Family Matters

            Okay, this is probably some super niche advice but what else am I here for? Can’t write the same blog posts everyone else is doing! Come let Auntie Helen give you some advice: Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Just kidding. That’s not it. Although Princess Bride has never steered me wrong before… The advice is “make your characters a family tree.”

            Speaking as someone who has at least 18 greats aunts and uncles, four grandpas, cousins from Sweetwater County Wyoming, to Goshen County Wyoming, Texas to Australia , family is not an easy thing to keep track of. Your imaginary friends probably don’t have a neat and tidy little family tree either. It has helped me so much to keep track of the Gishlan royal bloodline.

            Starting with War and Chess… Well we know that Princess Amethyst is King Alabaster’s daughter, right? Well who were Amethyst mother’s parents? And their parents before them? More importantly who were King Alabaster’s parents and where did they come from? And those people? And the people before them? Wait! Didn’t Helen casually mention something about writing about Amethyst’s granddaughters? Who did they come from? Who did she marry? Who did her children marry? It is impossible to keep track of it all in your head. Don’t try it.

            I found this nice little website that won’t ask too many questions or try to link you back to census records─ which is great if your friends are real! But in this case they’re not. No one can see your family tree unless you invite them too and they don’t get too upset if you character’s great aunt ran off with the duke of Flim Flam because she couldn’t handle the pressure of being queen. They even have a space with biography notes where you can write that! And if you have art/fanart/concept art there’s a place for that too! This wonderful website I’m pushing so hard is called Family Echo.

            Definitely make yourself a login so you can save your work! I credit this site with giving me fodder for the next Gishlan books! There’s about 15 generations between Princess Amethyst and the first queen of Gishlan. That’s a whole lot of people to write about. Currently, in my head, Amethyst’s great granddaughter has two kids. So. Many. People.

            Having a mapped out family tree is especially important to me because the way dates work in Gishlan is by season/day/dynasty as compared to month/day/year. So for example War and Chess would have taken place on a day like Spring, 15th day, Alabaster. I toyed with a book for a while that was all a servant girl’s diary. Dates where especially important then. I can’t have characters walking into an abandoned house to find a rumpled up old diary if I can’t figure out who should’ve been the ruling power at the time. I’m telling you, map out your character’s family tree.

            Even if you’re writing that one weird orphan who becomes the chosen one. No one comes out of thin air. Someone had to raise them too. You can either pay homage to their parents or show respect to their biological parents by including them. Even if you don’t use the information in the book it’s something you know about them. Genetics are a powerful thing. I’m pretty sure I have personality traits similar to my great great grandfather.

            And really, reading V.C. Andrews’ [the real V.C. Andrews] Flowers in the Attic series I had to stop and make myself a family tree just so I could keep them all straight. I mean, that one’s gross but it was relevant to what I was doing. If you want to incorporate inbreeding in your fictional story you’re going to need a family tree. (I will only judge you silently.) Your readers might appreciate one too. Even if you want to bring on the main character’s distant cousin of their aunt’s uncle (I’ve got family like that) you need to have it plotted out in your head where they fit. Don’t expect yourself to just carry that around in your brain.

            Making a family tree will help you get to know your main character a lot better, and who knows! Something more may come out of it! Like an entire series of books following the family around! *COUGH* Let it flow, let it fly, Family Echo is my go-to.

As always, if there’s something I haven’t covered that you’d like me to leave me a note! Don’t forget to hit subscribe! Comment and say hi! Don’t be a stranger!

How To Donate Your Book to a Library

            Having worked for James Bond’s library I have up close and personal experience with the subject. But every library is different so I turned to the Library Think Tank – #ALATT on Facebook. One of the biggest groups of librarians online. I asked them what’s their process for accepting donations from indie authors. (You’re not James Patterson. I promise.)

            The short answer: Don’t.

            If you’re afraid to have your feelings hurt you can stop reading right here. Otherwise, I’m going to hurt your feelings.

  • Build a connection with your library.

The library you visited on vacation and casually decided to gift them a copy of your book is more likely to put it in the book sale rather than on the shelves. Your local library, where people know you, and actually like you are more likely to support you. People in your hometown want to read your book but some folks just don’t have the cash to get their own copy. Your local librarians understand this. If they think there’s patrons that want to read your book they will be twice as likely to actually put it in the connection.

DO NOT just buy a copy of your own book from Amazon and ship it to the library without a note. It’s a sure fire way to make a librarian go “What’s this? Hmm. Weird.” Then toss it in the cart that runs over to the book sale without a second thought. I’ve seen that happen more than once.

  • Get reviews.

Yes. Even if you and the librarian have matching friendship bracelets you need to get reviews. Preferably from people who don’t like you. Or just don’t know you! Embracing the stranger danger is probably best in this case!

Why? Because librarians have a lot to do and don’t feel like reading your book in their personal time. (I told you I’d hurt your feelings.) Personal time is when you can read Chuck Tingle if you want to! Or fan fiction! They want to read the reviews at work and see if it’s a good fit for the library’s collection. Also, the librarian you’re friends with might not be the librarian in charge of acquisitions.  The folks in cataloging get the final say. That’s their entire job. And if they can’t quickly discern if your book fits the collection they’re going to set it aside with every intention of cataloging it later. Later could very well mean never.

  • You gave a gift. Don’t pester them.

You remember that time your aunt gave you that weird bowl with cats painted all over it, and she got mad you didn’t fill it with Orange Fluff and bring it to Christmas? But you still had it. It was just in your house holding out of season fruits you paid too much money for? And then because she made a big deal out of it you started resenting it and now it sits in your cupboard holding other bowls? Yeah. That’s what happens if you call them up twice a week and ask if your book is on the shelf yet. That’s the trickiest part of gifts. When you give someone a gift they’re under no obligation to use it. Hopefully they like it. Don’t be your mean aunt.

  • Build a quality book.

First, turn to page 101 in War and Chess. Now click this link. This is why I don’t deserve a PS5. Out of all the book signings I’ve had, and all the places I’ve been to, there are five places in the world that have my book. All of them are in Wyoming.

Get yourself a good copy editor, an ISBN, and there are a lot of libraries that absolutely require your book be translated in English. America has no official language but English seems to be the most common tongue. If your book has type-os, ugly cover art that doesn’t match the story, disturbing imagery for the target audience─ There was one librarian who told me a story about reading a book about the tooth fairy to her story time kids. It was written by a local author. But what made it memorable was the tooth fairy ripping off her face in the end. That story time group is in middle school now but they still pop in and complain about their shared trauma.─ all of these little things will prevent your book from entering a public library’s collection.

            Last of all, you need to understand that your book might not make it in. Every library is different. Some libraries have an acquisitions board! Some libraries are prepared for you and have instructions on their websites! But you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The real trick to getting your book in a library is putting in the time and work, and making a good book. There’s more to books than plot. If you do make it in understand you’re lucky and always say thank you.

Join me next year for a whole new bundle of blog posts! Don’t forget to subscribe so you won’t miss a thing. Thank you for all your support. You reading this means you helped me achieve my goals of keeping a monthly blog for one year! Thank you! As always, if you’ve got questions, something I didn’t address yet, or you just want to say “Hi” go visit that Contact tab off to the left. I practically live on social media! Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, Happy Hanukkah, and New Years! (We survived!) Be blessed.

Boo! It’s the Fear of Failure

I have to share something truly scary with you guys: I want to give up.

That’s right. I said it. I want to turn around and dump all of this off. I want to unload every single piece I’ve written, my life’s work, online for free so someone will read it and love it. Maybe Wattpad? I am tired.

No hard feelings, of course, but the press I was in a gentleman’s agreement with and I decided it would be best if my books and I moved on back in July. It’s like a breakup. Even if you were unhappy and it was just not working it still hurts. And yeah, much like a breakup, I wish them well and hope they get all the happiness this world has to offer too. But still, it’s about as disheartening as a punch in the jaw. (Actually, a punch in the jaw would make me incredibly angry but that’s beside the point!)

Like I started off saying, I just want someone to love my books as much as I love them. I’ve spent 10 friggin’ years in Gishlan. This October will make it official! I am, in all seriousness, thinking about self-publishing my Gishlan series. Which, is something I promised myself I’d never do because self-publishing is great for hobbyists! More power to ya! But this is so much more than a hobby to me. My itty bitty vegetable garden is a hobby, my Etsy shop is a hobby, making memes in Facebook groups is a hobby. My writing is not a hobby.

You know what’s easier than rounding up all the freelancers I’ve been working with for the past five years and tapping my foot impatiently at them while we try to meet some fancy smancy deadline I made up? Giving up.

I could just drop it. Never talk about it. I could swear off writing (even though I actually can’t because I get this weird itch under my skin when I don’t write and BLEH!) I could just let this skill set I’ve been working on since I started elementary school get rusty, let the stories die inside of me, never make another blog post, get out of the game. I could.

But why? Why sacrifice that year I lived off of the royalties and revenue from War and Chess? Or all those hours where I broke my back over an antique kitchen chair as I typed out 40,000+ words during a global pandemic? Or that time when I was 17 and I gave a nice lady with eyelids that reminded me of butterflies $10 to read my fortune at a street fair, and she told me “I don’t think you’ll publish your book. I know you will. Kick some ass.”? Why would I let go of that time I was first world starving in my first apartment, pressing 700 shirts a week, wondering if anything good would come of my life or if I’d just pay bills and slowly rot away, but instead one March day I got email a contract for War and Chess? I coyote howled all the way to the grocery store where I bought sparkling grape juice I couldn’t really afford because I was 19 and wasn’t legal to drink yet. Why would I let any of it go?

The fear of failure. That’s why.

This is friggin’ terrifying. Here I am pouring my heart out to you guys in fiction, and someone who doesn’t even read young adult fantasy could just come up and “I don’t like it.”, give it one star on Amazon, and “It needs more romance.” Or not even that! War and Chess has been rejected 25 times and Tales from the Gishlan Wood has been rejected 26 times. Both pieces could never meet the right publisher! And what about the other two books on my desk? They just go inside of my coffee table which is a trunk containing manuscripts? I could completely fail.

But you know what? War and Chess has been accepted by indie presses twice, and Tales from the Gishlan Wood has been offered three different contracts. I just feel that it’s important to find the right publisher where we, me as an author, and them as a press, can mutually benefit each other. And as for books three and four: one day one of my friends will ask “OH! Is this the one with the pregnant lady who swears a lot?! Yass!” and somewhere out there, there is a little girl who is really excited to see her mermaid book in print. Even just to read it! (Because I only just did the first draft editing and she watched me write it from afar.) I firmly believe there are people out there who need these stories and I want to do it in a way that can reach the most people. And if that’s not it, then I’m sure people need the story of me wanting to give up because I’m so gawldarn tired of failing but then persevering. Even if that person isn’t a writer. My childhood heroes ran brothels. The sex industry just isn’t for me even though I respect the con craft. Some examples: 1, 2, 3.

What’s catastrophic failure to the owner of a brothel? The church shuts your practice down? Dell Burke offered to shut down the power plant for them if they dared. For me catastrophic failure would be amassing a fandom over the course of 20 years then saying a bunch of narrow minded garbage that defames a certain group. *Looks into camera* So why not give myself that chance and keep working?

Don’t sweat. I’m currently querying agents because I obviously can’t find the right publisher on my own. Don’t get me wrong! I’ve worked with good people! We’re just not right for each other. I’m not giving up and neither should you!

These things take time. And it’s about as much as having bamboo shoved under your fingernails then lit on fire. Go for your goals! Battle that dragon! Lay siege to that castle! Pick one that the beefeaters aren’t guarding. I don’t want to see you die. Learn a new language! Travel the world [when it’s safe to do so]! Write your bleedin’ book. Publish your bleedin’ book! Whatever you came here hoping I would tell you to do! Do the thing!

And please continue to follow my career so I can disappoint you, as all heroes do eventually. *Whispers* except you, Dell. You’re perfect.

Happy Halloween! Come back next month for NaNoWriMo is Weird. And as always don’t be a stranger. Contact button is to your left, comments are below. Would love to hear from ya!

Find What Motivates You

            Oh jeeze. Here we go… In October of 2019 I made a bet with my best friend. Every time we have dinner together we go back and forth about the novels we’re writing. More than once I’ve finally broken through writers block by talking my entire story through with her. But this woman… This woman whom I love like I love the sun, can never seem to finish writing one of her books.

            She constantly makes jokes about it too! So I only feel slightly horrible for throwing out the “I love her but…” again. (Das toxic. Don’t talk about your friends like dat.) Well, this gorgeous, dear, beloved friend o’ mine who happens to be a sun goddess, kept telling me about this fantasy novel she was working on. It involved the female heir of ancestral magic, born to common wealth, who needed to reopen a one hundred year old city she had no idea existed, and an evil king who wanted all that magic and power for himself. It was epic.

            So I badgered her about it. “Can I read it?”

            “No! It’s more idea than book right now.”

            “Make it for me.”

            “I’m busy!”

            “Gib me buk!

            And she finally relented when we struck our bet. We bet on her drive. If she could finish writing the first draft of this book before October 31st at midnight she could give the raunchiest, nastiest, sexiest, speech at my wedding. The kind that would make a sailor blush. And I would not be allowed to ring her neck.

            For the entire month of October we were like Sarah and Jareth from Labyrinth. Every day, “How’s my book coming along?”

            “Shut up you, @#$%! %^&*!

            “You know, I win either way. I either get to read the book or my mother never has to know what I’m into.”

            “Oh. She’ll know. Everyone at your wedding will know.”

            It got especially bad on Halloween. Every time I got a break at work I was all “In 9 hours and 23 minutes, you’ll be mine!”

            I just so happened to be up at midnight. So I texted her to gloat. “I win. No ratchet speech for you!”

            And my golden ray of sunshine says to me  “*Yawn* Oh, our bet? I finished writing three hours ago.” then promptly emailed me a full length manuscript to prove she wasn’t lying. I quickly sped through 150+ pages of awesome to make sure there wasn’t filler pages of “ffffffffffff” or quotes from medieval monks like “By God, it’s finished. Get me a drink.” It was 150 pages of story.

            I have never been so happy to lose a bet in all my life.

            I was so excited I even made a vague Instagram post celebrating her! She did it! And now, unfortunately, I am going to show you all what a real blushing bride looks like on her wedding date. Now all’s that’s left is to find a good man with strong teeth and a compatible kidney.

            What I’m telling you you need to do is find what motivates you. (Aw look. Here’s where the title makes sense!) Set your eyes on a goal! Maybe you wanna get interviewed by Oprah! Maybe you want to get the bloody book out of your head because it’s just taking up too much space! Maybe you want to make a raunchy speech at your best friend’s wedding! I don’t know your life! Just set your eyes on the goal and go for it, then give yourself a reward if and when you get there. You know what I get for finishing this blog post? A piece of pie. I’m feelin’ rhubarb.

            There is nothing wrong with setting rewards for yourself. Sticker from the sticker box? Interview with Oprah? Dinner out? (I’m told you shouldn’t use food to reward yourself but I’m already dummy thicc. It’s too late for me.) That shirt you’ve been eyeballing from The Cute Store downtown? Motivate yourself! Sometimes the achievement of the goal itself just isn’t enough. Sometimes you need to promise yourself a reward for getting there. Now if you’ll excuse me, that pie and I have a pressing appointment…

Join me next month for Boo! It’s the Fear of Failure. As always, if I haven’t covered something you need drop me a line! There’s a “Contact” tab on the left hand of your screen.

Quality Matters

I’ve got one major pet peeve that will make me drop a good author like a hotcake. Not just the one book. My whole endorsement of their career. I’ll give you a hint… It has to do with the title… That’s right! The quality of their writing!

It affects writers in all stages of their careers. Indies, hobbyists, NY Times Best Sellers, anyone. When a writer sacrifices the quality of their work for putting the piece out there, their careers suffer. I’ve seen some of my favorite series come to awful ends because the writers got tired of writing them. I’ve seen some potentially great indie stories fall flat because no one took the time to polish them up before they put them out there. Let me teach you how to combat that. 

If you’re worried that your fandom is going to be upset that you haven’t published anything new in a while: Babe. Please. I just figured out I can read a book a day. But the books you make will follow you for years. No pressure! What I’m saying is: Babe, babe! When your readers get your book they’re going to devour that sucker in a day. If you’re lucky they might read it twice! But what kind of book do you want to produce? A quick and dirty one that made them go “Wow. That wasn’t up to that author’s usual standard” or one that makes them go “Wow! That was so worth the wait!”

If you’re worried no one’s going to take you seriously because you only have one book on the shelves… or less: People are jerks and will work weekends and holidays to discredit you. (Ope. There it is.) Let them talk! But, make sure your books are the best that they can be before you put them on the shelves. Make sure your next publication sparkles like my freshly polished collection of trumpets! That’ll make their traps clap shut! And if you must publish your work to show you’re writing do it somewhere informal where you can still maintain control over where you work winds up. Try one of those story sharing apps. There’s a million of them. Even Goodreads has a section for original stories. I, personally, use Wattpad. And I can say, I have thrown some of my worst work on there just for a laugh!

What I’m trying to say is: Don’t choose creating a great quantity of writing for public consumption without making sure what you throw to the public is quality writing. By all means! Go make $h!t! Just don’t put $h!t on the shelf. You’ll win more readers making good books, than a ton of books. Go look at Harper Lee.

Join me in July for Go On Adventure to Increase Your Creativity

Don’t Let the Lovers Get You Down

*Honks on party horn!* Happy Valentine’s Day! And happy birth-month to yours truly! Let’s talk about love, lust and paradise. By this point all the candy hearts and pink are probably about to drive you crazy.

If you’re in a relationship you’re probably like “Oh. This is the month where we pretend everything is fine, requires no effort, we’re just going to flaunt each other to our friends and HOLY POOP ON A STICK WHY IS AN IPHONE A VALENTINE’S DAY PRESENT NOW?!” And if you’re not… Well… I’ll just leave you where you are in fetal position wrapped around an empty box of chocolates. Yeah, I see you, boo.

So what does our respective relationship statuses have to do with our writing this month? It’s the pressure of having romance rubbed in your face at every turn! You’re thinking about romance and it’s seeping into your writing. Is your main character (MC) a strong independent person who don’t need no other half? Oh. Wait. Now they’ve found their perfect foil and receive g’luck kisses before they march off to the war. Oof.

Your inherit, perfectly valid, universal, need to be loved is seeping into your writing. Search your feelings. You know it to be true. [Excluding romance writers] don’t let your main character’s love life completely derail the plot.

Once upon a time I was reading this really kick buns young adult (YA) novel where the female MC was like “Oh gosh! We have to save both of my parents from the bad guy or else I’m going to be an orphan! I already grew up in that classic Disney situation where I was raised by my father!”

And her boyfriend said “What are we?”

“Excuse me?”

“What are we?”

“Philosophically?”

Then he huffed off to be angsty elsewhere while she tried to plot how to save her relationship rather than her parents. Meanwhile, I felt like I was standing there going “Um, my dude, aren’t your parents about to be sacrificed hideously before a pagan alter or something?”

Because he went to be angsty down a dark alley she had to save his buns too. You know. Just before her parents. Who were on a tight schedule. To die. Probably before her boyfriend. Because, teenage girls in fantasy novels don’t understand task management, apparently…

Anyhow, as a reader, I found it terribly unsatisfying. The author completely derailed the plot for romance. I felt like they could have had that fight just after they attempted to save the parents. You know. The main plot of the book? Or even while dangling above a pool of sharks! Because they had a wee set back on the way to victory.

What I’m trying to spit out is, don’t follow a sub-plot because you’re emotional about your relationship status. (Unless of course, you’re a romance writer and that is your plot. Then you follow that plot, son of Eros!) Romance is great. But it’s a lot like ranch dressing. It enhances the flavor. No one wants to drink ranch dressing [even though every Midwesterner has tried it at least once]. Don’t let it get away from you now or you’ll have to restructure in editing.

Tune in next month for “Submit Your Work Even If You Don’t Feel Lucky”

Introducing: Me!

Hello, and welcome. I guess you could say this is my new year’s resolution. To start a blog about writing. Why should you be taking advice from a village girl in Wyoming? Because I have insight that you can’t find in text books.


As well as the author of The Gishlan Series, I was a librarian. For the past two years I had been writing and running a blog about writing for my former employer. My former employer no longer requires that piece of my services so I am free to blog under my own volition. My former employer wishes to stay out of my work life, and likewise, I prefer to keep my former employer out of my “author life”. Because fiction is so much more fun than reality… I worked for the library at a top secret spy agency. I am where James Bond goes to get his James Pattersons. I know my way around the book world!


For at least the next 11 months I want to encourage you to keep writing, put yourself out there, open your mind to new ways of thinking, and well… Since we have established I worked for a top secret spy library that wishes to remain anonymous we can have a little bit more fun! Sex, drugs, and rock and roll!


As always, if you have questions, comments, requests, etc. Smash that “contact” button off on the left side of your screen and drop me an email. Now that I’ve introduced myself tune in next month for “Don’t Let the Lovers Drive You Crazy”.