Writing Goals for 2021

Writing Goals for 2021

This is not a New Year’s Resolution for writers. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions for anything. These are simply things I hope to achieve by the end of this year, because I have dogged determination to be a writer/author despite being in physical therapy school. I pretty much could not balance a single thing, which is why WHEN STARS DIE has been on a bit of pause with my publisher. In any case, here are my plans:

  1. Have WHEN STARS DIE released. I don’t know how possible this is, not because I can’t manage it, but because I don’t know what the publishing schedule is like for this year for my publisher. Perhaps a more realistic goal would be to nail down a publication date. Once that’s nailed down, the true work begins, and I’ll have no choice but to get my writing chops in gear.
  2. Finish THE STARS ARE INFINITE copy edits. I lost a thumb drive over a year ago that contained the original, final manuscript from my last publisher. Thinking it’d be in my gmail, I started looking through everything mentioning TSAI, but unfortunately I could not find the final Word document manuscript that I sent off. However, I did find one containing copy edits, and I’ve been going through that and making the appropriate changes as well as changes that tighten the manuscript more, ones that did not exist in the published version. I’m actually almost done with this, so this is entirely feasible.
  3. Start re-outlining ALL STARS ALIGN. Originally Amelia from WHEN STARS DIE was going to be the main character for the final book in THE STARS TRILOGY, but I did write out an entire draft using her perspective, and she could not resonate with me the way she did the first time I introduced her in WSD. I felt her story had already been told, and that story is over with. There is nothing more to be said about her. In fact, her fixation is with her younger brother, Nathaniel, and it’s hard to create a story from that, even though I do give her a critical role that only she can play in ASA. Nathaniel, on the other hand, was introduced in WSD, played a major role in TSAI, and his perspective has not been told yet. The stakes are so much higher for him because of his love for Alice, the MC from TSAI. So I aim to re-do the outline with his perspective and change the story entirely. I hope by doing this, it’ll reinvigorate my passion for this trilogy.
  4. Start writing ALL STARS ALIGN. I hope to finish the outline before the year is out so that way I can get started on the first draft of ASA. After all, TSAI is ready for submission once WSD is out in the world again, so, if possible, I’d like to have ASA ready for the same once TSAI is back out in the world.

So what will I do after my trilogy? Well, I’ve already outlined the beginning of either a duology or trilogy that I hope my current publisher will be interested in later down the road. I have borrowed from the magical girl genre popularized in Japan (America does have its own magical girl genre, though it’s not explicitly called that). Obviously it’s going to have to make sense within the context of a novel because magical girl transformations only make sense in visual formats. I also have a contemporary LGBTQ+ novel that I started five years ago that I may try to seek an agent for–or just stick with the house I’m with. I’m not quite sure how I feel about traditional publishing anymore, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out once the time comes.

Which Direction Should You Take In Publishing?

Which Direction Should You Take In Publishing?

I remember when I was a child and the only available avenue for legitimate publishing was the traditional route via securing an agent beforehand. I knew of self-publishing, but a lot of it was considered vanity publishing and even brushed off as a scam. And it was like this for quite some time until Amazon released an e-reader that rocketed into popularity. A lot of people didn’t think it was going to make it, arguing they preferred print instead, but it’s popular and the fact that it’s still around inspired writers to self-publish under their own names/companies. And other writers launched their own publishing companies that became known as independent presses (or indie). Of course, there are large publishers out there that you can argue are the traditional route that don’t require an agent (some would consider these independent), but the point I’m getting at is there are options now. No one has to worry about never being able to make their dreams come true.

With options now, I know there are writers out there struggling to figure out which route to take. So I’m going to outline the various paths along with the pros and cons to hopefully help you out with your publishing journey.

  1. Traditional Route. A lot of people take the traditional route because they want to see their books in bookstores (although you can get this with certain indie presses). You’re also more likely to net a movie deal this way. The marketing is also usually done 100% for you because traditional publishers tend to have much larger budgets for it. If you know your book has commercial appeal, this route is something to consider. Now a book without commercial appeal can still stand a chance, but when we talk about commercial appeal, the book can usually draw in a wide audience from many different backgrounds. For most of these publishers, you will have to secure an agent. Royalties are considerably smaller, and it’s anyone’s guess what your advance will be. You also most likely will not have control over your book cover–really, you’ll be giving up a lot of control in general. I think only big name authors are granted that privilege of having a say in what goes on. So if you want all or some control of your book, this route probably isn’t for you.
  2. Independent Press (Indie or Small Press). This route usually does not require an agent, although some indie publishers are open for them. This is the route I have taken with The Stars Trilogy. I chose this route for those books because to me they are more niche and don’t have commercial appeal. I have also loved being able to have some control in the process. I had a say in what the covers looked like (though these will be changing under my new publisher). Indie presses pretty much encourage you to fully take part in the process, even though if you’re like me, I don’t want 100% control because I do trust the experts and all writers have innate bias with their own works. You also get to see your book published sooner than you would for a larger press. Royalties are also at least 50%, which makes up for the lack of advance in a lot of indie presses–but mostly if you sell well. The downside, of course, is that the marketing budget is limited and you have to do some yourself, you usually won’t end up in bookstores (unless you’re lucky or approach independent bookstores), and some indie presses do e-book only. Your book may also struggle to sell depending on who you go with, which is why I recommend finding indie presses that have bestsellers.
  3. Self-publishing. This obviously allows you full, 100% control over everything, from editing to cover design. Some people use this as a last resort when other options have failed. Others use this as their only route because they want control and don’t want someone else dictating the direction of their manuscript. Self-publishing is great because it means your hard work still has a chance. Not only that, but you can still bring it to print and even get it into local bookstores with a little legwork. E-books are also, as far as we know, forever. Unlike with being with a publisher where your book is only signed on for a certain number of years unless you sell really well, you don’t have to worry about that with self-publishing. So if your book starts out slow, there’s always a chance it can gain traction. Of course, this option does involve needing to spend money. It is up to you how much you want to spend, like whether you’re going to create the cover yourself or have someone else do it. However, you absolutely need to hire an editor/copy editor/proofreader. Writers are too close to their work to be able to properly judge it. Marketing is also entirely on you, and that is its own skillset you have to learn if you want your book to be successful. But despite this, all profits are yours.

Whatever path you choose, make sure you are well-informed about these options before deciding. I’m likely going to keep my paranormal books with my current publisher and try to find a literary agent for any contemporary books I write.

Advice to Aspiring Writers

Advice to Aspiring Writers

WebImageSay hello to today’s guest blogger, Quincy Allen! You can find him here.

Don’t take this advice.

That’s the take-away you’ll have by the time you finish this blog. But you’ll have to read the whole thing to understand why you shouldn’t take this advice. It’s a sort of Catch-22, one that already has a smile on my face. Oh, and if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book Catch-22, stop what you’re doing right now and go absorb that data.

But I digress.

There isn’t a writer—aspiring or otherwise—who hasn’t been informed over and over again by sage experts about the dos and don’ts of writing. We’ve all heard them: “Avoid adverbs” (so sayeth the King); “Keep it under 100,000 words,” (so sayeth the publishers); “Never use a prologue,” (so sayeth the agents); “Third person omniscient is dead,” (so sayeth the critics).

In fact, in this business you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting another “expert” who will be happy to tell you how to write, how to market, how to network, etcetera, etcetera. It’s a veritable litany of iron-clad rules doled out from the successful and not-so-successful lunatics who have chosen the publishing industry as their stomping grounds—including myself. You know who I’m talking about. It’s those writers and editors and agents and publishers who bandy about the phrase “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not” something, and do so with the certainty of Moses laying down the Ten Commandments.

Here’s a little secret: we’re all lying to you.

Most of us don’t know we’re lying, of course, but in the final analysis, we are. I’ve been watching this industry pretty closely for almost four years now, and if there is one absolute rule you can rely upon from the ocean of them that exists, it’s that there are no absolutes. They simply don’t exist.

So when you hear someone say, “Here’s how the writing world works,” or “You need to do it this way,” or “You should never ever…” as if such sage wisdom is being handed down from on high by the Prince of Darkness himself, you need to raise an eyebrow, offer a subtle but quirky grin, and go find the exception. It’s out there, I guarantee it.

Then you need to understand the rule and why the exception worked. No mean feat, that.

Having said all that, you also need to factor in a few things, particularly if you’re an aspiring writer rather than an established one. Those very same people offering such sage wisdom are mostly likely gate keepers for new writers. It doesn’t make them necessarily “right,” although it doesn’t make them necessarily wrong, either. It just means they’re in the way. You either need to give a gate keeper exactly what he or she wants, or you need to find a way around.

Welcome to the real world.

Established writers, on the other hand, get to break the rules—and many of them do. Regularly. Prologues, adverbs, 140k-word-counts, third person omniscience, etc…. There truly is no deodorant like success, and readers spoon it up like smothered burritos after a Friday night bender. (You’d have to have gone to college with me to get that reference). Basically, if you’re an established author, you’ve become an “expert,” and one providing revenue for agents, editors and publishers. It’s all a matter of which way the money flows, and at this point you have crossed a threshold, becoming a gate keeper in your own right.

The third group is the newest and, by far, my favorite. New and established writers alike are breaking rules and, by virtue of the eBook phenomenon, becoming successful at it. If ever there was an end run around the gate keepers, it is the almighty internet. But when you go at it alone on the Internet, you better know what you’re doing.

It’s all about awareness.

You can absolutely break the rules handed down from the establishment and be successful. That establishment no longer has iron-clad control of the marketplace, and so the rules they handed down for a century don’t apply nearly as much as they once did. Make no mistake, they’re truly pissed off about that. Did you see “Return of the King” when the One Ring goes into the lava? That image of Sauron’s great eye spinning and smoking and screaming as it tumbles to the earth and explodes. That’s pretty much the old-school publishing industry right now. But you better know what the rules are.

This is a golden age for writers, and the Internet has offered us an end-run around the gate-keepers. It’s a hard path, but it’s also a viable one… if you know what you’re doing.

So, why is it that with all these rules being shouted at us, we can clearly see that they aren’t rules at all? The reason is a simple one: there are nearly seven billion definitions of what a good book is on the surface of this rock we call home, one for every sentient being that has access to the Internet. Granted, there’s a fair amount of overlap and concentrations of similar definitions. What you have to decide is how big a segment of that populace you want to cater to… and then write the books that are inside you. It’s both a business and a creative decision, and only you can make it.

Ultimately, all of this depends on where you want to come in on the food chain of the publishing industry. How far do you want to step outside the guidelines? How far up the ladder do you want to go? How much are you willing to gamble on your own success rather than the success of some publishing “institution?” You need to understand all of this if you’re going to break the rules.

The bottom line is that there is a different path for each and every successful writer, and the notion of “rules” simply doesn’t apply… save one: Write a good book. And keep in mind that the definition for a “good book” has grown exponentially in the past few years because of the eBook revolution. More writers are satisfying more reading appetites because the “Big Six” (now the Big Five because one went extinct—there’s a message there, by the way) don’t control everything anymore.

So, people will tell you “Thou shalt…” and they’ll tell you “Thou shalt not…” just like I have in these past paragraphs. Take note of all of this “sage wisdom” with considerably more than a single grain of salt. But also don’t forget it.

If everyone’s path is different, then everyone has a different set of rules. You need to go out there and learn as many of everyone else’s rules as you can, and then experience or invent those rules that work specifically for you.

Look around. Research.  Know what your options are both in your writing and in the business of your writing. Be informed. And when you have a clear path, take it.

I guarantee you’ll make mistakes. And for every mistake you make, you’ll be a little wiser, a little better at your craft, and a little closer to being able to hand down sage wisdom that aspiring writers should take with more than a grain of salt.

Just like the rest of us.

The Importance of Connecting With Your Audience

The Importance of Connecting With Your Audience

Would you believe this is my audience? Their favorite tags are ‘murder’ and ‘slaughter.’ Oh, and ‘Alice.’

I think that once you get it in your head that you want to publish, you need to start building an audience. After all, when you publish, your story or book or whatever it may be is going to be read by people, and if those people aren’t already present before your book, it is going to be very difficult to make sales.

I mention this because I think building your own website and blog is absolutely essential to capturing the type of audience that you want. If you have time to write a novel, you have time to do a blog post, even if it is just once a week starting out. As writers going the publishing route, we want to make sales, don’t we? We want our work out there for readers to enjoy, but if we didn’t want sales, we would just throw up chapters for free without ever officially publishing them–and there is nothing wrong with this route, but this post is not addressing those people.

Before you even start writing that book, I would go on ahead and set up some form of website. It can be Blogger, WordPress, Weebly–it doesn’t matter. Have some form of website with tabs you can create that viewers can search to learn what you’re all about.

I wanted to self-publish my book in December, so I started this puppy almost three weeks ago to give myself that time to build an audience. I was originally blogging once a day, but then realized twice a day might help me build more of an audience. And it does. Plus, it’s even more imperative I keep up with this knowing my book might be a late summer release now that it is with a publisher. So I’ve got to work my butt off in the social media arena to build an audience invested in both me and my book–and I need to be just as invested in my audience as they are with me.

Don’t wait until after your book is released to build an audience. If you’re self-publishing, this might be okay because your book can stay there forever. But any other type of publication, and you’re going to sink in the sells department.

I want my Stars to know about me and my book before it is released. I want them to know who I am, what I do, what I love, hate, my strengths, my weaknesses. I want them to know all about me. I want to know all about them. I love people, and I want them to know that, not just for sales of my book, but because I want to be an inspiration.

In any case, if you’re already blogging with the plans to do a novel, do not stop. Even if you have to slow your blogging down and you already have an audience, do not stop. You don’t want to lose your audience. I have over 900 followers on Twitter, but because I stayed away from Twitter for almost a year due to health reasons, I never received any new followers and I had to work myself back into Twitter to remind everyone of my existence. And it’s not easy.

So build that audience and keep that audience.

Guest Blogger Mary Cote-Walkden on Indie Presses

Guest Blogger Mary Cote-Walkden on Indie Presses

So I’ve blogged on traditional houses and the self-publishing route, but what about micro publishers? Well, Mary Cote-Walkden decided to comment on this, so here is what she has to say.


Indie/Micro Publishers vs Traditional Publishing Houses or Self-Pubbing:

It’s an interesting discussion, and one that really has no right answers. It depends on what you’re looking for, both for you as a writer and for your work, and what your expectations as a writer might be.

I should start off by saying that, yes, I am a bit biased when it comes to publishing. I have tried the other routes, and they were absolutely wrong for me. I am not one who wants to be just a number on a ledger sheet, and as far as self-publishing, I learned the hard and expensive way that good freelance editors are a rare commodity, and that no one should be allowed to edit their own work. Suffice to say that marketing and editing on your own, or through services claiming to do that sort of thing, has its own special set of challenges.

So, what is micro-publishing? It’s a small house that publishes fewer than 20 books a year. We don’t compete with the big houses, but we are not shackled as they are. I often think of the big publishing houses as real estate agents. When you go to buy a house, they tell you what areas are good, what are bad, which places are the ones where you really need to be…sort of like telling us which books are good, which ones are marketable and which genres are passé. (There are no passé genres). Because micro doesn’t have the huge overhead, and are not tethered to a corporate demand for shareholder dividends, we can look at those genres that are not currently deemed hot by the big houses. You can write a book that doesn’t have a werewolf or vampire in it, or that is not intended for a YA audience, and still get published. That doesn’t mean that a micropublisher will turn down a book with vampires or that is a YA novel, but it means we have the ability and the flexibility to showcase those genres that big houses won’t take a chance on, and there are a lot of very good books out there that are passed on because of this. We are able to say that the quality of the writing and the content of the story matter more than giving the public what they already have.

We also have the ability to be more environmentally friendly than the big houses. That’s because traditional publishers will tell you there is a stigma attached to using POD, just as there is a stigma attached to adding that you self-published on your writing credits. For us, POD was a conscious choice. The waste that is the publishing industry is phenomenal. They do massive runs of books, to make them profitable. Those books are printed, stored, shipped to warehouses, stored, shipped to stores, set out on shelves for 60 days, have the covers ripped off, are shipped to warehouses, are stored and, finally, they are destroyed. The carbon footprint is massive for each book. The other drawbacks with the traditional print distribution process is topic for many more blogs, but let’s suffice to say that the consumer and the author, as well as the environment, pay dearly for it, while corporate pockets get lined some more. Don’t ever kid yourself: the big publishing houses are in this for the money, and nothing more than that.

The biggest plus to micropublishers is that they are able to get the books into their finest duds, can give a better payoff to the authors, can help to get the books out there, and can do that while maintaining a more personal connection with the writers. We can take the time for each, work with them, work around their other lives. We work to head a team of writers who support each other, help promote each other, and encourage each other. Idyllic? No, not always, but having tried the other routes, this is the right one for me.

You can find Mary Cote-Walken here: www.writersamuseme.com

My Defense of Self-Publishing

My Defense of Self-Publishing

I’m going to come out as a hardcore proponent of self-publishing, so steel yourself for possible bias. You can read my post on my decision to self-publish here.


I’m going to admit I have never sent out a single query letter or manuscript. I have subbed short stories, and most magazines I never heard back from. I expect that, but I vow that my literary magazine never does that, no matter how many submissions we receive.

In any case, why am I going the self-publishing route when I’ve never given traditional a chance? Because I don’t need the validation of an agent or publisher. I really don’t. I don’t care how much experience they have. The books I write aren’t for them. They are for the readers who are interested in the type of material I write. As I’ve mentioned before, readers are the best gatekeepers of them all. Even in the traditional world they determine whether or not a book is worth keeping around.

I used to be so enamored with the traditional route before, so in awe of those who were honorable enough to have literary agents and contracts. I wanted to be among them. I wanted the prestige that came with professional validation. But then something changed. I saw my friends being shot down left and right by agents who enjoyed their work but didn’t think it’d sale. I understand all businesses take a risk and what will sell is just guesswork, but to query for a few years, only to be shot down again and again when you know your book has what it takes, I decided I no longer wanted any part of that world. I didn’t even want to try. Life is short. I want to take control of making my own dream come true because, honestly, I need to. I felt dispassionate about writing for some time because I knew publication was a distant dream. I’m depressed, I suffer with suicidal ideation, there is no reason to stick around when publication could take years.

I knew I needed to change something in my life to make me hang on.

By my nature I am a control freak to a certain extent. I am more than happy to accept criticism on my writing, especially if it makes it better, but I don’t want to have to argue with an editor to keep certain parts of my book alive. I don’t want to have to edit my book to make it fit purely for marketing or try to fit it within a specific word count. I’ll get rid of needless words and needless things, but I refuse to mold my story so that it fits within a word count they think won’t scare teen readers off.

I also want control of my own book covers. I frankly am appalled by many YA book covers, which mostly feature people who look too sultry and sexy and are obviously in mid-adult.

Sure, I’ll have to spend money, but if I were given an advance, I’d probably have to spend it anyway on marketing, so what’s the difference? With self-publishing, I’ll make 70% for each book. Even if I don’t make more than what I spent, I can always write another book and another and another. The good thing about e-publishing is Amazon isn’t going to penalize me if my book doesn’t sell a certain amount in a certain time. Just because it won’t sell now doesn’t mean it won’t sell later.

I also like that I get to create my own brand, that I can be independent, that I can stand on my own two feet. It’s marvelous knowing I’m taking control of this dream instead of working my ass off and waiting for someone else to choose when and where it happens.

I once held disdain for self-publishing. Self-publishing was for the fearful, the ones who couldn’t make it. Once you told me you were self-published, you lost credibility as a writer in my eyes. No more. I primarily read self-published now because these books are satiating the tastes traditional is not satisfying. I am so impressed that writers are taking control of their own dreams and knowing they need to produce quality work to make it. This opens up self-publishing as a viable option to anyone who has ever dreamt of getting published. This adds more prestige to this option too.

Do I wonder why some people still want to be traditionally published? A little bit, but then some people really need that validation. Some people are intimidated by marketing and may need a little bit of help, if the publisher offers at least that much. Some want to see their books in bookstores and not just online. Some prefer physical books over e-books. And there is nothing wrong with any of these things.

But I’m a huge proponent of self-publishing now, so this blog will barely touch on traditional publication as a means to get one’s book out there.

The Mad Expectations of Self-Publishing

The Mad Expectations of Self-Publishing

In my last post, I wrote about the expectations for traditional publishing. As promised, this post will speak of the expectations you as a writer should be aware of should you decide to self-publish.

Self-publishing allows you to bypass the long process of trying to find an agent who then has to find a publishing house for you. However, this does not make the process any easier and it should not be any easier.

Yes. You get to bypass gatekeepers like this.

When you decide to go at it alone, you should expect to be doing most things on your own. If possible, do the cover art yourself. You can find fabulous stock images that are either free or you may not be paying that much for a stock photo. Do some research on how to do attractive cover art for self-publishing and just do it. Have others involved in the decision of what type of cover art you should go with and what the design should be like. This will at least save you money–because you will need it for other things.

Beta readers are great to have, but they’re really only critical if you’re going the traditional route, as they help you prepare your book for the eyes of an agent–who will then do the heavy editing if said agent offers this service. Skip the beta readers and go right toward an editor. You will need one. Traditional houses have editors for a reason and so should you.

I have had beta readers before, and they were good, but they cannot do what editors can do. Beta readers are trained readers. Editors are trained, well, editors. They will, more often than not, be able to see what beta readers often cannot catch. They know grammar to an absurd degree (as an editor myself, I am often shocked by the lack of grammar knowledge within the average person) and they can shred your story to pieces and make it much stronger than many beta readers can. Editors are great for hacking and slashing because they will find things wrong with your story that beta readers cannot. Beta readers are great AFTER the editing, but it’s best not to use them before. Beta readers can pick up on the excess dirt that needs cleaning, but if you’re going to self-publish get an editor. You can find reasonably-priced editors, and then there are your editors who are not so reasonably priced. Do your research before choosing. Your editors who charge a lot have experience. Your editors who don’t charge too much are trying to build rapport, but this does not mean they are not qualified. 

I myself have a reasonably-priced editor, but she was recommended to me by a friend who has used her services before, and her qualifications are satisfactory. I also had a previous editor who charged $1.00 a page, and she was fantastic. But she already had a reputation, was trained by someone highly-qualified in the field, and was recommended by many. She just did not charge more because she wanted to build rapport. So if you’re looking for a reasonably-priced editor because you can’t afford more, make sure you do your research on this person. 

Overall, as far as editing goes, I don’t care if your beta reader is an English teacher or professor. If he/she has never had experience editing a novel, get an editor. There is a world of difference between editing an essay and editing a novel. Seriously. I can’t stress how crucial editors are for those going the self-publishing route. 

Book formatting is also crucial. If you can format the book yourself, great, but realize if you’re going the e-book route, you’re going to want to format for the Nook, Kindle, and possibly Kobo, so don’t just do PDF. I know how to format books, but I’m going to pay for someone to format it for me because formatting is like tearing out my teeth. I already do it for The Corner Club Press and hate every moment of it, so I’m going to take a break. I can afford it just fine without running my bank dry. 

Should you also decide to self-publish, marketing is all on you. Unless you hire a publicist. But publicists are expensive and I would recommend just doing intense research and doing it all yourself. I already mentioned the many ways you can market in my last post, so no need to reiterate here.

The last thing you need to expect when you do self-publish is that, for some reason, your reviewers are going to be more critical. There are plenty of traditionally published books with typos and myriads of other errors, but reviewers don’t really point those out. They stick to the story. However, if the same thing occurs in a self-published book, reviewers are quick to jump on those and point them out. I’m not sure why this is. I suspect some want to prove that the traditional route is still the best way to go because an editor would have assured those errors would not have existed in the first place. But that isn’t the case because, as I’ve said, such errors can occur in traditionally published books. Perhaps not to the degree of self-published, but there are more people self-publishing than traditionally publishing because they don’t have to wait on contracts or edits. They can just do everything themselves and get things done when they want to. I’m certain if the traditional route were churning out just as many books as the self-publishing route does, we might see an equal number of books littered with typos and other errors. Just my guess. 

So expect to go over your book with a fine-tooth comb if you want to prevent reviewers from jumping on only your errors–because they will point out only those and ignore the story entirely.