Saturday, June 1, 2024

Thank you and keep writing and reading!


It's been a blessing being involved in the SFF 7 Authors blog in my role as the lead for the FaRoFeb contributors. We have had wonderful contributors from the FaRoFeb authors group in the past few years. Many thanks to Jeffe Kennedy for giving us this opportunity and to the rest of the SFF 7 Authors for the warm welcome and support. 

I'm very grateful to the FaRoFeb authors who contributed to the weekly topics. I have enjoyed getting to know all of you through this project! You are a fantastic group with buckets of talent and so much to give.

Keep up with FaRoFeb on our socials:

Thank you!


Friday, May 31, 2024

All Good Things

 All good things must come to an end. For us, this is the end of the road for this blog. The decision wasn't easy. The fact is that blogging isn't super interactive. Getting to engage with readers draws us to other social media platforms with better opportunities for chatting. We value every single reader. We've had the great honor of getting to blog with and meet so many awesome authors. We've gained friendships on this blog. We've lost one along the way, too, to a relentless and mercilessly unfair disease. Our greatest hope is that somewhere along the way you found value in something we wrote. Or were touched by something any of us wrote. While this will be the final post from any of us, we are all still around and would love to hear from you going forward.

My socials:

Twitter (X) : @marcellaburnard
Instagram: marcellaburnardauthor
Tik Tok: Marcella Burnard (@marcellaburnardauthor) | TikTok

Don't get excited about the Tik Tok. I have exactly zero videos out there. So far. Can't promise it will change, but feel free to friend me out there and send me cat videos. You know that's why I'm out there.

Hey. It's been great having you here. Don't be a stranger. Last one out, switch off the light.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

The End


I don't think of the SFF Seven blog without thinking of alumnus James A. Moore. He had wise words to share along with his personal writing journey. And that was the purpose of the Word Whores, now known as the SFF Seven blog, to reach a hand back to those coming behind you. 

Writing is a hard and lonely business and there's no training. You have to go out and find it yourself. We're hanging up the blogging hat, but there's still lots of writing info to be had (you can find us on other socials). Times have changed. AI is coming. And we'll all still be here in the vague sense of 'here online'. But what it really boils down to is: 

  • You should be writing.
  • Get your butt in the chair.

It's been an honor to blog with everyone who has been part of SFF Seven. My TBR grew.  I learned a lot. And I hope I gave back even more. Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

It's Time for THE END

Back in 2011, seven authors--published and aspiring to be--set up a blog to share our experiences as we navigated the industry, honed our craft, and traipsed the line between sanity and fantasy. Back then, we were known as The Word Whores (click here to read our archives). Lo, after being caught in a few too many NSFW filters and occasionally relegated to the adults-only search results, we changed our name to The SFF Seven Authors (here we are). 

For thirteen years, we've had the privilege of sharing the blog with amazing peers who brought perspectives from the horror, sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, romance, and women's fiction genres. We've shared our adventures during the ebook boom, audiobook advent, and the ever-sluggish traditions of print publishing. We've introduced our pets and our pet peeves. Confessed our manuscripts that will never see the light as well as those we aspire to write. We've given tips to break through writer's block, along with guidance on penning scenes involving a big c*ck. {cough}

We've enjoyed sharing our experiences with you, our dear readers. Thank you for taking the journey with us. 

Alas, alas, it's time for us to write The End

You can find me at the following:

Please, don't be strangers. I look forward to keeping in touch on the socials.


Sunday, May 26, 2024

Goodbye and See Me Around!

Well, folks... We here at the SFF Seven have kept this blog rolling for a considerable amount of time, but it's time to let this full moon set. It's been lovely and I will miss everyone here. But the world turns and times change. I'm still on social media, just not this one.

Places to find me:


Friday, May 24, 2024

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might

I Wish to Scare You Tonight

I'm looking for the chill that walks your spine. I wish to write the things that make you look over your shoulder or even lose just a little bit of sleep at night. Not gory. Not gross. Haunting. I'm looking for the edge of horror - no chainsaws allowed. I wish to make my writing walk the tightrope of stirring the hair at the back of your neck without falling off into the blood spatter and the wet, gristly shine of moonlight on exposed bone. 

I also don't want to fall off the tightrope into purple prose, and I'm afraid that's where I seem to find myself most often. I try to make something scary and it just ends up sounding silly. Or it's incomprehensible. Maybe the scariest thing is that I KEEP TRYING. 


Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Wanna Be Creepy

This Week's Topic: What Genre Have I Secretly Wished I Could Write?

Dun-nuh Dun-nuh Dun-nuh dun-na-na-na-nah!!! ­čŽł

waits for earworm to pass
That suspense.
That masterful control of anticipation.
That fear without gore.
chef's kiss

A good thriller keeps me flipping pages until dawn. I have to know what comes next. I admire thriller writers and envy the good ones who instill terror with words and make me jump when the dog stretches.

I wanna write like that. Those skills...(wistful sigh). Yes, please. I aspire to that level, to creep into that genre, and to leave chills down readers' spines (even after they've put down the book). 


Friday, May 17, 2024

Borrowing a Spark

I honestly say I haven't built out a character based on a celebrity. Entirely. That's because I'm using characters they've played, instead. Or I pick a look from over here and aspects of a personality from over there and munging them together to generate my characters. I might isolate an attribute and assign it to someone in one of my books, but to pick up a person wholesale, change a name and a hair color and call it good? No. Can't. I think it's mostly because I don't actually know these people - the celebrities, I mean. I only know what I get to see and that's the characters they play. I'm aware that those characters come from the actors, themselves, but - eh. Welcome to me overthinking. Maybe it's the acting degree. But. If you want a list of the people I've taken as inspiration - that's a loooong list. A long list. It's a list populated by a sordid history of aesthetic crushes. 

Lupita Nyong'o, Tom Hiddleston, Brendan Frasier, Taika Waititi, Vico Ortiz, I mean. I could go on forever with this. There is nothing I've seen, music I've heard, or places I've been that hasn't shown up in a story.

My favorite tea shop turned into a tattoo parlor for Nightmare Ink.

Anyone who works out how to force blogger to let me insert a two -column table into the page and put photos in it gets a cookie. I doubt it'll even let me do that with html at this point. ARG. Anyway. 

If you read any of my stories and you think you recognize a personality quirk in a character, you may well be right. But I'll deny it like mad and tell you it's entirely a product of my own imagination. Yet the truth is that when I admire someone's body of work or a specific look they cultivated for a role or a shoot, it's impossible for me to subsequently create something of my own that doesn't pay homage to whatever struck me in the first place. I guess I'm borrowing a spark from someone else's fire to see if I can't kindle a fire of my own.  

Thursday, May 16, 2024

No Time for Tea

A lace tablecloth with a microscope sitting beside some packs of empty blood tubes and a white porcelain tea cup with a grey rose etched on it

Last week’s topic was our fantasy dinner parties and who we’d invite. Yeah, I missed it. So my image for the week is my favorite tea cup to make up for it! 

This week we’re talking about real people we’ve based characters on. I think to some extent every character we write is a conglomeration of people we know or have met. How else would we write relatable characters? 

The only character I’ve truly based on someone is actually another character: John Hammond. From his cane to his white hat and clothes as he stepped onto the Jurassic Park screen, John Hammond. He fit the side character I wrote in The Mars Strain, Dr. Dresden. 

One of my author highlights was when a friend of mine was gushing about my audiobook and asked me if I’d pictured John Hammond from Jurassic Park when I wrote Dresden. I was so excited that she’d pictured him how I’d written him! Especially because I didn’t say who he looked like, I wrote Dresden’s looks into the story. And she picked up on it perfectly! 

As for basing a character on someone I know in real life…I can’t say I won’t ever do it, because that’s basically ensuring I will at some point, but it’s not an intentional goal of mine. I prefer my fictional creations to be bits and pieces of those I know and of myself. My goal is to write characters you can picture sitting next to at a restaurant or hanging out with around a campfire. And yes, using a real person template would do that, but when we read we want larger than life. So why not glue parts of multiple together to create a character that’s bigger than all of them? 

How about you? Have you based a character on someone you know? And the more important question, did they read it and recognize themselves?

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Models Who Inspired Characters

 This Week's Topic: IRL Person on Whom I've Based a Character

Beyond models whose images helped me focus on the physical aspects, I don't think I consciously developed a character's personality based on someone I know or a celebrity. {chin scratch} Maybe a quirk here or a tic there, but no one individual comes to mind.

What's that? You want to see the models' reference photos? Oh, well, pfft, yeah! I have to thank whoever chose this topic because it's been a few years since I reviewed these photos and I've fallen in love with the characters they inspired all over again. 

From my Immortal Spy urban fantasy series:

Character = Bix; IRL Inspo = I wish I knew her name

Character = Tobek; IRL Inspo  = Lasse L. Matberg: 

Character = Phobos; IRL Inspo = David Gandy: 

Monday, May 13, 2024

A Secret Celeb I Based a Male Lead on

 This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking about real life people (or celebrities) we've based characters on. 

That phrasing makes me laugh a little because I'm pretty sure celebrities are still real life people. It puts me in mind of some of my ongoing themes of reminding readers that their favorite authors are still people who get sick and have life drama. But I digress.

I don't know if I've talked about this openly, but in UNDER HIS TOUCH, the second Falling Under book (and this series is contemporary erotic romance, not SFF, fair warning), I totally based the male protagonist on a celebrity. I wanted a Brit man, one who was brooding and not conventionally handsome, full of smoldering sexiness. Guess who I based him on?

Neil Gaiman.

Yeah, yeah - I know. Only a book nerd like me would pick someone like that. I don't think it's at all obvious in the text to the reader, but he was the guy I envisioned when I wrote it. I even threw in a little Amanda Palmer easter egg, just for fun. 

Friday, May 10, 2024

SFF Dinner Date

Just so we're clear, the only reason I'm having a dinner party for writers past and present is so I can fangirl. Also, I'm going to need a massive table because this is just scratching the surface of the invitations I'd ship out (in no particular order). 

Martha Wells, N. K. Jemisin, Alice (Andre) Norton, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffery, Robin McKinley, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Nnedi Okorafor. 

Yeah, I know it's all female-presenting. Listen. I love me some SFF writers who are guys. I do. But I tell you what. I'm having a really great time right now reading stories that aren't written from within the confines of the white straight male experience (or just the white cishet experience in general). For that reason, if I started bringing the male-presenting folks to the dinner table, Dr. Chuck Tingle would be on the list. John Scalzi would be, as would Neil Gaiman, and boy howdy, wouldn't it be a hoot to have Sir Terry Prachett for the event? If I could suddenly learn adequate Mandarin, Liu Cixin would be there. 

Phew. At this point, I think I just opened my own restaurant and I'm not going to get to talk to any of these people, much less drink tea with them. Still. I'm so interested in the wealth of experiences and perspectives and the fun that could be had at these dinners. 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Living the Dream

I used this photo (Thanks to Craig Chrissinger for taking it!) a couple of weeks ago, but it's too appropriate for this week's topic to pass up using it again. Our topic at the SFF Seven is our fantasy dinner party. We're asking which SFF authors and characters you’d invite to a soiree. 

The thing is, one of the best perks of being an author is getting to make other authors be your friends. So my fantasy dinner parties have mostly happened! Case in point: above I'm having dinner with Martha Wells, Darynda Jones, and Kelly Robson. Yes, it was a great conversation. I feel so blessed and fortunate that I pretty much get to have my fantasy dinner parties on a regular basis now. 

Last week I got to have dinner with Amanda Bouchet, Maria V. Snyder, Jennifer Estep, H.R. Moore, and Maria Vale. On another evening, I sat between Juliette Cross and Chloe C. Pe├▒aranda, later joined by Carissa Broadbent. 

The one person I have yet to meet in person - and hopefully have dinner with! - is Neil Gaiman. But I do have his cell phone number and have chatted with him on the phone, which gives me all kinds of happiness right there. Since it's a fantasy, Anne McCaffrey, Tanith Lee, and Vonda McIntyre could all come back from the dead and join us. 

My younger self would be thrilled. 


Friday, May 3, 2024

Self-Promo Allergy Cure

Oh lort. It's self-promo week. If anyone needs me, I'll be in my pillow fort with Perceval. Why, oh why does self-promo give me such a rash? I mean, yes, I'm mortified that I don't have a new book to promo. I hate that, and then, I think, there's a dose of self-loathing that dribbles into the mix, too, no matter how hard you try to tell yourself it's okay. You're making slow, steady progress. 

Spoiler alert: It never, ever feels okay.

So, I'll stare that icky feeling right in the face and say, hey! Can I interest you in a weird little tale that you'll either love or you'll hate? Damned If He Does is a light read about an incubus who gets tangled up with an asexual and her cat. Or is that the other way around? 

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Dark Fantasy LARCOUT: On Sale for A Limited Time!

 This Week's Topic: Promote My Work!

This week, my dark fantasy LARCOUT is on sale for $0.99 in eBook format. The sale ends Monday, May 6th. If you haven't picked up my story of a rock-eating, parasite-wielding, fire-warrior trapped in a nation of corrupt magicians now's your chance!

Fire Born, Blood Blessed: Book 1

Blood-beings can be chattel or char.

Fire seethes through the veins of every Morsam, demanding domination and destruction. Combat is a hobby. Slaughtering the inferior blood-beings is entertainment. Life is a repetitious cycle in the prison fashioned by the gods. But mix-race abomination Vadrigyn os Harlo suspects the key to freedom lies in safeguarding the blood-beings; until her blood-born mother uses foreign magic to turn the Morsam against her. Betrayed, bound, and broken, Vadrigyn struggles against the dying of her essential fire. Yet the ebbing flames unleash the dormant magic of her mixed heritage…

The magic to destroy free will.

Seized by the gods and dumped in the desert nation of Larcout to stop history from repeating, Vadrigyn discovers her mother’s legacy of treason and slaughter still festers. To survive the intrigues of the royal court, the roiling undercurrents of civil war, and the gods themselves, Vadrigyn must unravel the conspiracy behind her mother’s banishment. But manipulating free will unleashes a torrent of consequences.

If she fails the gods, she will return to the Morsam prison, stripped of all magic and all hope.

If she succeeds, she can rule a nation.

Kasthu. Roborgu. Inarchma.

Live. Learn. Burn.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Revision List

 I’m behind. Again. We’re talking about revision. I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but revision is my favorite part of writing. I think I’ve also mentioned that how I come at revision is in the word itself. Re-vision. Once a draft is done, the revision process is my opportunity (and obligation) to look at the story with new eyes.

As I finish a draft, I keep a revision list. Once I type The End, I pack the WIP up, and I put it away for at least two weeks. I, too, am an intuitive writer. I feel my way through a story. Most of the time, that works really well, and revision is a minor affair. Most stories simply need a little tidy up. Most of my revision job is working through my list, tightening, calling myself out on my own BS – repeated words, gestures, over describing or over staging. I ensure that character arcs are fully realized. I make sure the plot holds together and drives from one end of the story to the other. Most of the time, my revision process is mostly about pruning to expose the trunk of the plot to air and light.

Then there are stories that need more. I’m working on a manuscript right now. This story needed to sit for years. I love the story. My beta readers like the story, too, and remember it even after all the time it needed to sit. It had to sit because all of us agreed that the story was flawed. Jeffe kindly read the story for me to help me identify the issues and she couldn’t finish the book. That confirmed for me that I had a major structural problem that I couldn’t diagnose. So, I shelved that story. I needed time and space before I tried to understand the issues.

It paid off. At least, I think it did. When I came back to the story and read it again, my story sense went off, immediately. The main character had no arc. She wasn’t driving the latter half of her story. That’s a pretty major issue. It required a serious rewrite of the second half of the book. That’s still in progress as a wrestle with the climax of the story and layer in ALL THE THINGS. This is the part of the book I really want to get right so it’s taking a frustrating amount of time while I obsess over it. I hope it pays off.

The biggest issue for me is that every story needs something different from a revision standpoint. I mean, the initial prerequisite is a finished draft. After that, though, each story dictates how I approach ripping and tearing at the guts. Some surgeries are less involved than others. Some are great big Frankenstein’s monster stitch jobs. And even then, I prefer revision to drafting. I probably need to be medicated for that.

Thursday, April 25, 2024


a spiral bound notebook with items in blue pen crossed off sitting on a wooden desktop

Typing The End on a first draft is a thrill like no other. I hope every time you reach that point you celebrate! I like to unwind with my husband and a glass of wine. 

And then it’s time for revisions.

I write beginning to end, no moving ahead three spaces for me. And as I write I keep a notebook to jot down any inconsistencies, anything I change character/scenery/or plot wise, and any layering ideas that I know I’ll need to go back in and add. 

I revise the same way: beginning to end as I work through my notebook’s notes. I cross out the notes I complete. Add in new ones for things to change as I go. And attempt to catch the grammar issues. 

The last stage of my revision process, funny enough it’s the same as Jeffe and KAK, I listen to my book. I prefer to have the computer read it to me, even though it’s very robotic because I use the free options. I have read it out loud myself, but I catch things better if it’s being read to me. If you’ve never tried this I highly recommend it. The first time I listened to a manuscript I was shocked at how strong the typos and word choice changes stood out. 

Then my book goes off to someone else. And the revision process starts over again. The trick is knowing when is when. 

I haven't written a double digit number of books yet. I hope that once I have I'll be able to give stats like Jeffe: x number of months for first draft then x number of weeks for revisions before poof = finished product. My manuscript spreadsheets have oodles of data I'll be able to play with over the coming years. 

If you're revising this coming weekend, happy editing! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Read, Revise, Read Again

 This Week's Topic: My Revision Process

Though Jeffe and I have different methods of drafting, my revision process is pretty much the same as hers (which you can read here). 

Since beginnings are the hardest part of the book for me, I have a lot to clean up in the first arc after I've completed the first draft. That includes ensuring I have concise statements of initial GMC and evolving milestone GMC as the story progresses. I cut info dumps back to the minimum the reader needs to know to progress to the next scene. As Jeffe mentioned, there's also the matter of ensuring proper seeding and foreshadowing.

As part of the character development review, I focus on whether I have sufficiently conveyed what the character(s) is feeling since that's a consistent weakness my editor has called out over the course of eight books. I love writing action scenes but I tend to gloss over the emotional risk, cost, and consequences during drafting. Thus, during revisions I have to make sure I've answered those big Emo questions for each transformative scene. 

For the final readthrough, I have the computer read the book back to me instead of reading it aloud myself because my brain will autofill stuff that's not there and autocorrect words that need to be corrected on the page. It's the low-stress last step of edits/revisions for me. I kick back in my recliner, click "Read Aloud," and close my eyes...and then open them at the first wince. It's funny and a little tragic how many glitches still survive what I deemed the (almost) publishable version.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Pantsing Doesn't Mean Lots of Revising

 This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking about our revision process. 

I'm running behind, as I seem to eternally be doing these days, and posting this a day late, but I feel it's important to talk about my revision process to dispel a huge myth about intuitive writers. I feel strongly enough about making this case that I'm using the term "Pantsing," which I almost never use.

(As an aside, the reason I don't like that term is that it comes from "to fly by the seat of your pants," which implies a lack of control that I think comes from the pre-plotting end of the spectrum. Writing without outlining beforehand does not mean having no control of the story. It also doesn't mean that intuitive writers don't plot. All writers plot; otherwise there wouldn't be a story. The difference lies in whether we determine the plot before writing or during it.)

A consistent message I hear from those espousing pre-plotting is that writing a book without creating an outline first leads to many blind alleys, cutting huge chunks of prose, and spending even longer on revision. While this can be true of some writers - which is fine! Figure out what your process is and own it, I always say - this is not true of me.

Intuitive writers like myself have often internalized story structure. We know how to write the novel without resorting to external guideposts like an outline. I also think that I draft faster by writing intuitively, by submersing myself in the creative flow of the subconscious. It takes me typically 55-60 working days to draft a novel of 90-100K words. Then I spend about 14 working days revising. I typically cut 1-2K words in revision and add ~10K. 

Explaining everything I do in revision would take longer than I have in this blog post, but in essence, my process is this:

  1. Write the story beginning to end, skipping nothing, never jumping ahead.
  2. Revise from the beginning. This involves:
    1. layering in foreshadowing and other clues for stuff I figured out along the way and about the ending.
    2. smoothing character arcs
    3. removing extraneous information, red herrings, doorways to routes I didn't follow, tweaking word choices.
  3. When done, I read out loud one more time to catch any consistency errors or clunky wording.


And that's all she (I) wrote!

Friday, April 19, 2024

To the Bitter End

Since I have yet to actually complete a series, my experience has been that a series ends because a publisher declines further stories in said series. As a reader, though, I've read my way through many a series that never really got old. Then there were the ones that I got part way into, poked my head up, looked around, and said, "Y'know, life's too short for this nonsense." and that was the end of that series. I suspect we all have benchmarks past which we're unwilling to read. Even if you're too young to have seen the shark jumping scene on TV - you KNOW what it means when someone says a series has jumped the shark. Book series can do the same thing - an author tries too hard to keep upping the anty in each subsequent book until they stomp across the reader's willing suspension of disbelief line. That, to me as a reader, is how I know a series has peaked. 

Now how to I learn something from it as a writer? I'd like to think I've learned that no series of mine should ever have an open-ended number of books. Never, never, never. To my eye, that way lies far too many dangers. Planning a series arc is the only sure way to keep from venturing into shark infested plot waters. Each of my series to date is a limited run with a specific beginning point and ending point. I'd like, someday, to get to finish a series. . . I swear one is within sight. 

I want to acknowledge, however, that just because I will DNF a series that exceeds my muttered 'oh come on' limit - it doesn't mean there aren't other readers out there in the world feasting on that entire series. It pays to remember that when a publisher tells you they won't keep publishing your series - if your story isn't done and, like me, you really want to complete the arc of the series, you don't have to listen to the voices that tell you to just let it go. You can write your complete series arc, tuck it away, and then, when your rights revert, presto. Series. It helps if you know you have readers who are waiting for the rest of the story, but you're also allowed to write it just for your own satisfaction. Who knows. Maybe it will be a case of if you write it readers will come. Either way. Not everything in life has to have a return on investment. 

Still. The only thing I know is that I really don't want to write a series that jumps the shark. But it may be necessary. Just so I know where that darned shark is lurking.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Series: Is It Done Yet?

 This Week's Topic: Series--How Do I Know When One Has Played Out?

To know when a series has gone stale, it helps to understand what makes a series compelling in the first place. Writing a series that readers want to stay with comes down to two things: a) knowing the series's story arc--which is different from the individual book arcs--before penning the first book, and b) how many books it'll take to tell the series's story. Yes, the author should know from the get-go how many wedges they're trying to carve out of one pie complete tale. Each book serves as a plot point of the series. The series plot often runs as the secondary plot of the book; for the sake of pacing and focus, it never dominates the main plot of the book. The series is done once the overarching story is complete.

For example: A classic story structure is three Acts in one book. Trilogies are three Acts told over three books. One could argue a trilogy is a nine-Act story where the pinch-points are the equivalent of the climaxes of the first two books.

Yes, yes there are popular series for which there is no series story arc. Those series are--for all intents and purposes--stand-alone books (self-contained stories) with a repeating protagonist. There is minimal character and world development from book to book, which allows a reader to jump into the series at any point. 

Now, to the question of the week: How to know when a series has played out? The most obvious one is when the series story is complete...yet it won't end. Instead of writing a new series, the same cast appears on a wholly different quest. This can work quite well--as long as it's clear in the branding-- until the majority of the cast has developed into OPs (Overpowered Players), the stakes have risen beyond the fantastical, and the plots have no place else to go but into the absurd. 

Rattling off TV shows that Jumped the Shark is arguably easier than naming shows that were canceled too soon (aka before the series story was resolved). 

Another way to tell when a series is played out is when books within the series are long tangents that do not support the series story--it's being milked. When done a handful of times (or less) as clearly labeled side-stories, the readers understand those books are fan service (stories written purely for the appreciation of the fans {fan services is often smuttier than the original, too brow waggle}). The readers typically love it as long as the side-stories don't delay the conclusion of the initial series storyline, which is why these stories are best released after the conclusion of the series or as a seasonal/holiday bonus. But when the author tries to trick the reader into buying books unrelated to the series plot, then what an author gets is pissed off fans. 

Series that run-on too long tend to happen because of fear. Fear from the author that they won't be able to reproduce the "magic" that made that series successful. Fear from the publisher (who may also be the author) that their sales will plummet, thus their revenue will plummet, once the series ends. Nobody wants to end a good thing, but even the best cake rots when kept too long. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

Where I've Been and Tools of the Trade

 I bet you thought I'd forgotten the blog again today. Or blown it off. It's been an intense two weeks. Let me show you what I've been up to (via some pixelated, crappy cell phone photos.)

I've been on the road for the past two weeks to Austin, Texas and back again to chase the eclipse. It was epic. The trip back was fraught with seriously rough weather, slow slogs in the freeways in rain so heavy you couldn't see, and constant emergency alerts firing on the cell phones for flood alerts and tornado warnings (three were verified on the ground.) We got to see an amazing celestial event and lived to tell the tale. 

As to what I use to write: Almost exclusively MS Word - it's familiar, it's versatile, and it's so easily converted to different file types. In the cracks of the caveat I supplied, I turn to simple little low-feature drafting tools from time to time like Omm Writer, Dark Room, or 4theWords. Those are for the days I want no distractions - they're about shutting out the rest of the computer screen and silencing notifications. They're for fast drafting when you don't want to let editor mind engage. There's rudimentary spell checking if there's anything at all.

They all import plain text into Word in a hyper-ugly font but that's fine because there's zilch formatting and Word happily goes about putting squiggly red and blue lines under everything I've mistyped or misspelled or grammatically hacked up. I like to think of Word as the program for the professional author and the other programs for the little kid artist who's trying out bits of story.

Back to the eclipse: We joined a Sky and Telescope Magazine group in the Austin area that had arranged hotel, meals, and the viewing location (private! with security!) We were in the company of 230 astronomy geeks, scientists, astrophysicists, and on eclipse day, one astronaut. We were surrounded by telescopes and massive cameras. All we had were viewing glasses and our cell phones (also with filters applied to them). We really lucked out with the weather.

If you're interested in catching your own eclipse experience, the next one is in Spain (through Sky and Telescope) in 2026. After that, Egypt in 2027, then Australia in 2028. Totality for this eclipse lasted just over 4 minutes. It was the shortest 4 minutes of my life.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Brain Space


Sunrise over a mountain peak next to an ocean bay that is streaked with gold from the sun.

This week we’re talking about tips for our favorite writing tools. I’d planned to give my best Scrivener tip, but I’m on vacation! 

My time away from home is good for my other favorite writing tool, my brain. Relaxing is good on so many levels. I like to think I’m improving my brain space by watching palm branches away in the breeze. Maybe tomorrow I’ll watch the ant highway again. 

May your week be filled with words and even more, I hope you’re able to give your brain the space it needs to daydream.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Writing Apps: Keeping It Classic

 This Week's Topic: Top Tricks in my Writing Program: What Features Do I Use the Most?

Like Jeffe, I'm a die-hard Microsoft Word user. I blame my time in corporate. Once the office manager (yep, that's who dealt with IT before IT became so complicated it needed a whole department) decided WordPerfect would be replaced by Word, I've been a Word user.  I miss the early versions of white text on a blue screen because it was much easier on my eyes, but I don't miss launching the software by using the DOS Run command. (Yes, I'm old. GET OFF MY LAWN!)

These days, beyond the requisite customized Book Template format and spellcheck, the feature I use a lot is Read Aloud for editing. It's the best way for me to catch missed and repetitious words. It's also great for exposing those sentences I thought were brilliant prose but read as a chunk of WUT??? I'm not particularly in love with their Editor feature because I'm not writing a book report, I'm writing fiction and the grammar AI doesn't grasp the difference. Now, if Microsoft uses a customer-unique AI in Word to grock my writing style--especially if I can train it using my old books--then things could get useful. BUT, but, but, I want that KAK-trained AI to be available only to me, like my customized dictionary is only available to me (see Jeff'es post about the super usefulness of the customized dictionary).

The other advantage of Word is that .docx is the file type both my professional editors use, so we're not wasting time and effort with conversion problems.

Ayup, ayup ayup, nuttin' fancy here. I'm keeping it classy classic.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Jeffe's Top Trick for Fantasy Writing

This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking about the top tricks in our given writing programs.

I don't use a fancy "writing program." I use Word, which I begrudgingly moved to when WordPerfect was murdered. It works great for me. No bells and whistles. I write linearly from beginning to end and don't need extra functions to annotate or move scenes around. Cut and paste works great for this simple gal. I do modify Word to show me the ongoing word count in the lower left corner, but otherwise, I don't have a lot of tricks.


This is my top #protip for using Word. It's been the best discovery ever and has saved me loads of time and headaches. Ready?

Use the in-program dictionary to autocorrect your weird fantasy words.

Seriously, smartest thing I ever did. 

For example, in my Twelve Kingdoms world, there is the sailing ship named the H├íkyrling. I can never remember how I spelled it (major fantasy-writer peril), nor where I put the stupid accent mark. (WHY DID I USE AN ACCENT MARK??? It's not necessary. It just makes everything more difficult. Anyway...) So, I added H├íkyrling to the dictionary - which is easy, right click on the word and choose "Add to Dictionary" - and then I went into the autocorrect options and added that if I type "kyr" Word autocorrects it to H├íkyrling. With italicized formatting. Boom. Done. That easy. 

I have done this for many of my more complex/obscure fantasy names and words. The trick is to pick a shortcut that 1) you can easily remember, and 2) you don't otherwise type. 

Go forth and use this trick, young fantasy writers!


Saturday, April 6, 2024

Anthology Cover Reveal!

Beyond the Veil Anthology - Pre-order now!

If I may paraphrase Lord Alfred Tennyson: In the spring an author's fancy lightly turns to anthology publications! I'm excited to be a part of Carnal Imprint's fall anthology, Beyond the Veil. This steamy fae romance collection of 9 stories has a theme very close to my heart - feathers and wings! My story is the second in my series of bird-shifter romantasy set in a version of medieval Andalusia. 

The Cover Reveal is today, so that is why I've thrown over the Worst Return on ROI topic. However, I think anthology participation can be hit or miss--worst returns are when the anthology and/or author group explodes, while the positive intangible returns (as Jeffe put it in her post earlier this week) of joining a group of like-minded authors and sharing the experience--and time and money--of a published work can be very high. I've participated in a couple of really wonderful experiences like this, but I also have at least one negative experience. Don't get me started on that one.

Last year, I joined the Bound in Magic anthology with a gorgeous group of up-and-coming fantasy romance authors. What a treat! I had too many commitments to contribute to this year's follow-up, but I've already secured my (pre-ordered) copy. I'm going to take it on my spring mini-holiday next month so I can savour it.

What anthologies have you read lately? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, April 4, 2024

The ABC's of Writing

ROI: Return On Investment

This week we’re talking about our worst ROI’s. Don’t think you’ve invested anything yet? You’re a writer, so at any stage of the game you’ve already invested your time. Hopefully it’s been well spent, though it could be argued that the hours sucked into various socials is a terrible ROI if it’s keept you from writing. 

But what's my worst ROI? I’m not too far into my writing career and so I haven't had many opportunities to be wise or unwise. No cases of books hiding under the bed. Though by the time I have a book available in print I'm going to be so excited I expect it'll be hard to stop myself from ordering them! 

So far I've invested in a few different things. The editing dollars I put into The Mars Strain before my turn in date to Recorded Books was well worth it. I count every conference I’ve attended as wise investmenets because at each one I’ve connected with new writers—and we all know that writer friends can be lifelines. And I spend money on my website…but I don’t think I can call that a bad decision because it’s a landing page for people looking me up. I view it as one of those business requirements. 

When I look at what I’ve put into my writing career the number one investment is my time. I’ve poured hours and hours into writing, thinking about writing, blogging about writing, and reading about writing. A day doesn’t go by where I’m putting words to screen or thinking about the words that I will string together the next time I sit down to type. 

As an example I’ll share the hours I put into two of my first drafts. 

Dark Queen’s Daughter (fantasy complete at approx. 83,000 words) = 329.75 hours

Fisyk (sci-fi thriller at approx. 65,000 words) = 230.9 hours

I’ve kept word count spreadsheets for the last three manuscripts I’ve written, but only the last two had a column for hours per day. It’s a column I’ve decided to keep in my future trackers. I like being able to see how many hours per day were spent creating and then correlate them to time of day and word count total. But again, it’s all total time invested no matter how many words are being put down.

And on that note I bring you a blast from the past, April of 2022, and the image that surfaces in my mind whenever I catch myself wasting precious writing time: 

author James A. Moore sitting in a chair looking sternly at the camera sideways and the words in yellow overlaying the image: The ABS's of Writing? Ass Belongs in the Chair

James A. Moore’s words of wisdom will endure even though he has passed from this world. So if you need the nudge, get that ass back in the chair and write. 

James's friend, Christopher Golden has organized a fund raiser to help offset Memorial Expenses and to support James's widow. It is still live if you wish to give.