Anthology Deadline

Greetings! Thanks for all the encouragement to keep the blog going! I’m settling in with the job now. At first I was pretty much coming home and conking out. The girls would come by throughout the afternoon and remind me of things like music lessons and Kung Fu. I’d get a chocolate fix and then start the driving. Now I don’t nap every day.

I’ve been getting some writing done. About 10k words since I last posted. Most of it has happened recently. Last year I volunteered to be in an anthology. Everyone has to contribute an original erotic paranormal romance story at least 15k words long. The project has changed leaders several times, and I thought it was dead. But someone ressurected it and set deadlines. I have 8000 words done and it’s due Friday. Yikes!!!

Unfortunately, out of those 8000 words, there’s still not a sex scene. The story is riddled with raunchy language but no one has gotten it on yet. Part of the problem is the story was originally envisioned to be written under my real name. In fact, I submitted short stories of it to several places. But the main character is a satyr, which obviously lends himself to my pen name much more than my real name. But the world building gets me every time. And now that it’s going to be longer, the other two characters are demanding more time on the stage…you know how characters can be.

So I’ll be coming by this week to let you know my progress towards the looming deadline. I’d love to hear how your projects are going too!

For inspiration, here’s a picture of my favorite satyr drawn by Kevin Yancey:



Real Numbers from an Indie Publisher

If you are an indie writer, you might be like me and feel that all indie writers are bringing in at least 50K a year. Part of the problem is the only people posting numbers are the super successful. But I’m going to keep it real. If you are not even close to a four figure yearly income from your books, much more a five figure income, this blog is for you.

I’m at three figures! Of course, it’s gross and not net, but hey, I’ll take it. Since June, I’ve wanted to sit down and look over the sales figures, but I also didn’t want to do it because June was so bad. But July was good once again, so I took a peek.

My seven month publishing numbers:

Published 9 works and 86,500 words.

Republished one work with a new cover and added fractals.

Designed and created 4 covers.

Sold 223 books which is a book a day average.

Made almost $250 in royalties.

The disappointments:

Though sales and downloads for my billionaire serial started strong, they fizzled for the last two episodes. The blog readership for the pen name was steady, so I have to wonder if readers quit buying and started reading for free on the blog. I also sunk a lot of time and money into a picture book for the series, and it didn’t bring new readers as hoped for.

The surprises:

My holiday series has had steady interest despite the only holidays in the series right now are fall holidays. An even bigger surprise is the first episode of my slipstream romance is my third best seller.


I’m going to keep at it. I was pretty upset at the end of June, but after taking a few steps back I see that I’m having some successes. I’m hopeful that the next holiday books will have good releases.

How is your writing year going? I’d love to hear your ups and downs!



How did it get to be July 18? I swear the Fourth of July hits and summer disappears. I haven’t gotten the writing done that I’d hoped for. And my low sales are keeping my spirits down as far as publishing. I actually decided not to publish this month and probably not next month so that I could work on the stories for the fall. Maybe that will take away the feeling that I’m spinning my wheels.

I’d like to give this blog a lot more attention coming into fall. It’s be nice to do some recipes again and Actual Writing Advice. I’d also like some sort of fiction writing on the site, but I don’t know what. If you have an idea for anything on the blog, please leave it in the comments section.

This week I do plan to get some words down. I got 500 earlier today and plan to do some more now. There’s a really nice rainshower going on, which always inspires my mood. Hopefully I’ll be able to post a steady word count this week. Anyone who is still out there listening and writing, I’d love to have you join me.

Writing Question for the day: What do you think of first person POV? Hard to write in? Easy to write in? Too close to the character? Not distant enough to provide some info?

I’m thinking about trying a story in first person POV which I haven’t done in a long time. For me a big challenge is staying in one characters voice constantly without slipping into a more narrative structure. Any tips and thoughts would be great.

Art Muse


Hello! Saturday, I asked readers to chime in about descriptive passages because I’m in a slump. Thanks Holly and Dave for helping me out! I know more readers will find your advice useful.

Holly Jennings

I usually skip descriptions in the early drafts, unless I have a very vivid image that just needs to be written down. Most of the time, I read through my rough draft and find the areas where the pace in the scene naturally drops, where it’s realistic for a character to look around and notice things. I try to find unique things to describe about the setting so that it really brings the scene to life, adds something to the overall story, and creates a concrete image in the reader’s mind.

For example, anyone can picture a messy apartment. But if I tell you that the messy apartment in my story is mostly filled with boxes of WWII paraphernalia, I’ve just given you a unique visual and told you something about the person that lives there.


I love scenery and room descriptions to a point. Like you say, too much description though clogs up the story. But I will always prefer some form of description over bare white rooms.

I feel a lot of the art in good descriptions comes from fitting them in seamlessly with the scene. I use character beats a lot for this, meaning during the actions and observations a character makes while engaged in dialog or other actions within the scene. Instead of in a flood as a character enters the room or you first glimpse a character and it brings the scene to a halt.

I am working on this very issue while fleshing out my second draft. This is the stage I planned on adding most of my descriptions, but now I am running up on the problem of word count. I want the good descriptions in there but compared to actual story elements some of it feels like padding and in the future when I come through on my final edits they will likely be cut for space. Its a dilemma, but I feel like it is better than a story coming up short and then packing in extra description to meet a minimum word count.


I definitely agree with both Holly and Dave. Like Holly I try to relate descriptions to characters and like Dave I try to find the right beat, but I feel it hasn’t come together recently. A lot of books I read use much more description than I do, and I wonder if my stories look amateurish by comparison. But then I remember Elmore Leonard who used very little description. No one would say he’s amateurish.

A big short coming I have is describing people: brown hair, brown eyes covers a good chunk of the population and is bland. Going into ethnicity makes me uncomfortable, possibly because of how I see it done other places. I was reading a book that described the protagonist’s best friend as a “spicy Latina.” It made me cringe. And in romance, all black women must say “girlfriend” frequently.

I think I’m getting off topic now. Probably what I’m trying to say is some authors use cliches or stereo types as easy ways to put an image in the readers head. I don’t want to be a writer like that. But I’ve been finding myself using my own version of lazy writing because I’m trying to churn out the words so fast.

Maybe I should just slow dow.

The End Game

On Friday I posted the question: How do you finish your stories? It looks like we fall into two categories which are: The end is fully formed before I start, and, I discover the end on the way.

I also asked if you like to leave the ending open, or everything tidy.

Enjoy the comments below, and thanks to everyone who chimed in!

I try to have an ending figured out before I even write the story; sometimes I have the final sentence in my head or written down. I think it should be wrapped up in a satisfying way to the reader that makes sense. But what if you’re thinking about a sequel? Then it shouldn’t be all wrapped up and tidy. There should be some unanswered questions that leave the reader asking for more.

I feel like every one of my endings is different, but I always try to leave the story off as if the characters continue on afterwards. I think this tends to be stronger in my short stories, though early feedback on my novel says it feels like “to be continued” at the end as well.

I’m pretty much all over the map on my endings with the one constant being that I usually think they need work. I have the least amount of practice writing them. Sometimes I have an idea ahead of time, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get to find out my endings as I go, sometimes I don’t. I like what Shari and Holly wrote. I’d love more advice too!

Dave Barz

The ending is typically what I have first in my head. It is what excites me about the story. I then walk it back to the inciting act that will lead to that ending. I don’t write the ending first, but I think about it and plan it so much that it is pretty hard wired into the story when I reach the final chapters while writing.


I’m closest to Deb on this one. Just all over the map with my endings. When I was in chess club, I always hoped I would win sometime in the middle game when there were still lots of pieces on the board. If it got to the point where I had a few pieces and the other player had maybe a king and a rook, I would probably lose because I just could not bring it home. My dad would come to chess club and teach us specifically how to win in scenarios similar to that, but it was always lost on me.

Finishing my last novel, I felt like I was chasing the ending like those pathetic chess games. The climax for my couple came, but there were still plot points to tie up (sorry that was terrible word play considering it was a romance). I fear I might’ve dragged it on too long, but I didn’t know what else to do. Julie was able to see clearer than me and cut some plots out in the middle because she’s an awesome editor. It left the end tighter, but I couldn’t help but think of Jack Nicholson when he left the theatre before the end of Return of the King. He’s quoted as saying, “Too many endings, man.”


Write what you Know

On Friday I posed the question: Write what you know; good or bad advice? I invited Enchanted Spark readers to comment so I could post the replies on Sunday. I got four great answers. I’ll add my thoughts at the bottom. Here they are:


I’m always back and forth on this idea, because I feel it can go both ways.

I prefer saying “write what you love” because when a writer creates something they are passionate about, it tends come through on the page. However, I often hear the advice to “read as much as you can in the particular subgenre you want to write” – implying to write what you know – but I find sometimes this has a negative effect and creates more of a derivative work than an original idea.

Personally, I like taking some from both pots – what I know and what I don’t. Writing what I know gives the project confidence and passion, while including elements that need research tends to brings a sense of “newness” to the idea.


I think write what you know is pretty good advice but I’d fine tune it to write what you like because there is always research. Of course, where sci-fi and fantasy come in, nobody really knows that stuff, it’s whatever you dream up. Sci-fi, though, has to sound feasible.

Dave Barz

I agree with a lot that was just said. I see it as a two pronged form of advice. Write what you know keeps one from sounding like a fool. But it is also a reminder that what is familiar and enjoyed is much easier to get on a page.

But the call to write what you know should never scare anyone away from branching out into any genre that might interest them. The level of research an author is prepared to pour into a project is not a direct correlation to its success. It might only determine where it might get shelved in a bookstore.

Say an author plans to use Mark Twain as a character in a fiction story. An expert on Twain can likely craft a historical fiction full of intricate details of his life. An alternate history or historical fantasy can take a very detailed knowledge of Twain but change some the situations of his biography and free themselves from the finer nuances of his history. But then there are stories that rely more on the character of Twain that he has become in popular culture, and an author with less research can place him in a straight up fantasy. Each story would require the author to “Know” Twain, but the comfort of that knowledge can create very different and still successful books. And in every case the reader would likely be comfortable they are reading about Mark Twain.

We can leave it to the few esoteric scholars to complain that Twain would not address Merlin in such a manner as he does in your story, but then you didn’t write Twain-upon-Avon for them anyway. Write what you know: A good story.


Write what you know” is good advice, but not a rule to follow blindly or exclusively. (An art teacher once taught me to learn the rules and then break them. I think this works here too.)

We’re more likely to put our passion and personalities in something we know. For me, the words flow more easily. The words have more life. And I don’t run as much risk of having written a piece where readers think, “wow, what an idiot, that author knows nothing about xyz.”

When writing fantasy or science fiction, such as a story about dragons, I think the rule can still apply. Writers can (and maybe should) have some idea of what else is out there even if the topic isn’t factual or realistic. One can write what one knows about dragons from other stories but also what one knows in one’s heart.

At a certain point, a writer should bring something new. We don’t want to read the same stories over and over again (at least not too similar anyway). Research brings new topics to life and new life into old topics.


The problem I have with the advice is when it comes to publishing. I feel people say “write what you know” with a certain amount of smugness like that’s the golden key to being published. But what if what you know or love is something a million other writers are sending to editors and agents? What if you’re writing vampire stories at the tale end of the vampire fad because you love vampires and that’s all you want to write? Agents and editors are tired of vampires so your story will most likely be past over.

Or worse, what if what you love is something no one else loves? I think satyrs are pretty interesting mythological characters, and I have a satyr story I can’t sell to save my life. I realize the first few incarnations of the story were terrible, but as I honed it, it became one of those “We like it, but it’s not what we’re publishing now” stories. Satyrs aren’t a thing. But I really love that character I created.

I find myself constantly torn between what I want to write and what I think other people want to read. It’s a very tricky balance.

Happy New Year!


Yes, I am alive :) Sorry It’s been a month since I’ve posted. Julie was in town for a lovely long visit, plus the usual holiday stuff kept me away.

How is everyone’s writing going? Have you kicked off your goals for 2016?

I got together with my publishing team and plotted out what I’m publishing in 2016. Unfortunately, it’s all under my pen name so I can build up that audience and money. I do plan on writing more in the fairy tale series I started with Rapunzel: Stay at Home Mom, but I think I’ve mentioned that to do that the way I want will take a lot of money for the illustrations.

I will be publishing some fantasy romance under the pen name this year. If you’re curious about those stories, just drop me a line and I’ll tell you about them.

So what does that mean for Enchanted Spark? My plan is to do Monday blogs still. I have one about endings I’ve wanted to get up for awhile now and some blogs about what it feels like to be writing consistently. I also would like you guys to guest blog for me. There’s about half a dozen of you who post comments regularly. Some of the comments are real gems about the writing process, but I fear they get lost to the casual reader who skims through the main posts. So you can either raise your hand via sending me an email about a post you’d like to do, or you can wait for me to call on you like a teacher in class 😉 Seriously, though, I’d like this to become a blog where you guys contribute and it feels more like a discussion group.

When we plotted out what we’re publishing in 2016, Julie said that I had about three years worth of stuff coming out in one year. She’s right, but as an indie writer I think it’s really important to keep my name visible as much as possible. Being on the New Release list on some sites is a really good way to do that. That means I’m going to be writing a lot. I want to hit 15,000 word counts consistently each week. Something that helps me stay on track is bragging about how much I’ve done or shamefully posting that I’m still at zero for the week. So I’m bringing back mid-week Spark Checks on Wednesdays and posting Spark Tally every Saturday. I hope you join me! And if you’re new, please pipe in!

That’s all for today. Please post your writing goals in the comments below and come back Wednesday for Spark Check!


Celebrating November


I love the above picture because it reminds me of one of my favorite characters–a character I had to give up trying to write so that I could move my writing career forward. It’s interesting to look back at choices made. It’s also interesting to see what readers react to in either a positive or negative way and what they give a big shrug of indifference to.

I’m devoting a huge amount of time to writing in the romance genre. I’ve always enjoyed romantic elements in stories, and they’ve been in most of my science fiction and fantasy stories. I never thought I’d write contemporary romance though. And in a way, it’s a huge mistake.

The state of romance right now appalls me. It’s filled with sachrine sweet heroines who haven’t had sex in so long that they’re practically virgins. They’ve had tragic events happen in their past and somehow still have the optimism of an eight-year-old girl. In the mean time, the heroes are jealous stalkers who whore shame the women that actually go down on them so they can take up and treasure the new virginal demi-woman they’ve found to obsess over.

Too harsh?

These are not the romances I write. Shockingly, I like to think of women and men as equals. I like to think that most adults are mature adults. Not surprisingly, until November, my stories have been met with indifference and the occasional angry reader.

Why did I switch to romance? As I said, I’ve always enjoyed romantic elements in my stories. I felt I needed to practice writing stories that didn’t have a lot of world building so I could focus on character development, tension, plot twists and beginnings without trying to fit in world building tidbits every other sentence. World building was exhausting me. I’d get a crit back saying there was too much description, too little description and my favorite “Would this character really notice that since he sees it every day? You have to stay in POV.”

I quickly realized my romance stories weren’t going to catch the eye of the industry gate-keepers, so I decided to use them to learn about indie publishing as well. October 2014 is when I convinced David and Julie to help me out, followed shortly by Heather. At the time, I thought I’d do a lot of short stories under my own name like Rapunzel. But to do those the way I want to do them requires a lot of money for the illustrations. So romance took over.

I might actually be finding an audience for romances about mature adults. A small one so far, but I busted through all of my selling goals for November. In October, I made my sales goal of one book a day. So I upped the goal to 2 sales a day for November because I had a new release.

I had 169 sales in November!

My new release (TH) alone sold 94 copies. My release last year (MH) sold 34 copies in November. And the short story I wrote in a week and made my own cover for (VH) sold 32 copies even after it had been downloaded over 1100 times for free.

These are very small numbers, and I can’t make a living on it yet, but what a huge surge from 0 a few months ago. Enough of a surge that I got my first two star review and a troll. The troll is not the two star review. That seems totally legitimate, “It’s a short story and you don’t get to know the characters very well.” Yep. That was for VH. It’s sort of surprising that I haven’t gotten more of those for VH. But I also got a very lengthy five star review for it on Amazon which was a surprise.

The troll I’m not mentioning on my pen name blog at all. But I thought I would mention it here because if you go into publishing of any sort, it’s bound to happen. I guess I hit some sort of magic visibility to get one this month. I don’t get on Goodreads very much because I haven’t figured out how to get tranction there. It seemed time was better spent elsewhere. But VH was selling so well, I decided to do a google search for VH to see if there were any reviews for it. My Goodreads author page came up and my rating had totally tanked.

I logged on and saw that every book of mine had recieved a one star rating with no review by the same person. Even a book published in 2014 by Jupiter Gardens that I don’t think has sold a copy since opening day. I clicked on the account and saw that they’d reviewed over 16,000 books with the average rating of 1 star. This had to be a troll. I contacted Goodreads about it Sunday night and still have not heard back from them. I will keep you posted. They are owned by Amazon and Amazon has really cracked down on false reviews to the point of erasing legitimate ones, so I’ll be interested to see what happens.

This turned out to be a much longer post than I had planned. I hope eveybody had a great Thanksgiving. I hope you’re smashing through your writing goals! See you Friday for Spark Tally. I have a lot of writing to do!





Economy of Settings


This isn’t really writing advice—just me rambling a bit.

My son is a thespian. We’ve been having more and more discussions about the craft of acting. He noticed in sitcoms that there aren’t many sets. It was most obvious during his brief stint of watching Cheers. The only set in the first season is the front of the bar. Viewers might get a glimpse of the back room that first season, but pretty much the bar is it.

Of course it’s cheaper to have just one set. You keep the cost of labor and materials down. But is something else going on?

When I was writing my recent novel, I found myself not wanting to introduce anymore new settings after the middle of the book. I’d think of a scene and then reject it because it would be at a totally new place for the reader. I thought that was strange. It costs me nothing but time and energy to create a new set. Was I being lazy? Maybe.

In my fantasy books, I love creating new sets. And it’s pretty standard for fantasy. You have a character. She goes on a quest. She encounters new characters and new places as she goes. There’s even a sort of pattern: home that she has to leave, scary place where she gets hurt, idyllic place where she heals, more scary places that get worse and worse until she ends up in the terrifying lair of the villain.

So I know I’m not lazy about settings when I write fantasy. Why in contemporary fiction did I shut down my settings?

I’ve decided on two reasons: familiarity for the reader and character economy.

When you see the bar at Cheers or the bar in How I met Your Mother or the living room in The Big Bang Theory, you are instantly drawn to a certain frame of mind. You have expectations of comfort, or humor or feeling like you are where everybody knows your name. By limiting the settings in a book, I think a writer can foster those sorts of expectations: Oh we’re back at the coffee house now, the characters are getting a break. Or she’s at her job now, something bad is going to happen. And you can surprise the reader by mixing up the expectations.

In a way, settings can become a character of the book. Which means, they should have some of the same rules. Having Julie as my editor, I know that I’m going to write in characters that eventually get cut or have their stories trimmed. No matter how tight I think the story is, it’s going to happen. There are several famous writers out there who could use Julie as their editor. Having a massive cast of characters is not always a good thing. She’s never cut one of my settings, but I think that was going on in the back of my mind during this last book– “We’re half way through the book, do we really need to go to Putt-Putt?”

What do you guys think? Do you like to drag your characters around to wherever because that’s part of the fun, or do you focus on keeping only a few places for your characters to visit?

Self Publishing or Small Press?

I know most of my readers are going the Big Publishing House route, and that’s fantastic. But if any of you are debating small press or do it yourself, you might find this helpful.

Advantages of small press:

1. They take on all the costs of editing, cover design, formatting and publicity. If you’re broke, going with small press is very compelling because then you’re not out of pocket. I have yet to make back the cost of covers on any of my books, I’m sure that includes the ones published at a small press, though they might get better prices than I do. I also am fortunate that my editor and publicist work on a percentage of what I make. When I make it big, so will they, but right now they are making nothing :(

2. They take on all the time of editing, cover art design, formatting, publicity and uploading. Self-publishing takes a huge amount of time. I just thought I would be writing, writing, writing. I did not realize how time consuming filling out the cover art forms, uploading the books, designing the Call to Actions with all the right links, blogging consistently, tweeting consistently, Facebooking consistently would be. Small presses take care of a lot of that, though the blogging, tweeting, etc. is still on your shoulders. Uploading is a bear. Smashwords in particular is very finicky and I’ve spent near a whole week dealing with their grinder and I’m still not 100% published there.

Advantages of Self-publishing:

Complete control.

Really, control is the main reason to do it yourself, and I think it’s worth it. Yeah, I’ve spent a ton of time last week linking all my books together as I continue to put out new episodes for my serial, but as I mentioned last week, I’m finally starting to see a trickle of sales. I feared after I posted last week, it would stop, but it’s continuing! If the trickle continues, maybe I can turn it into a stream. I have to keep producing. I have to keep spending the time uploading and linking, but this way, my books don’t stagnate.

Another part of control is pricing. A small press sets the price, and that’s pretty much it. The book never goes on sale unless the vendors put it on sale or unless the small press decides to put their catalog on sale. But I can lower or raise my prices and experiment to see what works. I can put books in a bundle if I want for a limited time and try and get new readers that way. Really, whatever tricks I come up with, I can give a try. Because I have nothing more to lose.

Except time. I do have to be careful that publishing doesn’t take over my life.