#Romance Writers are Not Beneath You

Of all the things I have in mind to write about now that I’m reviving the blog, this one got shoved to the forefront. A comment was made in a writing group on Facebook the week before last that nearly set my hair on fire. Someone asked a question about why it takes so long to write a novel.

Most of the responses were decent enough – day jobs, families, every writer being different, etc.  Then there was one…

“Romance novels take like a week or two. I’d guess most others take a few months.”

My initial response was less than professional. I immediately wanted to tear the guy a new asshole in thirty different ways. I wanted to point out all the issues with that statement and how obnoxiously untrue its implications really are. Then I walked away from the internet, took a breath, and remembered that people tend to talk out of the sides of their necks.

My actual response was a suggestion that unless it was meant jokingly (there’s another issue here…we’ll address it in a minute), then it was highly offensive to actual romance writers. Of course the guy came back immediately with the “I’m just joking around” statement, but the damage was already done.

Contrary to what the internet troll community seems to believe, romance writers are not just horny ho-bags sitting behind a computer looking to get laid. We aren’t sleazy barflies. We’re not strippers or hookers or any of those ridiculous stereotypes the internet has built around the concept of “romance writer”. Nope…we’re hard-working women (and men, because I know quite a few men who write fabulous romance) with families and morals and a very keen understanding of human nature.

We’re the woman next door, or in front of you in line at the grocery store. While some romance writers base their books on their experiences, most of us don’t. Most of us are dreamers who love the idea of a happy-ever-after. We create ideal relationships as we would love to experience them, and then we share our dreams with the rest of the world so they can fall in love with us.

But it’s really more fundamental than that… forget that we’re romance writers. We’re still writers.

Here’s the thing, kids… writing any book of quality is hard work. It doesn’t matter what the genre is, if you’re going to write a story that has a plot and substance beyond sex (another point for down the post), then you’re going to be doing character and world building, plotting, planning, and research.

Being that I write in multiple genres, I can honestly tell you that writing romance is harder than writing speculative fiction. When you’re playing with human emotion, you have to get it right, and there’s no room for error. Your characters have to be believable, relatable, and consistent. People read romance for the emotional value and gratification. They read it so they can experience what the main characters experience. They do it to fall in love.

Yes, some people prefer Erotica. Erotica is a totally different animal – the focus of the story is on the sex, not on the relationship. In many cases you get both (hence Erotic Romance — which, by the way, uses sex as a plot device to further the romantic relationship), but the primary motivator of the text is explicit sexual gratification. Humankind has proven more than once that you can have sexual gratification without emotion, and you quite often find that emotionless dynamic in erotic literature. I know many, many authors who write erotic literature, and yes, they do finish books in a couple of weeks.

By book, we’re usually talking 20,000 word or less novella. Single scene, no through-story. One and done. That’s their market and they write to it. There’s very little that changes in sex. Tab-A, Slot-whatever, repeat, repeat, repeat. They just find creative ways of framing the act. I can tell you from experience, writing sex is much easier and faster than following an extensive plot.

There’s nothing wrong with that, either. It gives readers the opportunity to explore new scenarios without diving into lifestyles they know nothing about. It also offers that gratification in a safe and secure manner, in the privacy of one’s home.

But erotic literature isn’t what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about romance. Yes, they are different things. Pretty much any writer of either will agree.


Back to the point…or points, as this post would have it:

Point #1: “Writing Romance is Easy.”

This pisses me right the hell off every time some asswipe says it. It isn’t easy, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either not doing it right, or an idiot. It seems there are a fair few who had this brilliant idea that “hey, I’ll write a romance novel and get rich”. Uh, no. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way in most cases. Yeah, there are some who got extremely lucky, but to expect that every time is insane. Romance is the largest literary market out there, which means there are a LOT of other books and a LOT of other authors to compete against. That means you can’t just write a bunch of crappy slush and shove it onto the shelves. In order to make any money at all, you have to write GOOD romance. Which ain’t easy, kids. And it takes a hell of a lot longer than a week.

Point #2: “Writing Romance is Fast.”

Hmmm…nope again. Sorry. While yes, everyone writes at different speeds, there does need to be some real thought behind the words. (See point one about slapping out slush.) Slapping out a poorly edited book is going to do awful things for you as a writer, for the market itself, and for the genre as a whole. I’m willing to bet a large portion of the reason romance writers are frowned upon by others is that there are so many who DO push out unedited slop just to make a buck. I’ve stopped being nice in reviews about that, too. And yes, I DO review.

But back to the idea of “fast”. Everyone is different. Some people can push out a novella in two weeks or so. I can’t. I also don’t know anyone personally that can. But I an my local contemporaries write much slower than a stay-at-home-mom who has two kids in grade school and six hours a day to sit in front of the computer uninterrupted. I have a day job, small children, and other obligations. My time is limited. My process is also much different than hers. I think very hard about every word that goes onto the page. I’m not a “write it all first and edit later” kind of person because the typos will run me up the wall and across the ceiling. While process plays heavily into the end product, the end product still has to have substance to stand up in the market.

Point #3: It Ain’t All About the Sexy, y’all.

Your focal point is what dictates whether you’re writing romance or erotica. Yes, romance can have sex and erotica can have plot, but there’s a very clear distinction between the two. As I said above…it’s emotional vs. physical. Some of the best romance novels I’ve ever read don’t have explicit sexual content. Hell, some of them don’t even have sex. You don’t have to have physical activity in your work to tell a satisfying story. They’re two very different things. And while neither of them should be denigrated by anyone, there needs to be a bit of education among the masses. There’s nothing wrong with writing either, and there certainly isn’t anything wrong with erotic romance. And anyone who wants to say otherwise can kiss my lily-white ass. Please and thank you.


So that having been said, next time you decide to let fly an aloof and insulting comment about romance writers, think twice. We aren’t stupid. We practice our craft just like any other writer. We take pride in what we do. And you’re likely to end up as the next adulterous prick in one of our books.


Just Pay the Writer Already!

There’s been much controversy this week over whether artists should be paid for their work. Until now I’ve remained silent because I didn’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction. I wanted to know my facts and present sound evidence as to why these arguments are so ludicrous.

Some of those arguments include:

  • I can’t afford to buy books because I don’t make much money. [Understandable, but not an excuse. KU is cheaper than Netflix, btw.]
  • I deserve to read any book I want without paying for it because I’m a special snowflake [yes, I’m paraphrasing this one specifically to be spiteful].
  • Authors shouldn’t make the same amount for the first copy as they do for the 500th since each copy isn’t a new item. [Let’s address this in a minute.]
  • Art should be free for everyone to enjoy. [And some art is. Enjoy that.]
  • If an artist wants to be paid he/she should get a patron. [Ha!]
  • I’m not really stealing. I just downloaded it from someone who did steal it.

Let’s address that last point:

Yes, 95% of us on the internet are guilty of downloading illegal content at some point in our lives. My point here is not to villainize those who don’t know any better. It’s to educate people so they understand why what they’re doing is wrong. Sadly, the majority of those involved in this self-entitlement hoohah are too young to remember the Napster incident. I admittedly still chuckle at the Napster Bad videos and comics making fun of Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield from Metallica. On a serious note, while they may appear more Neanderthal than man, they do have a point. File sharing sites are bad, because they subvert the system.

First and foremost: COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS ILLEGAL. ACQUIRING PHYSICAL OR DIGITAL GOODS WITHOUT PAYMENT UNLESS RECOGNIZED AND PROVIDED AS A GIFT BY THE OWNER OR CREATOR IS THEFT. It does not matter if you’re just getting it from someone else; you’re still stealing. You can go to jail for this, and you will deserve it.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, sweetness, but that’s the cold, hard truth. Your “innocent” actions are breaking the law. You aren’t special. You can’t break the rules and expect preferential treatment [We are not even going to talk about that little jackass rapist in the news right now or I will have a stroke.]. END. OF. DISCUSSION.

Because we need some levity. And because the police are coming for you, you damned, dirty thief.


I sat down and did something very unusual for a literary type: I did math. [Insert awestruck gasps here.] Anyone who has a job should be able to appreciate what’s coming. This is a salary breakdown for writers. We as artists would love nothing more than to make our art our full-time jobs, but most non-artistics don’t understand just how much work goes into the things they think don’t deserve a price tag. So let me break it down for you.


Let’s assume I write one novel which tops out at 80,000 words, and I’m going to publish this novel in a traditional manner (i.e. through a publisher, small or otherwise). This means I’m not paying for edits, artwork, or formatting.

Now, let’s assume I’m an average-speed writer, fairly clean. I’m going to write 1,000 words per hour for decent copy. First novel draft: 80 hours of work.

Now we have revisions. Assuming clean copy and minimal self-editing is required on my part, we’re going to estimate another 15 hours for reading and revising. Accumulated total: 95 hours.

Then I hand my labor of love over to the publisher. I will then have at least one, possibly two or three, more rounds of edits with a professional editor. Let’s assume two rounds of edits at another 15 hours each. That’s 30 additional hours of work for this one book. Then it’s released into the wild.

Final total: 125 production hours.

For one book. Base rate. We aren’t going to factor into this the endless hours of promotion which goes with the successful release of a novel. Right now it’s irrelevant and the cost will increase so exponentially it will outweigh the benefit of writing the book. Today we’re figuring out how a writer can be full-time based on today’s financial standards JUST BY WRITING BOOKS.


Say my publisher is a generous one and offers me 40% of the net royalties for my book. If we list this ebook on Amazon at $3.99 (which, by the way, is MORE THAN FAIR for an 80,000 word novel), Amazon is going to pay the publisher at a 70% royalty rate, or roughly $2.80 per domestic copy. This, in turn, means I’m going to see approximately $1.12 per copy sold.


Minimum wage in the United States is currently $7.25. This means the average full-time minimum wage worker brings home $15,080 per year, pre-tax. Net income is going to hang out somewhere around the $12,000 mark.

Now, let’s compare minimum wage standards to a single title, shall we?


125 hours at $7.25/hour is $906.25 pre-tax. Once we make it, we’re going to have to put back 20-30% to pay our taxes because we’re contractors, not on payroll.

Assuming we’re steadily selling books, that’s 809.16 copies sold in a year JUST TO BREAK EVEN.

Now there’s a national movement to raise minimum wage to $15/hour because we’ve firmly established that American inflation rates make it impossible to support a family on $15,000/year. Let’s revisit the numbers under this new standard.

$15/hour means a gross annual income of $31,200 pre-tax.

125 hours at $15/hour is $1,875.00

That’s 1,674 copies I have to sell in one year. 140 copies per month.

This means an author making minimum wage writing full-time (while only being reimbursed for the time accrued by writing and editing) would have to publish 16 ½ novels a year. That’s 1,320 hours of work to produce enough fiction to make a living.

Unless an author is already established with a wide following, selling 1,700 copies of a book will take longer than a year. The average indie author is selling somewhere between 5 and 50 copies a month. Which means assuming the best (50 copies per month), we have to triple our output to 49 books per year. 

3,920 hours of work in one year to make a lower-middle class salary.

Let me point out here that a full time job consists of 2,080 hours of work per year. 40 hours per week for 52 weeks. That means to break even at “minimum wage” standards, we authors have to work 1,840 hours more per year than the average fry slinger at Mickey D’s without receiving overtime pay. That’s 75.39 hours of work per week to make the same money you make in 40… with no guarantees that we’ll even meet that minimum.

So please allow me to call bullshit on this self-righteous notion of art for art’s sake. You can take that shit back to MGM and let them keep it on their logo.

To those who want to say an author’s work should be prorated and they should make less per copy the more copies they sell, I pose this question to you: how would you feel if your boss approached you today and told you the following: “Yeah, we really like your work but you’ve been here several years and we’ve already paid you your value. We’re going to start paying you less money for each hour you work.”

You’re pissed just thinking about it, aren’t you? It’s unfair, right? Well guess what, sugarbritches… THAT is EXACTLY what you’ve suggested for us. It’s disgusting. It’s despicable. And to us, you’re now an asshole.

These epithets aren’t coming from the minimum-wage crowd, either. This is coming from the middle class – people who have the luxury of cars, cell phones, blu-ray players, coffee addictions, and expensive hobbies. You can pay $5 for a cup of coffee to enjoy once, but you’re too damned cheap to spend $3 on a book which will last forever? If that’s the case, then you don’t need the book. And if you’re willing to go to jail over $3, then please have a nice life, wherever it may lead you.

By the way, the days of patrons are pretty much over. The plebeians don’t need the support of the patricians because they can do most of the work themselves. That and the patricians tend to be the ones demanding freebies, so your argument is invalid.

This is why you need to stop poor-mouthing and pay the damned writer.

But you still want free books because somewhere five years ago your mama told you that you were special and you can have anything you want. Well, you can. And you want to know how to get them?

Become a book reviewer. Reviews are a form of currency in the literary world. Most authors and publishers are more than happy to hand over free books to reviewers – to people who actually leave reviews. Unfortunately, Amazon’s system is built on a review-based algorithm, meaning books with more reviews receive more visible promotion space. If you leave a review, good or bad, you’re helping that author.

Even if you insist on stealing the book to read, the least you can do is review it. If you refuse to pay money, you can significantly lower your douchebaggery level by giving two minutes of your time. And for god’s sake…don’t tell the writer you think all of their stuff should be free and pirate sites are a good thing.

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll get punched in the face.

ConCarolinas Wrap-up Thinky Post

It’s Tuesday after ConCarolinas, and I’m finally out of the post-con coma. I’m almost human again, too. Conventions these days wear me out almost as much as the day after. Yesterday was spent buried beneath my little girls while they wallowed all over me. It was our first time away from the little one, and two years since we had an extended weekend away from the big one. I admit, I slept like the dead this weekend, but it didn’t really do much to make me not miss my babies.

So, ConCarolinas.

First of all, a huge shout-out and love-filled thank you to Carol Cowles, Jada Hope, and Misty Massey for being the most awesome con mistresses ever. You guys are my heroes.

I love this convention. Not only is it the closest one to home, but it’s also one of the best. It isn’t a huge con, but it’s got a good crowd full of great people. We’ve all been together for so many years that we really are a family now. It was huge fun getting to play with Alexandra, Crymsyn, Nicole, and Melissa at the table. In case there was ever any doubt, we ARE the party at a convention. We have a big old time, and we give people candy. I really enjoyed Mom-talk with Sarah and getting to meet her family. I didn’t realize how much I missed talking to Faith since our days in the CC dungeon behind the escalator. The extended family – John, Jay, Misty, Gail, Tamsin, Emily, and all the rest that I’m forgetting to name… I love these people. I’ve made so many friends in the eight or nine years I’ve been attending, both as fan and as guest, and that roster continues to grow every single year.

The panels were a blast, and I really enjoyed this year’s Writer’s Workshop. It’s nice to see so many talented people coming up through the ranks as compared to all the nonsense floating around the interwebs these days. I didn’t sell much, but then again that isn’t really why I go to ConCarolinas. I went for the reasons mentioned above. These are my people, my tribe. Even the readers are so freaking awesome it makes my heart sing. It was well worth the cost of the hotel room. And the food… OMG. There’s a blog post coming later on truck food. It makes me hungry just thinking about that lobster dog.

All in all, and despite the issues with the A/C, it was a good weekend.

This year’s shindig is particularly significant as it marks my return to the con circuit after a year off. My con-going ended abruptly after MidSouthCon last year, and did so on quite the sour note. Then I spent the last twelve months pregnant, sick, depressed, and all manner of other things which are not conducive to the creative lifestyle. Suffice it to say I approached this event with no small amount of trepidation.

Social anxiety has been a growing problem over the last few years. I started out on a high note, publishing my first book in May 2011 and following it up with multitudes more. Conventions were big fun and I was just really starting to get the hang of this being-a-writer thing when my world collapsed. We won’t get into the psychological trauma of losing my father again (we all know we’ve been over that too much), but it was the primary catalyst for my withdrawal from society and, almost completely, from writing. And the tragedy didn’t stop there. The last few years have been an onslaught of sadness coupled with the all-consuming NEW MOM tag. My girls take up most of my time, and between them and the why-bother feeling from the general state of the writing market, it’s been a tough trek getting my mojo back.

I have to say, though… ConCarolinas has done wonders for my writer’s soul. I came out of it renewed and inspired. And the September deadline I acquired Saturday night can only help. It’s ambitious for me since I’m a slow writer, but I think having that project and the expectations of a publisher waiting on it will help me to drag myself out of the dirt and get back to it.

Which brings me to my last, and probably most important, comment: I just wanted to say thank you to John Hartness for being a great friend, and for believing so strongly in me even when I don’t believe in myself. And for calling me out on it in public. I needed that kick in the ass.

So enough of this. I have a book to finish.

Manic Monday: State of the (Writing) Union Address

Guys, I’m having a moment, and it’s not pretty.

So I found myself wandering through the digital racks of Amazon this morning, perusing the freebies in the hopes that I might find a fun new author (like I really need ANOTHER book to read) or discover interesting new concepts not yet apparent to this world. Unfortunately, the farther I wandered, the more disheartening and, quite frankly, disgusting, it became.

People are giving away their blood, sweat, tears, and time for chump change. Books are releasing and within a month have hundreds upon hundreds of glowing reviews – none of which come from verified purchases, mind you. From my research, the majority of the verified purchases appear to give these “masterpieces” one star and generally tell prospective readers the equivalent of don’t freaking bother.

All the goodies are hanging out there, cheap and/or free, in the hopes someone might stumble by and happen to snatch that particular piece of low-hanging fruit.

Now we all know I’m not the world’s best or most prolific author. At this point in my game, if I’m completely honest with myself and y’all, I’m still struggling to attain mid-list mediocrity. My own fault, yes, but that’s another rant for another day.

I bust my butt to produce quality work and I take pride in the finished product. I’m not out there schlock-hocking, writing to a formula or a trend for the sake of making a buck. I don’t just slather words on a page and slap a pair of half-naked people on it to throw up on Amazon for free just to get attention. I’m doing my best to do this the right way.

[Pause: I’m not saying self-publishing isn’t the right way because (1) I’ve done that too, and (2) there is no right way to go about publishing… what I’m saying is I make sure my work meets a certain standard in editing, artwork, and overall production, which is what readers deserve.]

The problem I have is this:

I just find myself dumbfounded time and again at the low quality and lack of concern people have for literature. Everyone and her best friend seems to be thinking these days, “Oh, I need to make a quick buck. I’ll just go write a book and be a bestseller!” And you know what, kids? Goshdarnit, it just don’t work that way.

I hate to break it to you, but not everyone in the world is cut out to be an author. You might have the best, most original idea ever conceived, but I have a pretty strict policy around here – if you don’t have at least a basic grasp of grammar, punctuation, and dialogue, you are not a writer. And you’re dragging down the quality of something I love, so step off.

Writing truly is a dying art. And that cold, sad fact makes me want to sit down and cry fat, ugly tears. This rise in I-can-do-it-myself-ness has made a complete mockery of what we as professional authors do.

Guys, we can’t let this stand. We have to take back our craft, to rise above the masses of people scrabbling for the petty change at the bottom of the basket. It’s going to take some work, but we can do it if we stick together and demand that change.

Screw that… we’re not going to demand change and wait for it to happen. We’re going to make the change.

Well, yes…but how?

I’m so very glad you asked! It appears the problems with our market boil down to five simple rules, and we’re so busy keeping up with the Joneses that we’ve lost track of what’s important.


no-freebies-480_thumbMy mother is a voracious reader. So am I. So are the people by whom I’m surrounded. Yes, we do troll the bargain bins from time to time, but that isn’t where we spend the majority of our lives.

We, as respectable authors, need to step out of the cheap-trap. If our work is truly worth its salt, then we need to recognize and respect it by not giving it away. Promotions are one thing – go ahead and have a freebie week to gain interest. Give a short story away as a teaser. But don’t fork over a three-novel set for $.99 because you think it’s going to get you somewhere. By giving away your best work, your readers will come to expect it of you. Now that’s not to say a short story can’t live at that $.99 mark for it’s entire life. But you don’t want to take that kind of horrible cut on a novel. You’ll never get anywhere like that.

Price your books accordingly. Let the tramps have their pennies. Eventually the readers will tire of wasting good money on subpar writing and start looking back toward the more reasonably-priced works, where you’ll be hanging out in the henhouse with us.


Let’s face it…by the time we recognize a trend, we’re already behind it. Unless you’re writing ten of everything out there right now in the hopes the market will circle back around to your favorite type of critter, you’re never going to be that guy who writes that book and becomes the next Stephenie Meyer. Writing to the market may make a few people marginally successful for a month or two, but it’s never going to sustain a career for anyone. Rather than doing what’s already been done, we should be focusing our strength and energy on creating the next thing. We should be writing the books which will define the new trends, not follow in the footsteps of someone else. Sure, werepenguins are the hot thing right now, but that doesn’t mean the wereskunk will follow.

Be original. Write your own story, and let the trendy schlockfest continue without your participation. Make yourself that new and different thing everyone wants to read.


You need an editor. You need a professional cover. You need proper formatting.

I repeat: You need an editor. You need a professional cover. You need proper formatting.

Should I say it again? Because I will. And here’s why you need those things:

Because if you’re fighting the good fight, you want to put your best foot forward. A reader is not going to want to pay fair market value for an unreadable turd, which is why a professional product is the bet thing we can ask for at the end. Yes, sometimes it’s a pretty hefty outlay of cash on the front end, particularly for good editing, but it’s worth it in the end [this is where the credit publishers never get comes into play…they pay all of this for you so you don’t have to]. A professional product will go the distance and will likely suffer less returns than an unpolished hunk of words.

I learned to format out of necessity. I had a background in digital artwork so I was ahead of the curve with covers. I got lucky in that one of my good friends has a Master’s degree in English and will cut me a break. I also offer these services to other authors for reasonable rates because I want others to succeed. I can’t fix your technical ability, but I can make your book pretty.

Your readers deserve quality, so give it to them.


Product_review1.jpgThe Perfect Review DOES NOT EXIST.

You might think you’re doing yourself a favor and putting yourself ahead of the game, but YOU AREN’T. Trust me on this… if you’re going to shell out huge chunks of cash for something, see Step 3. A review from a verified purchase is going to go much farther than some nobody giving you the digital equivalent of a tongue bath. Because the dirty little secret is this: 300 good reviews from a questionable origin will not hold a candle to that one verified critical review. Readers who consider reviews are going to read those low ratings first because those are the ones which tell the truth.

Now that’s not to say you can’t offer your book to reviewers for an honest review. I’ve done that. Yeah, it’s bitten me in the butt a time or two, but you know what? I’d rather have an honest opinion than a “OMGILOVEITSOOOOOOOMUCH” review any day. You know why? Because honest reviews keep me honest, and show me my mistakes so I can learn from them.

Expend your resources elsewhere, kids. You owe it to yourself to be honest.


I believe this, above all others, is the most important rule. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re writing, how can anyone else enjoy reading it? Writing on autopilot reads on autopilot. Believe me, I’ve read enough poorly-executed, trend-trailing garbage to know the difference between a story with heart and a kc-readstory for cash. I love reading as much as I love writing, and I often find myself disappointed by what I’m reading because it doesn’t share the love I feel for the craft. Emotion plays heavily into writing. I want to feel what the characters feel and see what they do. I don’t want to go through the motions of being in love because this chick is supposed to fall for this half-vampire werepanther. If she’s going to be in love with something so sensational, I want to suspend my disbelief and be in love with her. Likewise, if a psycho clown is on a killing spree in my bedroom, damn it I want to feel like I’m next.

We’re readers, not statistics. We aren’t dollar signs. And if we aren’t willing to pick up what we’ve written and read it, then we’re writing the wrong thing. As I said, it’s time to take it back, to do what we love for the sake of the craft. This…this is how we’re going to do it. We have to rise above, to band together and stay strong.

Yes, the market sucks at the moment. But with persistence and forcing quality back into our products, we can turn that around. Who’s with me?

A Writer Without Words

Witer's Block

Writer's BlockThere comes a point in every writer’s life when he or she has that moment. You know what I’m talking about…that second of sheer terror when a rogue thought appears and begins planting seeds of doubt.

“What if I can’t write anymore?”

It’s a very real, very common fear among us literary types. In Bag of Bones, Stephen King addressed it. His main character had been attempting to publish stockpiled manuscripts for years only to find none of them were any good. Each of us has a moment where we look at our in-progress folders and wonder what’s going to come of the things we’ve started but have yet to finish. We wonder if the legacies we’ve created to date will be enough to sustain us (and in most cases, we know they’re not). But most of all, we wonder about the reality which could accompany that hypothetical loss of words.

Let me tell you what it feels like.

Witer's BlockI have twenty-three unfinished works in my In-Progress folder. Twenty-three of these little monsters are things with mostly- or fully-formed plots in varying stages of completion. Some are short and some are long. They could be something one day. If we expand that to all of the unfinished things I’ve started over the years, we jump to somewhere above eighty. Granted not all of these are marketable things. Many of them are bits and pieces of things that have come and gone and will likely never see the light of day. Some of them are stream-of-consciousness writing, or scenes from dreams… things which could one day be used to fill in gaps in a plot somewhere. My point is, there’s a lot of stuff just hanging out there in the bowels of the cloud, waiting for a day in the sun.

It used to be I could write 6,000 words or more every day. I could rip through a short story in a day or two, a novella in a week. I used to have that writing stamina. Case in point – I wrote my paranormal romance novella, Blood Doll, in four days sitting in my grandmother’s hospital room in September 2011. It was what I did to keep my mind off the fact that she was sicker than we realized and would ultimately land in a nursing home for the last three years of her life. But back then I could do that, and the words coming out of me were good.

But the last four years have seen me on a steady decline word-wise. It really began in April 2012 with the crippling depression following my father’s death. Losing him changed me, and not for the better. I got very, very lost, and if we’re being perfectly honest, I’m still doing a little bit of searching. Not to find who I was, mind you…but who I am now without him in my life.

From April 2012 to December 2014, I completed and published two novels, a co-authored novella, and five short stories, each with longer lead times in between. Also during that time, I had the rights to four works returned to me, which on top of the nightmare that was my life for those few years, was a blow to my writerly ego. They were doing pretty well, but my publisher chose to go in a different direction, and I had no control over the fate of my beloved books. Couple that with the multiple times I’ve been burned by independent presses, it sort of put me off the idea of submitting anything. Frustration and heartbreak suck, y’all.

Since January 1, 2015, I have completed two short stories. Only one has been contracted. I have two publishers waiting on novels which aren’t written. I have two blogs languishing by the wayside while I sit here paralyzed by my own self-doubt. I have ideas, sure. Lots of them. I even have notebooks full of outlines and scribbled notes for various plots and scenes, but I can’t find the words to properly execute what’s in my head.

There’s real, physical pain associated with this type of writer’s block. Anxiety hurts, and the tension it causes in my body brings headaches, muscle pain, and all sorts of other aches and itches. The Pavlovian response to those negative stimuli is enough to break any writer of the habit. The thought that doing something I love will come with that sort of physical pain has put me off even trying lately. I know, I know…that’s a stupid way to look at things and I’m only hurting myself in the end. Logically, I get that.

Emotionally…that’s another story. So rather than sitting down at my computer or with my tablet and actually doing the writing, I find all manner of things to fill up my time. Yes, it’s a bad habit, but it’s one I’m trying to break. I know better than to let it get the best of me, but sometimes I can’t help it.

Having attended multiple conventions since my “professional” writing career started five years ago, I’ve heard every argument imaginable both for and against the concept of writer’s block. Some people say it doesn’t exist and is an excuse to procrastinate. Some say it’s real and is deadly. Others waffle between the two extremes. Personally, I believe it can be some of both. Having survived nearly a year of it, I can say it’s certainly not always an excuse. Has it been in the past? Yes. But right now, it’s not, and it’s horrible.


That man is my literary hero, in case you didn’t already know. It’s those very words above which have kept me plodding along all these months, adding words here and there to the various and sundry things in my collection. As a matter of fact, yesterday was the first day in months I actually made some sort of headway. Two-thousand words in one day is nothing short of a miracle for me right now and while I’m very happy with yesterday’s session and the outcome, I still find myself worrying about what today and tomorrow will bring. Can I do that again? Can I top it? What happens if I never finish that story?

The next time I sit down at a keyboard, there’s a good chance I’ll not get out but 100 words. Maybe even less. I can’t control the output these days. At least, not with any real consistency. I’m self-doubting and second-guessing. It sucks. It’s hard. But it’s also life.

My point here is that we aren’t always procrastinating. Sometimes we really are stuck. But it’s a phase, and this phase, like any other, will eventually pass. I’ll find my words again one day. And if you’re stuck like me, you will too.

Writer’s Workshop – Excerpt

WRiter's Workshop Blog Tour Banner


Still with me? Good.  It’s time to take a look between the covers of this lovely, little gem. Here’s an excerpt for you to devour. After you’re done with that, go buy a copy and read the rest.

“Nothing fills a page faster than dialogue,” the writer said.

There it is, the blank page or screen, the intimidating and recurring challenge every writer must face. The temptation is to fill that page as quickly as possible, to advance the narrative however you can. Often the easiest way to do that, even for writers who are not masters of dialogue, is to get the characters talking. A few A few writers are even bold enough to begin novels or stories with a line of dialogue, something I don’t recommend unless you possess the skills of the early Robert A Heinlein, who began his story “Blowups Happen” with the suspenseful line: “Put down that wrench!” Orson Scott Card also opened his popular novel Ender’s Game with a piece of dialogue that immediately rouses the reader’s curiosity: “‘I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.” Writing good and convincing dialogue is usually enough of a challenge without relying on it to hook a reader right at the beginning of one’s story. Writing dialogue, whatever the difficulties, is generally easier than, for example, crafting descriptive passages, offering insights into a character’s psychology, creating vigorous and absorbing action scenes, or presenting necessary exposition in a graceful way.

Writers who harbor dreams of scriptwriting may be especially prone to fill pages with dialogue, but others also succumb, partly because dialogue is a shortcut and a very useful one. Sometimes a few well-chosen words of conversation can accomplish as much in a story as pages of description and exposition. There are also a fair number of readers who are more absorbed by stretches of repartee than by beautifully and poetically rendered descriptions. (Writers meet these people all the time; they’re the ones who tell you they skip all the dull parts, often meaning those carefully wrought passages that cost you so much effort.) Better just to cut to the chase, or in this case, drop in on the conversation.

The strength of dialogue—namely that it can be a useful shortcut—is also its weakness. Writers who rely too much on dialogue risk leaving too much out. The writer may hear the characters clearly and easily envision the scene, but that doesn’t mean that the reader will. (In a review of a novel some years back, Joanna Russ wrote that passages in that book seemed to be largely about names drinking cups of coffee, noticing the designs of ashtrays, or riffing on the furnishings in a room, the characters were so indistinguishable.) The beginning writer is likely to produce dialogue in which the reader will find it hard to tell one character from another. The useful shortcut can produce a story that is sketchy, in which too much has been left out.

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This thing is becoming a monster, I see. For the last 29 weeks, indie authors have been tagging each other around the ‘net in a crazy game of leapfrog. If you’re reading this, chances are you found me on Stephen Zimmer’s blog, since he was the one that tagged me last week. SO, without further adieu, I give you my Next Big Thing.

About me first – I’m a full-time administrative professional, wife, and mom who dreams of being a full-time author. As to what I write, that would be a bit of everything. My first love is horror, but I’ve been known to drift into the realms of epic fantasy, urban fantasy, and even romance from time to time.

For this particular post, I’m going to use a rather interesting work in progress… It’s the first book in a series, and I’m in the process of writing a proposal for it so I can submit it! Here goes nothing… ten questions. And… GO!

1: What is the working title of your book?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a flake and suck at titles. The working title is “New Olympia Rising” because it’s the first in the “Annals of New Olympia” series.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book? 

This book is actually a sort of history for another book that will come later in the series. THAT book spawned from my first attempt to write a sword & sorcery story for Seventh Star Press’ Thunder on the Battlefield anthology call. It grew until there was no way it would fit into the 10,000 word limit, and I’d started writing the history to keep myself straight. The rest, as they say, is history.

[Insert cheeky grin here.]

3: What genre does your book fall under? 

There are too many to choose! This particular story is a combination Science Fiction / Space Opera with a bit of the apocalypse thrown in for good measure. Later books shift more toward post apocalyptic sword & sorcery, then back to Sci-Fi, all with that post-apocalyptic fantasy spin on the whole thing.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t even know! My main character in this story, Doctor Steven Jackson (who goes by Jax in most cases) looks most like Julian Sands.  So far I’ve picked faces for two other characters – Katharine McPhee and Anton Yelchin.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book

Long-distance space flight, man’s greatest dream, is realized only to find out that it might truly be his worst nightmare.

6: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I definitely intend to submit it to a publisher, but I prefer to do it myself. I really sort of love being an indie author – I get to call the shots, even if getting stories picked up prove a bit harder.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still working on it!  I started this particular book in December, and hope to have it completed and ready for shipment to whichever publisher I choose to threaten by mid-summer.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I really don’t know… it’s so off the wall that I’m not sure I can come up with a single book to match. It has a bit of the technical feel you find in The Andromeda Strain with a bit of Star Wars thrown in for good measure. You might even add a sprinkling of Orwell’s fantasy just for fun.

9: Who or What inspired you to write this book?

If I had to lay the blame entirely on one person, it would have to be James Tuck, who happens to be the editor for the anthology that spawns the whole thing. Really it was a perfect storm of things – the opportunity, the crazy idea, and the fact that I suffer from Epic Brain Syndrome.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s a blend of genres that transitions from one end of the spectrum to the other. My characters are ordinary people thrown into extraordinary situations, and I take the dreams of millionaire moguls like Richard Branson and pitch them far enough into the future to make them real. Of course, there are always consequences to any action………

Unfortunately I don’t have another author to tag… everyone I know has already done it. I hate that it has to end here, so instead I’ll point you in the direction of three fantabulous writers who you should definitely read.

1. Alexandra Christian – who is also participating this week. She writes paranormal romance, and she happens to be one of my best friends in the world.

2. Crymsyn Hart – who also writes paranormal romance. She and Lexxx help me haunt our local Starbucks at least one night a week.

3. Selah Janel – another of those absolutely wonderful people who keeps me grounded while also stroking my ego. She’s another hybrid like me who writes all manner of things.

Writer’s Block…Not Just an Excuse

So I reappeared in the world late last week and while I was writing that post I realized that I had a rant to share with the world. It’s sort of apropos considering November is National Novel Writing Month and we’re half-way through it. I’m sure at this point there are lots of writers out there who need a little bit of encouragement and they’re feeling that mid-project slump. I know it well.. and yes, it will pass. I promise.

As for the rant, it’s obviously my opinion, but I think it’s a pretty legitimate one. People shouldn’t feel bad about the inability to write, and I’m going to tell you why. This rant, ladies and germs, is about


I’ve been to lots of conventions and I’ve heard lots of arguments on this subject. Some I agree with, and some I don’t.

Let’s start with the arguments I don’t agree with:

1. It’s an excuse people use for being lazy.

2. It doesn’t exist.

3. It’s a creation of the mind and is easily overcome.

4. It’s not real. It just means you don’t know what you’re doing.

Of those four, the first one makes me irrationally angry… to the point where I did, in fact, blast a fellow author in the middle of a panel for spitting that out with such snot-nosed conviction that it made the audience uncomfortable. I don’t think it was the statement so much as the way it was said. I’m sorry, but when you’re on a panel and telling people your methods for writing and how to become one, you can’t be mean about things like this… and in the writing world this one is a pretty hot topic.

Here’s how I see it…

Writer’s Block is absolutely real. It isn’t one specific thing, though. It’s the term any writer gives to a situation that blocks him or her from accomplishing the task of putting words on paper. Whether it’s a form of depression or a busy workload or school or research or even exhaustion, it doesn’t matter. If it stops me from writing, it’s a block.

Depression is a big one. Trust me on that, I know well.

Looking at the big picture, Writer’s Block is an undefined variable in the life of an author. It’s the name you give to your current problem. It’s how you easily explain to a reader/author/agent/editor/publisher/whoever why you haven’t been able to write something.

Laziness is not classified as Writer’s Block as some would have you believe. Laziness is laziness, and every writer knows that. If I want to procrastinate, then damn it I’m going to procrastinate and I know full well that it isn’t Writer’s Block.

And no, not every author knows all the time where every single story goes. When you get hopelessly stuck on a story and you don’t know where to go next, yes, that is a form of Writer’s Block as well. IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.  Not every writer adheres to that formulaic philosophy. Some of us like to wing it and we have unconventional ideas. There isn’t a thing wrong with that, even if it means we don’t always get to the end of the story as fast as a hardcore plotter.

Personally, that’s the point when I put down the pen and walk away for a few minutes. I go cook, or I go for a walk, or I go play video games. And then I come back to the story and if I still can’t fix it, I move on to the next project until that one unlocks. There’s a reason I have so many projects going at once.

My response to “I don’t have writer’s block because I don’t believe in it. I never have trouble” is this… if you don’t occasionally stumble over something or get stuck on something at some point, chances are the story is too safe. It’s too easy. There has to be something in it that keeps you writing, because if you’re anything like me, you’re going to be just as excited about discovering the story while writing it as you would be if you were the one reading it.

No, I don’t go into a story without a single clue as to what’s going to happen, but sometimes my characters take turns I didn’t expect. Sometimes situations arise and things happen that I didn’t originally consider, and it makes me take a step back and reconsider my position in the story. And that, kids, takes time.

I might not be the fastest writer in the world, but you know what? I’m a good writer. And I’ll take being good over being fast any day, even if it means someone might tell me that my reasons for not being fast don’t exist.