Tuesday, March 19, 2024

OMM: Compressing Real-Life Politics into a Fantasy Timeline

This Week's Topic: On My Mind -- Compressing Real-Life Politics into a Believable Fantasy Timeline

Today's an election day here in Ohio. We're mostly voting for who will represent the party on the November ballot. As we spin in yet another face-off between tyranny and democracy, it's too easy to see the hellpit awaiting us. As a citizen, it's horrifying. As a writer, it's enlightening fodder. To have lived through 4 years of a massive and flagrant regression in morals, ethics, and basic compassion only to be threatened (again and again) with another 4 years of it, I'm trying to set aside my disappointment and fury so that I can distill the pivotal moments that enabled The Collapse to figure out where to start The Story. 

There are so many inciting moments in real life over the last fifty to seventy-five years that it's difficult to pick where our protagonist's inciting moment should happen. How do I show an audience the erasure of self-regulating concepts like shame and public censure that once held higher authorities in check? That's something that happened over a long stretch of time, but is there a single moment--or three key moments--that can be built up to convey the crumbling of an institutional pillar? How do I show it without screwing up the pacing? It's easy enough to show capitalistic corruption leading to the downfall, it's been done a lot. Showing the process of the extinction of compassion is harder for me, mostly because it's the reality that makes me the most furious. Putting current real-world events into a fantasy setting with a story that expresses the futile yet desperate fight to revive integrity and altruism has to happen in a compressed timeline yet unfold over a believable blip in time. The pivotal events have to be pushed forward by the actions of the protagonist, when the reality involves a confluence of powerful people over generations.

As I head off to the polls, that's what's On My Mind.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Author Websites

The first hurdle an author has to clear in terms of a website is the fear of being perceived. Don't laugh. It's a whole thing. We've lived most of our lives not being seen or attracting attention to ourselves. It's a bullshit cultural feature of patriarchy. It's pretty ingrained in most female presenting folks to NOT draw attention. Fortunately, an author website, hosted by a professional data center, offers you any number of layers for protecting yourself while promoting your writing. 

The second hurdle is getting past feeling like the website has to be utterly and completely perfect for ever and ever. Literally, the only thing your website needs to do is identify you and your books. It's a communication tool and a landing spot for anyone curious about what you write. The most likely scenario for someone visiting your website is that someone found one of your books and they want to look you up to see what else you have. You can make it as fancy and as involved as you like, but don't think you need fancy for your site to succeed. Your only goal is to create a welcoming place for readers to find out more about your writing and books.


  • Design a site that reflects you. Not just your first book. Or your second. 
  • List and describe all your books.
  • Include multiple buy links.
  • Keep the site up to date with new releases and buy links.


  • Offer any information that could be used to locate you physically.
  • Think you have to build a site all by yourself. You can and should hire out the site unless you're trained or a total control freak. (And then, I'll ask if your time could be more profitably used by writing rather than coding a website.)
  • Force yourself to add something to your website that makes you uncomfortable. You won't find a link to a newsletter on my website anymore because my god I hate sending newsletters. Hates it. So I stopped. And Mail Chimp fired me as a customer. So.  

Websites are necessary and help you welcome readers to your work. In a perfect world, the design of the website will reflect your writing persona to some extent. At the end of the day, though, there's no need to spend a ton of money. The fancier the website, the more expensive and time consuming it will be to maintain.  Keeping it Simple Silly has its benefits.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Author Website Checklist

screen shot of Alexia Chantel's author website that has a background image on the left of chemical compounds and the right sparkling cherry blossoms with the words Where Sci-Fi Meets Fantasy and below the audiobook cover for The Mars Strain showing the red planet and a virid capsid

This week we’re talking about one of the business sides to writing: the author website. 

Funny enough, my writing buddy and I were discussing this recently. She plans to turn her website back on since she’s going back in the query trenches and had been checking out a variety of author websites. She said the one thing that stood out the most was that each site she pulled up told her with a glance what genre the author wrote in. 

First impressions, like first lines, are important.

And you have about a second to capture that visiting reader's attention. Uff dah. The pressure! But what better time to do a little website spring cleaning than now! So, how about a checklist?

  • The Headshot - do you have an updated headshot? I like Mary Robinette Kowal’s stance on author photos: do it more often than not so you’re recogniable to readers who may run into you IRL. Also, like Mary Robinette mentions here, your headshot is a selling tool. Don’t forget to use it.
  • Your Bio - this is one of those necessary evils like a blurb and synopsis. Though hopefully less painful. It may be helpful to have a short bio (100-300 words written in third person) as certain publications have limited space, and also a longer bio, also written in third person, to give people a deeper glimpse into the wizard behind the curtain. Again, this is another selling tool. Drop your hobbies in there and whatever makes you unique as a person. Everyone has something, what’s yours?
  • Awards/Publications - If you’ve won awards or your work has been nominated, list it! If you’ve been published in a magazine, print or online, or really any where else your non-novel writing has been published, list it! If a reader is on your website because they loved somethin you read you definately want to make it easy for them to find more. 
  • Your Books - this is the given, but there’s a lot of information you’ll want to be sure to include. List the links of your books at all the major online retailors and also your local haunts. The book’s back cover copy, this is usually 200-300 words. The book’s cover in the highest resolution you’ve got. And all the metadata that goes along with a book. If it’s a series don’t forget to say which number!
  • Links to your Socials & Platforms - Readers that take the time to check out your website are looking for a conneciton. Let them know where you hang out: your socials. Let them know if you offer subscription access to you: Patreon, Substack, etc. And let them know if you’ll make any in person appearances in the coming year. 
  • Contact - Think about this one. If you’re comfortable with anyone having your email, feel free to list it. Or you can use a contact form to help you filter messages. Or if you have a publicist or agent that can happily handle messages, list their email instead of yours! List a contact option that you’re comfortable with. 

There are countless other options you can add to your website. But the most important is to remember it’s a selling tool and you’ll want to convey your genre in the first glimpse. Start simple and add on as you grow as a writer. And don’t forget to update your author headshot here and there or run the risk of showing up at a convention only to be unrecognizable. 

That’s all the wisdom I have for you this week. Happy writing and reading!

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Website Mins, Mediums, and Maxs

 This Week's Topic: Author Websites Do's and Don'ts

We all know by now that authors need a home on the web that is theirs and not a social network's, right? Is it enough to have just a FaceBook page? No. A TickTok addy? No. Authors must have their own web destination. I'm in the camp that says authors need to have their own domain name too. Ideally, the domain name is the same as the author name/pen name.

KAKrantz.com Main Page Image
KAKrantz.com Home Page

The whole point of a website for an author is so readers can find a listing of your works. Past, present, upcoming. Thus, at the bare minimum, an author should have:

  • their name
    • and any related pen names 
  • their bio
    • this usually includes an author headshot, short and/or long bio
  • their works
    • listed by genre, by series, by reading order
    • should also include links to buy the works
    • nice to provide a printable list
  • and a means of contact
    • whether it's a form-driven contact page that sends to the author's preferred email address, 
    • links to their social media pages
    • links to their discord, private community, etc 
    • links to podcasts

Ought to haves, but not have-to-haves:

  • One-click means to subscribe to their newsletter
    • Also need the privacy policy page and cookie policy page if you're collecting any information on a user such as email address
  • Press packet 
    • Often incorporated into the About Me page, this includes author headshots/preferred images, short bio, and long bio. This is to help promotion/event organizers have the author's information at their convenience, be it for podcasts, blogs, articles, book clubs, etc.
  • Where to Find Me
    • If the author is touring, either virtually or IRL, a calendar of events/appearances with links to the event pages
Nice to haves, but not necessary:

  • Series Extras
    • Be it term glossaries, character guides, world maps, etc, it's nice to have a place where fans can download the extras that'll help them better enjoy the series.
  • Writing Sample
    • While big retailers offer a "look inside" preview of books, that's for audiences who are on their sites. Folks who came across the author's name before their work can get a sense of writing style from the sample on the author's website.
  • Free Story Download
    • This might be part of the author's newsletter lure (subscribe and get a free story!) or a separate short story to attract potential readers
  • Sell-direct storefront
    • If readers can buy books directly from the author, then those links should be on the book pages and on a unified storefront
  • Other Author-Related Revenue Presence
    • From freelance articles to workshops to Tarot readings to private coaching, etc., if the author has a writing-adjacent service or products, readers want to know

Now, as tempting as it is to put ALL THE THINGS on a website, clutter is an interest killer. The best websites are simple and straightforward, delivering what the reader needs.  After all, the end game is BOOK SALES. 

FWIW, there's a saying in web design that each click costs an additional 10% click-through rate. From a marketing standpoint, we have a "two clicks and they're gone" theory, so we try to put the buy option within two clicks of arriving at the main page. 

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Tropes: Love them or hate them...


Tropes. Love them or hate them, as authors, we have our favorites to write and those that just bring us dread or maybe even make us cringe. Tropes play a huge role in the author's book. Maybe more than we care to admit. Do you even think about the tropes your books have? To be honest, I didn’t at first. I didn’t even truly think about it until it came time to market my books. 

    Once I started really thinking about tropes, I quickly realized my favorites. Some of my beloved tropes to write are fated/destined/soul mates. I have this trope in just about every book I write. I can’t help it. The hopeless romantic in me loves the idea of it. I tend to also like forced proximity, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, and even frenemies to lovers. I also tend to write medium to fast-burn romances because my characters never seem to want a slow burn. I also tend to like the uneven social status. This particular trope is a favorite to write when I’m doing a werewolf story, which I tend to write for reading apps like Kindle Vella and Goodnovel. 

    On the flip side of the coin, there are tropes I simply can’t stand to write. I can’t stand the miscommunication trope. It causes unnecessary drama in my opinion. I also don’t like fake dating. I understand the appeal, but it’s not for me. I also can’t stand holiday romances, mainly Christmas ones. I feel like I have to release the book according to the holiday, and that it’s hard to market all year round. I’m not a fan of mistaken identity/amnesia. This one I’m simply not a fan of. One last trope that I am not a fan of is love triangles. I have never enjoyed love triangles. I think it’s because there is usually someone who ends up brokenhearted or with unrequited love, and those things make me sad. 

    Then there is another side to tropes, the tropes we want to try and write. For me, this is hit or miss. For example, I tried writing an age gap, and it worked out beautifully. I wanted to try a second chance trope and that worked out for a couple of stories. I love the idea of time travel and I’ve tried to do the time travel trope. It ended with scraping what I had and starting over.  Sometimes trying new tropes is fun and it works out perfectly. Other times it’s a complete disaster, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try the trope in another story. It’s good to try and write new tropes, you never know what you might find that becomes your new bread and butter. 

    Now, for one more side of tropes. The tropes I hate to write but love to read. I love a good slow burn. I’ve tried to write a true slow burn on a few occasions. I’ve even had stories where I can see the slow-burn romance working, but my characters have other plans. I also enjoy Reverse Harem, but for some reason every time I try to write one I struggle bus with it and give up. I like reading the step-sibling trope, but writing is just not something I can bring myself to write for personal reasons. 

    Tropes serve a great role in the book world. So whether we love to hate them, or hate to love them, they are embedded into the book world. Some tropes we embrace and others we run from, but no matter what, tropes will always be something we can’t avoid whether it’s for marketing purposes or simply trying to figure out what to write/read next. Tropes drive us to chase the books we love. 

Birdy Rivers is an award-winning author. She was born in NJ and now resides in GA with her family. She has been writing since her teens and professionally writing since her mid-twenties. When she isn't writing she is raising her three daughters whom she jokingly refers to as her baby dragons, working full-time as a medical assistant, and spending time with family and friends. She enjoys reading, the outdoors, video games, and music. Music and writing have served as therapeutic measures for her depression and anxiety. Birdy is a huge mental health advocate and often features the struggles of mental health in her stories.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Tropey Tropes

In all honesty, I don't think much about tropes. Not consciously, anyway. Clearly, though, they're tucked up in the subconscious, because they emerge in writing anyway. If I think about what ends up in my writing, it's always the same stuff:

  • Found family
  • Finding or making one's own place in the world
  • Enemies to lovers
  • Cheating the rules/authority/establishment

The things you won't see from me if I can help it are the same things Jeffe mentioned - damaging, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, writer punching down or laterally in any way. Not here for it. Bully trope? Only if they get taken down hard. Even then, the take down needs to happen in the first quarter of the book so the rest of the story can be that bully's redemption tour. Otherwise, I'm out. You wanna kill off family or besties or beloveds in order to motivate a character? I'm going to cringe because it's lazy and it makes a character super suspect in my mind because if someone has to die before the character will move their asses to do what's right, they're either stupid or terrible people. Yes. I'm being judgy. Stuff went down this week and I'm in a MOOD. I'm not saying you can't kill people off in books. I'm in trouble if we can't. But as a driver for a hero or heroine? Yikes. So anyway. Come at me with the torches and pitchforks. Tell me I'm being a small-minded pain in the backside. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Unloved & Beloved Fantasy Tropes

 This Week's Topic:  Which Tropes Do I Love to Write and Which Do I Loathe?

I don't know if there is a Fantasy trope I loathe to write. The Damsel in Distress probably comes the closest, but I'd totally make it "the tribe/village/town in distress" instead of a TDTL heroine. Avenge My Slaughtered Wife/Mother/Daughter? I hate the conceit that women have to die for men to succeed. That's not to say I don't love a good revenge story; just don't bump off the Important Woman...or the dog. No killing the dog, ever.

I'm wholly in bed with The Mentor trope. Magical artifacts and magical creatures? Pffft, hell yes! Antagonist as former bestie? Love it. Chosen One and The Prophecy? Sure, them's a bedrock of Fantasy. Overpowered Protagonist? Done it. Lost family? Any day, any time. Parallel dimensions/other worlds? Absolutely. Portal? Yaaaas. The Dying of Magic/The Birth of Magic? Yup, yup, yup. My list of beloved tropes is much longer than I'll post, but you get the gist.

The trope I'm too chicken to tackle? Alternate History.  I love reading 'em. Writing 'em? 🐔🐣🐔

Monday, March 4, 2024

I don't seek to write tropes, but I end up writing them anyway


Some tropes and storytelling elements resonate strongly with many readers, so I often see them used to market books. When I’m writing a story, though, I don't consciously think about tropes, and I don't aim to include or exclude any of them.

The stories I write explore some themes and conventions often, though. The romantic trope I use most often is "Friends to Lovers." I find I can write more convincingly about a couple who has an existing dynamic and I enjoy writing about how friendships can change.

I don’t hate any tropes, but there are some that my writing hasn't touched on so far. In science fiction and fantasy, I haven't written a "Chosen One" storyline. In the real world, I find the background of extraordinary people is often already compelling story. No predetermination is necessary.

I also haven’t written a story in which two characters in a romantic relationship are "Fated Mates." I prefer to write stories about the reasons why two people may continuously choose to be each other’s partners and how they build a lasting relationship.

Both of these tropes I haven't written rely on fate or predetermination, which I don’t know how to write about in an interesting way. I won’t rule out writing stories with these elements in the future, though! My writing, like the rest of my life, has changed over the years, and I believe it will continue to do so.