The pros of writing a continuing series

Writing a series is far different than writing a standalone book, and must be approached as such. I should know. I write not one, but to different series, because I’m an idiot who takes on way more than is sensible for one person. Before that, I wrote a couple standalone books. None of them ended up well, but they were practice novels. Everyone should write at least one practice book that doesn’t go anywhere before they write their actual good material. For me, my practice book was a crime drama about a woman whose husband is accused of abusing and killing a young man. I plan to rewrite it someday, despite being completely different than the genre I write now.

I love writing series for many reasons. Having tried it both ways, there are perks to writing a series, no matter what genre you’re writing in.

Established characters

I write character-driven novels, and so obviously creating characters is a long process. I want my characters to be real people with real flaws and virtues. So, if I can create a character I’m happy with, I’d like them to stick around awhile. Like, at least two books, please.

Starting out a book with a cast of characters that have already been fleshed out and established is a huge step up. I don’t have to spend a lot of time showing who my characters are because they have already shown who they are. I can now show who they are turning into. That’s always a lot more fun.

Ongoing storylines

I’ve already written a whole story about these characters, complete with plotlines that may or may not have been finished in book one. I can continue those storylines in book two. After all, there really is no happy ever after. Live goes on, and there’s always another challenge to face.

Established world

In fantasy and science fiction, a lot of time and attention goes into world building. What kind of money is used, what sort of politics are in play here. What sort of creatures roam the countryside.

When I’m writing a sequel, I’ve already done all of that! Even better, I can safely assume that most of the people reading book two and beyond have read the others first. So, I don’t have to go into as much detail as I did the first time around. I’m currently writing the fourth Station 86 book (It’s called Station Central. Look for it to come out in maybe December, I’m not sure yet.) I can skip a lot of world building and get right into the story. This saves me and the reader time.

Characters become plot bunnies

One thing I do when I’m starting a new Station 86 or Woven book is look at my list of characters and see who’s still alive. Every character that is still alive has potential to provide plotlines in future books. Because the best secondary characters are complete, well-rounded people who have their own lives apart from their relationships to the main character. And that makes them plot bunnies! And as their plots hop along, they bounce off the main storyline and make more plot bunnies! There’s no such thing as writer’s block, it’s great.

Building a fan base

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been obsessed with a series. I have personally had several book releases highlighted in hearts around it on my planner over the years. I waited in front of the bookstore to get a copy of the last Harry Potter book, and literally walked out of the store reading it. I did the same thing for the last Series of Unfortunate Events. I pre-ordered the most recent Tamora Pierce book months in advance.

I don’t do the same thing for books that aren’t part of a series, even if I love the author in question. Because I know that the books may or may not be something I want to read, and I want to know more about it.

If you’ve got readers who read and loved book one of your series, they’re going to eagerly await book two. And for every good book you put out, you get a snowball effect. Some people prefer to wait to see if a series will continue before they get invested. So, when there’s a book two, people are more willing to grab book one. When there’s a book three, it’s even better.

I don’t have to say goodbye

I’m an emotional person, I get attached to things. And when I wrote Woven, I got really attached to writing for Lenore, Devon, Victor, and Sultiana. So, when I finished the series, I didn’t want to let the characters go.

That’s why I started writing a follow-up series right away. Even though I wasn’t writing for the same characters anymore, I was still in the same world. I could include cameos of the characters with this new cast.

It’s even better with Station 86 because I’ve stuck with Godfrey and Sennett for four books now. I don’t have to say goodbye to them and go through that emotional hangover. I can just keep writing about them until the story is over. If you read Virus, you should know that the story is far from over.

There is no good in this world without some bad. Everything has a downside, and writing a continuing series is no exceptions. I’ll explore these in part two of this series on Friday. (See what I did there?)

Do you write a series? What do you think the best thing about writing a series is? Let us know in the comments below.

Are you subscribed to the PBW Update? Here’s why you should be. You’ll get an extra post from me about writing or publishing. You’ll get a round up of the most recent PBW posts. You’ll learn about a new indie writer in every issue. And, you’ll be the first to learn about promotional offers and events for Station 86 and Woven. PBW Update issues come out every other Monday.
Click here to sign up.


Let me tell you a story about adopting my cat

Here’s a picture of my cat, Harper.

I love this cat, let me tell you. I couldn’t have a cat for a long time when I lived in an awful apartment building run by a sadistic hell beast wrapped in cheap synthetic clothes. She didn’t allow pets. Not even hamsters.

When I finally managed to move out of that pit of despair and hatred, I insisted upon adopting a cat as quickly as possible. As quickly as possible ended up being awhile.

First, I had to scratch up the $100 adoption fee. Then, I had to go through the truly long list of requirements my local Humane Society has for pet adoptions.

  • My husband and I had to fill out a survey about how we intended to care for and raise our cat. This included questions about how we would discipline her, what sort of food we intended to feed her, and what situations would cause us to abandon her. We had to promise to bring her back to the Humane Society if we couldn’t care for her.
  • We also had to provide personal references. And they actually called my references! I’ve gotten jobs where they didn’t call my references.
  • Everyone who lived with us had to go meet Harper twice. My husband and the kids met her once, and we all went the second time. The second time had to be a certain period of days after the first time. We had to go back a third time because I had only met her once. And when I say everyone in the house had to meet her, I mean everyone. If we had owned another cat or dog, they would have had to come meet her as well.

When we first had to go through this whole mess, I was not thrilled. It was a huge pain in the ass and a lot of time out of our schedule to adopt a cat. But over time, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a lot of the people who work at the Humane Society, and they’ve explained to me why they have such strict policies regarding pet adoption.

Like the fact that they had cats and dogs returned to them all the time because they weren’t compatible with another pet in the house.

Or the number of pets who were brought back because someone changed their minds, and didn’t really have the time to devote to a dog.

Or the times they’ve called people’s references and were told horror stories about the person.

Or the number of people who visited with the animals once and never came back.

Or my least favorite reason, as told by a volunteer who I won’t name for her protection. “We were literally turning away animals we knew because we just didn’t have room for them to come back.”

What it comes down to is this; the Humane Society saw a situation in which innocent animals were suffering. And so, they had to take drastic steps to keep these animals safe. So that’s what they did. While it is a pain in the ass for a responsible pet owner like me, I get it. Not everyone is a responsible pet owner.

Now, let me tell you what you must do to buy a gun in Pennsylvania.

  • Walk into a gun show.
  • Have money.

Now, I’m fully aware that the laws are different if you want to buy a gun from a licensed dealer. You must fill out a form and do a full background check. That is, if you are buying a gun from a reputable dealer, not if you’re buying from a gun show. There is also no waiting period for a long gun or handgun in PA, no matter where you buy it.

So, what I’m wondering is this. The Humane Society saw that animals were suffering and put common sense if not fully convenient policies in place to protect them. And it worked. Why can’t we have similar policies in place to protect our school kids from gun violence?

Are you subscribed to the PBW Update? Here’s why you should be. You’ll get an extra post from me about writing or publishing. You’ll get a round up of the most recent PBW posts. You’ll learn about a new indie writer in every issue. And, you’ll be the first to learn about promotional offers and events for Station 86 and Woven. PBW Update issues come out every other Monday.
Click here to sign up.


Participating in an online convention, from a two year veteran

As many of you know, I participated in the B2BCycon for the second year in a row. It was a blast, as it always is. If you’ve never heard of a cycon, it’s like a normal convention. Authors have a chance to show off books, offer discounts and codes, and meet readers. While you don’t get the joy of seeing people in homemade costumes, you also don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars, put on pants or handle ‘con funk’. It’s a good time.

It’s also a good idea for an indie writer to get their name out in an online con. It’s not as much of a financial investment, for one thing.

Having attended two years in a row, I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve done to make my participation worth my time and effort.

Have a place to guide people to.

If you’re participating in a con, you’re going to have lots of new eyes on your books. There’s a good chance that they’re going to want to find out more about you. If someone wants to know more about me, I direct them here to PBW. So, I wanted to make sure that it was ready for new visitors. Before the con, I do a little site audit. I make sure all my links are working, and that my ‘buy my book’ page is updated and shiny. I post a blog post for the weekend that includes information and links to every place to find my work. And I make sure that all the posts that I’ve put up over the last two weeks are the best posts of the month.

Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you can’t have freebies.

If you go to a physical con, you expect to get some freebies and goodies from the booths. That’s part of why we shelled out all that cash to attend the con in the first place. Meet celebrities and get free stuff.

An online con is no different. When I participated in the B2BCycon the first year, I did a lot of special things for con attendees. I created a free wallpaper and designed two new images for the Current and Foundation Parties for Station 86. I did a whole question and answer session on the Goodreads page. This year, I put every book I write on sale. One book was free, to attract new readers. I worked with my publisher to discount Broken Patterns. I posted some free chapters of Broken Patterns and Seeming on the con’s website. I did everything I could to get out all the e-goodies I could.

Help with the promotion as much as you can.

One of the reasons why online cons work is the amount of promotion all the participants do. I started posting early and often about the con, to get people excited. I took advantage of all the promotional materials the con provided, which included nifty graphics and videos. I talked it up in my newsletter (What, you’re not signed up for my newsletter? Click here.) I talked about it here. I made sure that if you’re a fan of me, you sure as hell knew that I was going to be at this con.

So, what do you think? Have you attended or participated in an online con? Please share your experience in the comments below!


Don’t talk down to kids

I was raised in a very conservative, old-school home. There was a lot of shame in my life, as a child, and no power over my own life. No matter what the situation or argument, I had three strikes against me from the start. I was a child, girl, and a bastard. (All of my cousins, and most of my church friends were born in wedlock.) This meant I was not to be taken seriously, ever. No wonder I had such self-esteem issues as a young adult. I was taught very early that I didn’t know what was good for me, and that I should just listen to the figures in authority like a good girl. When that person in authority was no longer my mother, it became my ex.

Obviously now, I’m a grown woman who has made a point of being the boss of my own damn life. I try not to do the same things to my children that were done to me. It’s hard sometimes because that’s what I was taught to treat children like. I was taught that respect was a thing I owed adults, rather than something that was earned. I teach my children that they owe people common courtesy, not respect.

These days, the world has dramatically shifted from when I was a child. We’ve gone from expecting children to respect adults to expecting adults to cater to children. I’m not big on that. I think that kids are a lot smarter than we’re giving them credit for.

As parents, I think we tend to talk down to our kids. We don’t tell them when the family is having money troubles, or when someone in the family is ill. Instead of teaching them how an adult handles hard times or explaining to them why you might have to say no to certain things, we make up excuses. We lie. We insult a child’s intelligence by not even lying well. We don’t let them watch the news, preferring to shield them from the terrors of the world. What we should do instead is explain hard situations to them at an age-appropriate level.

As writers, we need to be especially careful of this if we want to write for children or young adults. I write new adult fiction, and even that’s hard. I never think we should shy away from explaining difficult topics to kids and young adults, though. They can get it if we as the adults take the time to explain things in an age-appropriate way.

Look, kids want more than cuddly animals and glitter in a book. Young adults can handle more than a slash and dash adventure story. We can tell real stories with real people, and we shouldn’t be afraid to.

Finally, I want to talk about the young women and men who survived the Parkland Florida school shooting. They’ve been the powerhouse behind a movement for stronger gun control. They’re fighting a battle that many of us have been weary of for quite some time. And they deserve to be heard, even if you don’t agree with what they have to say.

Whether you’re a parent, children’s author, or just a citizen of the world, please stop underestimating our kids. They’re worth more.

Are you subscribed to the PBW Update? Here’s why you should be. You’ll get an extra post from me about writing or publishing. You’ll get a round up of the most recent PBW posts. You’ll learn about a new indie writer in every issue. And, you’ll be the first to learn about promotional offers and events for Station 86 and Woven. PBW Update issues come out every other Monday.
Click here to sign up.


What I learned from Kitchen Nightmares, Part Two

On Friday, I started sharing with you the lessons I’ve learned from watching Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. It turns out that I learned more than I realized, and the post spanned way out of control for a blog post. So here then is part two of what I learned from Kitchen Nightmares.

Part two focuses more on one of my favorite things; being a boss. I was once a manager of two different retail stores. I won’t name them because they were shitty places and I don’t want to admit to working for them. I did my best as a manager, and I came out of the other side a lot stronger. Now, I’m a mom, and I’m a boss in a whole different way. I’m also an indie writer, which means I’ve got to be the boss of my tiny small business in which I’m the only employee. Beyond all of that, I am the boss of my own life.

Here’s what Gordon Ramsey has taught me about being a boss.

Act like the boss

Some of the restaurants have people running them that are really great cooks, really nice imagespeople and they really want to be a great success in their field. But they’re not always the best boss. They’re not good at cracking the whip and making other people to put the honest work in. I used to be the manager of two different retail stores. I was young, and I had never been in charge of other adults before. I had to learn how to motivate people into doing a good job.

When people were doing what they should be doing, I was a great manager. I did everything I could do to reward the hard workers and make it a fun work environment.

When someone wasn’t doing what they should be doing, I didn’t know how to handle that. I couldn’t stand up for myself, and couldn’t make people who were unwilling to work pull their weight. So I did almost everything, leaning hard on my good workers. It wasn’t fair to me, and it sure wasn’t fair to my good employees. I wish I could go back there and apologize to those awesome men and women I worked with.

Now, you may never be in the position where you are the boss. But you are the boss of your writing, and you are the boss of your life. Act like it. If you contract with someone to do a job for you, like edit your work or create a cover for your book, expect them to do what they say they are going to do. Insist that they give you their best work. If you have a partner in your life, don’t be the one doing all the work. Insist on being the boss in your own life and in your writing.

When you are the boss, you have to be willing to do all the shit work.

Whenever Gordon finds a kitchen that needs a scrubbing, he rolls up his sleeves and works just like everyone else. He gets the managers and owners in there too, and everyone works.

This is something I’ve learned as a manager and as a parent. Now that my kids are teenagers, I consider keeping our home in order a group effort. We all work together, and I make sure that my kids see me working just as hard as them. It was the same rule when I managed a store. I mopped floors, stocked shelves, faced the store (go over a shelf and make sure it looks straight and beautiful) and helped customers.

Always be the person who sets a good example, whether you’re the boss or a team member.

Critique in private, congratulate in public

This is actually something that I think Gordon could learn. It’s something that I work on with my kids. If I have something to say to one of my kids about their behavior, I take them to the side. I don’t yell at one of my kids in front of her sister or in public. I certainly don’t rebuke my husband in front of the kids. No one needs to know someone else’s screw ups. Along the same line, if I have a problem with someone professionally, I will not make a public deal of it. I will not post on Facebook, I will not leave scathing comments. I’ll deal with it one on one. That’s why I don’t post about books I don’t like on PBW.

Then there’s the other side of that coin, and it’s one that Gordon does well. When someone does something good, he praises the people in front of everyone.

When my kids do something good, everyone knows it! If I like a product or a story, I promise you that I will tell you. You guys know my favorite pens, planner, coffee and authors for a reason. When I’m happy about something, I want everyone to know.

Put your health first

In one episode of Kitchen Nightmares, an owner had diabetes. In another, the patriarch of the family had a heart condition.

In both cases, the first thing Gordon did was to sit down and talk to them about their health and how they’ve been managing their health. Because that’s how you have to manage your life.

I will call off work, skip writing time, and order pizza instead of cooking dinner if I’m not feeling well. I make doctors appointments when I need them. I exercise and take my vitamins. I eat well. I drink water (lemon water. Trust me, it’s worth the time and a little extra money.) I meditate and do yoga. I make health a priority, and I teach my daughters to do the same.

If you’re not already doing the same, make that a priority now. Right now, today. When was the last time you saw your PCP? When was the last time you were at the dentist? (Side note, if you don’t have health insurance, that’s a problem. Please reach out to public assistance and get the help you need to afford health care. I get it if you can’t afford it, but please find a way. Please put the effort into yourself. Because if you don’t care for yourself, everyone who depends on you is going to suffer when they lose you.

Put out your best work. If it’s not your best, don’t send it out.

I love nothing more when watching this show than when Gordon picks up a dish and asks, “Are you happy about this? Are you proud to serve this?” Very often the answer is no, and look of embarrassment.

I think we know when we’re not doing our best. No, scratch that. I can’t speak for you, but I damn well know when I’m not doing my best. But sometimes we are just up against a deadline or feeling overworked. When that happens, we put out work that is less than our best.

Sometimes a half ass job is fine. Housecleaning doesn’t have to be perfect for instance, nor does yard work.

My writing is not housework! Neither is my day job. It’s not my dream, but it’s still something I take pride in.

And that’s the difference between the two. Anything you should take pride in, you should give your best to. You should put your best out there. Even if it’s just a blog post, it should be the best damn blog post you can put out there.

You know, of course, that I had a big mess up last year when I self-published Starting Chains. It was not my best effort, and I went into detail about that here.

Why do I keep bringing up this embarrassing thing I did? Because I want you all to learn from it. And, because I want to make sure I remember the lessons as well.

When I finally came to my senses about what level of screw up that book launch was, I pulled it. I pulled the paperback version before it even became a thing because it wasn’t my best effort. It certainly wasn’t what Starting Chains deserved. And I never want to put out any story or blog post that is anything less than my best.

Nothing is unfix-able if you’re willing to change.

Sometimes when Gordon walks into a restaurant, he looks like he wants to walk right the hell back out. The kitchen is deplorable, the food is vile, the whole thing is a shit fest. But not a bit of that stops him because those are all easily fixed issues.

What the real issue is, every single episode, is a severe attitude issue from an owner or manager. It’s never the food that’s the problem, it’s always the people. And while Gordon will scream about a kitchen being in shambles he’ll walk right the hell out if the owners aren’t willing to change.

Sad to say, we are often our own biggest roadblocks. Yeah, many of us have issues we’re fighting against. Poverty, illness, responsibilities, ignorance. We aren’t immune to this as writers. Sometimes I swear we’re more prone to it.

But there’s never a point in our lives when all is lost. We can always be redeemed, always make our lives better. We have to want to change, though, or it’s never going to happen.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part post. I wish all of my guilty pleasures gave me so much inspiration.

What I learned from Kitchen Nightmares, Part One

Okay, normally I don’t love reality tv. In fact, I really hate reality tv. Like, all of it. Except for this one exception.

I really love Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

Yes, I know. The show is overly dramatized, and parades some of the worst instincts humanity has to offer. What can I say, it’s a guilty pleasure and I’m not going to apologize for it.

I honestly love watching Gordon walk into these horrible restaurants and just lose his mind. I really want him to read one of my books and critique them. I think he would make me cry, but I also think my books would be better for it.

I do feel like there are things to learn from Kitchen Nightmares. Many of them are things that we might have already known. But it’ nice to see them personified. So today, I’d like to share with you the lessons we can learn from Kitchen Nightmares, and how they apply to writing. Some of these things apply to life instead of writing, but that’s alright. Life and art should go hand in hand for both to flourish.

Focus on doing the basics well

When Ramsey comes into a kitchen, he sometimes finds that the chefs are trying to create extraordinarily complex dishes and failing to do so. They don’t have the basic skills to do these things well. So what should be a unique and complex meal turns into a plate of inedible waste.

Or, the kitchen is a terrible mess. Oh, that’s always the flesh crawly ones. The kitchens that have rotten food or unsanitary conditions. Look, I’ve worked at a fast food place before. That’s not what a restaurant is supposed to look like!

A good story idea can and will be ruined with poor fundamental writing skills. Grammar and proper word usage are essential for a writer. Mind you, I’m not saying that writers have to have a huge vocabulary. Quite the opposite in fact. Your words should, first of all, fit the character and world you’re writing.

As for grammar, the best advice I can give you is the same advice Stephen King give in On Writing. Get a copy of Elements of Style by William Strunk and EB White. Make sure you’re editing for grammar and spelling before you post or submit any work. Not doing so is lazy and you’re better than that.

Don’t do more than you’re capable of

Some of the kitchens that Gordon goes into are just trying to do too much! They’ve got these crazy huge menus and the chefs have trouble keeping up with it. It’s also frustrating for the customers, trying to figure out what is going on.

Look, I write a lot of fantasy and read a lot of fantasy. I consider myself pretty smart, and capable of following complex storylines. That all being said, there is such a thing as too many plot lines.

When your readers haven’t seen a character in a while and they have to go back and re-read a past chapter just to remember what the hell was happening, that’s too many plot lines or pov characters. This is something that can be hard for a writer to pick up on. That’s why a beta reader is essential.

When everything’s going to shit, stop right there and make a game plan

There are some kitchens that are legitimately so dangerous that Gordon can’t in good images4conscience allow continuing to serve food. It’s too unclean, the food’s gone bad. People will get sick and probably die if he does. So he shuts down the kitchen until they can get everything in order.

I’ve had times when my life feels like that kitchen; not capable of producing anything but harm and ill. When I’m overworked, stressed out or not taking proper care of myself. When I start getting busy, the first thing that falls off is my home care. We start eating out more, I don’t take the time to get my house in order. Then I can’t focus on anything. My house might not be as dirty those kitchens (god forbid), but it feels like the inside of my mind is.

That’s when I need to shut it down. After work or on a day off, I put my writing away. I take care of myself first, because I can’t pour from an empty cup. I take a thorough shower and get dressed. Next, I get my house in order. I follow the Fly Lady’s advice for a crisis clean. Spend 15 minutes cleaning in one room, then go to the next room. Do this for 45 minutes, then take 15 minutes to sit down and have some coffee, tea or lemon water. Lemon water has become a recent love of mine.

Then, once I and my home are back in order, I sit down and make a list of things that need to be done. I figure out what needs to be done most, and I’ll mark the top three things. I get it done and move forward.

What I don’t do is beat myself up and freak out about how bad things can get. I just fix it and move forward. I try not to let things get that bad again.

Listen to honest criticism

Blowups happen on Kitchen Nightmares when Gordon tells a restaurant owner that they’re doing things wrong and they don’t want to hear it. It’s often honest criticism, even if it’s being delivered at the top of Gordon’s voice with all the best four-letter words.

Getting told you’re wrong is never fun. Getting told your writing isn’t as good as we think it is really freaking hurts. Our stories are our lives, just like a restaurant’s owner’s place is their lives. We take this stuff personally because these things are not just our work. They’re our souls.

But sometimes we screw up. Sometimes we’re writing cliche bullshit, getting lazy with our grammar and just not delivering the best story we can. An editor or beta reader’s job is to tell you when you’re screwing it up. Sometimes we ask for these critiques, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes the weak-willed who don’t create and only tear down want to pick and mock at the work of those who make an effort. Ignore those people, or thank them politely for taking the time to read your story.

When someone offers you honest criticism, there is only one way to handle that; with gratitude. Someone read your story and took the time to tell you feedback about it. That’ great! I am thankful for every single person who leaves a review. I love my editor, and I love what she does to my work. There is no better gift that someone can give your work than honest criticism. You don’t have to agree with everything. But you do have to listen.

Always be honest

The funniest thing about Kitchen Nightmares is when a manager or owner tries to lie to Gordon about something. Usually, it’s about whether a food is fresh, new, microwaved or homemade. I think I want to see Gordon beat the hell out of a microwave with a Louisville Slugger. I also think he would enjoy it. He can always tell when someone’s lying to him because he knows his craft.

This is something I’ve learned in my own life as well. I have messed up. Take, for instance, my first failed launch of Starting Chains. I messed it up, but I was honest about it. I mess up at work sometimes, it’s going to happen. But if I have messed up, I imminently go to my supervisor and tell her what happened. I explain why. I don’t make excuses and I apologize. I do what’s needed to make things right. That policy goes for my work, my writing and my family.

This has never come back to bite me in the ass. Being honest has always been the best policy for me because it gets others on my side. Instead of getting angry at me, they help me make it right.

This should work the other way around, too. People are going to do stupid stuff sometimes that has a negative impact on you. Your spouse, kids, parents, co-workers. People mess up. I have a simple rule when things like this happen, especially with my kids. If you messed up but you told me, I’ll work with you. I’m going to help you make it better. I might be a little mad, but you’re not in real trouble. If you lie to me, I will land on you with both feet. I will make sure that you feel the brunt of your mistake, not me.

Don’t come off as desperate

Sometimes Gordon will run into a restaurant that is relying too much on discount prices, coupons or big ass signs in the front window. I can imagine you can guess how he feels about this. (Someday I will eat at his restaurant, and I expect to spend more than half my monthly food budget when I do. But I’ll do it, oh yes.)

Now, this is a touchy subject for me as a writer and a person. My family is not exactly what I’d call well off. We don’t miss meals and we don’t have trouble paying our bills. But we also don’t have a car and we don’t have a large amount of what you could call ‘expendable income.’

My book budget is tight. I usually buy one to two new books a month for myself, and maybe a few for my kids. (As much as I love e-books, I hate how hard it is to share them.)

As an indie writer, I have to be careful about how I price my stories. I want people to be able to afford my books, but I also want to work full time. I want my books to be comfortably affordable, but at the same time not come off as ‘cheap’.

Here’s how I price my stories. It’s a pretty simple process. I take a look at Amazon, and I search for the top thirty or so stories of similar length and genre as mine. I take an average price of the top-selling stories, and use it as a baseline. I don’t intend to price a novella at a novel price, but neither will I post it at short story price. And I don’t apologize for this. My stories are worth the price I set them for. Your stories probably are, too.

That’s not to say I don’t have sales. Everyone does, and everyone should. I just got Neverwhere for two dollars. If Neil Gaiman’s books can be marked down sometimes, so can I. I also have two short story collections that are free, and I occasionally even give novella’s away for free. Again, sales are good to spread the word. It’s a good way for a new reader to find you.

But that’s not every day. Set a fair price for your work and do not apologize for it.

This post ran hugely long, and I think it’s a little much for one post. (It’s also spawned three other posts I’ll be writing. So if you felt like I didn’t go into something deeply enough, I’m probably expanding on it.) I’m going to cut it off here today. Watch for part two on Monday.

A bonus post about my recent trip to DC

My family and I went to DC on a school trip. We visited the National Halocaust Museum. I wasn’t expecting this to be a cheerful trip, but it was an important one.

If you’ve never gotten a chance to see the museum, I can’t suggest it enough. I’ve known about the Halocaust, of course. I know the word Kristallnacht. I know about the Jewish Ghettos. I know about the gas chambers.

I’d never stood in front of one of the gas chamber doors. I’d never heard a survivor of the Halocaust speak of his experiences. I’d never seen the room of shoes taken from the prisoners of the concentration camps. Or the two-story room full, floor to ceiling, with pictures of the victims. We walked through the memories of a horror that I don’t have words to describe. We read about Hitler’s rise to power, and the warning signs that anyone should have seen.

IMG_20180406_115620_hdrThe history of the Halocaust is one that we as American’s should never forget. Because here’s something we don’t like to remember.

Our leaders knew what was happening, and they did nothing for far, far too long.

We don’t get all the blame, not by a long shot. But we failed to act, failed to fight against the horror that was happening.

On the bottom floor of the museum, there is a display concerning what’s happening rightIMG_20180406_155448_hdr now in Syria. This was where I broke down. The brave actions of a man code-named Cesar have brought unrefutable proof that Syrian leader Basar al-Assad is killing and torturing his people.

His actions are all too familiar.

America created the Halocaust Museum for one reason. It’s the same reason I took my daughters to see it. We should never forget what happened. We should never forget that we did nothing. And we should never be in that position again.

If you want to help Syria, here’s what you can do. Contact your local representatives and tell them that you support Syrian refugees. Tell them that we don’t want to turn our backs on these people who need our help. And tell them that we should condemn a man who treats his people in this horrific manner.

We should know better. We should be better.

What makes you shiver?

I’ve been listening to a lot of musicals on Pandora recently while I’m working. If you don’t know what Pandora does, it takes songs, bands, artists or genres you like, and makes a radio station based on them. This lead to a magical collection of Sweeny Todd, Hamilton, Disney, Dear Evan Hanson and lots of other musicals.

While listening to it the other day, Kelly Clarkson’s rendition of Its Quiet Uptown came on. I’m not a huge fan of Clarkson. I don’t hate her, but she’s not usually on my playlist. But there was something about her cover of this song that just stopped me. It sent shivers up and down my spine.

I’m actually still not sure what it was that struck me so much about this. I’ve certainly heard It’s Quiet Uptown before. (Like, a lot.) But there was just something about it.

This happens to me sometimes. I’ll read something, or hear a line of dialog and it just resonates with me. And so, I write the line down in my bullet journal.

What do I do with this? Nothing, really. It’s just a matter of recognizing what gets to the heart of me.

Often it’s something that’s just totally, honestly true. Sometimes it’s just a unique wording or fresh view. But whatever it is, I want to keep track of it.

This is part of what I do to till the soil of my mind.

I expect a lot of my poor little mind. Here’s a list of things I write in the span of a year.

  • Novels.
  • Short stories.
  • Blog posts (like this one!).
  • Social media posts.
  • Content for a charity group I’m part of at my day job.
  • Marketing content for my books.

All of this needs to be new, and different from anything I’ve ever written before. Now, I believe that the human mind is capable of sprouting new stories all the time. But I also believe that there are ways to help your mind come up with new ideas. Understanding what makes me shiver is one of them.

It’s B2BCycon Weekend!

The B2B Cycon is happening right now and all this weekend. Don’t miss all the fun, geek talk and discount priced books.

Here are links to the Cycon events where you can find me.

Just Read- Broken Patterns and You Can’t Trust The AI

Cover Wars- Go vote for me!

Book Expo- Broken Patterns and Seeming

To celebrate the con, I have all three of my e-books on sale


Broken Patterns is on sale for just $1.99.








Seeming is on sale for just 99 cents








You Can’t Trust The AI is totally free!




What we can learn from the Hamilton Cabinet Battles

Recently I was talking about Hamilton at my day job and mentioned that I’ve been pretty much obsessed with it for about five months. A co-worker jumped right in and said, “No, it’s been way longer than five months.”

Okay, I guess I’m starting to get on people’s nerves with this. Don’t worry, I just started listening to the soundtrack for Be More Chill. Get ready for all the blog posts that will inspire.

Yes, I have listened to Hamilton a lot. And it’s in the listening and re-listening that I’ve learned so many things from it. Today, I want to talk about the cabinet battles one and two, and what they teach us about a proper debate.

Let’s start with Cabinet Battle One. It’s between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. It’s a debate about whether or not a national bank should be established. Basically, should we centralize all of our money and consolidate our debts?

Jefferson’s argument is that we founded America to get away from a bigger government. He also argues that it’s not fair for his own state of Virginia to have to pay the debts of other states when they have none of their own. He claims that Hamilton’s plan gives him too much power.

Hamilton’s arguments as follows. Virginia has slaves, and that’s why Virginia doesn’t have any debt. Jefferson wasn’t in the war, he was off in France while everyone else was fighting. Jefferson isn’t assertive enough with the president.

And this is why Hamilton lost the cabinet battle. He does the very thing that so many people do online. He attacks the person, not the actual argument.

Jefferson is on the wrong side of things, in my opinion. We needed to centralize our banks in order to strengthen our government. Jefferson gives arguments against this. He doesn’t attack Hamilton personally. He talks about actual, valid reasons that it’s a bad idea to create a centralized bank.

Hamilton doesn’t even bother to argue against any of Jefferson’s arguments. He attacks Jefferson personally, essentially calling him a coward, slaver and at one point calling James Madison ‘mad as a hatter’, and ‘in worse shape than the national debt is in.’

That’s not how we win arguments, though. It’s what I’m trying to teach my kids when they disagree about something. Once you start calling names, you’re the one who’s wrong. Even if you were right to start with.

What we learn from this cabinet battle is to stick to the facts. Here is what was said, here is what the truth is. Here are solid numbers for or against what we’re talking about. We don’t need to call people Nazi’s, racists, bigots, sexists. While these things may be true and accurate things to call someone, it does your argument no good to say them. Someone can be sexist and still have a valid argument. If all you can do is call them a sexist, then you need to do better.

Now, let’s look at Cabinet Battle 2. Again, between Jefferson and Hamilton, it’s regarding whether or not America should go to France’s aid against England for their own independence.

Jefferson argues that they stood with us during our war. We signed a treaty agreeing to help them when they needed us. He points out that Hamilton isn’t secretary of state, so shouldn’t have as much of a say.

Hamilton points out that we were too fragile to get involved in another war. He states that they signed a treaty with someone who’s now dead and that France doesn’t have any sort of established government to back.

In this case, I agree with Jefferson. By breaking our treaty we hurt our credibility with all other countries and gave up a chance to weaken England when we were still not on good terms with them. But Jefferson didn’t argue any of those points. He argued from emotions, and what he felt was right and wrong.

This is a basically flawed way to argue.

We don’t all have the same emotional reaction to things. We don’t all agree on what’s right and wrong. We can argue about our emotions and feelings about right and wrong, but it will ultimately get us nowhere. No matter what you say, you’re not going to change anyone’s emotional reaction to something.

But you can change someone’s mind by using logical argument.

No, probably not in Youtube comments. And probably not right away. Oh, and also not everyone. That should be well understood.

Why am I so concerned about writing persuasive writing? I mean, it’s not as useful for creative writing, right? Well, that can be true. You might be able to use these positive arguing tips in your creative writing if you have a persuasive character. Or, if you have a character who’s all passion and no persuasion.

I do have another reason to talk about positive arguing techniques, though. We have a problem. There is a split in America a mile wide and it’s not getting better.

Pointing fingers and making snide comments are really entertaining. People who agree with you will laugh, clap, like and share hateful comments like mad. A good political meme can spread all over the internet in a matter of hours. And while I love a good angry meme, I’m trying to not be part of that anymore.

Because it doesn’t do anything worthwhile. It just leads to more hurt feelings and closed minds. Who wants to listen to the arguments of someone who’s calling them a Nazi?

If we’re going to make a change, we all need to learn to argue better. We need to focus on facts and figures, not knee-jerk emotional reactions or name calling.

No matter what side of things you’re on, we’re all citizens of the world. We need to start acting like it and learn to argue better.

A Website.

Up ↑