Monday, September 28, 2020

What are you THINKING?

 This week the subject of SFF7 is What's on your mind?

Well, a lot of stuff, really. But I'll try to focus on just a few.

First off, I'm thinking about stories. In particular the ones I'm working on and the ones I should be working on. They are not always the same thing, though maybe they should be. As we get closer to the most wonderful time of the year (Halloween) I tend to focus more on the horror-oriented tales. I love fantasy and science fiction but my heart will always have a dark corner for the horror stuff. To that end I've just completed a short story I'll be submitting after I give it a thorough re-read. Remember how I said I seldom use beta readers? This is one of those occasions where I sort of regret that but it is what it is. I could probably find someone to read it, but I've always HATED being an imposition. Real or imagined, I have trouble getting past the idea that a favor asked is an inconvenience requested. That's strictly a one-way thing, by the way. I don't mind doing an occasional first read for someone, but in my mind asking that the favor be reciprocated is automatically inconveniencing a friend. Yes, I know it makes no sense. No, I really can't stop my mind from working that way.

In addition to that scenario, I have a novel past due (Angry Robot, my publisher, has been very gracious with the time allotted, especially in consideration of my bout with cancer, and I am grateful beyond words, but now, to prove I am grateful, I really have to get them the first draft of my novel.). I need to fix that. I am also working on a collaborative novel and a collaborative novella. I need to get both of my coconspirators the latest chapters. The ball, as they say, is in my court. I have two other short stories I need to finish and submit sometime soon. One is an invitation, the other is an open anthology that I'd like to be included in.  

I need to go to the dentist. I don't want to. I will eventually handle the matter but not today. 

My collaborative novel: THE TOURISTS GUIDE TO HAUNTED WELLMAN, is going to be a blast. I'm actually quite excited by the notion, the format, and what has happened so far. We're almost 50,000 words into this thing and it's a blast. we're probably at the halfway mark and already things have been terrifying and fun. The main protagonists are about to meet up for the first time in the book, and after that, things get really truly ugly. It's a Halloween novel that will probably be available next year. 


Last year I had the cancer issue, and that meant avoiding a lot of conventions simply because I was immuno-compromised and therefore at high risk for contracting whatever the heck was going around. This year, it doesn't matter if you're immuno-compromised, because we are living in the era of the PLAGUE. We've figured a lot of that out, of course. I'll be at several virtual conventions this year, but, damn, I miss the real thing. I miss seeing old friends, meeting new friends, and the general sense of camaraderie. Part of this is, of course, because I missed everything last year. Sigh...whattaya do? Maybe next year we're back to the real world? One can hope. 

How am I going forward with my books? Several of my older volumes will be released as self-published volumes as they have been out of print for years and years. It's overdue and I get a surprising number of requests. I am also hard at work on a special project with illustrator and storyteller Dan Brereton, that pertains directly to his NOCTURNALS comics. It's gonna be a blast!

What am I working on next? Well, that's several volumes of different works, actually. It'll be fun.

I'm going back to the day job after 15 months. 

This should be...interesting. 

What's on YOUR mind? 

come on, you can tell me....

Keep smiling, 


PS I've probably already done this, but here are a few hints about THE TOURISTS GUIDE TO HAUNTED WELLMAN. (Co-written with the amazing Charles R. Rutledge

With Bonus Art by Dan Brereton!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is what's on our minds. For me, it's writing the novella for the upcoming anthology UNDER A WINTER SKY. With Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, L.Penelope, and myself, this is going to be a bang-up collection of stories. Mine, The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon is a prequel novella kicking off my brand new series, Heirs of Magic. Book 1 in that series - directly following the events of The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon will be out in December.  I'm super excited for this new set of stories - quests! shapeshifters! magic! illicit love affairs! enduring friendships! - that it's really all I'm thinking about. Preorder links and more info below!

Four powerhouse authors of fantasy and urban fantasy bring you a feast of romantic midwinter holiday adventures. These heartwarming and pulse-pounding tales celebrate Hanukah, Christmas, the solstice, Yule – and holidays from worlds beyond our own. With fancy-dress balls, faery bargains, time travel, blood sacrifice, and festive cocktails, these stories will delight lovers of fantasy and romance, with a dash of seasonal joy.

Ballgowns & Butterflies by Kelley Armstrong

The North Yorkshire moors are always a magical place, but they’re particularly enchanting at the holidays…especially if one gets to travel back in time to a Victorian Christmas. For Bronwyn Dale, it is the stuff of dreams. Fancy-dress balls, quirky small-town traditions, even that classic one-horse open sleigh, complete with jingle bells. There’s just the tiny problem of the Butterfly Effect. How does a time-traveler make a difference without disrupting the future forever?

The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon, a prequel novella to Heirs of Magic, by Jeffe Kennedy

Shapeshifter Prince Rhyian doesn’t especially want to spend the Feast of Moranu at Castle Ordnung. First of all, it’s literally freezing there, an uncomfortable change from the tropical paradise of his home. Secondly, it’s a mossback castle which means thick walls and too many rules. Thirdly, his childhood playmate and current nemesis, Lena, will be there. Not exactly a cause for celebration.

Princess Salena Nakoa KauPo nearly wriggled out of traveling to Ordnung with her parents, but her mother put her foot down declaring that, since everyone who ever mattered to her was going to be there to celebrate the 25th year of High Queen Ursula’s reign, Lena can suffer through a feast and a ball for one night. Of course, “everyone” includes the sons and daughters of her parents’ friends, and it also means that Rhyian, insufferable Prince of the Tala, will attend.

But on this special anniversary year, Moranu’s sacred feast falls on the long night of the crystalline moon—and Rhy and Lena discover there’s more than a bit of magic in the air.

Blood Martinis and Mistletoe by Melissa Marr

Half-dead witch Geneviève Crowe makes her living beheading the dead--and spends her free time trying not to get too attached to her business partner,  Eli Stonecroft, a faery in self-imposed exile in New Orleans. With a killer at her throat and a blood martini in her hand, Gen accepts what seems like a straight-forward faery bargain, but soon realizes that if she can't figure out a way out of this faery bargain, she'll be planning a wedding after the holidays.

Echoes of Ash & Tears, an Earthsinger Chronicles Novella, by L. Penelope

Brought to live among the Cavefolk as an infant, Mooriah has long sought to secure her place in the clan and lose her outsider status. She’s a powerful blood mage, and when the chieftain’s son asks for help securing the safety of the clan, she agrees. But though she’s long been drawn to the warrior, any relationship between the two is forbidden. The arrival of a mysterious stranger with a tempting offer tests her loyalties, and when betrayal looms, will Mooriah’s secrets and hidden power put the future she’s dreamed of—and her adopted home—in jeopardy


Saturday, September 26, 2020

A Solitary Pursuit


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: How do you define Critique Partners, Alpha Readers, and Beta Readers? Actually, there have been some great definitions and examples offered by my fellow SFF7 colleagues in earlier posts of the week.

I don’t have definitions handy because I don’t use any of these.

I write the stories I want to read. The stories unspool the way I want them to go. I’m very possessive of my characters and the events. I can’t imagine a better way to stop my writing DED than to invite people to read it while a book is in progress. The tender little green shoots of the book would wither and die under the harsh sunlight of premature feedback. No one has ever been invited to read one of my WIPs as far as I can recall. Yes, I’m saying I want no feedback during the process of writing my books. I don’t ask for it, I don’t go looking for it…I wouldn’t use it if there was any…writing to me is a completely solitary, individual creative pursuit. Me, my characters and I.

And my Muse.

I pay for a developmental edit when the book is pretty much close to done. I may or may not take the suggestions from my editor but I appreciate receiving them. At that stage the book is finished in my own mind and I’m ready to have the professional feedback on any issues or places where the existing book could be made stronger.

Fortunately for me, there’s no one right way or wrong way to go about being an author. I say go for it to people who relish and/or need all that feedback as part of their process. It isn’t something I’d ever do but the world is big enough for all of us to do our own thing. The more books, the merrier, however they arrive!

Speaking of arriving, Pets In Space® 5 will be out on October 6th and is up for pre-order. My story this time is STAR CRUISE: RETURN VOYAGE.


It’s time for an escape! Pets in Space® 5 is back for the fifth amazing year! Escape to new worlds with twelve of today’s top Science Fiction Romance authors. They have written 12 original, never-before-released stories filled with action, adventure, suspense, humor, and romance that will take you out of this world. The giving doesn’t stop there. For the fifth year, Pets in Space® will be donating a portion of the first month proceeds to, a non-profit charity that supports our veterans and First Responders. If you are ready to forget the world around you and make a difference while you are having fun, grab your copy before it’s gone!

STAR CRUISE: RETURN VOYAGE (The Sectors SF Romance Series):

Gianna Nadenoft is a reclusive survivor of one of the worst interstellar cruise ship disasters in the history of the Sectors. Now a renowned artist, she hasn’t left her home planet in decades, not since returning there after the wreck as a traumatized three-year-old. With her service animal at her side, she’s going to attempt to travel across the star systems to attend her brother’s wedding and reunite with her fellow survivors.

Trevor Hanson is a security officer aboard the cruise liner Nebula Zephyr with his own traumatic past as a former Special Forces soldier and prisoner of war. He’s assigned to provide personal protection to Gianna during her time aboard the ship but soon finds his interest turning from professional to romantic.

Onboard the Nebula Zephyr, powerful enemies are watching Gianna and making plans to seize this rare opportunity to gain access to her and the secrets they believe she’s still keeping about the wreck. Can Trevor overcome his personal demons and rise to the occasion to save Gianna from the danger waiting on his ship, or will she slip through his fingers and suffer a terrible fate deferred from her last disastrous voyage?



Amazon UK:

Amazon CA:

Amazon AU:


Apple Books:



Friday, September 25, 2020

Who Do You Trust?

The story of critique partners, and alpha and beta readers starts with a couple of questions. Who do you trust? When is it safe to trust, and what problem are you trying to solve?

Critique partners tend to be other writers, people in the trenches doing the same work. In healthy groups, everyone works toward the common goal of making the books, stories, and writing better. A healthy critique group can foster life-long friendships, sure, but they can also make better writers. They're inspiring. If you like the group, you want to write just to have something to take to the meetings. Bad groups drain you. They leave you feeling diminished and exhausted even if everyone was pleasant. They zap your writing energy. If you find yourself in one, get out. A critique group needs to be a circle of people you can trust with tender, newly born ideas.

Critique groups, when they work, solve the biggest writer problems. They can help take a raw, nascent idea and brainstorm with you to flesh out the world, conflict, plot, and characters. A healthy group will not only identify your weak points as a writer, they'll actively help you strengthen them - while you help someone else strengthen theirs.

Alpha readers
These are the individuals you can trust with a crappy first draft. They're usually either authors themselves or very knowledgeable readers who can speak to things like motivation and goal mismatches. Or characters not following through on a piece of foreshadowing you dropped in chapter two. These brave readers search out plot holes and point out spots where the story map loses the reader. Usually, alpha readers already know the story. If only because most of us rely on our critique groups to be alpha readers. I can trust these readers to take a novel that's 2/3 written and tell me where I went wrong. Or right.

Beta readers
Beta readers read for sense, flow, and enjoyment. By the time a writer's idea gets to these readers, most of the issues have been ironed out. The story is generally complete and approaching polish. It might still be rough around the edges, but this group of readers - and they usually are readers rather than fellow authors - are the fine grit phase of running your story through the rock tumbler. You'll get grammar notes and maybe a few 'didn't understand this' beside some paragraphs or scenes. But by this point, no one should be pointing out plot holes you can drive trains through. 

As for when to trust - that's trial and error. When I first started writing, I needed a critique group while I was drafting. Now, I want a complete rough draft before I expose the work to other eyes. Receiving feedback while I'm drafting has become too disruptive. Finding all that out was pure process of trial and error. So was finding a critique group that didn't suck the joy out of writing in the first place. It took a few tries. 

Moral of the story: Writer know thyself. And if you don't, experiment until you do. Feedback fuels some writers and crushes others. Neither one is wrong.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Who helps make your writing better?

Tan, brick wall with the words: READ WRITE CREATE EXPLORE

Ooo, I like this week’s topic: how do you define Critique Partners, Alpha Readers, and Beta Readers? I was chatting with an author friend and she mentioned her beta readers. I asked her what they do for her and she answered that they read her chapters as she writes them and offer critique. 

Beta readers, that’s great! Only…that’s what I call critique partners. So, which is it—beta readers or critique partners? Or are they alpha readers?! 

You’d think these terms would have dictionary-esque answers, but YMMV is incredibly applicable here because every writer goes through the critique/editing phase differently which means what one person calls critique partners may be beta readers to another and alpha readers to someone else! It all depends on your own process.

Which means all I can offer are my own definitions:

Critique Partners: fellow writers who read and comment on chapters as they are written or offer critique on subsequent drafts of a novel. I mostly use this term, likely because these are my close author friends whom I swap material with, a perfect partnership.

Alpha Readers: readers/writers who read my first draft, usually as it’s being written. I look to alpha readers to deliver critique on any this works and/or any whoa what happened there moments. I need excitement from alpha readers to help keep me going to reach The End.

Beta Readers: readers/writers who read subsequent drafts. I look to beta readers to deliver critique on plot holes or catch inconsistencies. 

Those are my definitions of the terms, what do you call the amazing-wonderful-people who help make your writing better?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Thank you to early readers

You're the person who slides into my DMs asking when my next story is coming out.

Asking if I got any words in today.

Asking if that one character you especially dig is ever going to get his own story.

Checking to see when I'll have pages for you to read.

Telling me I should get to work.

Telling me about a generally positive review you saw out there in the wild or a promo opportunity that I should jump on. Come on, girl. 

You're the person who remembers back when all my books were kittens, just little furballs of potential, and you helped me nurture them until their wee eyes opened and they took in the world.

You sent me detailed research notes in your field of expertise.

You were patient, educating me when I got it wrong.

You won't ever tell anyone how bananas that ending was before, at your suggestion, I changed it.

You read a chapter that was essentially dialogue with zero layers and honestly, probably zero commas, and you told me it was fun and to keep going.

That is your whole M.O., honestly. You tell me to keep going, don't give up. You swear that if no one else on this planet ever wants to read my words, you always will. 

Because you do right now, and you keep saying these amazing, hard-to-believe but critical things.

Because you are awesome and I absolutely could not do this writing thing without you.

I'm not sure what to call you -- alpha reader? beta reader? critique partner? friend? -- but you make this whole effort worthwhile.

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

What Kind of Feedback Do You Need: CPs, Alphas, and Betas

Spin the wheel of feedback, whose input do you need? 

[insert The Price Is Right big wheel spinning sound effect here]

These definitions are by no means industry standard (mostly because there isn't a standard), these are my interpretations. YMMV.

  • Critique Partner (CP) -- A fellow writer with whom you exchange (not necessarily at the same time) works for developmental feedback. How's the pacing? The characters' development? The plot? The throughline for the plot? etc. Based on a CP's feedback, major structural overhauling may be required. 
  • Alpha Reader -- Similar to the Critique Partner, only these readers aren't necessarily writers and there's no exchange of works. They're reading for the Big Picture. Feedback from an Alpha reader can lead to major structural edits.
  • Beta Reader -- The book they get is baked. They're reading as consumers to gauge how the book is going to hit the market/fan base. Feedback from these readers may include fine-print corrections that slid past the teams of editors. Changes based on Beta's feedback should be minor and involve no more than changing a word here or a sentence there.
Don't let the terminology define your feedback-relationship. If you need more or less from a reader/partner let them know when you establish the relationship. With each book you send them, be very clear what you need from them and when you need it. We all work better when we know what's expected of us. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

How do you define Critique Partners, Alpha Readers, and Beta Readers?

 Our subject this week is "How Do You Define Critique Partners, Alpha Readers, and Beta Readers?

Hmm. How to put this delicately?

I don't define them, because I usually don't use them. I just don't. Oh, occasionally I'll pull in a good friend and ask for a quick edit, or I MIGHT ask them if Ithey think what I'm doing works for a scene, but normally I have a simple philosophy and that's to trust the story to evolve properly. If it fails to work out, I walk away from the project for a while or forever, depending. 

Listen I was raised in a family of people who simply do a thing and call it done I was never encouraged to ask for help. I wanted to know what a word meant and I asked my mom, she pointed to the big honking dictionary we had for just such emergencies.  Something more complex demanded the Encyclopedia Brittnica. More research? She might drive me to the library. 

I was raised, in other words, to do it yourself. 

and I normally depend on that. The first time my agent made suggestions in how to wrangle my manuscript into shape I was genuinely perplexed, because A) I agented myself for most of my career, and B) I had NO IDEA agents did that sort of thing {C) My agent was absolutely correction recommending changes and the book was stronger for the suggestions.}

On this subject I fear I am of remarkably little use. 

Keep smiling,



Here, have some cover art!