I Started a Ko-fi

I’ve been writing professionally for ten years now. It’s crazy to think that.

I’ve seen so many small presses come and go. I’ve encountered incredible editors (and frightful ones), I’ve seen glowing rejection letters (and decimating ones), and I’ve slowly learned the ropes. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of dedication. It requires becoming an expert or at least gaining competency in a variety of areas.

Here are just a few that I came up with off the top of my head. These are all skillsets I didn’t really have ten years ago, but now definitely do.

  • Legal consultant
  • Contract negotiator
  • Social media representative
  • Therapist
  • Software specialist
  • Website engineer
  • Business entrepreneur
  • Tax agent
  • Festival representative
  • Graphic designer
  • Videographer
  • Book tour planner
  • Public speaker
  • And so many more…

About three years back, as my sister and I started to break down the parts and pieces of turning this work into a small business, it quickly became a no-brainer. The amount of time/money/effort that goes into being an author easily makes up a small business. It takes up my evenings, my weekends, my family time, and especially time with my friends. (Love y’all!)

The truth is: I create because I love doing this, not because it pays. (Maybe some day.)

I thought it would be a good idea to give you all, my readers and fans, the opportunity to buy me a coffee (or tea in my case). Imagine sitting down beside me at a local Starbucks and just sliding the cup over while I’m deep in a scene. Know that it’ll help fuel a good afternoon of content creation, whether that’s thinking up some horrific scenes or writing some dialogue that pulls at the heartstrings — or it might help me celebrate my birthday today. 🙂

It’s small, but it helps. It adds up. Thank you for supporting me!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

A Tribute to Middle Earth

Today I learned that Christopher Tolkien died.

He was the son of the renowned author J.R.R. Tolkien who many consider the father of modern fantasy. It’s strange because I feel like the world that both father and son built is such an epic legacy, both on the pages and outside of it, that his death feels like the end of an era.

So I thought it would be fitting to talk a little bit about one of my favorite places, and I think one of theirs: Middle Earth.

Map of Middle Earth

I think my first introduction to the world was when I watched Rankin and Bass’ The Hobbit when I was very young. I loved the animation style, the warmth of the characters, and I adored the songs. It’s still a film that I can go back and watch again and again. Of course I had to hunt down the book too and I read that front to back, loving Mirkwood, Thranduil, and Smaug the most.

Fast forward to high school in 9th grade where we were assigned The Hobbit to read for class. I was thrilled! Not only did we cover the book but we also touched on The Lord of the Rings series. It sounded fun, but it didn’t have a dragon in it, and that made me less likely to try it. I was really into dragons as a kid. And every time I tried to read it, the bickering of the hobbits in Hobbiton and the general air of elitism made me reluctant to continue. I knew the series was supposed to be good, but was it worth it?

It wasn’t until I sat down and watched the teaser trailer for The Fellowship of the Ring that I was hooked.

The original 2001 teaser trailer for The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

It had adventure, fantasy, romance, and incredible monsters too. I remember the whole theater going silent when it came on. Then they announced in the teaser when each of the films would be releasing – unheard of then, and still is now.

As a freshman college student, I was hooked. I ended up reading The Fellowship of the Ring after being blown away by the movie, and read The Two Towers and Return of the King before each of their films came out. This became my favorite fandom for the better part of a decade, and my house is still filled with statues and memorabilia from the series.

Life size cardboard cutout of Legolas from The Lord of the Rings.
Although this isn’t my photo, I do have this cardboard cut-out of Legolas staring over me in the study as I type this.

At bookstores, whole bookcases were dedicated to different collections of the trilogy, movie books, symbolism from the film, toys, etc. I remember seeing books by Christopher Tolkien mixed in too, and naively dismissed the books as him trying to capitalize on his father’s works. What I didn’t know was that he had taken all of the careful research and notes that his father had made and continued the stories where his father could not. I didn’t realize that he strove to match his father’s style in each additional release, and that these books were written specifically for the fans to help get his father’s work out there for them. The series and the fandom originally came out in 1954-1955, and I was a newcomer who didn’t have all the information. Of course, there were no cell phones back then or even reliable internet. Information like that was buried deep in forums or probably in one of the many magazines that featured the series.

J.R.R. Tolkien sparked a love of fantasy in me that today I try to share with others through my books. His son tried to honor his father’s legacy and continue the world as best he could. He protected the integrity of Middle Earth and the Tolkien Estate that he managed was known for having high standards for any adaptations of the books. In fact, it was well known that after The Hobbit trilogy, they famously determined that no more film adaptations were to be made. Now a brand new series is set to film soon for Amazon.

I just wanted to take a moment to thank both father and son for helping to keep this beautiful tapestry of a world alive, and for sharing it with the rest of us. Middle Earth will always be an inspiration to many, and will have a special place in my heart.

Writing a Trilogy: The Lessons I Have Learned [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

It’s a new year, a new decade, and here I am starting on book three of my Stolen trilogy, the first series of books I’ve written. As I ease back into the world and the characters that give this series so much life, I realize how very different it has been for me to write each book. I thought it might be helpful to share what I’ve learned in this month’s Author Toolbox Blog Hop.

AuthorToolboxBlogHop Title Image

This hop is made up of a bunch of authors all sharing advice and experiences to help out other authors. I’m always thrilled to be part of this, and I hope you’ll take the time to go check out some of the other author blogs!

Cover for Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series
Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series

Book one (Stolen – now available) had its own challenges, as I explained way back in 2013 when I struggled with drafting it. It sometimes baffles me when I look back on that post at how much I’ve learned since then, and how much more refined my writing has become. Somehow it was easy for me then to talk about how books ought to end, how stories ought to progress, and how characters ought to evolve. It’s really different when the blank page is staring at you and you realize that you’re the only one who can create those things and finish the story. When the stakes are higher you suddenly understand why writing series is so difficult.

Cover for Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series
Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series

Book two (Broken – coming April 7th) had its own set of problems. I thought I had handled all the loose ends in book one quite well. I thought the sequel would just continue the story, but then details came up during writing like they do, and I couldn’t remember a character’s eye color or the color of their hair. Where was that scar again? What was that background? I have the utmost respect for people who have written ten and twenty books in a series because I think I might need to write a reference book just for myself to keep track of all the details. Needless to say, it was a learning experience–though the end product was so very worth it.

Now here I am, finally on book three (Chosen – coming soon), and I have once again a whole new challenge. All those parts and pieces I dripped in those early books now have their calling. All those last minute scenes I want to include need to be written. And this is the last call for character development. It’s honestly daunting but also thrilling at the same time. As a pantser, I too want to see how these characters get to where I want them to be. I’m looking forward to wrapping up this series and preparing for new projects, but I’m also worried about the finality of this tale coming to a close. Of course I can write spin-offs and extended universes, but this will be the end of the main story for these characters that I’ve molded and directed for eight years. I want to do the right thing for them.

This will certainly not be the last series I write, I’ve already started gathering inspiration for the next one, but I’ve learned a lot during this time and wanted to share some of my takeaways with other authors who are starting their first series. Hopefully my experiences help you!

Lessons Learned from Writing 2/3 Books in my Trilogy

  • Use a comprehensive writing system like Scrivener if you can, or make really organized folders.
    • I know, I talk about Scrivener a lot, but being able to keep all of my writing in a single file has been so helpful to keep things straight.
  • Take the time to make those character sheets.
    • You’ll miss them so much if you forget to make one for your background character in book 2. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
  • Know generally where each book should start and end.
    • I know, it’s hard to do for us pantsers, but having a general cut-off point will help in pacing. Especially for the middle child if you’re writing a trilogy.
  • When in doubt, make a map.
    • I’ve made maps for the inside of buildings so I can make sure I can describe it properly. Just draw it out and take a picture of it to put it into your writing system so you can reference it later.
  • If possible, take breaks in between books.
    • I know for a fact this just isn’t possible for so many authors. Taking time off from a project or a world or series means it’ll take longer to get back into it again. However getting away from the world (if you can) will help enrich it. Remember to replenish that creative well!

Experimentation is of course the best teacher with these things. I’ll have to report back in a few years on whether it got easier with the next series. I would love to write very long series, but I can’t quite do it yet. I think I need to “level up” my author skills a bit more first.

I’ll probably come back and add onto this list at some point. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but I hope this helps. There’s a seemingly endless supply of advice on how to write books out there, but not so much is focused specifically on series. Hopefully this helps bridge that gap.

Have you considered writing a series? Why or why not? Any advice for those who have completed one?

Happy writing, everyone!

Tidying Up

So if you visit my site often, you may have noticed some major changes going on with the site. Not only has the side menu disappeared, but the menu is all different too. Here is why I made these changes and what’s been added.

We Have Incoming

I’ve got a lot of books about to be out soon. I have two physical books available now and next year will have both Broken and The Seeking published. That’s book 2 in the Stolen series and a brand new standalone novel. I’ve been posting on this site since 2009 or so, and just like at home, you can gather a lot of clutter on a website in 10 years time. My menu was starting to get pretty clunky and nested menus were starting to be hard to navigate on some devices.

My Maps and Trains of the 1880s post is still very popular, even though all the images were very broken. All fixed now!

Thank You, Cherie

So I went through and cleaned up a bunch of things. You’ll see a new Contact Info/Press Kit link that has not only my bios, but my email/PO box as well. I’ve also got author photos listed there along with hi-resolution photos of all the covers I’ve been published in. (Whew, there were a lot!) It’s probably pretty obvious why I had to make that, but basically I’ve been doing a bunch of shows, and it was starting to take too long to dig out my Word document to copy and paste when I could just link here. (It is SUPER similar to Cherie Priest’s Contact Info page because she is a goddess and I’ve looked up to her forever. So apologies, Cherie!)

For the Fans

I also realized that I have a ton of additional information I’ve been putting out for the Stolen series. About 6 months out I start posting weekly on Instagram with the #worldofstolen hashtag, and dole out little bites of information and peeks into what’s to come when release day hits. That’s a lot of worldbuilding that just gets lost in the ether if I don’t link it, so that’s what I did. There’s now a whole World of Stolen page that links to the hashtag on Instagram, gives my stance on fanart/fanfic, links to the original short story for Stolen, and even links to the release day video. When Broken comes out in April of next year, I’ll probably be adding even more to that page. For people who want to dig into the world after reading the book, it’s a gold mine of information.

Finally, I realized that I have a lot of channels specifically for readers and fans of my work that I don’t really explain. So that’s what the For Readers page does. It explains the difference between the Facebook group, the mailing list, and shows all of the different ways I can be reached. You’ll also notice I added a section to stub out pages for the World of Kanta and the World of Carra too. I don’t have anything yet for those places, but it’s coming.

The World of Carra is for The Seeking, and yes it is scheduled for Fall 2020. Really not that far away!

What’s Next

So you might still see a few tweaks around (like the new header image!) but generally I’m pretty pleased with this instance. When Broken‘s cover gets revealed later this month, you can expect to see the color palette change here and in my mailing list too.

Have you signed up for the Cover Reveal yet?

I’m super excited for all the new things coming this way, but I wanted to make sure the site was ready to handle it all.

I also wanted to give my followers and readers a heads up – these next two books are going to be intense.

I hope you’re buckled in!

Ten Years of Blogging and the Struggle of Realness

WordPress sent me a notification recently, one I really hadn’t expected, but apparently I’ve owned this site for ten whole years!

That’s just crazy to think about.

Looking back over my first post, it took me a while to really get comfortable with what to even blog about. I was struggling to figure out how to open up, and it was difficult to even feel comfortable talking about who I was or where I was from. That kind of honesty online felt dangerous, even though now it’s an everyday thing.

When I was growing up, and the internet was the wild west it was really frightening to use your real name online. Everybody used aliases for fear of being the victim of identity theft, which wasn’t really understood at the time. You had emails for different usernames, you carefully managed what information you gave out because everything was public. Very few messageboards were behind passwords, so everything you said and did was public. Nobody knew how that would affect job prospects, or health insurance opportunities. Mental illnesses just weren’t talked about.

Then came Facebook, and you had to use your real name to get setup. You originally had to enter your real university email address to have an account. Suddenly there were potential ramifications of things you did online, or at least, you thought there were. Oh boy, things sure have changed ten years later!

I had to think of this site as a “professional online portfolio” which sounds kind of ridiculous these days, but that was the equivalent. Slowly my blog grew out of my writing experiences, my progress, my struggles, my highs and lows. Slowly I started to understand my online presence and how it reflected a unique part of me, similar to how my writing does. I grew more comfortable in my online skin, I grew more comfortable in what I could share.

Today it’s easily the hub of my author business and I work hard to keep it updated (*eyes that header image real hard haha*). It’s as natural a part of my work as my writing, as Facebook, as Instagram, and YouTube. It’s taken me a while to fully embrace it, both its more casual aspects (the blog itself), and its more professional pieces (media kits, book listings, social media links, etc). It’s had a lot of modifications in the past ten years, and several complete revamps. I feel like it’s going to get another one soon once I carve out some time.

Some of you all have been following my blog since I first published my sword and sorcery short story in Short-Story.Me! (which has also had a heck of a site update over the years!) and it has gone on to get–

*squints*

A whopping 58,500 views? Holy cow!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve worked real hard to figure things out through this blog, and I appreciate you all for following me on my journey. Some of you have even been with me from the very start, and I can’t express how thankful I am for your support and motivation!

Here’s to ten more years of blogging, writing, learning, and figuring out this whole author thing.

Thanks for being here. ❤