I was starting to understand that there was a bigger world than what I’d experienced. That things were happening out there that were every bit as exciting, fascinating, terrifying and heartbreaking as any book I could read. Even more so, because they were real.

I watched my country change after that attack. If you don’t live in America, I need to explain this to you. We don’t get attacked on our own soil by foreign enemies. Usually, our terror is more domestic. So for us to be attacked was to shatter a belief that we couldn’t be touched.

In a way, this was strike two for me. I, like the rest of my peers, lived through the terror after the Columbine shooting a few years before. Never before had I realized that someone my own age could have such hate, such anger inside of them.

We watched, my generation and I, as our elders reacted out of fear. Now that I’m an adult, there are so many things I want to say to my country and to my peers.

I’m going to take some time today, to say those things.

Don’t fear strangers.

Isn’t that something we’re taught so early, to fear strangers? Don’t talk to them, you don’t know them! They might take you away. My mom used to say, “Someone might put you in a car and drive away with you.”

That was the big fear of my childhood, someone putting me in a car and driving away with me.

Turns out that most children abducted are actually taken by family members or friends. Go figure.

I like talking to new people, learning about them. I especially love talking to people who have different religions than mine. I like hearing about it.

Maybe we’d all be in a better position if we’d just talk to other people.

Every demographic has horrible people and heroes

Those kids at Columbine were white, Christian boys. So was the Oklahoma City Bomber.

People do bad things, that’s just the long and short of it. There’s not a single religion or creed that doesn’t have at least one crazy person who killed a lot of people. Except for the Amish. Those people haven’t ever done anything bad. But since they don’t have computers, they’re not reading this. So if you’re reading this, someone in your demographic has hurt a lot of people. Accept it, and stop blaming a whole group for the actions of their crazy people.

Don’t curtail freedom out of fear

This might be my own perception, but I feel like the things you aren’t allowed to say or do have just gotten crazy!

Especially comedians. I’m sick of comedians getting in trouble for telling jokes. If a joke is funny, great. If it’s bad, then that’s a bad comedian, not a bad subject.

This drives me nuts because it means that we’re just reacting because we’re afraid. We’re afraid, mostly, of offending someone.

Now, I’m not saying that some jokes don’t offend me. Rape jokes offend me. But if you have a funny rape joke, go ahead and tell it. I’ll just tell you that you’re an ass. That’s your freedom of speech and mine.

Mental health issues are tragically ignored in this country, and we need to do something about it.

Most of the tragedies in this country come down to one thing; someone with mental health issues that weren’t properly treated.

We can talk about gun laws, and we really should. But the best thing a gun law, properly enforced, can do is to limit the number of people hurt. That alone is enough to make it worth our time, but it still won’t solve the problem.

We can talk about protecting our schools, and we should. I’m all for metal detectors and security guards in schools.

But until mental health is treated like physical health, we’re only fighting half of the battle.

If you feel like you or someone you love is suffering from depression or any sort of mental issue, please seek help. Don’t ignore signs of trouble in your children or other family members. And don’t belittle someone for seeking mental health. Especially not yourself.

Remember that we’re citizens of Planet Earth, and we all need to work together.

Don’t tell yourself that what happens in the rest of the world doesn’t matter to you. What happens in one corner of the world impacts all of us, whether we realize it or not. Reach out to anyone you can help, even a little. If you have a blog, talk to a worldwide audience and give comfort when you can.

Don’t forget that we, the human race, are all in this together. It’s time we started acting like it.

Starting Chains is Launching Today!

The wait is finally over, Starting Chains is available today!

After years of war between Montelair and Septa, the two thrones are united by family. Victor’s nephew, Morgan, is sharing the throne with the last heir of the royal line, Jacob. He and Lenore decide to travel to Montelair with their newborn daughters to help broker peace.

But peace among their own people is harder to achieve. The city is tormented by a terrorist who calls himself The Tinker. He and his group of anarchists plant bombs through the city and call for the death of the new kings from every street corner.

Meanwhile in Calistar, Sultiana and Devon are marching to war with Kussier. The ancient hatred between the two countries is sprung anew when Sultiana is declared heir to the Calistar throne.

Waiting at the border, though, is a much darker enemy. A force from legend threatens to consume both countries, and possibly the world.

Here is what the amazing fantasy author, ML Spencer, had to say about it. Here, also, is a link to her book. Because everyone should be reading her book.

A heartfelt story of honor, betrayal, and trust that turns gender and cultural stereotypes on their heads.”

“A comprehensive blend of strong female characters submerged in a diverse setting.”

“A fantasy for our time.”

“A novel that confronts long-held genre stereotypes and comes out triumphant on the other side.”


If you haven’t already ordered Starting Chains, here’s a link.

We’ll be having a Facebook party today from 6:00 to 9:00. There will be games and takeovers from other awesome authors. Here’s a full list of all of the participating authors.

6:30- Mercedes Prunty

7:00- Ryan Batla

7:30- Angela J. Ford

8:00- Sarah Buhrman

8:30- Diane Morrison

And, of course, I’ll be giving away free copies of Starting Chains. There are three ways to win.

  1. Comment on this post.
  2. Tweet using #Woven today.
  3. Say something on Facebook using #Woven.

Best of luck to all of you. And thanks for reading.

Starting Chains, Chapter Three

Here is Chapter Three of Starting Chains. If you missed Chapters One or Two, here are some links for you



Victor was hiding a yawn behind his fist when Talmadge came into his office. His eyes were burning from lack of sleep.

She was a short girl with a neat gown and the sloppiest braid in Septa. She looked around the room, terror written on her face.

“Sorry,” Victor said as he stood to greet her. “I haven’t gotten an hour sleep at a time in a few days now. Our nurse tells me that’s common, with infants. Have a seat.”

She looked at the chair he’d indicated, a heavy wooden one with a cushioned seat, as though it must surely be a trick. Finally, though, she sat.

“Do you like the new office?” Victor asked as he took his seat behind the desk. It was a large desk, highly polished. The room had a set of double doors that led out to the garden. There was a thick blue rug on the floor. “I’ve been appointed the Queen’s Apprentice, learning how to keep a palace. Apparently that takes lots of time, work, far too much book keeping and a whole office.”

“I’m sorry, why am I here?” Talmadge asked.

Victor grinned at her. “Wait. We’re missing someone.”

There was a knock on the door. When he called a greeting, two guards escorted Thomas, the disgraced spymaster of Septa, into the room.

Prison obviously had not agreed with Tom. His fine clothes had been replaced by undyed, rough spun cloth. His usually well cared for hair looked greasy.

The guards dropped Tom in front of the desk. Talmadge shied away from her former employer, but Victor’s grin widened. “How’s prison?” he asked. “From what I remember, the food was a little uninspired.”

“Prince Victor,” Tom sputtered.

“Oh, I do love to hear you use my shiny new title,” Victor said, “Especially since the last time we spoke you were calling me a traitor and advising the king to execute me.”

“Sire, I was misled,” Tom said, “My informants-,”

“No, shut your damn mouth,” Victor said, his smile dropping away. “I was your informant, you sneaking coward. You think I’m stupid enough to fall for the same lie you tried to use against me?”

“Again, why am I here?” Talmadge asked.

“Because I want to offer you his old job, and I want him to know I’m offering it to you.”

“Are you kidding?” Tom cried, “She’s an untrained maid, for Creator’s sake!”

“No, she’s a maid who can read all of your codes, and has been feeding you information for years,” Victor said. He leaned across his desk, and glared down at Tom. “You’re a bad spy, but you’re really good at using talented people.”

“I think you’re vastly overstating my talents,” Talmadge said, wringing her fingers.

“This wasn’t my idea,” Victor said, “It was King Samuel’s. He’s just delegating it to me. Though I happen to think he’s right.”

“The king really has lost his mind,” Tom said.

Victor stood. In his fury, his hands glowed blue with magic. “You will watch how you speak of that man in front of me,” he growled. “I owe him my world. Talmadge will be our spymaster, and we’re going to toss you into the same dark hole we threw Marcus.”

“Wait,” Talmadge said, holding a hand up. “Don’t lock him up.”

“Why?” Victor asked, “He was a terrible master to you.”

“But we can use him,” she said, “You and the king think I’m a good spy, but I’m not. It’s just that, well, people are more willing to talk around you if they think you’re a nobody. So, if you tell everyone I’m the spymaster, I won’t learn anything new.”

“Ah, but if people still think this fool is in charge they won’t pay attention to you,” Victor said. “See, I knew you’d be good at this. You can keep him, if you want. You’ll have to watch him carefully, though.”

“Of course,” Talmadge said.

“What makes you think I’d agree to this insulting situation?” Tom spat.

She took a deep breath and stood, looking Tom full in the face for what Victor was sure was the first time. “Well, you can do this, or I’ll pick a pretty face off the street and the king can toss you back in a cell. I can work just as well with any warm body in that seat.”

Tom looked sober at that. Finally, he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Fine. I am happy to serve the throne.”

“Thank you for your service,” Victor said. The guards escorted Tom from the room, and Victor turned his attention back to Talmadge.

“Are you really sure about this?” Talmadge asked, “If this is about me finding those letters, you don’t owe me anything. It didn’t even work. The king was still going to execute you.”

“Madge, if this was just about thanking you, I’d give you a title and some land,” Victor said. “But I cannot afford to have someone I don’t trust as spymaster. I need you to tell me what’s going on in the city.”

“Yes,” Talmadge said, giving him a nod. “You’re right about that. People are angry, and they’re whispering.”

“How many of them are whispering about my wife?” he asked.

“More than we should be comfortable with.”

Victor nodded. “I can’t imagine half of the noble families leaving the court in protest is helping.”

“You and Anthony must stay close to Lenore. She’s in more danger now than ever.”

“Yeah,” Victor said. He stood, and went to the doors to look out at the garden. Lenore was there, with Ramona and the babies. They were napping on a blanket in the sunlight. “You know, she saved this damn city from Marcus. You’d think people would be grateful.”

“And there are hundreds who are,” Talmadge said, “She spent her youth taking care of people behind the Elder Brother’s back. She spins light and darkness into thread. Lots of people are ready to fight for her. They even accept you because of her.”

“That’s the problem,” Victor said, “It’s not just that people are angry, it’s the division. The whole city’s ready to tear each other apart.”

Talmadge smiled, “She’ll win them over. She’s good like that.”

Victor smiled too. “Who knows better than me how easy Lenore is to love?

Starting Chains is coming out this Friday, but you can pre-order it right now. 

And please join us on Facebook on Friday for the launch party!

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