20 Books under my Belt… What have I learned? (spoiler: maybe not so much!)

SN - Warrior Nights Teaser 1 (1)

This past Monday, Warrior Nights came onto the market. It’s my 20th published book, marking years of working with various publishers to get my stories out to the public. I’ve worked with Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, St. Martin’s Press/Swerve and most recently with Entangled Publishing. So, you’d think I’d be all cool and chill with this last release, right?


I’m terrified, as I am with every release. I scour the rankings, study the numbers from ads I’ve purchased and peer over every review and blog post, trying to find the secret sauce that will make me a better writer. Hopefully, it works… and then I get back to the next book.

Because that’s all I know – writing, writing, writing. My first book came out in 2003, a NaNoWriMo book I later whipped into shape and sold to Samhain – and now back out as a self-pubbed edition, since Samhain went under. I’ve had to figure out self-publishing and I do okay at it, but can always do better. I have an agent and I have multiple eggs in multiple baskets, as it were.

But every book is a new challenge, a new way to test myself. First person, third person, contemporary romance, steampunk, superheroes, Valkyries! Light BDSM, space opera, shapeshifters, menage! Right now I’m playing with a royal romance – what if Meghan said no to Harry? What if…

Imposter syndrome? I’ve got a bucketful of that. But I’ve also got the confidence that I’ve worked with multiple publishers, multiple editors and I might… just might… have some of that magic.

So if you’re starting out as an author – it doesn’t get any easier. Read, read, write, write, hone your craft and never stop pushing your boundaries. Keep moving forward, keep swimming. But know that you might feel like I do – twenty books in and still feeling that nervous flutter in my belly as the book links go live and obsessing over the rankings.

Writing is an adventure. So let’s throw ourselves off that cliff and learn to fly!



#NaNoWriMo- the end!

Well, it’s the end of what’s been a wild month for many writers who threw themselves into the thirty-day insanity known as NaNoWriMo. And if you finished it… congrats!

And if you didn’t…


I know, I know – maybe you didn’t finish in time. Maybe Thanksgiving and Black Friday totally derailed your attempts, turkey coma and great sales dragging you away from your writing routine and making it impossible to finish.

That’s okay.

The important thing now is that you NOT STOP WRITING, whether you’ve “won” or not. 50K isn’t anywhere near the size of a full novel for most genres so just because you bashed out the right number of words doesn’t mean you’re done with the book. Now there’s the rewriting and editing, the quiet time judging each scene and deciding whether to keep on your current path or not.

But don’t stop. Whether you pursue publication or not, whether you decide to take advantage of the many offers to self-publish your work for family and friends, don’t stop writing. You’ve established a routine and you now KNOW what you can do.

So keep on doing it.


NaNoWriMo and You! #Nanowrimo

As we rush towards November again I thought I’d share a few thoughts about National Novel Writing Month and how I’ve done it – and survived!

Both “Blaze of Glory” and “Blood of the Pride” started off as NaNo projects and later on became successful series with two different publishers – so it can be done and done well!

The trick, of course, is how to do it well… so here are my tips on how to survive November!

1)      Speed is Life.

It’s very easy to look at the calendar and do the math. 50K words divided by 30 days is 1667 words a day, right?


Yes, in theory that’s right. 30 x 1667 will give you the right number of words… but let’s be honest – that isn’t going to work.

November is a month of pre-holiday insanity. In addition to the American Thanksgiving ripping four days out of the calendar (depending on your celebrations) there’s also Black Friday for the rabid shoppers.

You don’t really have thirty days.

You *might* have twenty days if you pull out the weekends (because most people get busy on weekends with family and oh, that turkey thing, and don’t get their word allotment for the day.

So don’t just do 1667 words a day and kick back. If you can do more, DO MORE.  Write until you drop so you have a safety cushion in case (and when) you lose a day. Don’t get caught playing catch-up because you don’t need the stress.

And you can always just go out for Thanksgiving dinner, right?

2)      No, It’s Not Ready for PrimeTime.

We all know the horror stories – come December 1st the publishers and agents find their email boxes stuffed with queries and outlines for the Best Novel Evah that’s just been completed a few hours earlier.

Do I really have to point out the obvious? Yes, “Blaze of Glory” was a NaNo project but it was nowhere near ready for submission. It took a year’s worth of editing plus a R&R to get it into shape and accepted by Samhain Publishing.

Your special snowflake of a novel is not ready. I don’t care how many character charts you filled out or how complex you drew the map of your fantasy world or how in-depth your outline is.

It’s. Not. Ready.

Put it in a drawer and enjoy the holidays. Mark down on the calendar for January 2nd to pull it out and look at it with a fresh eye and start editing.

And, really – why ruin so many peoples’ holiday? Trust me, publishers and agents are busy enough through December without having to slog through a virtual CN Tower of novels, queries and outlines from NaNo winners. They have enough from their regular authors and clients to worry about.

3)      Don’t get swallowed up with the hype.

It’s easy to get sucked into the Internet; it’s the monster under the bed grabbing at every writer’s ankles. We check the email, we check our websites, we check our rankings, we check our Facebook and Twitter, we check our email… we go back to check on the NaNo boards about who’s in our area, who’s in our city, who’s in our state and check on local write-ins and can we get there and chat and check our email…

You get the idea.

And while NaNoWriMo offers a GREAT amount of support both in the forums and through local writing groups it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the chitchat and forget the main reason for being here.


When I was in Second Life there were active groups who would invite writers to put their virtual avatars in a spot and plonk away at a virtual typewriter with others. With a scoreboard to put your word count into it was a great support group and let you go into another world to do your writing.

But as with all things it was easy to get distracted and away from the word count. And as we all know, getting those words down is the one single important thing about this entire writing exercise.

So keep visiting the boards, keep hanging out on the virtual caravan – but don’t forget that they’re all there to support you FINISHING THAT NOVEL. Not to let you make new friends and recruit possible beta readers or clients or readers.

4)      Don’t Panic.

It’s very easy to fall behind the first few days or weeks and begin panicking, tossing your arms up in the air and declaring the month a write-off and a waste and you’re a failure as a writer and…


Just. Stop.

Panicking, that is. Not writing.

Keep. Writing.

Say you get sidetracked and only manage 200 words a day instead of over a thousand. Say it takes you three months instead of one to finish that first draft.

It’s Okay.

It’s OKAY to take longer than thirty days to do your first draft. Life has a way of tossing crap our way that can get in the way of getting 50K in 30 days.

But that doesn’t mean you stop writing. That means you keep writing into December and into January and as long as it takes to finish the book. You’ve done the work, created the world and written the outline and given birth to the characters – and now you’re going to leave them because of a lousy word count.


NaNo is a great way to give your writing a kick in the pants but it’s all about the long run – the editing, the rewriting and then the query letter, the submission and then more rewriting and editing. Don’t lose sight of the goal because you tripped over a hard word count and can’t finish it by December 1st.

Go forth and write, peeps.

And keep on writing!

Six Sentence Sunday!

I’m really looking forward to the release of “Blood of the Pride”, coming just after Valentine Day from Carina Press!

Oddly enough, two of my NaNoWriMo novels have gone on to be accepted for publication. “Blaze of Glory” by Samhain and now “Blood of the Pride” by Carina. While I don’t do NaNoWriMo anymore I think it’s great to be able to point to two success stories (among many, many others) as an example of what can be done in thirty days with a heck of a lot of grit!

But enough babbling from this old broad – let’s get to the six sentences!


He let out something between a whimper and a sigh as his eyes roamed over me. I allowed myself a smug inner grin. Been a while since I’d had an admirer and I was going to make the most of it.

“And before you ask, I like to play in the dark.” My eyes went below his belt.

He didn’t flinch, instead allowing me to pick up the clean clothing and saunter past him into the bedroom.


“Blood of the Pride” is now available for pre-order at Barnes & Noble and at Amazon! And be sure to keep checking back for a major announcement regarding the “Blaze of Glory” series…


Everyone’s a winner, but…

As we head into the final days and hours of NaNoWriMo I’d like to toss a few thoughts out to you weary, exhausted authors on how and when to send your manuscript out to publishers or agents.



I know what you’re thinking, I’ve been there. My first novel with Samhain, “Blaze of Glory” was a 2008 NaNo novel. I know that wonderful feeling of holding up your finished NaNo novel to the sky like the wise monkey in The Lion King and proclaiming “It is done!”

I also know that you’re not done, you’re not even close to being done. You’ve finished the sprint, now you have to survive the marathon. Now you have to take your first draft and turn it into a publishable work – and that’s going to take longer than a few hours in the wee hours of December.

Now I know there’s pundits out there who claim that you can whip out a novel or story in a few weeks and take only hours to edit it to publishable quality – but I’m not one of them. It’s likely that you’re not either. Sorry…

Editors and agents cringe to open their email boxes on December 1st because there’s always going to be a plethora of NaNo works clogging the pipes – most of which might be quite publishable with a bit of polish.

Actually, a lot of polish.

I worked on Blaze from the end of NaNo for seven months, only submitting it to Samhain in June of 2009. I got a request for a rewrite and it was accepted a few months later and published in April 2010. Even after working on it for seven months it needed *another* runthrough and then the tender hands (read: whipping and beating that would put any Dom to shame) of my editor to get it ready for publication.

Please, please, please – don’t send your work out in December. Put it aside for a few weeks, maybe even a few months to let yourself recharge and then go back in to edit it and polish it up to as high a quality as you can. Don’t waste your first chance with an agent or publisher by sending out anything less than your best work.

And that’s not going to be on December 1st.



NaNoWriMo – it’s okay to fail!

I’ve already seen a few notes from NaNo authors bemoaning the lack of progress on their novels – and how depressed they are about the entire process.

It’s okay.

It’s okay to fail.

In the first place, November is an AWFUL month for the idea of writing a novel in thirty days – right smack dab in the middle of it is the American Thanksgiving (unlike the Canadian Thanksgiving, held when it’s actually a harvest festival!). No matter who you are there’s a hunk of almost a week lost or at least majorly warped while you travel to visit family, cook meals, eat meals, shop like rabid marmots, go into a turkey coma, gorge on leftovers, etc.

Not the best environment to write in. Aside from the usual stress of banging out over a thousand words a day it’s horribly easy to fall behind over Thanksgiving and never regain your footing.

But you know what?

It’s okay.

It’s okay to not finish your novel in thirty days. It’s perfectly fine for you to take two months, three months to finish your novel which should go well beyond the 50K if yoiu’re looking forward to publication.

The trick you should be learning from NaNo is how to get into a writing routine; how to get dedicated to the process and to the chore of getting some words, ANY words, down on the page every day. And if you can only put a handful of words down between helping lift turkeys the size of Volkswagons in and out of the oven or jot down a paragraph while waiting for the doors to open on Black Friday… that’s okay.

NaNoWriMo is only to get you going on the journey – when and where you finish it is your choice. Do a sprint, do a marathon. But just finish what you started.

Now it’s time for me to grab a cuppa and get back to work!

(You too!)


Why you shouldn’t listen to me…

Every once in a while I get asked for writing advice, either in RL or in Second Life where I run around as a tiny clockwork dragon and hang out in steampunk sims. And I have the same answer for both lives – don’t ask me for writing advice!


Because I’m not one to ask. I’m a tough old broad who lucked out after a decade of writing fanfiction into finding editors and publishers willing to take a chance on my original fiction and actually PAY me to write my dreams down. I might be a decent writer and I sure like to think I can spin a yarn that’ll have you plunking down coin to purchase but I’m in no position to deliver golden words o’wisdom on writing.

However, being a writing craft book junkie, I *can* point you to people who know what they’re talking about and who have much, much more credibility than I do in this writing business.

Here they are – just a handful off my fat shelf of writing books and in no particular order – but I think that during this crazy month of NaNoWriMo everyone deserves to discover these gems.

Chuck Wendig

His books on writing are cheap, profane and will kick you in the nuts to get writing. Not for the weak of heart but it’s just what a writer needs at times.

James Scott Bell

The Art of War for Writers is an excellent book plus all of his nonfiction works. Buy, read, digest…

Writers Digest Books – Write Great Fiction series

Written by different authors including Mr. Bell above, this is a must-have for authors looking to kick their writing to a new level. Available in ebook form as well for those of us looking to save shelf space.

I could go on and I might in another post but these are a few of the books on my writing craft shelf that really helped me become a better writing – and keep on becoming, since I reread them at regular intervals.

As with all things literary – your mileage might vary. But I think these are some of the best books out there helping new writers (and old ones) improve and if you haven’t checked them out – you should.

Keep on writing and keep on having fun!

Now… tea!


And… we’re out!

Well, I gave the Nano the best effort this year, but I came up against one of the blights of a writing life.

Eye strain.

The last few days I’ve had sharp pains and whatnot, traced back to the fact that I’ve been focusing WAY too much on the laptop screen. It gets better as I walk away and take longer breaks, but you know that’s not exactly what NaNoWriMo demands of you.

So, I graciously toss in the white towel, gingerly work on "Spring Cleaning" and rest me weary poppers. I’ve still got to go over the final galleys of "What God and Cats Know" when they arrive and that’ll take much more staring at the screen than I have the strength to do right now.

To all of you still going – GO! GO! GO!

Me? I’m just going to relax and edit away and wonder about how fricking OLD I’m getting…


Dem Bones…

Managed to finish the first draft of "Spring Cleaning" – it’s just the bare bones, thus my need to go back NOW and start putting flesh on. I’m one of those writers who underwrites the descriptions and such, getting the events and dialogue down first. It’ll need a lot more words to start looking presentable, but it’s a fine first draft, imo!

And… just signed up for a Samhain ad in RT for the June 2010 issue to promote "Blaze of Glory"! With a review as well!

Yes, you *do* have to think that far ahead when it comes to promotion and the like… but within limits. There’s no use pushing a book that’s not coming out for months and months because you’ll lose your edge and by the time it does release, it’s old news to those people tired of hearing you prattle on already.

I’ll be kicking up the promo for "What God and Cats Know" in the next few weeks as we head for a January release. Being an ebook, there’s no problem with worrying about shipments to bookstores, and studies seem to show that ebooks have a much longer life cycle than the paper version because it *is* always available!

Meanwhile, they’re closing the Borders stores around us. In a fit of stupidity, the nearest bookstore will be a good hour’s drive away.


just cracked the 10K on the Nano!

of course, now I’m into the Good Romantic Stuff… later on I can go back and Fix The Details That Are Driving Me Nuts.

but right now it’s the Good Stuff.