Category Archives: My Thoughts on Writing

Why Writing is Like Playing With A Cat

why writing

So this will be a funny post. But since my brain likes to draw parallels between seemingly unrelated things, we’re going to go with it.

The other day I was playing with Solstice Kitty, otherwise known as Solara, the adopted furry-white monstrosity that I ended up taking on in a sort of rescue situation. She’s pretty amazing but also a terror that likes to wake people up at 2 in the morning demanding attention, but I digress.


Majestic murder-floof


We’ve been getting new toys for her (as we both work full time at the moment and she ends up bored and alone a lot of the day), and we found one that has really seemed to stick. It’s basically just a furry thing attached to a string attached to a stick that I hold and flick around/race across the room with.

My coming-home-from-work routine has become: get home, throw off annoying clothes and put on comfy ones, start a fire, starting playing with cat. Keep playing with cat, in between bouts of writing and making dinner and whatever else.

A few days in to this new routine, I was struck by an odd comparison: writing fiction is like using a toy to play with a cat.

And here’s why.

Writing professionally is a partnership. It’s an interaction between writer and reader.

So you dangle something in front of them. The reader (or the cat) has to be interested in whatever it looks like, first off. But if they are interested… that’s when the fun begins.

You can use this cat toy (book), and do the same movement, over and over. You can flick it around in the same pattern, the same way. But at some point you’re going to lose kitty-cat interest.


Are you going to move it or what?

So you have to change it up. Move in circles, and then diagonal, and then figure-eights, whatever. Toss the toy in their lap, and then tease it away. Stand still for a second — and then jerk it away.

Maybe even run across the room. Make them chase you. Make them work for it. But if you do that all the time (constant, face-paced, always work), kitty cat loses interest because they can’t keep up, or no longer want to because it’s the same (and becomes boring). You might need to slow down at parts.


Stop running away. I have it. IT’S MINE.

At the same time, letting them have the toy [answers] all the time just becomes… meh. Why bother? You’ll need to keep the toy [answers] away from said kitty (reader). At the same time, if that’s all you do, it’s frustrating and they’ll probably walk away.

It’s a balance, this kitty-playing and writing thing. Let them chew on it a bit. Maybe stop moving all together. Let them think they’ve won. Before racing away again!


Nom nom nom nom nom

Obstacles are also a great way to spice things up. In fact, it’s highly recommended to use the actual environment of the book to create said obstacles. As for your feline friend, making them jump over couches, boxes, and chairs, or dive under couches, can be fantastically fun. It’s very exciting that way, you know.

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BUT, this is where the comparison falls apart a little. While you’re writing, you don’t actually directly have a reader to play with as the words flow (Well, I suppose you could…) It’s a solitary activity really.

So maybe the better comparison is more along the lines of programming a robot to go through a set of actions with a cat toy. And then watching as the cat plays to see if they continue to be entertained.

And then continually revising the programming. Because there are always a few moments that could be better…


Last one I swear

Okay, so, I realize there are a lot of reasons why this parallel doesn’t actually work, starting with things like writing style (well, which could be the type of toy…), character development, and world building (though that could be the physical obstacles in the room…), but this is all just for fun anyway.

I hope you enjoyed my silly analogy session. Feel free to comment with your thoughts below!

I would like to note that I wrote this post while Solstice Kitty herself stared at me and attempted to intervene in all matters requiring fingers to be away from playing with her.


Pondering the “Author Lifestyle”

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I read an interesting article the other day about how writers view our careers. Now I can’t find the article, which is annoying, but the author of the article spoke about our skewed vision of what our lives look like with successful career.

She wrote that we live with this whimsical idea ‘a real writer’s life’: living in a small apartment overlooking a city scape with mountains of books along the walls. We head to coffee shops to write, our days and nights are spent laboring over words and concepts, and we never keep a regular sleep schedule.

Or maybe we live in a cabin in the woods, or on land — either which way, some sort of solitary space where we stare out of the window for hours and as the world moves slowly past.

Recognize that visual?

She brought up an interesting point: this writing-life ‘ideal’ is straight from the era of writers who we consider classics (addendum from me: classical white male writers, anyway). The most prominent of these writers lived these kinds of lifestyles that pop up often when someone thinks of Author Life. But — and this is a big but — she mentions that these authors did so by living in countries that were post-revolution, post-war, or post some other crisis, where living expenses were cheap and aesthetics were set to ‘elegant grunge.’

She continued her point by saying that this kind of lifestyle and way of living no longer really exists. Nowadays, most writers have day jobs: some other means of support as writing isn’t, or isn’t yet, enough.

Writing is not a terribly profitable career. It’s not necessarily steady or high-paying, and it takes an enormous amount of energy and creative blood. We do it anyway, for a variety of reasons including the inability to stop writing really. But in order to live in a capitalist society without personal patrons to sponsor the arts and the like, it takes years for us to be able to survive on just writing (if ever at all). And often, there’s a partner involved.

(Well, actually, that could be said for most careers — it’s very difficult to realistically live in a single-income household, so maybe that’s a moot point.)

So her point was that the ideal of Author Life needs to shift, that we need to incorporate and give room for reality that includes working another job, always or until writing becomes profitable.

Even before reading this article I’d been noticing something, but it clicked into place especially after I read the piece. It seems that a large percentage of the women writers I know and love tend to be stay at home moms. (Which is a job, mind you.)

The point is, they have financial support from their partners, work a job raising the next generation, and it (often but not always) allows the flexibility of sneaking in writing time around managing the household.

Now I’m not saying this is what people need to do. And I’m probably overestimating what percentage of writers are stay-at-home parents. I’m just saying that there’s often a kind of flexibility in that path that more readily allows for a writing career.

That is not to say that there aren’t other ways or that writers don’t juggle two careers. It’s pretty common for successful writers to have two careers, or be a writer after a different career. Hell, I know a lot of writers who love both of their careers. So maybe this article is aimed a little more towards those who really only get satisfaction from writing.

Me, for example: I find little real satisfaction in my ‘career’ outside of writing. But I think that has more to do with being in the wrong field than anything else. I actually want to do something other than writing, even while I know writing will be with me till the end.

At the same time, when I’m working full time it’s so difficult to make any sort of writing happen. But again, I find that most often with jobs that are draining, uninspiring, and frustrating. So I’m wondering if the nuance being teased out here is less about “other job or no other job” and more about what kind of job. How much is flexibility key in helping make a writing career possible?

And there’s another factor that adds into this. I’ve heard often, and have recognized in myself, that if all you do is write, you often run out of creative energy. So to another point, how important is it that writers do have other careers or big influences in their lives to feed creativity/prevent creative exhaustion?

I know, it’s not necessarily what any full-time-writer-hopeful wants to hear. You have to expend more energy, take time away from writing, to actually write? The more I think about this, the most intrigued I am by the history behind this Ideal Author Lifestyle that resonates through a lot of writers.

Why do we have this image of the reclusive, kept-to-theirself writer as the hallmark standard? Don’t we, as writers, write to pinpoint some aspect of the human condition, or seek or entertain through some window of the human soul? Why do we think that being cut off from society is the way to do this?

Don’t get me wrong, I get it. I’m definitely an introvert, as most of those plagued by the writing bug tends towards. And I know, the introverted and introspective tend to think deeper and harder about things in general, so it’s not like we have to be plugged into society at all times in order to observe and try to understand.

We writers need to be in the world, for financial reasons or at least creative ones. That isn’t to say that we don’t need introvert times, as writing is intrinsically a very solitary endeavor. But we still need to have some part in it.

Isn’t it interesting, that a lot of those who write about the human condition kinda often don’t really want to engage in it? Or we do, but in a way that we can retreat from when we need.

Anyway. Where I’m trying to go with this meandering stream of thoughts is that maybe the above-mentioned article right, that our image of what Ideal Author Lifestyle looks like needs to be challenged. There were quite a few Author Life whimsy depictions in the article that resonated with me (though many that didn’t as well); I hadn’t realized how much of that idea I’d internalized from a bygone era.

It seems that maybe this misleading ‘ideal’ may be to blame for some of the frustration that a lot of writers seem to feel about how their lives look now. There are so many paths to making a successful writing career, and so many ways it can look.

So what is it that we really need to be looking for out of our professional lives?


What do you think? Do you have notions of what a writer’s life looks like that you want to strive for? What’s your Ideal Author Life?

Conclusion of NaNoWriMo2017

Well, if you haven’t already seen, my project for this National Novel Writing Month was actually a manuscript I’d worked on last year, but now from a different perspective. I go into greater detail about the whys and whats in my previous NaNo post, but the short of it is, the manuscript needed a dual POV to make it work.

I’m glad I forced myself to churn out that creativity. As per usual, the pressure of NaNo helped me get my head in the game and just drive through it. I found myself absolutely loving the second POV, and found further points in the plot that could be expanded or re-framed.

A few differences from other years: the ‘dislike’ of this manuscript popped up sooner and actually continued until the end. Usually I get over it the last week. I think it’s because I’ve been working on this story for a while, and it’s a complex concept dealing with a lot of issues — from environmental themes to colonialism to white saviorism… all with very complicated people (because I can’t seem to write simple people). In all the complexity it’s easy to mess up.

There’s so much potential in this story, but that doesn’t matter if I don’t have the skills and ability to get there. Sooo at the end of the day, I think all my problems came from artistic doubt.

That being said, I still ‘won’ the thing:


So I shouldn’t complain too much.

Whether or not the words are good is the next problem. But I think only a clear head and some serious beta readers are going to help me solve that. It would also help if the damn manuscript was finished — I haven’t written a solid chunk of the ending, basically because I have no idea how to get from point A to Z with any sort of clarity. Every time I try I end up down another rabbit hole!

I think that there are elements that need to come together in the ending that I haven’t teased out enough in the beginning and middle, so it feels awkward and weird. That being said the manuscript is sitting at 134k words so I’m not sure how much longer I can make this this… But, I can also cut later.

Anyway, back to NaNoWriMo.

As I mentioned before, my last work assignment ended in November, so I ended up suddenly having a lot of free time on my hands this month. So if anyone out there reading this is frustrated because you didn’t ‘finish’ — A) don’t compare yourself to me, I was probably doing a lot less than you, and B) hey now, whatever you wrote is WORTH it. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. NaNo is just a tool to get more words. 50k is pretty arbitrary when you think about it.

I managed to keep good habits, both writing wise and personally getting things done. I’m not sure I really *learned* anything more about myself as a writer, unlike in past years, which is a little disheartening. But it might click later what doesn’t seem obvious now.

But that’s all boring. The point is: more words! Whooo! I’m leaving the manuscript alone throughout December because I need a clear head, but I’m going to really commit to this thing next year. I need it done, so that I can see it whole and then revise for real. I’ve been planning and writing and fiddling with this manuscript for like two years. It’s starting to fester in my brain.

Anyway, that’s the conclusion of what I have here. It was a weird NaNoWriMo for me, guys!

How was yours? Any new insights into yourself or your manuscript?

Let’s Talk About “New Adult” Novels


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Okay, so we all know what Young Adult (or YA) is. Novels written for a teenage audience. And we know what “Adult” books are. Books written for an adult audience.

If you don’t know what “New Adult” is, that’s okay, because it’s kind of a new phenomenon and doesn’t have an aisle at the library yet. Simply put, New Adult, or NA, are novels geared towards that aggravating in between stage in life, where you’re technically an adult but are lost in the big, wide world and are pretty sure you’re still a kid somehow.

Those can be pretty broad terms. An age-group can encompass a vast variety of experiences and lessons — and each of these can be different depending on the person. We all learn and grow at different rates, and everybody probably has different ideas of what should happen (or what’s appropriate) for a particular age group anyway.

For simplicities sake, we’ll go with this explanation I’ve heard and appeals to me: YA is about finding yourself, NA is about finding how you fit into the world.

Now, obviously, that’s simplistic. There are adult books that are stories about finding yourself or finding your place in the world. Honestly, I think “finding yourself” happens at any age and all throughout your life, but there does seem to be a particular foundational self-finding as a teen. Or self-solidifying. Or something. But anyway, NA is college-aged focused, tends to be more mature and have darker content.

Because certain things are more acceptable in NA… and the fact that not a lot of people know about NA, so those who do tend to dominate simply by design… and if we’re looking at numbers a lot of writers tend to write some element of romance… a lot of the writers spearheading the NA as an age-group write romance.

NA is able to delve into the area of sex and sexuality that is frowned upon in YA, which means that what people love about YA gets to be mixed with another very popular element: sex. Descriptions and “exploration” of sex is allowed in NA where it’s not in YA. A win-win for a lot of people.

However, this is also leading to a source of frustration.

Please note: THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ROMANCE. I love romance. I read quite a bit of romance. I’m a romantic person, I eat it up, especially when I want a happily ever after where everyone is okay in the end and the idea of reading anything about reality makes me want to goat-bolt into the nearest bed.

(I’m going to make goat-bolting a thing. It’s really fast. Trust me.)

Buuuuuuut. The frustration stems from the overwhelmed amount of romance that is dominating New Adult. NA seems to be, practically, just “YA with sex” instead of “college-aged life struggles of finding where you fit in with life.” (Which includes sex of course but you get what I’m saying.) NA has a huge capacity to explore A LOT, but many people of the NA age group or who enjoy the NA age group get frustrated by the seemingly never ending stories about sexual awakening.

Sometimes you want something non-romance. Not only because of the lovely asexual folks out there, who don’t want every book they read in their age group to be smut, but because diversity is a wonderful thing that leads to greatness. Also, choices, because that’s a thing, asexual or otherwise. Romance is great, but when you’re inundated with it you can become sick of it.

The truth is, I get really excited about New Adult stories. I’m a new adult. I feel like I’m in this adult world helplessly swimming in tar looking at everything like WTF AM I DOING. (Current world affairs don’t help.) Finding oneself is amazing and wonderful, but putting those pieces of yourself out in the world and finding how where best they fit keeps me up late wondering. This is where magic happens. This is where “oneself” starts changing the world. This is where “oneself” goes from meaning something just to you to finding the you that means something to other people. It’s terrifying, exhilarating, incredible. Sometimes it’s heartbreak and destruction. Sometimes it’s belonging and joy.

Anyway, the point is: NA is an age-group, not a genre, which means it’s capacity for story is GIGANTIC. I sometimes forget in my own little world where I write what I want, that reality doesn’t always reflect what I think it is or what I think it should be. So, it was really only recently that I realized, yeah, NA is pretty romance-heavy.

But I think there’s an evolution.Since it’s a new age-group, it takes a little bit before it’s fully fleshed out. Romance brought attention to NA: it’s becoming popular and noticed. Agents and publishers acknowledge it, the indie-publishing scene is all over it. Which means that now, as people realize it’s a thing, there will be people writing into it that have other stories to tell.

It’s funny, I wrote NA stories before it was even an age-group. I just wrote what I wanted to see in the world, I wasn’t really worried about it fitting in a bracket. Maybe that’s why I have confidence that NA will move on from “YA with sex” — because if I’m writing it, someone else had to be too. If readers and writers are frustrated about NA seeming limited to one genre, they’ll start writing something different.

NA will evolve. It will become more diverse. Many of us are working on making it so. And hey, if you’re one of those, I’d love to hear from you! Let’s be writing buddies.


Comments? Questions? What’s your experience with New Adult — are you writing it?

Behind the Scenes In Being Published: Contract Writing vs. “Free” Writing (June 2017)

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If you’re not caught up on my writing journey so far, I signed a contract selling my INITIUM series late last year. A month or two later, my editor said I needed to write a prequel because my world is very complex, and she was worried I started to far into my character arc.

You may have noticed I didn’t write a blog post for May (or June or July, for that matter, but that was mostly procrastination). I was still writing the prequel in June (as discussed in the previous post) and mostly digesting my edit letter and writing through July, and I felt it was better to write a post encompassing more of the process to get a better picture. Mostly because I’ve never done much writing that’s arrived out of another’s suggestion, so that was kinda a weird ride for me. I’ve never even really used writing prompts to start a story. Somewhere between always having massive novel projects and lack of interest, I just never did it.

And then my publisher requested that I write something. Something that didn’t arise from genuine interest and creative spark.

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I knew what this prequel entailed, plot wise, as it’s my main character’s backstory, but hadn’t ever considered it interesting enough to actually write a whole book about. And it definitely became a whole book (I really cannot apparently write anything short — this is the shortest I’ve written at 52k. And I’ve added almost 10k now).

To start, the prequel is 5 years before the original first book. My character is shaped and grows from a lot of things that happen in the prequel, so she’s almost a different character in this prequel book. These characters are in such different places in their life. This is before everything that makes Fairian who she is.

She’s also 14, compared to the 19 year old Fairian in book one. There’s something to be said for the age difference. Which, for the first time, actually became a little problematic for me. I’ve always written teenage main characters, so it shouldn’t have really been an issue, but I’m in an odd place where I’m not a teenager *myself* anymore. Which, has been a weird thing for me personally, because I don’t really feel like an adult, either.

I think the reality is I’m psyching myself out too much about it. I know how to write a teenage — I just can also relatably write a 20-something.

But anyway. This was the first time I wrote something that’s original inspiration to write it did not come directly from me. It was also a little weird because in all the books I’ve finished before, it’s gone through a lot of inward processing before it comes out on the page. The prequel? Quite of bit of it was just throwing sand into the sandbox as it came.

I wasn’t all that excited about writing it, which made it difficult to actually get the words on the page. So what should have taken a month or so took over three months.

I think this took a toll on the richness and vividness of my world and characters, too. As I mention below, quite a bit of the first edit letter was “write this out MORE.” I wasn’t as into the characters and plot, and I think that becomes obvious.

(Honestly this isn’t all a bad thing, because this will be a great project to learn how to actually write revisions… but still, it was annoying how flat the end result felt)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I think it’s a typical dilemma (or at least one that I’ve seen writers lament about before) to be torn between making something you’re supposed to do and making something that seems to be coming out of your very soul. I feel like I constantly waffle between liking the project and ambivalence. I find a part I like and feel invested, but then I step back too far and I lose track of what I like about this project.

There’s a balance there, I think; you’ve got to make a living somehow, but if you don’t care about what you’re writing, I don’t think readers will either. You know what I mean? I’m sure you’ve read a book where it seemed like the author just stop caring, or wrapped things up too quickly, or whatever. Not wanting to do that.

Now, I got the first edit letter for the thing a few weeks ago now. Shockingly, the main consensus for the first round of edits was that I didn’t write enough. It seems bizarre to me that not writing enough is my problem, at 100k-130k length finished novels. But this isn’t the first time she’s said something like this soooooo…

To be honest, re-reading the manuscript weeks later, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. There were some parts in there that, in rereading, I felt pretty damn good about. I mean, we’ll see what my editor thinks when we actually get there — but it was relief to find things about it I liked.

We could all probably say that about our first drafts though. Writers tend not to like drafts very much when we first complete them.

This is the strongest character arc I’ve ever written, to start with. In the beginning, she’s insecure, kinda shy, a little lost, and a little needy. By the end, she’s paranoid, angry, depressed, and driven as hell. That part was fun. The difference between the beginning and the end. (This is also relates to something I learned at the Willamette Writers Conference which I will be writing in another blog post!)

Anyway, based on the comments from my editor, the main issue was that I didn’t immerse my reader into Fairian’s head and the world fast enough (as mentioned above). I’m really great at the slow burn — in plots, in romance, in characters. Probably TOO good at the slow burn. And this book really came into existence because I needed to introduce the world and character more fully, more quickly.

So. I’m currently revising the first few chapters with A LOT more world details and thoughts in Fairian’s head. Turns out, adding words later really is more difficult than subtracting. I’ve spent my whole author life trying to reign in my excessive wordiness and now I’m supposed to do the opposite! Oh boy.

Since I originally had a different book exploring a lot of these introduction world elements, there are a lot of the same things that I need to be expressing in this book (as it’s now technically going to be the first one out) only somehow different. So that’s interesting. I feel like I’ve actually been delving deeper into the mechanics of my world because of this book… and building further details. Interesting and unique details.

I don’t know if I would have done this much exploring of the world if I hadn’t wrote this prequel. Partially because by the time the original first book starts, Fairian doesn’t care about a lot of the society norms and structures (as her rebellious self has set in), so she doesn’t think about or explore them much. In the prequel, she’s more concerned with trying to fit in and being a part of society, which lends itself to talking about said norms in society.

(At the Willamette Writers Conference a few weeks ago I mentioned above, I took an Urban Fantasy workshop that heavily emphasized establishing the ‘norm’ before exploring the magical — and this seems to be fitting into that right now…)

Anyway, the other big thing that was mention in the edit letter was that my ending was way too fast. It felt like I jumped to the end too quickly or got bored, she said.

Funny story: I was trying to keep the ending short and snappy to keep up suspense (which I was told was important) and went too far with THAT one too. So I’ve added a chapter and a few big scenes to bridge and extrapolate a few points.


All right, all of that gives you an overview of what’s been happening in my writing world the past couple months. I’ll be returning to my editing now — the Willamette Writers Conference (that I keep mentioning) was really helpful for so much of what I’m learning right now. I picked up some great tips about world building and character development that I will be immediately implementing thank you very much…

Just in the past few days I’ve had a few things click. I have a whole segment that is going to do amazing things in establishing the alternative-history timeline which I am DROOLING to go write into the first pages (adulting = getting in the way of everything).


Questions? Comments? Concerns? I’ll try to not to have such a gap between these posts next time around! 

Branding Myself Journey (er, the Incomplete Journey)

Like any author in this day and age, “marketing” is a huge part of our job, traditionally published and indie alike. Marketing is this huge vast subject that scares the crap out of most authors, but includes things like: interaction on social media (with fans and other writers — and keeping consistent with whatever platforms you choose), ads on different sites, getting your book into the hands of reviewers, etc, and… branding.

I want to talk about what I’ve learned about branding. I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ve read a lot and am starting to feel like I’ve got my head halfway wrapped around the concept. Mostly, I wanted to share what I know while processing what I know.

Branding, simply, is what face you show to your audience. It’s what they associate with you when they think of you. In marketing in general, you want to cultivate a certain image of yourself and what you write so that you can more easily attract people that are going to align with what you have to offer (and hopefully want to buy your book!).

If you can attract people who are interested in the same thing as you, who have similar passions or motivations, they’re more likely to become loyal fans. This is opposed to, say, tweeting annoying ‘buy my books!’ links, or just talking into the void. That is vastly less successful, and honestly, will probably turn people off. Thought, technically, I suppose it is ‘marketing’ in the broadest sense of the word.

You can read a lot of advice about marketing in general, not book related, which can be pretty helpful. But for specific book-related marketing advice, I take a lot of it from BadRedHeadMedia. Her slogan is “Helping you help your damn self since 2011”, which I can’t help but like. She’s funny, concise, and her stuff really makes sense to me. A big shout-out to her.

(If you need somewhere to start with her, since we’re talking about branding, her Branding 101 article is really great, as is her The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now.)

I’m going to snag another one of her phrases right here, too —

“You brand the author. Not the book.”

The point is, with branding, is that you’re developing attracting readers for YOU, THE AUTHOR, not a one-time book sale. Yes, books bring readers, obviously. But they’ll connect even more if they feel a connect to you, the author.

Sometimes I wince at that, because I wonder about the risks. Readers loving one book and not liking the next, or being put off accidentally by something I say, or, or, or. Most advice I read says being genuine and authentic is key to people connecting and liking you as an author, but there’s a lot of vulnerability in that too. Which is scary.

But I digress. I want to talk about what branding actually LOOKS like, which is what I struggled with when I first started consuming vast amounts of marketing advice.

So branding is what people think of when they think of you.

For me, I separate branding out into three parts into my head which helps me wrap my mind around it.

There are the esthetics

  • Colors
  • Symbols

There is your personality (sarcastic? funny? sweet? tough?)

  • Being authentic
  • Being genuine

There are the issues

  • What are you passionate about? The environment? Dogs? Happy endings?
  • These issues should be important to you, which could possibly connect you to a reader who also shares that interest and will then want to read your book.

Now, that’s just what helps me. I’m not a professional marketer, and those categories are far from clear cut from one another. They blend a lot. But it helps my head to see it that way.

As for my esthetics, I’m all about dark colors. I love blues and greens and purples. I generally have some sort of plant-related or dragon-related thing somewhere. I like sprawling landscapes and epic scenes. I also like grittiness, though — a hint of darkness and danger. I want to do an overhaul on all my sites to really portray this better. I also want to create a symbol that really encompasses me — to put in all sorts of places, including business cards and the like. I’m getting there.

My personality, well. I love sarcasm. But, I’m pretty much a bleeding-heart sap to my core, so there’s that. I’m more timid than I like, and it comes through when I make stances on issues, because I tend to over-think and just make myself go in circles. I like adding aspects of thought to conversation rather than arguing. I know, devil’s advocate personalities are the worst. I try to restrain myself.

Furthermore, I want to be intelligent but accessible. I want to teach, not preach. I want to break boxes and step out into new ways of thinking and perceiving the world… and bring everything else along with the ride. (Succeeding at this is a whole new story.)

As for issues… well, let’s get a little more in-depth with that.

Advice I’ve read from professional marketers state that you should choose 5-6 major issues to include in your branding, and 4-5 minor subjects.

Major subjects are more directly related to what your books are about, the image you really want people to identify with you. These are things that are most important to you that show up in your books.

For example.

Environmental issues have been a big part of my life forever, and when looking at my writing, it shows up. A lot. Whether it’s actual solarpunk I’m writing, or there’s historical significance for the world, or the main character is worried about an environmental issue.

I’m also a huge fan writing alternate history. I like messing with time and events and making something new. My INITIUM series, my first series being published, is alternate history. And historical truth in real life (winners writing the historical narrative) has also been an issue near and dear to my heart since… forever.

Then, there’s the fact that I write fantasy. I love fantasy and magic and tend to be daydreaming wherever I’m at. So, another theme that I like to fit into my branding is pointing out the moments of magic in real life. I’d love to be known for seeing magic in the drudgery. (This theme doesn’t come up as often as it should — I need to work on it.)

Right off the bat, those are three issues that I can post about that reveal who I am as a person and what I write about as an author.

Also, my editor suggested a while ago that my heroine, Fairian, is quite the strong female figure. She’s kind of a reluctant hero, not really wanting to change the world around her, but doing so for various reasons. So: women power. That’s another issue that can fit into my branding narrative, as my characters are generally pretty strong and feisty. It’s also a pretty popular one, which helps. I’m working on really making this more of a part of my branding, since it’s a pretty complicated subject and I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, to post about.

Another issue that’s been slowly showing up in my branding is mental health. I suffer from depression, so it’s natural to me, but I’ve never really been one to share it or talk about it. But, I’m realizing more and more, that a lot of people struggle with this issue, especially writers. My characters also tend to struggle with some sort of mental/existential issue in their paths, so it fits there, too.

Then, probably the most obvious theme that fits into branding me-as-a-writer, is #writinglife itself. That one doesn’t need much explanation: whether it’s ironic jokes or complaining about word counts or posting snippets or joining Twitter chats, that one fits in pretty naturally.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I’ve got 6 major themes to use for branding, right there.

  • Environmental issues
  • Real History, #OnThisDay History, etc
  • Magic in real life
  • Strong women
  • Mental Health
  • Writer’s Life

All of these themes fit into what’s in my books, in one way or another. But they’re also related to me, and give an idea of who I am.

(This also works into the esthetics and personality stuff I was talking about before. Esthetics: there’s a lot of plant and dragon related stuff. Personality: bleeding heart save the environment, sarcastic to the core because I fight depression and that means I can fight you. But it also means I’m almost always in existential crisis and people suck.)

Then there are the minor subjects. These are, from what I understand, things you post about less often but are more about rounding out who you are as a person. They don’t necessarily show up in your writing.

For me, these include:

  • Goats — I have 13 of them, and who doesn’t want to see baby goats?
  • Funny plants/animals — I always find the strangest creatures, and this fits into the environmental theme.
  • Working in retail/odd fruit and things — I work retail at a produce market and have some pretty funny stories, and the fruit and vegetables thing also works into the environmental theme.
  • Geeky/nerdy things — I play Dungeons and Dragons quite a bit, among other things.

*deep breath*

That was a lot of information. But is it starting to make sense?

In the reality of my own branding, I want a stronger presence of magic-in-reality and strong women, and I’ve been wondering how to take all of them to the next level. Because while I post things in these themes, I’m not sure they engage or inspire the way I want them to.

The last piece of important information I want to convey here (at least for this post) is about engagement. Posts with high engagement contain one of these elements:

  • Challenge — does it challenge the person reading it?
  • Curiosity — does it satisfy or inflame a curiosity?
  • Fantasy — does it lead the person on a journey, a fantasy, a place they want to go?

In other words, when you’re posting this or that having to do with one of your themes, you tailor it with one of the three ideas above so that it really hits home for whoever is reading it. You want to inspire someone, somehow — and if you can do that, your post is going to get more engagement, but more importantly, people are going to remember you.

I haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet. I’m going to write another post at some point that goes more in depth on how I take my themes and turn them into actual content… but to be honest I don’t think I’ve figured out the reality of what all of this looks like.

I post a lot of environmental news on FaceBook and generally do a few #OnThisDay posts a few times a week, and my Instagram is full of amazing fantasy artists (and goats), and Twitter is all sorts of tweets about writing life and retail nonsense and different chats. But I want to inspire more, engage people more. I want more of my personality to bleed through, while at the same time, my introvert-self is like Oh HELL no.

But I think if I can find my groove, my way of being awesome and vulnerable to the world, I’ll really like it. I love Instagram for this reason — I love showing off art from amazing artists, and being inspired about writing something in turn. Branding should be fun, and while work, you shouldn’t hate it.

At least, that’s what I think.


Alrighty, I think this post has gone on long enough! Kudos for reading this whole thing — and I hope it was helpful. Like I said, I’ll be writing another post that goes more in depth on how I’m turning this information into content. Mostly because I like writing all of this out… and I hope you get some inspiration from it too.


Thanks for sticking through with me through my two month absence. ❤ I’ll be writing another Behind the Scenes in Publishing post here soon! I’m going to talk about contract writing versus writing from the heart…

Questions? Comments? Additions? Concerns? What did you think? What works for you in branding yourself?

Prequel Problems: Likable Characters

Prequel Problems with Likable Characters.png

So I’m writing a prequel to my INITIUM series, the first book tentatively due out in Fall of next year. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a prequel, as the events in it are fun mystery details throughout the first book, and you learn about them and why my main character is the way she is as the novel progresses.

But, it’s a lot of information, and my editor thinks I need a prequel so readers aren’t lost and/or inundated with too much information right off the bat. So I’m writing a prequel. The first draft is almost done — I wrote the final chapter, but I also left a bunch of ‘holes’ in the manuscript, scenes I felt I was forcing too much at the time, to come back and complete later. I’m writing those scenes now.

My biggest frustration so far is that a lot of the events in the prequel are what make my main character interesting in the first place, so before the events happens, my characters are…

Not that likeable. Actually, they’re coming across like spoiled little brats. Which goes with the territory, are they’re the daughters of a rich upperclass businessman — but I’m really worried it makes for some difficult reading. Or apathy about reading them, anyway.

And if people don’t want to read the book for your characters, they’re not going to read the book.

Fortunately, characters being likeable isn’t so important as characters being interesting.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my main character is either at the beginning. Perhaps I’m being too critical, because I’m so used to her, 5 years later, being a snarky badass. Or maybe I just haven’t written from an insecure 14 year old’s perspective for so long it’s hard to believe that readers will really connect with her voice and struggles…

I believe my main character is interesting (and even likable) by the end, but if the beginning doesn’t hook someone, then it’s kind of a moot point.

I’ve also never really written ‘on contract,’ or written a character arc from the very beginning like this, so I might just be out of my depth and scaring myself (I’ll be writing about this whole process here soon).

I’ve also never really written a prequel (at least something this big), which I’m beginning to understand has it’s own difficulties. Not the least of which is writing a character that you know… but isn’t the fully formed character of the later book who is probably more interesting in first place.

Either way, I’m becoming more thankful that I have an amazing editor who’s excellent at developmental editing, because I’m going to need some perspective on making this work. I think I’m too close to this character, or the character arc in general, or too concerned about the ‘writing of a relatable 14 year old’ to just write the 14 year old. I was a 14 year old. I remember. Why I be making this so hard.

Anyway, it will be educational to see what my editor suggests going forward. And I feel a little lazy, looking to my editor for direction instead of figuring it out myself. But the truth is, I’m still pretty shaky on what revisions really need to look like, which is my real fear. I don’t know if I’ve fully ever revised a manuscript in it’s truest meaning, so my skill level there is… dismal.

So there’s some anxiety about my meh-characters not becoming interesting enough with this lack of skill.

Anyway, this is all a moot point if I don’t have the draft done in the first place! I’m off to finish those few more thousand words. I want this draft done by the end of this month (which gives me like two days). It’s going to be far from perfect — but all that’s left are a few holes to make this thing complete.


Stay tuned for the regurgitation of my thoughts about writing my first ‘on contract’ piece… in a week or two.


Questions? Comments? Similar anxiety-rants?