It’s spring! And that means play time.

female-1427182.jpgSlowly but surely, I’m getting ahead of my release schedule.  Granted, I’ve also slowed down my release schedule to something more closely resembling human abilities.  I figure a book every 3 months (give or take) is still pretty good.

Instead, I’m working on getting back in shape.  A couple of years spending every spare second in front of the computer typing away doesn’t do good things for the waistline.  A new puppy, however, has the opposite effect!  Granted, Revan’s almost a year old now, but he’s still a very active and demanding boy.  Play time is not optional.

So Revan gets time for tug, fetch, and wrestling.  Jango Fett gets long (to him) walks around the property and down the street.  Boba Fett just wants hugs, because he’s sensitive like that.  And Dozer?  I still haven’t figured out how to entertain that one.  He is happy with anything so long as we’re touching.  It leaves less time to write, but I can deal with that, because this is the life I’ve always dreamed of.  Spring days with my boys, including my amazing better half.

And yet, the book ideas keep coming.  I’m having this urge to write something romance but fantasy.  Most likely because I recently read an amazing example of such.  Trickery, by Jaymin Eve and Jane Washington.  While there was nothing overly sexual, the plot wasn’t anything earth shattering, and well, the trope has been done before, this book was just well written enough to make me believe that romance and fantasy can live on equal grounds, and that there might be a place for such things.  And so….

I have been daydreaming about dragons.  Yep, dragons.  Not the typical mind reading Pernese things we all know and love (while inwardly wincing from the outdated sexism).  Rather, I’m thinking dragons colored like insects, necromancers that are good people, and well, you know, the typical Auryn Hadley spin on things.  What can I say, I can never just do things like normal.  My mind doesn’t work like that.

But it’s spring.  I have 2 books ahead of this one (Rise of the Iliri 7 and When We Were Crowned) that need to get their time in the sunlight – and I have a laptop so I can do just that.  Yep, I’m going to be writing while I throw a ball, sip my tea, and get a little southern sun before the temperatures down here reach “hell”.



Things I’ve learned Making Covers

black zone with extrasWhen I first started making covers for my books, I took the concepts literally (Ha! Punny).  With each one, I’ve learned.  Every genre has its own style.  Every reader has their own preference.  Every author wants to brand their work.  Trying to get all of that to happen every time?  I’m convinced it’s a small miracle.

After being a published author for a whole year – and releasing 8 books – I’ve learned a few things.

First: Vague is best.  Never, EVER, try to tell the entire story in a single image.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words?  Well, my books run around 120K.  That means I’d need 120 pictures to show the reader what it is I’m talking about.  I get ONE.  How about I choose something that catches the feel of the story, without catastrophically violating any of the details.

Black Zone2Second: Symbolic is best.  The title of the book is usually symbolic, why shouldn’t the cover be the same?  Does it need to be a literal planet, or does the silhouette of one work better?  Does the landscape need to have exactly the right house, with the car parked on the exact side, a baby carriage by the front porch, empty, and every other detail from that one scene?  NO!

See, the people who are going to pick up your book haven’t read it.  They don’t know what those little details mean.  We authors love to pat our own backs over the intellect we tossed into the story, but who cares?  Most readers don’t.  What they want to know is the genre, the tone, and the necessary information.

Trust me, how much the book costs matters more than how many leaves are on the tree!

And third: Characters matter more than scenes.  A while back, there was a theme with paranormal fantasy where the main (female) character was always wearing skin tight pants and facing away from the “camera”.  In part, this was to allow the reader to imagine her face.  In reality, it had more to do with number four on my list… but it also is because we want to see the PERSON, without being spoiled on the person.

In romances, this tends to end up as the faceless beefcake.  C’mon, you all know what I’m talking about.  The guy with rock hard abs, his pants ready to fall off, but nothing shown above his mouth.  The potential buyer can see his manscaping perfectly, but not the color of his eyes.  We can decide for ourselves what that dark haired hottie looks like.  We aren’t “forced” into placing the cover models face on every salacious scene in the book.

Which brings us to the fourth thing: Sex SELLS!  We’re all guilty of it.  In actuality, we’re programmed for it by our DNA.  Beautiful women, athletic men, and sensual poses have a higher click rate than a flower laying on a table.  That doesn’t mean every book is going to have a beautiful woman, athletic man, or even sex… but it still sells.

Want an example?

My book, When We Were Kings, has undergone a few changes while I learned what the readers want to see.  On the left is the final cover.  On the right is the next to last version of it.  No, we won’t talk about how many times it changed before I learned this stuff.  *ahem*  But, as you can see, the left image draws you in a lot more than the one on the right.

Why?  Because you can see Leyli.  Her face makes you wonder what she’s thinking.  The soft light of it sets the tone (wistful, hopeful, dreamy).  The armor tells you it’s got some fighting in it, even though I lost the gladiatorial accents from the right image.  Yeah, Tristan’s gone, but who cares?  The book isn’t about Tristan.  It’s about Leyli’s journey.  It’s symbolic of the realizations she goes through over the course of the novel (hence the expression on her face).

But mostly, it just makes you feel like you want to know HER.  You want to read her story.  Granted, my cover artist did an amazing job making that picture.  See, with fantasy, it’s hard to find a stock photo (free or paid) that has enough things right to work for the already written book.  So often, it’s close – except that the main character is black, not a blonde caucasian, or such.  Because of this, I found someone who can make me “fake” people who fit the traits I need.  Like ears on Salryc Luxx.

And what brought this up?

Rise of the Iliri #4!  Tonight, I got the first pieces of the cover art, and it’s so good.  Everything, from the landscape to the characters headsets matters, but it doesn’t give away the good parts.  Looking at it one way, you can think “hey, here’s what that cover means.”  After you read the book, you know “Oh, that’s why the person is…”  Oh, yeah.  And it’s really pretty.  From the vibrant colors and intense shading, to the picturesque scenery and amazing layering skills of the artist, the whole thing just has that “look at me” feeling often found in so many 3D renders like this


found on a free wallpaper site long ago

I’m not perfect with my cover designs.  I’m pretty sure no one is.  Even the big trade publishers miss the mark at times – and they have a whole lot invested in getting it right.  For me?  I just want to make sure my readers can pick up a book they know they’ll like, and find a story inside that meets their expectations.

And who knows what I’ll learn in another year.  For now, I’m going to focus on getting the next book out, and keep hoping that my fans like what they see on the front.


Self Published Books SUCK!

books-447466.jpgAt least, that is a lingering thought held by so many readers.  Personally, I think it’s a holdover from the days of vanity publishing – when rejected authors poured their own money into printing their books, then tried to sell them any way possible.

Today, “self-publishing” and “independent-publishing” are mostly the same thing.  The group contains both authors who struggled to control the production of their own product as well as those believe that once their great masterpiece hits the shelves they’ll be drowning in riches.

First, let me assure you that almost no author gets rich on a single book.  Even the ones with breakout debuts published by the big traditional publishing houses didn’t!  They signed deals for series.  (Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, Harry Potter?  All were a series of books.)  Being a successful author relies on two main things.  You can produce enough books to satisfy your fan base and those books are good quality.

Which leads me to the point of this blog.  People think self-published books suck because WE, the people making them, let them suck.  I’m not talking about that other guy’s books.  I’m talking about yours.  You, the person reading this who thinks he or she can publish his or her own book.  The vast majority of us are going to say some version of “not bad for doing it on my own” at some point in the process.  And THAT is where we go wrong!

It’s YOUR fault

books-608984.jpgAs a reader, I don’t care if you did it on your own.  I can only see that it’s a good book or a piece of poop.  Either there is a lovely cover or a hideous one.  You have a talent for putting words together, or you were too cheap to pay an editor.

And right there, is the rub.  In no other small business can you get started with so LITTLE investment.  I don’t care if putting out your books is just a hobby.  I don’t care if you’re broke.  If you don’t think the book is worth investing in, then why the hell should I pay you for it?  I don’t OWE you.  I don’t have to read your book.  You must SELL it to me.  You should prove to me that this is a story I need to survive.  If you can’t do that?  Then your book isn’t ready.

It doesn’t have to be perfect – but when it’s not, a good indie author is going to fix that problem.  She’s going to buy a new cover, write a better blurb, or send it to another editor, then update the novel to be the best it can be.  If you toss your book out to the wolves and it doesn’t sell, then it’s not the market.  It’s not the subject.  It’s you, the author, who has produced something that isn’t good enough.  Maybe you don’t know why, but you can still make some attempt to change it.  You can try out a new cover, a new blurb (the description of the book on most sites), or you can correct the writing inside.  Those are the top three reasons a book doesn’t sell.  Usually, it’s the first two.

You will not get rich writing crap

mistake-876597.jpgAs an independent author, we have to do it all ourselves.  If you didn’t want that responsibility, then you shouldn’t have published on your own.  There are a zillion small presses and publishing coops that will help you – for a share of the money.  But guess what?  If you’re doing it on your own, you wouldn’t keep that money anyway!  You’d be paying an editor, cover designer, formatter, and other professionals to do… exactly what that publishing house is taking from your royalties.  It’s a wash.  If you thought all that extra moolah was just going to line your pockets?  You were wrong.  People will not flock to the interwebs to buy your cheaply made piece of poop.

Now, if you’re one of those people who thinks, “I just want to share this with the world,” then stop.  Just stop.  Do you really want to share your typos, repetitive words, and improper paragraph structure with complete strangers who won’t be able to see the story for the grammar mistakes?  Do you REALLY want people to grab your free ebook and think, “wow, this author is clueless.”  Is your goal to have people laugh about you behind your back?  No?  Then why aren’t you willing to put some EFFORT into your own masterpiece?

And no, being ignorant is not an excuse.  I hear this all too often.  “I don’t know how to format in Word.”  “No one told me book covers are that size.”  “How was I supposed to know that’s annoying in an ebook?”

You see, no one told me, either.  I took responsibility and decided I want to be a master of my craft.  I didn’t want to be spoonfed.  I’m not some entitled prick who thinks that someone else should do it for me.  I have no doubts in my mind that when I pay for something, I want to get MY money’s worth, so assume that my readers feel the same.  I do not – EVER – think I am entitled to using some excuse to explain away my failure.  I just buckle down and learn how to do it better.

This is a business – and most will fail

entrepreneur-593360.jpgWe authors are selling a product.  We conceptualize it, design it, craft it, market it, and so much more.  It’s no different from making widgets.  This is exactly what our high school teachers tried to explain in that economics class.  The whole magic of book marketing depends on Supply and Demand.

Most small businesses crash and burn in the first year.  Some hang on for a second – then follow suit.  It’s rare for a small business to succeed the first time out.  Why?  People think that it’s going to be easy.  It’s not.  If you want to become profitable with your books, then you’re going to have to work at it.  If you “love” your novel/story as much as you claim, then why wouldn’t you WANT to?  So many people spent years crafting this piece of art.  To just toss it in the gutter like trash doesn’t make sense.  Then to get pissed off when someone believes your OWN assessment of it?

If you want your book to be seen as a masterpiece, then you must present it as one.  You must show it off in its best light.  You must do everything for that book – or accept that you are not an independent author.  You’re just some schlep who wrote some words on a page, did half the job, then wanted all the credit.  Basically, you’re like all the other “self-published” authors out there giving the public a bad impression.  Your business WILL fail.

But it doesn’t have to be like that

fountain-pen-442066.jpgThe only way independent books will get accepted by the public is if the authors dare to prove them wrong.  If we produce books that are as good, if not better than the Big 5 publishers.  We have to take responsibility.

Sure, we’ll never be able to stop the crap from showing up on the lists.  We don’t have to.  Just look at Shake Weights.  What a joke, right?  But no one honestly thinks that ALL small businesses are that silly.  We assume it’s an outlier because most small businesses offer something good.  Even in an industry where the majority fail, we naturally believe that a small business is worthwhile until proven wrong.

As more independent and self-published authors put effort into their books, things are changing.  Just look at your own kindle list.  How many of those books are traditionally published?  How many are small or independent presses?  How many are self-published?  More than you thought, I bet.  You, as a reader, never stopped to check (in most cases) because the book was presented professionally.  It didn’t look like a piece of crap, so you assumed it wasn’t.

And reviews help.  We – especially authors – need to start reviewing books honestly.  Stop worrying about hurting someone’s feelings and start giving them tools to become better.  If you’ve ever given a five star rating to a book with a typo (raises my hand) then you’re a part of the problem.  Five stars should mean perfection.  Personally, I have a simple breakdown that I use:

  • Five star  – this book is perfect.  I wouldn’t change a thing.
  • Four star – this book is worth reading, but has a few acceptable/understandable mistakes
  • Three star – Something about this is good (story or writing) but the other aspect needs work.
  • Two star – I see a glimmer of hope.  There’s a kernel that made me willing to keep reading, but it was not at all ready to be published.
  • One star – Every aspect of this book had a problem.  From cover design through plot and characterization, including grammar and punctuation, the author needs to learn a lot before they try again.  The best option for this book is to take it down and start over.  Consider a full re-write.

Is that harsh?  Yep.  But it also helps.  Oh sure, the author will rant, rage, possibly bawl his eyes out, but in the end, critique is the only way to get better.  We’re all blind to our own flaws.  That’s why we need the help of others.

I also think that if someone is so easily thwarted that they would “just give up and never write again” (something that is said all too often on message boards) then they aren’t really an author.

You see, instead of gatekeepers, rules, and elitist clubs, the best way to make sure that indie and self-published books don’t suck?  Police ourselves.  Rate ourselves honestly.  Take care of our OWN work first, and produce the best books we can.  We are a community of brilliant minds and magnificent dreamers.  The stigma against what we do is already fading.  If we work just a little bit harder, we’ll prove that artists don’t need to sign a contract with a pre-fab corporation to be, well, artists.




The secret to my success…


Yes, that is a keyboard.  It’s a very pretty version of what I use, and while I don’t get any kickbacks (I really should with as much as I hype this thing) I think every author should know that this pricey keyboard DOUBLED my typing speed.  Yes.  Doubled.

I type fast anyway.  On a typical laptop, I hit around 90 – 120 words per minute.  On my Corsair keyboard, I can hit 210 without straining.  I can finally type as fast as I think!  Why?  Because the mechanical keys with brown cherry mx switches (technical stuff there) require less pressure.  Each keystroke is, therefore, faster – and it really does add up.

Oh sure, the above keyboard (Corsair K95) sells for anywhere from 160 to 240 dollars (US).  If you don’t need all the fancy function keys on the left (those G keys) you can get a K70 (same thing with less buttons) for about 80 bucks (US).  But here’s the best part… they really do last forever!

Most authors type enough to destroy a keyboard.  The repetitive presses of each key required to make a 100,000 word novel is about all the thin plastic keys can take.  For me (who writes stupid amounts) I wear out a cheap keyboard in about a month.  Literally wear out.  Like holes in the space bar, no letters on the keys, certain letters stop working kind of wear out.  To date, I have written 30 books, with at least another 10 books worth of cut scenes, and have only used 2 Corsair keyboards, a K95 and a K70.  My second one is still pretty darned shiny and new, too.

Now, if you’re playing at writing a book – and it seems most people are – then this isn’t something you need to worry about.  But for all those people who ask how I can write so much, so fast, and keep pumping out the books?  Well, this really is my greatest secret.  A good keyboard is the tool of our trade.  It’s the method our thoughts use to reach the “paper”.  Having to stop, backspace, and fix a missed letter?  That’s breaking the line of thought, the intensity of action, and it does show.  The way we feel when writing comes across in the nouns, verbs, and descriptive words we unconsciously choose to make a statement.  Having to stop and think about where we were in the action kills the mood as quickly as parents do with infatuated teenagers: in its tracks.

A good quality mechanical keyboard is most often sold as a gaming keyboard.  That’s because gamers are so competitive, and they realize that a millisecond difference in keystroke could be what drops them to second place.  The need for longevity, tolerable pricing (because most teens aren’t rich) and the ability to withstand coffee/mountain dew spilled in the keys means that it works perfectly for the frazzled author.  For me, the brown switches (the types are named after colors) work best, but many prefer red.  Thankfully, these are the two most popular options.  Blue is a bit mushy for my tastes.

So yes, keyboard buying can get rather intimidating, but if you have questions, feel free to message me on Twitter (@aurynhadley) or ask me on facebook (  I’m always happy to geek out for a moment.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get those kickbacks.


Rape as a plot device – Don’t do it!

sad-623848That tragic past.  That wound that can’t ever be explained.  We all read stories in the news (like the Stanford rape case recently) that make us want to dive into the potential for character angst, suffering, and personal recovery.  On the surface, it’s the perfect tragedy to write about, because it comes with few physical disabilities to keep track of.  The pain is all internal.  She (or he, because plenty of men get raped) can still be beautiful, alluring, yet damaged so badly in their psyche that plots spring forth in our minds.

Don’t do it.

Now, let me add a few caveats to that – since my own upcoming book, FLAWED, deals with this.  It’s not that you can’t write about a rape survivor.  It’s that you shouldn’t write the rape scene.  With some studies citing 80%, others 66% of women fantasize about rape, you can see how quickly this could go wrong.  (Granted, if you’re writing in taboo erotica, none of this applies, because, uh, taboo!).

The problem with writing the rape scene is that while it may be a very powerful piece of imagery, you just made it titillation.  You just turned the horror story into erotica for a significant portion of the audience – whether they intend for it to happen or not.  Never mind that 1 in 5 of your female readers has (statistically) suffered through it.  You remove the power of that scene simply because we have so many strong social connotations wrapped around it.  Nothing you can do will make it the horror you intended.  But the aftermath?

That is where the story truly lies.  In my opinion, it’s much more powerful to leave the reader wondering.  She rounds a corner and… darkness.  She looks up at her boyfriend, and he grabs her, smothering her shocked cry with his hand.  FADE TO BLACK.  Next chapter opens with her crying.  Him trying to hide the evidence so he won’t be shamed by his guy friends. Her struggling to remember what happened and why she’s here.  This leaves the author free to use the mental struggles without carrying the burden of the titillation.  Just make sure you do justice to the crime as if it is, uh… a CRIME!

BUT!  but but but but but but but but but (have I said it enough to get your attention?)


Do not EVER make rape into a plot device.  Sure, it can be one character’s motivation (if you follow the above rules), but it shouldn’t be used to encourage some strong man (or determined woman) to save the object of their desire.  Rape isn’t something that the victim can ever just say, “Oh, that was last week.  I’m all better now.”  It’s also not something that should be tossed about as if it doesn’t matter.   What does that tell 1 in 5 of your readers?  That she (or he) is only good to make someone “stronger” do the right thing?  That they are just living to be an aside in someone else’s big story?  That their nightmares, their insecurities, the ruination of their entire life is good for, oh, about a chapter?  Anyone who thinks that’s ok is an asshole.

How about when we write about tragedy, we let the survivors tell their own story – not someone else’s?  Maybe it’s time that we show the horrors of recovery from such a traumatic crime, and not the act itself.  It isn’t the handful of minutes (20, according to the Stanford rapist’s father) that is the story.  It’s the years that come after that.  It’s something that never goes away, and if you can’t write a character that is broken and will stay broken – and figure out how to give them their power back – then pick another tragedy for your hero/heroine.

Oh, and find a survivor to beta your book before you put it out.  Trust me, that’s the only way you’ll know if you’re respecting the atrocities of it all.

World Building


What makes world building?  Is it a verbal vomit from the author about this new universe the reader has just dropped into?  Would it be the nuances that make fantasy life different from reality?  Does it have to be spelled out, or should it season the story like a gourmet chef?

If you can’t tell, I have a rather strong bias about this.  Every time someone talks about world building, I twitch a little.  I have no interest in writing (and I’m sure you have no interest in reading) a prologue that lays it all out and removes the magic.  That’s so 1970s.  We’ve learned since then.

Instead, I think the world should be experienced by the reader as it happens, in real time (so to speak).  A hydrogen powered car here.  A gas giant lighting the sky there.  Maybe it’s a busy military compound that’s caught somewhere between the middle ages and three centuries into the future.  Maybe it’s a world where gladiators still are a viable means to dispose of criminals.  No matter what it is, the reader should be focused on the characters, and the world around them should just fill in the blanks.

Now, in some of my novels, I’ve made the decision to let the reader fill in the blanks.  Why?  Oh WHY haven’t I spelled out every single detail of these fabulous places that dwell in my mind?  The answer is easy.  I don’t think it’s fair.  I mean, how many times have you come across the hottie by the pool, only to be told that it’s not a forest pond, but a civic area surrounded by concrete?  Did you see him/her as a blonde?  Is it shocking when the author spells out that he’s a redhead, or she has a broken nose?  Do you really need to know that the sweet bouquet is filled with flowers of YOUR least favorite color?

See, we all have preferences, and those things affect our enjoyment.  Those are minor details that don’t really matter.  I think it’s the reader’s choice to fill in what should be there.  If it doesn’t leave a gaping hole in the plot, then why am I wasting time, droning on about the color of the curtains?  I hated it when Tolkein tried it.  I despise it in every novel that has come since.  Why would I do that to my fans?

And yet, I want you to understand what is going on.  Oh, I’m not going to spoon feed it to you.  I think my readers are too smart for that.  I’m going to give you little bits, showing the heartbeat of the universe as it happens, so you’re always pleasantly shocked and surprised.  I build my worlds in bite-sized chunks, so you can swallow it without choking.  I just think that no one needs a sledge hammer to the head to get the point.  It’s crude.  It’s not considered good writing, and I certainly don’t want to do that.

In one of my series, this is necessary.  The iliri have no idea where they’ve come from.  The point of view character can’t tell you what she doesn’t know.  As the author, I’m certainly not going to ruin the mystery!  (Sorry.)

Instead, I want to make reading into what I remember as a girl.  It was a journey – a discovery.  Every new page was a marvel, filled with magnificient things.  Every chapter made my mind spin.  What I expected to happen wasn’t always what did, and I learned.  I loved the quest to make it to the last page… and to imagine things that I couldn’t really see, but saw so very clearly.


Working with a co-author (and who is Kitty Cox?)

girls-344334There aren’t many people I could write with.  The list basically consists of Kitty Cox.  For years, she’s been the yin to my yang.  Our lives are intertwined so much that our husbands think of us more like sisters than just friends.  She’s my supervisor at work.  I’m her mentor in writing.  She has a flair for the number side of things; I excel in making sure it’s noticed.  Together, we’re the kind of friends I spent my life wishing for – including the part where I don’t have to worry about what I say to her.

And that last bit is why we can write together.  I can honestly tell her, “No one talks like that, chica.  Your dialogue is stiff and false feeling.”  Conversely, she picks apart my writing until I want to cuss a blue streak at her.  She makes sure I have a reason for every single action my characters take.  It’s not enough to just put them in a situation, Kitty wants to know why Mack didn’t just ask Ryan to take her to the hospital.  She wants to make sure I’ve prepared the readers for this by keeping her personality consistent.  She highlights every place her eyes glaze over when reading, then tells me to rip it out.

Kitty helps with every book I’ve put out, just like I help with every one she creates.  Granted, I kinda have a lead on her in the production area, and maybe having a full-time job gives her a bit less time to catch up, but she’s still writing.  When the idea for the Eternal Combat series came up, it was meant to be.  I’m a gamer.  She raises horses.  We both work for an internet company, so have a decent amount of technical knowledge – including the bad things that happen on the world wide web.

girls-380618.jpgSo what started as one book quickly grew.  Add in some gamer gate, a bit of weirdness at the Hugo awards, and this book morphed into a series.  The key players in gamer’s gate were the idea of the backbone for our characters.  Long nights over margaritas/martinis always turned to what would happen next in the series.  And then Kitty sent me a couple paragraphs.

She writes well.  It’s like a darker version of the way I do.  I have a love affair with the idea of hope.  She has a penchant for making the reality into something powerful.  Put those together, and we ended up with a book about some of the strongest women I’ve ever imagined.  They’re super hero strong, without losing their femininity or becoming cheap placeholders for characters that could feel real.

And then we moved into the rest of the series, and wow.  I always thought that writing with someone else would be a headache.  Sure, I expected the long debates over how to get from point A to point B in the book.  I never thought they’d be so much fun!

Since we’ve been pushing to get Flawed finished, Kitty has finally come to accept that she’s more than just a ghost writer.  She’s good at this.  She enjoys it.  That means there’s no reason her name shouldn’t be on the covers and she shouldn’t get equal billing for the hours she puts in.  The minute she agreed to it, I swapped covers and adjusted everything! (That’s the best part about digital books, changes can be made quickly.)

It also makes the final edits a lot easier.  The pair of us sit down and go through the comments our editor left.  Some we laugh off.  Many we debate.  Is this fragment indicative of the character’s mental state?  Are we trying to make the reader feel something with the choppy flow through this section, or were we being lazy?  How does ripping out that line alter things later in the book?  Does THIS line have any reason to be here?  What’s it driving in the story?  Does the sex scene have a purpose besides titillation?

children-839789.jpgYou see, every single word in a book should do something.  Whether that’s characterization, plot development, or setting – they all need to keep the novel moving in a single direction.  Forward.  The goal is always to get to the end of the book, not to wallow in the journey.  We just don’t want to skip any details between the inciting incident and the culmination of the character’s struggles.  Working with my best friend?  Yeah, it’s a whole lot easier.

Oh.  Right.  And Flawed is almost done.  Maybe after this series is out, we’ll have to start on something else, because working with a co-author is a lot better than I could have imagined.

Why are women supposed to be “good girls”?

woman-695454It seems like every book I read has a girl in it that is kind, sweet, and relatively innocent about the world.  The women who aren’t always come across as broken, being snarky to protect themselves, or such.  It’s social conditioning that we’re not even aware that we’re doing to ourselves.  Considering that most writers AND readers are women, this might be a problem.

I write books that I want to read.  I try my hardest to write the kind of books I never found, but went looking for.  My goal is to create stories about people that I believe are possible.  To clarify – the people are possible, not the stories.  I don’t really think that aliens are going to crash in North Carolina.  I do believe that not every girl in the world would see that and panic.  Some of us might be scared at first, but more curious than interested in running around screaming.

I also think that women’s sexuality is a problem.  Just think about it for a moment, there’s no female equivalent to “stud” in our language.  A “playboy” or “player” is a term for a man.  What are the feminine counterparts?  Slut?  Whore?

And why is it always the man’s job to do the picking up.  Where are the stories about the women who say “he’s hot, I want him”?  What about the rich ladies who are looked at fondly from a distance by their male admirer?  I get that we want our men to be strong, to protect us, and to help fix  all the problems.  It’s kinda coded in our DNA, and imprinted by our society.  We can’t help it.  This is what women find sexy.

But doesn’t that typically result in the woman being weak?  In some manner, she’s relegated to a position of subordination by the very stories we’re writing.  Why not equality?  It’s not really that hard to do.  It DOES mean that we need to think about relationships a bit differently.

Rochelle’s Reviews often comments on my “men”.  They aren’t alpha males.  They aren’t cruel, living on a power trip, or whatever.  They are strong, yet kind; powerful, but never better than their love interest; protective without being a caveman.  What I want people to see are my women.

I want to write women who remind my readers that it’s ok to like sex.  That there’s nothing wrong in putting a career over a man.  That sometimes she might have more sexual experience than her potential lover – and that it’s OK.  There are a zillion confused virgins out there in literary land.  What I want to write are all the other shades of female sexuality and dominance.  I want to let women like myself know that they aren’t alone, that it’s ok to be however they are.  That some girls want to grow up and be a mommy, but others want to find the perfect stay at home dad.  I want to write books for the readers who think outside the box.

I’m pretty sure that’s going to upset a few people.  Know what?  I don’t really care.  Growing up, I always wanted to read stories about women like me, but the only ones I found were always written as something to be ashamed of.  Well, let me assure you, I’m not ashamed of being different.

I’m damned proud of it, and we all deserve to feel that way.

Without writing, I die a little inside

Pink AventadorI have oodles of books to finish up and publish.  About 28 more to go.  The problem is that there’s a very big difference between creating a new story and polishing one that’s finished.  Maybe not for everyone, but it is for me.

When creating, it feels like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and found myself in a wonderland.  I get to learn the nuances of this universe, to meet new characters, and to delve into their complicated situations.  I have the power of a god – to alter the fate of humanity, fix up a relationship, or whatever else the plot needs.  It’s thrilling, addictive, and immersive.

Editing does not give me that high.  Editing is the logic and rationalization behind the art.  It’s all about judging whether or not that compound sentence needs a comma, or if I can string those words together in a better way.  The goal of editing is to be sure that each and ever sentence makes the reader FEEL something.  The goal of writing is the experience the journey.

And so, I get very sick of editing.  I can think like that.  I am smart enough, dedicated enough, and proud enough to want my work to be published in the best state possible.  But my passion lies with creating.  I am an artist.  Maybe I use words to paint the scene instead of acrylics or clay, but it’s still the creativity that my mind demands.  Throwing myself into endless hours of watching for commas, periods, straight quotes, and word repetition is like data entry.  It’s dull.  It’s boring.  It makes me die a little inside.

My solution is to balance this with a new book.  Eight hours of editing gets me a day of writing.  Sadly, it’s easier to WRITE a book than it is to polish it.  For every novel I edit, I could probably write two.  That is if I didn’t have the dreaded day job.  Now that thing steals away the hours.  So, for now, I’m trying to balance the creativity with the productivity.  I’m hoping that I can keep making the books my readers are asking for while finishing the ones I already have out.

Steampunk Workshop.pngYet I still feel guilty for writing something new.  I keep thinking that my readers are waiting.  People are asking for When We Were Crowned, Two of a Kind, the third book in the iliri series, the prequel to the Eternal Combat series.  They don’t even know about my elementals, the monochromatic world, the hacktivist romances, or the second chance stories.  I do, and I love them.  I want to lose myself in those worlds, to finish the last few words before that book is added to the long line of works waiting to see the light of day.  I want so bad to write…

But I should be editing.  I should be finishing the series that are out instead of starting another.  I should be editing not creating.  This is what the responsible half of my brain says, and it’s smothering the other side that is dying to keep going, to keep this crazy pace of pumping out books.  If I could just learn how to tell my mind that it’s all ok, that I’m releasing books faster than most people, and that I deserve the time to do what I love….

Well, that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

So, I’m going to write.  I’m not going to edit another word today.  I’m just going to let my imagination run wild for a bit and enjoy the way it feels.  Tomorrow I can worry about being responsible and editing again.

Let’s talk about making cheap covers!

1 One More DayMost indie authors are working on a budget.  Usually a very tight one.  We still want a cover that’s good enough to make sales.  I’m going to show you how to do it on the VERY cheap.

My first book, One More Day, was an experiment.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to this whole indie author thing.  I certainly didn’t want to spend a few thousand on an attempt that might go bad.  I also happen to have a whole lot of experience in marketing and advertising design.  In other words, I was pretty sure I could make a cover that would do the job.  The final version is doing well on Amazon, and One More Day is currently my best selling book.

In other words, the cover is working.

But let me tell you how it started.  THAT was not my first cover.  With a love story that is about a girl with cancer, I didn’t want a cover that would come across as sensual.  I felt that would give the reader the wrong impression.  It’s a story about hope and friendship, not jumping in the sack with a hot guy.  Hell, the main character has CERVICAL cancer.  (To quote a character in the story, “I know where the cervix is, man”) So sex was off the table from the start of the book.  Instead, I needed to push the emotions.

I started with something easy.  My first cover was decent but not great.  It had the right idea, but did little to make potential readers feel a connection.

One More DayI took a lovely stock image of a hand-drawn heart and some art supplies.  In the story, the main characters are a tattoo artist and a girl who went to college to paint, but had to drop out due to real life.  Her drawings are what brought them together, and art has a major place in this book.

Sadly, that’s not what the potential reader will KNOW when shopping.  They aren’t looking for someone drawing hearts with oil pastels.  They are looking for a story about people.  This is a romance novel afterall.

But I still had a cover that sold a few copies.  The font was free from 1001 Free Fonts.  The effects are little more than a couple of button clicks in Paint Shop Pro (like Photoshop but a lot cheaper and with less toys).  Total cost of this cover?  $80 bucks for the software – which I can use over and over to make many more covers, teasers, and such.

But, I realized that it’s not about crayons.  This story is about a girl struggling to make it one more day, then one more after that.  In other words, I needed a better cover.  So I found myself a half decent free stock image:


Ha!  This one had the cup of coffee that keeps cropping up in the story.  The look on her face is perfect!  Like she’s lost in her own thoughts and nothing else matters.  The lighting draws the eye to her face, but it’s too dark.

So, let’s crop this up a bit.ASJL0UIGOR

Then color the whole thing in cervical cancer purple.


Make it a bit bright and adjust the contrast around.


And now we’re looking at her face.  Increase the vibrancy of the color, add in the title, layer on the author’s name (ahem, mine) and…….

1 One More Day

Eventually, I got something that made the reader want to know more.  It’s not the best cover in the world.  It’s probably going to be replaced one day, when I can figure out how to do it better, but it is a massive improvement on the stock image that I started with, and took a few hours.  It was within my budget.

I’m not trying to say that I’m the best cover designer out there, but after seeing so many crappy books being hawked on Twitter the other day, I think that showing how “easy” it can be might help.  I’m hoping that some author out there is willing to put in a little more effort, and see that it does have a huge impact.

This book, with this cover, is my best seller.  It’s in the top 1% of all books on kindle, and even seven months after release, it’s selling very nicely.  Total investment: $80 bucks for the software.  I made that, and more, in the first month.  Plus, that investment allowed me to create:

Now I have some options when talking about my book on social media.