Interview and an Excerpt – Jonathan Gould

23 Apr

Interview and an Excerpt is a feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Jonathan Gould.


1.) How long have you been an indie author?

I’m not sure at what point I became an indie author. I’ve been writing for over 15 years now. I started off writing comedy sketches for university revues and independent radio – I guess I was trying to emulate one of my heroes, Douglas Adams. I began working on novels about a year later – my first couple are at the bottom of the drawer and I suspect they’ll stay there. I actually have 2 children’s books published in Australia by real publishers – I was hoping that would be my entry into the wonderful world of publishing but it wasn’t to be. I began to seriously think about going alone (indie?) a couple of years ago, culminating in my first self-published ebook early last year.

2.) How many books have you self published?

At this stage, a grand total of three:

  1. Doodling – the story of a man who fell off the world (because it’s moving too fast). It’s a humorous fantasy – Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll

  2. Flidderbugs – this one’s a bit of an odd mixture – one part political satire, one part fable, and one part funny little story about a strange bunch of insects.

  3. Magnus Opum – my newest release. An epic fantasy with a twist. Tolkien meets Dr Seuss

3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Normally I’m a total plotter. I’m pretty anal about getting everything mapped out, writing lists and chapter outlines and character descriptions, etc… However, every so often, I’ll go the other way and begin writing with no end in mind and no idea where it would take me. My first book, Doodlingwas written in this way, hence the title – I referred to the process as “literary doodling”. It was a lot of fun and actually rejuvenated my interest in writing at the time. I’m currently writing a sequel to Doodling for which I’m following a similar approach.

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

I’m not sure you could even call it a process. I work full time and have a family so it’s really about stealing whatever time I have – evenings, weekends. To be honest, I tend to go through peaks and troughs. I’ll get really motivated and do a heap of writing for several months. Then I can get into a trough that can sometimes go for over a year. I’ve just reached the high point of one of my peaks, so will definitely have to focus on keeping up there.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Again I get to mention my hero, Douglas Adams. He said that writers should not be in business of reinforcing stereotypes – it’s in a book called Last Chance to See– he met some German backpackers and was really distressed at the fact that they so conformed to the stereotype of German backpackers. So he decided they weren’t German, they were Latvian, and described them as such for the rest of the book. A wonderful read so please check it out.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

Don’t do it??? Seriously (and funny you should ask because I have been talking to a teenager with writerly ambitions), I would advise them to be realistic and aware of how difficult it is to break through. I would suggest that they really focus on getting their writing to the best standard that it can be – do courses, road test and get feedback. Try to make sure that what they have to say is something interesting and new. And to make a start on building up social networks before they publish – wish I’d had someone to tell me that.

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

Hah – that’s pretty funny. I recently got paid for the first time for my self-published books. I’m not going to say how much it was because I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Mind you, my day job also involves writing, so I could say that I earn a living through writing. But it’s not exactly the sort of writing I really want to do.

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

Mainly just time, and a bit of space in my brain to work through my ideas.

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?

Nothing too fancy – just good old MS Word. And html when it comes to producing my ebooks (with a bit of help from Mobipocket and Calibre).

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

Gee, I’m really the wrong person to ask about that. When I think about my promoting efforts, the words I that come to mind are “scattergun”, “erratic”, and “totally uninformed”.

After a year of this, I really don’t have much of a clue. I guess the main challenge I face is because my books don’t easily fit into genres, it’s really hard to know where and how to best place them. What I find is when people discover them (mainly when I’ve plonked them in their faces) they say things like “This isn’t what I’d normally choose to read but I really enjoyed it.”

So to summarise, I’ve basically tried it all – giveaways, guest posts, interviews (obviously), twittering, my own blog, a blog tour, Goodreads, large organised events, cross-promoting with others. The main thing I haven’t tried so far is KDP select – I have very mixed feelings about it, but figure at this stage I might as well give it a go.

What is effective? The best thing for me was pure luck – getting a free feature on Pixel of Ink. I guess that’s the thing – you need to get out onto the sites people use to find new books, and the good ones cost a pretty penny. I’m considering my budget to decide what I think is worthwhile.

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

Again hard to answer because of the irregularity of my writing process. When motivated, I can get a novel length work drafted in 6 months –but I’ve also been stuck on things for years.

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

I use a bunch of different readers to road test, trying to look at people who might represent different types of audiences. I also have a couple of editors I’ve met through various jobs who are happy to charge mates rates (or sometimes just a box of chocolates) which is really helpful – a good editor is an absolute essential. The main financial expense has been the cover designer who was also someone I found through work. But he’s definitely been worth it – the covers he does are fantastic.

13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your books?

As mentioned above, I’ve invented a new genre to describe my writing – Dag-Lit. Dag is Australian slang for a person who doesn’t quite fit in, but usually in a fun way – someone unselfconsciously uncool. That’s kind of how I see my stories – they’re hard to pin down into a single genre. They’re kind of funny and kind of strange and a bit different. Maybe “comic fantasy” if we’re getting reductionist. Or sometimes I just describe them as modern fairy tales for the young-at-heart. The first time you see them, you may think they look like children’s books, but once you start reading, you’ll hopefully find that there’s something there for all ages.

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

At the moment, the main WIP is the sequel to Doodling– the tentative title Scribbling. I’ve only just completed a first draft so it still needs a lot of work. I’m hoping to have ready for release by the end of the year.

There’s also a longer novel I’ve been working at for a few years now – a young adult fantasy/comedy/adventure set in a universe where the laws of physics bear more resemblance to the laws of human behaviour, ie completely unpredictable and immeasurable in every way.

Beyond that – I’m never short of ideas.

To connect with Jonathan, you can find him here:

Blog, Dag-Lit Central –

Twitter –!/jonno_go

Facebook –


Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually, he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.


Flidderbugs is a political satire, a fable, or maybe just a funny little story about a bunch of bugs with some very peculiar obsessions.

Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.


Magnus Opum is a story about a little person in a very big world – an epic fantasy with a twist – Tolkien meets Dr Seuss.

Available exclusively from Amazon.

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Interview and An Excerpt – Chelsea M. Cameron

3 Apr

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Chelsea M. Cameron, author of the wicked vampire novel, Nocturnal.

  1. How long have you been an indie author?

    Since Feb. 11th of this year. But I’ve been writing for much longer than that.

  1. How many books have you self published?

    Just one, but the second in the series, Nightmare should be out at the end of March or beginning of April.

  1. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

    Pantser! I absolutely cannot do outlines. I’ve tried over and over, but nine times out of ten the story takes me in a totally different direction and I end up throwing the outline away. When I was first trying to write, I thought that you had to have an outline. That was what my teachers pounded into my head. So I made detailed outlines and tried to write from them. But then something unexpected would happen in the story and I would have a mini-freakout. So that was when I stopped outlining and let the words flow.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.

I’m still trying to figure out my process, actually. I’ve written eight books, but only two of them are completely finished. I’ve gotten to the point where a first draft takes me about two-and-a-half weeks to complete. My drafts are usually from 50,000 to 60,000 words long. My finished books run around 80,000 to 90,000.

I do most of my edits on the computer, but I also do one round with the manuscript printed out. I’ll do one read through, make changes, another read through where I read it out loud, and then one more where I scramble up the pages. I’ve tried tons of techniques and those are what work for me.

I spent four years editing my first book. My second book, a YA contemporary, will never be finished. It was awful. My third, fourth and fifth books were written in a rush last spring during a two month period. I have yet to edit them. Nocturnal, my first published book was the sixth I started. Editing is a painstaking process for me. I’m a former copyeditor, and I have a degree in journalism, and I’m also a perfectionist. This leads to long hours of deleting a coma, putting it back in and then deleting it again. I’m trying to get my editing streamlined.

I write with as much noise as possible. I have to have something to tune out or I can’t focus. I think this stems from the fact that my mother sews for a living, so the sewing machine was always going when I was a kid. In an ideal writing environment, I’d have a television on low volume with something mindless like a reality show marathon or infomercials on, and my iPod on Pandora with something like Neon Trees or Linkin’ Park or Paramore. Something driving and hard. But I like soft stuff for romantic scenes as well, including Parachute, Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars. I like to listen to what my characters would listen to, so I make playlists for all of my books.

  1. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

    That you can’t edit a blank page. Don’t be afraid to suck. I was so stressed when I first started that I could barely write anything without worrying if it would be good enough. Now I go ahead and tell myself it’s going to suck, but I can always fix it. The other thing I’d say is no rule works for everyone, and no rule is absolute. If something doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. Find something else.

    Also, get on Twitter. It’s the best. For real.

  1. If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

I would say that you should do your research well beforehand. I would say don’t pay someone for something you can learn to do yourself, like formatting. Beware of people offering services at inflated prices. This is a business and there are people out there who want to take advantage of you. Do your homework. If you’re going to hire something done, ask around and find out what the going rates are.

Don’t get too stressed out. Breathe, take a second and look for an easier solution. There are always shortcuts that get you the same results. I freaked out a ton about formatting before I looked instructions up online.

  1. Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

    I wish! Someday I will, but not right now :)

  1. What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

    I have to be lying down to write. Most often I’m on the couch with my legs on the coffee table, computer on lap, several blankets, a cup of tea and something to munch on. And noise. Lots of noise. I have written in public places, but I prefer to have the comforts of home around me.

  1. What tools or software do you use to write?

I use Open Office. I don’t have Word on my computer, and I don’t want to pay for it. Open Office does everything I need it to do, and it’s free. I am a Google nut. I always have it open when I’m writing to look things up. Nocturnal has a lot of proverbs and sayings in it, so I was always looking those up.

  1. What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

    I’m just starting out, so I haven’t done a ton yet. I’ve had a blog for a little over a year. I’m on Goodreads, Twitter, Tumblr (every now and then) and I have a Facebook author page that I just started. I try to be as active as I can on those.

    I did a blog hop that got me a ton of new blog followers. I’ve been contacting book bloggers, and so far the response has been amazing. They are such nice people. I have a few reviews lined up, as well as a chat on #yabookchat on March 28th. It’s still to early to tell what’s worked promotion-wise.

  1. About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

    As I said, my first book took me four years. My second was a DNF. Nocturnal took me three weeks to write the first draft and about six months to edit. Nightmare, the sequel, I wrote during NaNoWriMo last November, and I hope to have the editing done at the end of March. I’ve only been working on that one since mid-February, so the process is getting faster. I spend around two hours a day writing, which also includes editing, but if I’m facing a deadline it can be more. I get a lot done on the weekends, too.

  1. How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

    I did everything myself. Formatting, editing, cover, the whole thing. This whole thing was one giant experiment to see if I could do it. So far, so good. Formatting was super stressful, but I found some awesome instructions and help online, so I know I can do it now. I found two stock images online and downloaded GIMP, a free image manipulation program and mashed them together. I am thinking of paying for paperback formatting. Just looking at the instructions makes my eyes bug out.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about your book(s)?

    Nocturnal is a YA paranormal romance that deals with what it means to be human, and what it means to be immortal. It’s about a girl who has a mother dying of cancer who meets a boy who can never die. It features a snarky best friend, cemeteries, books, flying, grilled cheese sandwiches, proverbs, eye sex and promises. It’s dark without being too dark. And it’s funny. At least I think so :)

  1. Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

    I’m working on the sequel to Nocturnal, Nightmare. It’s a little darker than the first book, and I’m really looking forward to releasing it. After that I’m going to start editing Whisper, which is a three-book series about ghosts. It’s also a paranormal romance. Beyond that I’ve written dystopian, fantasy and I’d love to try steampunk :)

You can find Chelsea at her blog or on Twitter as @chel_c_cam.

Nocturnal - Chelsea Cameron.jpg

Seventeen-year-old Ava-Claire Sullivan isn’t one for doing the expected. Especially when she finds out her mother’s cancer is terminal. After a crying session in the local cemetery where she’s attacked by one strange guy and saved by another, she doesn’t call the cops. Because those guys definitely weren’t your average hooligans.

And the one who sort-of saved her? Well, he’s odd. He doesn’t seem to breathe or smile or have anything better to do than wait in the cemetery for Ava to come back. Which she does. Call it morbid curiosity. Even after her warns her that he’s dangerous, she can’t stop wanting to see him, talk to him, be with him.

There’s something about Peter that provides a much-needed escape from her mother’s diagnosis and her tenuous relationship with her father. Even her best friends Jamie and Texas don’t know what it’s like to face death. But Peter does. He already has. He also made a promise a long time ago that could destroy both of them.

When everything in your life is falling apart, what are you willing to give up to hold onto the one thing that could last forever?

You can get a copy from Amazon and B&N.

Please enjoy this excerpt from Nocturnal:

This time I bring a flashlight, using it like a search beam to scan the cemetery. I think I’m alone until something appears.

“You’re still here,” I say, nearly falling down as my flashlight beam bounces over him. He turns around at the sound of my voice.

It’s a cold night, I can see my breath in the beam of the flashlight, like smoke. I have to wrap my arms around myself to stop from shaking, I’m so freaking cold.

“I am,” he says. “So are you.” The light jumps in my shaking hand. So much for being confident. Keeping the beam on his dirty feet is the best I can do to minimize my freak out.

“I guess I have no self-preservation instincts.” I want to sit down, because standing is awkward, but I don’t want to be the one sitting when he’s standing. So I just continue to fidget awkwardly. “I thought you were going to… um…” I can’t say it. Not be alive anymore.

“Yes. But I did not.” There’s a pause as I question all the ways this is a bad life decision.

“What changed your mind?” That’s it, I’m officially insane. I’m standing in a cemetery, discussing suicide in the middle of the night with some guy who kinda saved me from his creepy brother who might have tried to rape or kill me.

“It was not the right time.”
“So what is the right time? Not that I think you should, but…” Open mouth, insert feet and hands, Ava.

“I will know.”

“It can’t be that bad.” Like I know something about this guy. “What’s your name?” It’s my attempt to talk him off the proverbial ledge. All the cops do it on TV.


“Peter, what?”


“It’s nice to meet you, Peter. I’m Ava.” I stick my hand out, like this is some sort of meet-and-greet. He stares at my hand. I yank it back. I must have come on too strong. Go me.

“So, what, have you just been camping out here, waiting for unsuspecting girls to wander near your mausoleum?” I sound like a lunatic.

“Where’s your brother?”

“You mean Ivan. He is not here.” Glory halleluiah. I should throw a party. With confetti.

“You’re not very good at conversation, are you?” He turns his head to the side. I like it when he does that. Wait, what? I pull my eyes away from him.

“No, I am not. But you continue to try.”

“Call me Saint Jude,” I say with a sigh. It comes out kind of trembly, since I’m so cold. I hope he doesn’t notice, but I’m sure he does.
“Do you consider me a lost or hopeless cause?” That catches me off guard. Only Tex or Jamie or my mother or someone familiar with saints would understand that little quip.

“Well I don’t know you, so I couldn’t say. What would you consider yourself as?” I look up at him, trying to be as confident as I sound. Clearly, he’s something. I just don’t know what that is. I move the beam back up to his eyes, hidden behind that hair. They sparkle like gems under water.

“I am nothing.” His voice goes quiet. The first change in volume, which tells me something. I just don’t know what that is. I’m still shaking and I can’t feel any of my extremities.

“You’re… something.” I can’t say what I’m thinking, that I don’t think he’s a normal guy. I try not to look at his eyes again, but now that I’ve done it once, they’re all I can see when I close my eyes. My heart kicks into high gear. Why are my palms sweating?

“I just can’t figure you out.” He’s still standing. “You don’t want me to, though.” I meet his eyes for a second.

“I would prefer it.” I’m shivering so bad I can barely talk.

“Well, thank you anyway. For not letting Ivan do, whatever it was he wanted to do. And for not killing yourself.” I cringe inwardly at how ungrateful of a thanks it is.

He studies at me a second before answering.

“You are welcome, Ava.” It’s the first time he says my name.

“So, um, goodbye.” As much as I’d like to stay and chat with him, my nose is going to freeze and fall off if I don’t leave. He is unaffected by the cold. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen his breath in the air. I haven’t seen him breathe. I should probably just stop thinking.

“Goodnight, Ava.” I stare at his chest, looking for some kind of breathing movement. Of course, it’s really hard to see in the dark. I drag my eyes back up to his face, which is calm as ever.

Of course I have to stop and say, “will you be here tomorrow?” in a hopeful, pleading kind of voice. He answers my question with one of his own.

“Will you?” I bite my lip before I answer, considering if I should lie or tell the truth.

“Probably.” I go with the truth. Even with the fact that I’ve just embarrassed myself irreparably, I know I’ll be back. Sometimes you just know things. My mother would scoff at my certainty and say something about fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice… I don’t remember the rest.

I give a lame little wave as I turn around.

“Will you?” I ask again.

“Perhaps.” Neither of us want to make a commitment. That would have made this something more. And I still wasn’t sure if it was anything or nothing. I want it to be nothing. But it’s probably something.

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Interview and an Excerpt – Tim Miller

26 Mar

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Tim Miller, author of the thriller The Hand of God.


1.) How long have you been an indie author?

I had written 2 books almost ten years ago. They were mystery/suspense types. I indie published those back then, but there were no ebooks. Print on demand was just becoming an available resource, so I had published through iUniverse.

2.) How many books have you self published?

I guess five total. I had written some non-fiction Christian books several years ago, even though those were mostly for local distribution, I’d published those two through Lulu and Booksurge. For the Hand of God I went through KDP select and Createspace for the print version.

3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Oh pantser by far. The story writes itself as I go. I couldn’t plot if you forced me.

4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Well, in this case, it started with an idea. Having been in ministry before, I had come across many many preachers who were so far off base with bizarre teachings, yet they were so convinced they were 100% right…and anyone who disagreed with them was an enemy of God himself. So this concept of a wayward preacher fascinated me. After watching a few seasons of Dexter, I knew I had my mold for my preacher. While he is far from being a copy of Dexter, that was my inspiration. So from there, there isn’t much of a process. I keep my laptop handy and I begin writing whenever the urge strikes. With a family and full time job it can be hard. I try to commit to one chapter or 1000 words a day. I’ve become so used to distractions I can write almost anywhere. I usually sit on the couch with my laptop propped on my knees, pounding away.

5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?

Oh gosh, I’ve heard so much. I guess just the usual cliches, of show don’t tell. Also I read one book on writing that said for your first draft, don’t worry about spelling and grammar, just write, get the story on paper and fix it later. That has worked well for me.

6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?

I’d tell them to make sure to use a good editor, whether they pay for it, or someone they know, but have it edited by someone besides themselves. Get it cleaned up. I would also warn against a lot of the “self publishing” companies out there now. Places like Author House and iUniverse. They may have once served a decent purpose, but now their prices are so inflated and for such little return. A new author is better off doing this stuff themselves or just hiring a cover designer and editor and keeping more royalties for themselves.

7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?

No I’m not unfortunately. I have a day job, which I do enjoy. But it is my dream to be able to write full time one day.

8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?

Don’t know if I have any…though I drink a lot of Coke when I write.

9.) What tools or software do you use to write?
I’m pretty simple. I just use word. I open a word doc and plow my way through from start to finish. I deal with all the formatting later. For Kindle format a good friend formatted it for me.

10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?

Over the years different things. Print ads were worthless. Back 10 years ago with just hard copies I did a lot of book signings. Nowadays those are even harder to get for indie authors. So the focus has been on getting a Twitter following and guest blogging. Doing the free promos on KDP select has helped, though I haven’t gotten sales into the thousands like some authors have.

11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?

This one took just about a year. I might spend 1-3 hours a day writing. Depends on how much it flows. If I get stuck I might put it up for a few days and come back to it. Writers block has never stopped me for too long.

12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?

I wrote the whole thing in a first draft. Then from there I re-wrote the whole thing from start to finish to flesh it out. I had a couple beta readers read the first draft and give me input on what parts of the story needed expanded upon or dropped. My fiance then edited the final draft. She is an appellate attorney so she writes and edits documents all day, so that is her specialty. My friend Nicola Ormerod of Vamptasy Publishing did the cover design for me.

13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

Sure. I’m afraid in my marketing and blurbs I might not have been clear enough that it’s not a “Christian” book. But my book starts out with Pastor Charlie. He’s a preacher but he’s also a sociopath. He believes God speaks to him and tells him to kill sinners. He kills them by tying them to a cross and dismembering them. So as he does this, later another preacher shows up performing all sorts of miracles. Healings, raising the dead, all sorts of wild stuff. So Charlie thinks something is up with this guy. Through the story, Charlie learns more about himself and why he is the way he is, and also learns about his own belief system and how things aren’t what he thought. Lots of twists and hopefully thought provoking.

14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?

I’m working on book 2 of Pastor Charlie. I’m thinking this will be a trilogy.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimMiller2011

the hand of god.jpg
Charlie Sims is the pastor of a small church. However, he thinks he’s on a special mission from God to rid the world of sinners. As he brutally carries out his work, a mysterious man delivers a message that will change his life forever. A battle ensues for the fate of mankind.

Charlie finds himself in a struggle with the spiritual realm only to learn that nothing is what it seems. He must choose between accepting his own identity or realizing his own beliefs have been wrong his whole life. Whichever he chooses, nothing will ever be the same, and no one is safe.

You can buy it exclusively through Amazon.
Please enjoy this excerpt from Hand of God:


Who would dare challenge the hand of God? This was the question I asked myself every night. The world was full of sinners, so my work was never done. Tonight’s sinner was an adulteress. During the day, she was a school teacher, mother of two beautiful children with a loving husband. Her husband practically worshipped the ground she walked on. Yet this wasn’t good enough for her. Despite his years of love, devotion and adoration; as well as him giving her everything she could ever want, she was sleeping with another man.

The “other” man was a bad boy. He’d been in jail a few times, couldn’t hold a job, and hung out in bars daily. Yet he was much manlier than her gentle husband who loved her so. Adultery was sin in the eyes of God. He had declared her sin an abomination. Those who commit this act shall be put to death. Tonight, I was going to do just that.

I sat outside the adulteress’s school as darkness began to fall. It was almost eight o’clock. I’d been watching her for days.    She taught fifth grade, but also worked with the choir. This often resulted in late nights. Finally, she came walking out toward her car, the same way she did every night. I parked right next to her car to make things quick and easy.

“Excuse me, ma’am?” I said as I stepped out of my Tahoe. She didn’t seem startled at my presence.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Yes, do you have a cell phone? My truck won’t start, and my phone seems to be dead. I’m really sorry to bother you.”

“Umm, yes I do,” she said, as she began to look through her purse. The distraction was just what I needed. I lunged toward her, and in one smooth motion placed her into a reverse choke hold, cutting off her air and her circulation. Within seconds she was limp in my arms. I popped the tailgate on my Tahoe and slid her inside, threw the canvas tarp over her and closed it up. It all took less than a minute. I climbed back in and began the drive to the Chapel.

I stood watching her as she began to awaken. I looked up at her, admiring my own work. One of the fun things about my work was seeing the look on sinners’ faces when they realized their predicament. Her response wasn’t any different. I had stripped her naked, tied her to a large wooden cross, and had my tools lain out before me on a table. As she came to, the alarm finally registered on her face, and she began screaming. She went on like that for a few minutes before she actually spoke.

“What’s going on? Who are you?” She screamed. “Where am I?”

“You know why you’re here, sinner. God sent me to rid the earth of you.”

“For what? I’m not a sinner! I didn’t do anything wrong! Why are you doing this?   What do you want?” She struggled against the ropes as she screamed.

“Nothing wrong, huh?” I walked over to my table.    I picked up the Bible off the table and turned to the book of Leviticus. “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death.” I closed the Bible and held it up. “This is the word of God! Not up for negotiation!”

“What? Why? You don’t even know me! Are you insane?” She kept struggling on the cross, trying to free herself, but not budging at all. I could recognize the look in her eyes; it had gone from fear to anger. It was as if she’s realized her fate and now chose to fight instead of beg. “What about Brett? Huh? Where is he? It says both of us should be put to death! Not only are you a murdering freak, but you’re a sexist murdering freak!”

I had a feeling she would mention her lover, Brett.    I reached under the table and pulled out the large trash bag and reached inside.

“Oh, you mean this guy?” I said as I pulled Brett’s severed head from the bag. His eyes were wide and mouth was gaping open. She screamed louder and more shrilly than she had earlier, the defiance out of her for the moment.

“Please don’t,” she pleaded. “Please! I can change! I can! I’ll go to church, I’ll beg forgiveness! I have a family!”

“A family you cheated on, for this piece of garbage. And for what? A cheap thrill? A turn on? I hope it was worth it.”

“God no, please! God help me!” she cried.

“Oh, I’m afraid God won’t help you. He’s who sent me.”

I put the head back into the bag, and sat it on the floor. Unfolding the sack on the table, I revealed my tools. They included meat cleavers, knives, drills and other useful instruments. She saw them and began screaming again. I continued through the noise. I was used to it. It was the sound of God’s justice. I found my large knife and walked over to her as she continued screaming. She looked down at me from the cross as I held the knife up to her.

“No! No! What’re you doing? No!” she screamed, but I ignored her.

As I began to cut down her chest, blood pouring from the incision, I said a prayer:

“God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.” I prayed as I cut, blood pouring from her body and covering her in crimson as she continued screaming. It would be over in a few minutes, and then she would never be found. There would be no body, no evidence, no trace she-or her sin- ever existed. Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Interview and an Excerpt – Christina Lasater

22 Mar

Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is Christina Lasater who is in the middle of a blog tour this week.

This is her schedule this week so be sure to check out the other blogs she’s visited.

blog tour 2.jpg

*March 20th – Review & Excerpt at

*March 22nd – Q & A at

*March 26th – Review & Excerpt at

*March 28th – Excerpt and Q & A at

*March 30th – Review at


1.) How long have you been an indie author? Just since the beginning of 2012. I didn’t make the decision to become an indie author until late last year.
2.) How many books have you self published? The Last Dawn is my first self-published book but I do plan on doing others.
3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter? I used to be a pantser until I learned that plotting was a better friend. With plotting, I was able to finish my projects.
4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating. I guess it is pretty typical. An idea will come to me, I’ll write it down and put it in a pile with all of the others. When it’s time to develop one of those ideas into something more, I’ll fish it out. I like to start with The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson ( With this method, you build your novel from the ground up, little by little. Once I’ve planned out my novel, I’ll set it aside for a couple of days. When I get back to it, I will see all of the things wrong with it and tear it apart to rebuild it again. I will write about 2-3 rough drafts until I find it perfect. For now, I do all of the editing myself but I do hope to find someone I can trust who has the time and honesty to edit the final product.
5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across? Definitely the article on The Snowflake Method. Before I read that article, I was a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants. This method helped me to become a plotter and to understand why it is such an important thing for me. Plotting helped me to develop my story. The Last Dawn may be a short novel but if I would have finished it without implementing the Snowflake Method, I’m sure it would have much shorter.
6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against? Never underestimate the effort it takes to accomplish your goal. You can’t write a great novel overnight, it takes time. Also, the effort it takes to promote and sell your novel once it is done. It is a huge commitment.
7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing? Not quite yet but that is my goal. I make a little extra spending money now but definitely not enough for my family of four!
8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop? It depends. Usually I can just hang out in the living room while the kids play and my fiance plays video games or whatever. Sometimes, especially when I’m on a roll, a nice quiet room where I can play my favorite album and write in peace is what I need.
9.) What tools or software do you use to write? Just a dictionary, thesaurus and my laptop!
10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective? It has mostly been all online through Facebook, Twitter, forums, my blog, etc. I’ve released some press releases and articles, too. It has all been self-promotion. I would have to say right now they are all working the same. There isn’t one outlet that has been more effective than the others.
11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your books? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing? With The Last Dawn, I was working on it for about a year and a half and I would just write whenever I had the time. When I got serious about finishing it and set a deadline, I would spend 8-10 hours a day. It had become my full-time job.
12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do? From editing, formatting, creating the cover art and everything else in between, I did it all myself. My fiance did help me actually make the cover on Photoshop because I had no idea how to use that program.

13.) Can you tell us a little bit more about your book? It is set in 2055 just as the world is about to end. The main character, Madison, has arrived back home to say goodbye to her family and friends. For years she has tried to avoid her ex, James, but he has found a way for them to reconnect. After they resolve all of their past relationship issues, they want to reunite. The only problem is, it is the night before they are separated across the universe to live on separate planets. A few months later, Madison is settling in on her new planet but she can’t seem to get over James. An opportunity arises for Madison to stow away on a cargo ship bound for James’ planet. If she would have known all of the heartbreak she would endure on the trip, she may not have taken it.
14.) What are you working on now? I have a few different concepts for my next novel but I haven’t decided on which I want to pursue yet. I do want to have my second novel published by the end of this year. In the meantime, I am once again writing articles for Yahoo! Contributor Network, covering various topics.
You can follow Christina on Twitter: @crlasater

The Last Dawn by Christina Lasater.jpg
The Last Dawn begins in late 2055 during the last few days of Earth. As Earth’s demise is imminent, Madison Weatherly and her former flame, James, reunite. Only a few hours remain for life on the dying planet when the entire population is dispersed throughout the universe. As Madison tries to adjust to a new life on a new planet and far away from her love, the desire to be with him never wavers. When an unexpected opportunity comes to leave her planet to find him, Madison takes off on a risky adventure through the galaxies.
You can buy it exclusively at Amazon.
Please enjoy this excerpt from The Last Dawn:
Chapter Eight:

    Sitting next to her mother at the kitchen table, a quiet Madison blows on her steaming mug of coffee. Cautiously, she takes a sip of her dark, bitter brew then carefully places it back onto the wooden tabletop. She traces her index finger around a stain left from a coffee cup years ago; completely lost in her thoughts. Music from the theme song of the morning newscast blares as the broadcast begins, interrupting her. Madison turns her attention to the television perched on the countertop across the table. The grandfather clock on the wall behind the television chimes at eight o’clock sharp.
Pandemonium, as the news anchor calls it, is calming down across the world. Updates are becoming more peaceful stories than just two days ago. Communities across the globe are planning weekend celebrations to commemorate life on Earth. It seems as though there is a growing world-wide acceptance of the world’s demise. Madison is not feeling up to much celebrating of any kind. She only wishes the week would fly by so that all of this would end quickly. She feels that she cannot leave Longview fast enough.

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Proudly Paranormal Blog Hop- Rosalie Skinner, Sky Purington, Liv Rancourt, and Rebecca Ryals Russell

19 Mar


During the month of March I will be participating in blog hop with some other lovely authors of exciting paranormal reads. Check them out for interesting articles on all aspects of writing (and reading) in the paranormal genre and for chances to win lots of great prizes. I will be doing my own post on the 8th so look for that.

Another batch of writers to check out through the Proudly Paranormal Blog Hop and lots of new opportunities to win free books and swag. Please take a minute to check them out.

First up is Rosalie Skinner. She has a fun post from Tallowbrand, a character in her books.

Exiled Autumn's Peril by Rosalie Skinner.jpg

Exiled and driven by guilt and vengeance, Caleath, adept in virtual reality games, finds himself on a world where magic rules. Assassins hunt him, ghosts haunt his nights, a sorcerer covets his knowledge and a beautiful hostage complicates his escape.

Washed ashore from the wreck of the Albatross, tortured in mind and body, Caleath uses his dreaded nanobots in order to survive and reluctantly befriends the young Gwilt Their search for the survey satellite, which could lead Caleath home, unveils the terrifying world of ‘a dark soul, black magic and a bloody sword’.

On this perilous journey, an assassin destroys Caleath’s healing nanobots, and exiles from his home planet follow his every move. He takes the beautiful Nasith, of the Ferran clan, hostage to keep the assassins at bay, but her presence endangers him more. A sorcerer forces Caleath to aid the Council of Mages when he discovers Caleath carries vital knowledge that could save the Sharyac people from the invading Tarack, a species of giant ants.

Available at Amazon.

Next up is Sky Purington who talks about true life hauntings that she’s experienced in her old victorian house. Spooky stuff to a believer such as myself.

The Victorian Lure by Sky Purington.jpg

Is it true love…or is the magnetic pull just another part of the Victorian’s lure?

Dakota Allerton depends on no one but herself, but then she’s never needed a ghost hunter. When her dream home becomes a house of horrors that is holding her hostage, her only hope is a Scotsman who investigates the paranormal.

The supernatural is nothing Leathan Stewart can’t handle. However, trapped in Dakota’s cursed Victorian home, he finds himself falling back in time. Only those who persevere can survive the dark domination.

Fear has a way of drawing two people together…but so does the need to be loved. Dakota and Leathan must fight against unknown enemies, discover the secrets of Calum’s Curse and defeat a vampire bent on finishing the legacy it began.

Available from Amazon and B&N.

Liv Rancourt talks about the appeal of vampires. The perfect man, maybe? She makes a pretty good case, but I remain unconvinced. ;)

A Vampire's Deadly Delight by Liv Rancourt.jpg

She’s a quiet, unassuming bookstore owner by day, but by night…

Kristen has a deadly secret—when she smells a vampire, she turns into Jai, a beauti-licious babe who makes vamps permanently dead. To a vamp, Jai is like ambrosia. They can’t resist her. She uses this attraction, plus her super strength and her trusty blade, Mr. Sticky, to end their undead lives. The thrill of wearing miniskirts without worrying about cellulite stifles any qualms Kristen might have about killing the undead. Being Jai is the most fun she has ever had—until they come up against the one vampire Jai can’t kill. If he and Jai have a history, as he claims, Jai can’t remember it…or him.

But when her work catches the attention of some old enemies—who won’t hesitate to destroy Kristen if it also means the end of Jai—this vampire may be their only hope. Can Kristen and Jai learn to tell the difference between good and evil in time to defeat Jai’s ancient nemesis? Or will being Jai’s hostess cost Kristen more than just a little sleep?

You can find that at Amazon and B&N.

And finally Rebecca Ryals Russell shares an opportunity for writers on her blog today.

Prophecy (Seraphim Wars) by Rebecca Ryals Russell.jpg

Many millennia ago Laud asked for a volunteer to live on the planet of Dracwald and guard the Prophecy of Solsyl. Jeremiah Holyfield, immortal member of the Conscientia volunteered and for many years lives as the Reverend in a small village. The Prophecy of Solsyl tells of the demise of Narciss, the demon dragon who rules Tartarus. When Narciss learns of its existence he declares he will not stop hunting the Guardian until he has the Prophecy in his possession. When Reverend Jeremiah Holyfield’s village is burned to the ground by Narciss, he must traverse half the planet of Dracwald to protect the Prophecy of Solsyl. Along the way he discovers the value of friendship, forgiveness and love.

Available from Amazon.

To learn more about the blog hop, check out the main site.

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Outlining the easy way

16 Mar

This post assumes that you’ve read the post I made a few days ago about world building in 5 easy steps. You can read that here. If you’ve followed those steps then you should have a good idea of the story that you are building. You’ll know the “rules” of your new world and the kind of character that would be the most interesting in it. You should also have a handful of scenes to start you on your way to a completed outline.

***As a disclaimer, I will say that it’s a really long post and has quite a bit of math, which I’m not great at. I did my best to explain what I did, but you might find that you need to do some trial and error to figure out what I’m talking about because it’s possible I messed something up. If so, feel free to leave a comment to help out everyone else. I’ll obviously change my post to reflect any corrections that need to be made.***

I’ve been working on the outline for Moonbound, which was formerly known as Soulbound until I realized that my friend Courtney Cole already had dibs on it for her upcoming book. She only wrote it like a billion times in emails and I still managed to completely space on the fact. Luckily, I found out before I published so I just went with a different choice. So I’ll continue to use it for the examples here.

The updated cover (which I like even more than when it was Soulbound):


After working through the steps in the last post I had about 10 scenes. Some were really vague “sexual tension between MC and love interest”, but I knew the important stuff like what the overall story was about and how it needed to end.

The stuff I’m going to talk about pulls really heavily on what I read in “Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” (Blake Snyder) and “Save the Cat!® Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into … and Out of” (Blake Snyder). I believe he says he draws heavily on Syd Field. “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” (Syd Field)

Anyway, the point is that I didn’t make the beats up so I’d highly recommend getting your hands on those books and reading up. They are written for screenwriting in specific, but I think they can help anyone’s writing.

I’m going to ask you to do some math now. None of this is exact, but it’s going to give you an idea of how many scenes you’ll need for everything.

Try to estimate what your average words per scene are. I hit 1500 pretty consistently so that’s the number I am using for this formula.

How many words are you shooting for total? I chose 80k. It’s an arbitrary number, for sure, but that’s what I picked. It seemed like a good length.

Ok, now we’re going to figure out how many scenes you’ll need for each part of your outline. I’m not going to define these areas because I feel like I’d be treading a little too close to copyright infringement if I do, but you might be able to pick up some of the information with some googling. I’d just recommend the books. They are really good.

Set-up- 0-8%
(you can include scenes that happen at home, work, and play for the MC that show what her life is like before they get flipped turned upside down)

Catalyst- 10%

Debate- 10-20%

Break into 2- 20%

Fun and Games- 25-45%

Midpoint- 45%

Bad Guys Close In- 45-62%

All is Lost- 62%

Dark Night of the Soul- 62-70%

Break into 3- 70%

Finale- 70-100%
(He suggests adding gathering the team, executing the plan, high tower surprise, dig down deep, and executing the new plan as milestones in the finale)

So you wonder what this means, right? Well, his suggested lengths dealt with a screenplay so I did my best to try to translate that into percentages so I could apply it to my much longer books.

There are two formulas that you’ll want to keep in mind.

The first is how to figure out what word count you’ll be at at a given percentage. You can figure that by using your word count goal (WCG) for the project times the percentage.


In my case it was 80k*.35= 28k… so I know that if something hits the 35% mark, it’s 28k words in.

The second formula is to figure out how many scenes you’ll end up for each range. You take the number you just figured out and divide it by the average words per scene (WPS).

X/WPS=# of scenes

So for me, say that I start with that 28k we discussed. 28k/1500=18.7… so I’d need about 19 scenes to cover 35% of the book.

So this is how it looks for my 80k word book. I figured some scenes as being one scene long, but this isn’t an exact science so do with it what you want.

Set up- 5 scenes

Catalyst- 1

Debate- 5

Break into 2- 1

Fun & Games- 15

Midpoint- 1

Bad Guys- 9

All is Lost- 1

Dark Night- 4

Break into 3- 1

Finale- 10

photo copy 2.JPG

This is what it looks like on my story board (as mentioned, it’s a tri fold poster board with sticky notes). I use the blocks of color to keep track of what act I’m working on and the contrasting colors represent the key scenes (catalyst, break into 2, midpoint, all is lost, and break into 3).

Of course, as I work on it I change my mind and things get moved around until it’s not strictly color blocked anymore. I’m ok with that, but if it bothers you, you can just rewrite it on the right color sticky note.

Ok, so at this point if I didn’t totally muddle up the math for you, you should have a pretty good idea of how many scenes you need. I need around 54, I think.

I find it so helpful to know how many scenes I need. Of course some will run long or short, but you will be in the ballpark of what your goal is and that helps tremendously. Trust me on that. I guessed that my average scene length was 2k words when I was writing I Wish and my 80k goal turned into a 47k reality after the first draft. No good.

The next thing you’ll want to do is going to help you fill in some of these blanks. If you’re like me, you’ve got a handful of scenes, but no real sense of where they need to go and all those empty squares are daunting. The good news is that we’re going to eliminate some of those empty squares.

Figure out the plot and the subplots. In Moonbound the main plot is Trevyn’s efforts to track down a Were serial killer, who also happens to be responsible for ruining her life and killing her husband. Since it’s the main plot, it’s going to have to hit those 5 main scenes. I like to plan for those first. It helps a lot in figuring out where everything else goes in relation.

For subplots I chose things like her strained relationships with her parents and her sister, her romantic life, and learning to accept her status as something other than human. I forget off hand how many I came up with, but I think I had around 5 or 6.

Each subplot has to have a beginning, a middle, and some sort of resolution. For subplots that involve other people, you need a scene that introduces the other person. There will sometimes be some overlap where a scene will serve more than one function, but if you plan on having at least 3 scenes for each one (beginning, middle, and end), then 5 subplots will net you 15 scenes.

My romance subplots (love those love triangles) actually gave me a lot of scenes. I had a scene for each of these points:

-Introduce the love interest
-Show why they should be together
-Show why they shouldn’t be together
-At least one scene of sexual tension

My story isn’t an erotica or romance so there’s far less focus on the relationships than there might have been otherwise, but as you can see, even in a straight UF, there’s plenty of room to add some romantic complications.

The last thing I do is figure out what each subplot’s resolution teaches the MC. In Nightmare on Elm Street 4, all the kids were being killed off and the MC was absorbing their powers until she was finally strong enough to face Freddy and win.

You are doing the same thing for your MC. Each conflict exists to teach her a valuable lesson that helps her evolve until she’s ready to meet the challenge of defeating the main plot line’s antagonist.

Keeping that in mind has helped me out a lot as I plot. It gives me focus as I work out each subplot arc. I actually sat down and wrote down all my subplots on a piece of paper and then wrote out what each lesson she should be learning from each.

Now I’m not saying that these scenes should read like an after school special. Good lord, don’t have your character say something like, “well, I hoped you learned from this”. Seriously, no.

You’re going for subtext. You show how each lesson effected her by having her actions change as the story progresses.

To recap:

*Do your math and figure out how many scenes you are working with.

*Define your plot and write in the 5 key scenes.

*Define your subplots and figure out at least a beginning, middle, and end for each arc.

*List the lessons the MC will learn from the resolution of each subplot and make sure that those lessons color her future actions.

Doing these things has cut my outlining time to about a quarter of what it was before. It’s given my outlining process a laser focus that it never had before. I know exactly how many scenes I need for each part of the story which helps me place my planned scenes in a more cohesive order from the start. Defining the lessons she learns from subplots helps me plan the ending of the story by giving me a set of “tools” she can draw on as the story progresses.

Hopefully you find this method helpful for your own plotting. :)

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Proudly Paranormal Blog Hop – Wren Emerson

8 Mar


During the month of March I will be participating in blog hop with some other lovely authors of exciting paranormal reads. Check them out for interesting articles on all aspects of writing (and reading) in the paranormal genre and for chances to win lots of great prizes.

Today it’s all about me. I gave it some thought and I decided that rather than talk about my books, I would tell you a bit about how I do my world building for paranormal/urban fantasy novels. One aspect that my debut novel, I Wish…, is consistently praised for is the interesting setting that I have with the town of Desire. I’m going to show you how I get to that point with a new idea. It’s going to be a bit long, but if you stick it out, hopefully you’ll find something of what I’m describing to be useful to your own process. :)

my indoor writing nook.jpg

This is my cold weather writing nook. The only difference in the summer is that I like to drag my table out to the screened second story room and write out there. So there’s less sticky note action. Total cost for this set up, furniture and all, (minus the computer) was probably around $75 and you can definitely use things you already have around the house to cut costs even more.



  • Tri fold poster board- you can use the wall if you like, but I like the portability of the poster board. This is going to be your primary planning space for the first stages.
  • Sticky notes- you might prefer to do this stage with index cards or all digital with computer software, but I’ve found that I think better when I can easily manipulate my scene and sticky notes are cheap so there’s no feeling that every idea has to be solid gold to merit being written down.
  • Notebook- this can be replaced by a note taking software, but you should really have one or the other. I like to use both.
  • Pens, flags, highlighters- this is really a collection of things that will help you keep your work organized. I have a single subject quad notebook and I use the flags to easily find different projects I’m working on. Highlighters and colored pens help keep my notes organized for easy browsing.


  • Note taking software- To do what I do, you absolutely need a way to take notes easily. My recommendations are Onenote (if you use a Windows machine) or Curio (for Mac). They are fairly pricey, but in my opinion, they are the absolute best note taking programs out there. Other people might have different opinions, but I have used both extensively and adore them. A free program that will work ok is Evernote. It’s not my favorite, but it’s a decent replacement if you’re on a budget, and what writer isn’t?
  • Mind mapping software- I use the mind mapping capabilities of Curio, but if you’re using anything else, you’ll want to check out Xmind. It’s free, easy to learn, and powerful.
  • Family tree software- I wouldn’t say you NEED to make a family tree, but when writing a paranormal with creatures that can live centuries, it’s very helpful to be able to see how many generations that would really be. I’ve had pretty good with My Heritage, which is free, but nothing I’ve tried is super paranormal friendly. I’m waiting for the programer who realizes there’s a market for immortal creature family trees, lol.

Now that you have your things together, I’m going to give you some homework that will help you overcome writer’s block forever and virtually guarantee that you’ll never struggle for new projects to write. It’s so easy you can do it in less than 10 minutes a day. Do I sound like an infomercial? Sorry, but this is the real deal.

Start a list, either on paper or in a computer program, and every day add 5 ideas to it. That’s it.

What do I mean by ideas? Every single day we’re exposed to stimuli from dozens of sources. Your mind then takes all this information and sorts through it and combines it in interesting ways. If you take the time to write down the things that capture your imagination you will eventually end up with a valuable list you can refer to in the future when you are looking for a prompt.

My lists include all sorts of ideas. I have basic character sketches all the way down to just a specific trait that I find interesting. I write down things about movies and books that I find especially interesting and would love to take in a different direction in my own writing. And, of course, if actual plot ideas occur to me, I write those down too. Anything goes on your list because these ideas are more of a jumping off point at some point in the future. When you’re stuck, start reading through your lists and you’ll be amazed at how your mind is able connect a totally unrelated idea/character/plot point to your current WIP.

Ok, so you’ve started your list. It will take awhile before it gets long enough to be really useful, but eventually it’ll be an important resource. Checking my list for a new idea is one of my first steps in creating a new world.

We’re going to talk about an upcoming adult urban fantasy I’m working on called Soulbound. It is based in a world I came up with a couple of years ago that I refer to as the Dominance Wars stories based on in-universe events.


How to build a unique paranormal world in 5 easy steps:

I always ask myself a series of questions when I’m building a world. If you answer these questions you’ll almost certainly have a clear direction to take your story when you’re done. The steps are going to generate a ton of notes and this is where the mind mapping and family tree building are going to come in handy as you work out the details.

  1. What is distinct about this world? (Is there magic? Magical creatures? An alternate reality?)
  2. What are the characteristics of your non human characters? (What do they look like, how do they breed, how do the humans react to them and vice versa, what are their powers?)
  3. What kind of character would have the most conflict in the world you’ve created? Congrats, you’ve just found your main character. Your main character should be someone who has the most to gain by challenging the system and the most to lose if they fail.
  4. What unique strengths (super powers or just special training) does your character have? Make sure that there are limitations to those powers. Every Superman needs to have ktryptonite. If you’re tempted to skip this step you are putting yourself in danger of writing a Mary Sue. Pro tip: if your character’s biggest flaw is being clumsy, you might want to reevaluate your character. ;)
  5. Evaluate your character’s strengths and weaknesses and backstory and figure out how those things come into conflict with the “rules” of your newly created world. This is the skeleton of your plot.

So let’s take my mimic example and see how it breaks down.

  1. What is distinct about this world? This is a world where creatures we think of as being fairytale/magical/mythological are real and living among the human population. They saw an opportunity to try to get rid of humans while they were weakened by World War II and they organized world wide efforts to eradicate them in was later referred to as the Dominance Wars. They might have won, since Others tend to be far stronger than humes, but unfortunately for the Others the temptation to try to attack their distracted racial enemies was too strong. Humans were able to win the wars through superior numbers and are now control all the political power. This leads to a lot of racism and bitterness that bubbles just under the surface and makes for a very uneasy truce.
  2. What are the characteristics of your non human characters? I made all kinds of notes for the different races that will show up in my stories. Because this is an open ended world, anything goes, but I’m being careful only to write about 2 or 3 races per story that are relevant to that story. For my were-creatures, I did research about the different animals that my characters can change into to make their behavior and description of them when they are in animal form more believable.
  3. What kind of character would have the most conflict in the world you’ve created? In the course of outlining different creatures, I started making notes about how people become weres. In the DW universe, you can be infected with the Therian Virus through the transmission of fluids, including sex. That lead to the concept of a man who is tricked into infection and then abused by the very weres who engineered his transformation. As a result of those tragic actions he strikes out at innocents as a manifestation of his insane rage. Two of those innocents are Trevyn Smith and her husband.
    Now it’s 10 years after the attack that left Trevyn’s husband dead and her identity changed forever and there’s no room in her life for anything but her career in the elite, human-only, Rogue Enforcement Department. The only problem is that the attack left her infected, something that she should have reported immediately. No longer eligible for human citizenship due to her were status, she’s been faking her way through annual blood tests and lying to everybody she knows. Her thirst for vengeance will cost her life if anyone ever finds out that she isn’t who she says she is.

  4. What unique strengths does your character have? Make sure that there are limitations to those powers. She has several powers. As far as non “super” powers are her fighting abilities and training for taking on Others. Due to her were nature she can assume the form of an ocelot, a big cat that’s about twice the size of a house cat. It’s unusual enough that being in that form will draw attention so that’s something she always has to consider. Also, her clothes don’t turn with her so she’s always got to know where to find clothes when she turns or she’ll be naked when she turns back.

    Other were powers are enhanced senses and agility. In her cat form she has the powers of an ocelot, which isn’t as impressive as a lion or tiger would be, but still a pretty fierce opponent in a fight. Because she’s been exposed to the Therian Virus, being bit has no affect on her. Her healing is so fast that she has become immortal.

    Now for weaknesses. For starters being a were in the DW world is the same as being a second class citizen. Humans fear and revile Others, but especially weres. The Therian Virus is 100% contagious and it’s around 97% fatal to humans. Trevyn put herself on the wrong side of the law when she didn’t report her infection, but she became at risk of being put to death when she lied about her human citizenship to join RED. So for her, a big weakness comes from the fact that her eyes aren’t human anymore. She has to wear specially made contact lenses at all times to cover for that.

    She can’t have normal relationships with humans anymore. Having sex with a human will almost certainly result in their death. She could have sex with other weres but pack politics make that tricky. She can turn into her cat form at will, but it’s a lengthy, painful process. Every bone in her body breaks and reforms as she makes the change. And although she can go without a change most of the time, she’s moon bound and will change against her will on the nights that there is a full moon. She must always have an ironclad reason to be alone when the change comes upon her or else risk revealing her secret.

    She’s also got considerable emotional baggage that she needs to overcome. She resents her were nature and resists it on every level. Also, just having a normal relationship with anybody, even just as a friend, will be a challenge for her. Which is just what we like in a protagonist.

  5. Evaluate your character’s strengths and weaknesses and backstory and figure out how those things come into conflict with the “rules” of your newly created world. This part is really cool. Almost like magic. This is where your sticky notes and poster board come into play. Write down these scene ideas and stick them to your board in no particular order. You’ll figure out the best way to sort them out later. This step is just about laying a foundation to work from.

    Ok, so no woman is an island. I decided that Trevyn is not an only child. She has a sister. I decided that just for flavor I’d make them 1/16 siren. This doesn’t have much bearing on Trevyn, she can hold her breath a little longer underwater than most people and is an especially good swimmer, but nothing major. However, her twin sister has inherited the full powers of her great grandmother, which means that she’s actually considered a full siren and would test that way on a blood test if she ever gave anyone a reason to test her. Humans don’t really understand how Others work, especially when it comes to breeding with humes so they haven’t required mandatory blood tests of all citizens yet, but there are rumbles that it might be coming.

    So she’s got a siren for a sister. Her sister is fine with this and actually exploits her sexual hold over men by working as a lounge singer and having reckless affairs with anyone who catches her eye. A practice that Trevyn doesn’t agree with.

    For funsies, I decided that Trev’s dad is a racist. He isn’t exactly a lovable fellow.

    Her husband was a were. A remarkable attribute of the magic that surrounds people who become infected with the Therian Virus is that if a were becomes soulbound to a human (soul mates), that human has immunity to the virus through sex. A human and were can even have a baby together, but the baby will almost always miscarry due to being infected by the virus, although there is a genetic link to surviving infection so those babies do have a higher chance than your average baby would.

    So were husband has a living brother who survived the same attack as her husband and turned them both into weres. He understands her emotional distress at being turned against her will since it was the same for him. He took care of Trev in the year after her attack when she wasn’t able to control her blood craze and has helped her hide her were attributes from RED. Somewhere over the last decade he’s also fallen in love with her. Too bad she doesn’t feel the same about him.

    Trev has a rookie partner who is totally inept at her job and promptly gets herself killed which necessitates a new, sexy, partner. A partner she can’t be with due to the fact that she might infect him.

    She has the opportunity to confront the man who infected her and killed her husband. Now she has to decide whether to kill him or show mercy.

    And so on…

So from those scenes we know that we’ll have scenes where the following happen:
* She interacts with her sister and they argue about their life choices

* She interacts with her parents and deals with her dad’s racism

* Scenes of her losing her first parter, getting her new partner, and being put on the case that will put her face to face with her attacker

* The scene where she confronts her attacker

* Scenes of relationship building between her and her BIL

* Scenes of relationship building between her and her partner

* Scenes that either flashback to, or address, the attack that changed her and left her husband dead
There are a ton more I can draw from just that stated information, but I’ll leave it at those because I don’t want to spoil the story for anybody. Also, because I’m privy to more information, I obviously have a lot more scenes that I’m not sharing here at this point. But you can see how you an turn the information you already have into the beginning of an outline.
You will basically turn every conflict, relationship, strength, and weakness into a scene. She can’t let anybody see her turn into a were, so it’s a given that I need to put her in a position where she’s in danger of being caught turning into a were and then figure out how she gets out of that situation. She has a racist dad so I need to write a scene where that comes into play and it somehow has a bearing on the plot… either he learns from his ways and it teaches her a moral lesson or he’s a total jerkass and a bad interaction between them prompts some sort of plot driving action.

One thing I haven’t addressed in the 5 steps is an antagonist. Every story needs at least one, although it doesn’t have to be a single physical entity. It could be someone versus the political system or a person versus the elements. If you do have a person as an antagonist, it helps to figure out their back story and run them through the steps too. You need to know what their strengths and limitations are.
This method won’t write the story for you. There is a lot of flexibility with it. You can keep the bare bones outline just like it is and figure out the specifics of each scene as you write. If you are like me and you need to know every detail before you start writing, then this is a wonderful place to start. Once you’ve plotted out a skeleton version, try to put them into an order that tells a powerful story (I recommend using the three act story structure from “Save the Cat!® Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into … and Out of” (Blake Snyder). It’s a screenwriting book, but you’ll be glad you read it, I promise). Now all you need to do is fill in the blanks. If one scene happens on a Tuesday in Vegas and the next happens on Thursday in New York, you need a scene between them that gets them on a plane.
Hopefully you found this little essay helpful. If you’d like to see these steps in action, you can pick up a copy of my book I Wish… the first book in the Witches of Desire trilogy exclusively at Amazon.
Leave a comment on my blog for a chance to win a free copy of I Wish and an upcoming collection of short stories based in the WoD universe. Just saying “hi” is enough. I’ll do a random number generator to determine the winner at the end of the month. I Wish Wren Emerson.jpg
All she ever wanted was a chance to settle down in one place.

Thistle Nettlebottom knows her life isn’t exactly normal. She travels the country with her secretive mother and bestselling author grandmother in a pink RV going from book signings to crazy research trips. She’s never been to public school or had a boyfriend, but she can pick a lock and hotwire a car. One day the phone rings and they set a course to a tiny town that’s not on any maps. Suddenly, Thistle finds her whole life changing.

She’s finally found the home she’s been searching for.

Thistle soon realizes that Desire isn’t like other towns and she’s not like other girls. The family she trusted has lied to her about everything her entire life and the things she doesn’t know about herself could cost her everything. Her legacy as one of the most powerful witches the town has ever seen has made her enemies that have been waiting patiently for a chance to destroy her. Thistle needs to learn to use her powers to protect herself before they succeed.

Be careful what you wish for.

Thistle has a power unique even among the magic wielding witches of Desire. She can wish things into existence. At first she enjoys the freedom of having everything her heart desires, but she soon realizes that her power comes at a terrible price. She’s losing her grip on her sanity at a time when she can’t afford any weakness. Her enemies are closing in quickly, but she might not have the strength to save herself.
Be sure to visit Janie Franz’s blog tomorrow for the next stop on hop.
To learn more about the blog hop, check out the main site.

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Proudly Paranormal Blog Hop – Krista D. Ball

7 Mar


During the month of March I will be participating in blog hop with some other lovely authors of exciting paranormal reads. Check them out for interesting articles on all aspects of writing (and reading) in the paranormal genre and for chances to win lots of great prizes. I will be doing my own post on the 8th so look for that.

Today is a post from Krista D. Ball and she discusses the lack of internationally based paranormal stories. She makes a great point.  

Spirits Rishing by Krista D. Ball.jpg

Rachel Mills has one wish in life: for the spirit world to shut up and leave her alone. She thought her move to a remote fishing village in Northern Newfoundland would help.

Population: Twenty. What could go wrong?

Instead of peace, however, she relocates to a land of superstitution, the air alive with the presence of others.

When a local teenager accidentally summons the spirits of the area, including those from a thousand-year-old Viking settlement, all supernatural breaks loose. The spirits stalk both Rachel and each other and Rachel finds herself in over her head. With the help of Mrs. Saunders, her 93-year-old neighbour, Rachel has to put aside her own prejudices long enough to send the spirits back to rest, or risk being caught in the midst of a spirit war.

Available at Amazon and B&N.

To learn more about the blog hop, check out the main site.

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Proudly Paranormal Blog Hop – J.D. Brown

5 Mar


During the month of March I will be participating in blog hop with some other lovely authors of exciting paranormal reads. Check them out for interesting articles on all aspects of writing (and reading) in the paranormal genre and for chances to win lots of great prizes. I will be doing my own post on the 8th so look for that.

Today J.D. Brown  is up. She blogged about her desire to see urban fantasy/paranormal story lines that are told from the point of view of someone in the inner circle of the paranormal. It’s an interesting point of view and one I didn’t realize I shared until I read her post.

To learn more about the blog hop, check out the main site.

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Proudly Paranormal Blog Hop – Gabrielle Bisset

3 Mar


During the month of March I will be participating in blog hop with some other lovely authors of exciting paranormal reads. Check them out for interesting articles on all aspects of writing (and reading) in the paranormal genre and for chances to win lots of great prizes. I will be doing my own post on the 8th so look for that.

Today Gabrielle Bisset is up. She’s written about the vampires in her series, The Sons of Navarus.

Blood Avenged Gabrielle Bisset.jpg

I am everything you desire. I am vampire.

Powerful and manipulative, Vasilije does as he pleases. A vampire beholden to no one, he takes what he desires, drinking deeply the pleasures this life has to offer.

When one of his own is staked, Vasilije must travel to New Orleans to exact his revenge. There he meets Sasa, a beautiful woman who arouses him like no other has for centuries. Vasilije’s need for vengeance is equaled only by his passion for her, but what he finds in his revenge is just the beginning…

Available at Amazon and B&N.

To learn more about the blog hop, check out the main site.

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