Character Interview: Cole Balain

I’ve decided to change how I do my character interviews. I want to show you the character you won’t read in the book, the character outside of doing…heroic stuff. Let’s get deep, let’s get dirty, let’s get real. I’m going to ask Cole a variety of questions and he’ll answer. And away we go!

  1. Favorite Color: Hmm…does it have to be a color? How about steel? That’s sort of a color. So simple, so real. 
  2. Favorite Food: Well that is easy. I love meat. Particularly meat with potatoes. Ooo with some gravy. Does this all count as one food?
  3. If you were an animal, what animal do you think you’d be? An animal…an animal…I don’t know. Maybe something like a wolf? Ugh, this is a stupid question, next!
  4. A man just stole something from a stall. What do you do? A guy just stole something? Well that depends. Did anyone else see him? Was he a beggar? Do we know why he stole something? Do we know what he stole? Without all the details, I can’t say. If you want to assume it’s a common thug, then I’d chase him, obviously.  But turning him in…that depends on those details.
  5. Views on religion: Oh boy, now we’re getting deep. No one wants to know this about me. *Sigh* Okay, I think religion is great for those who need it. I think if it makes you feel better that someone is watching you, that someone has a plan, that things happen for a reason, then you should think that. But as far as what I believe? I believe there is a lot of suffering and a lot of pain in this world. I believe if there is something to believe in, we haven’t found it yet or things wouldn’t be so screwed up. I believe if there was truly something greater, there wouldn’t be so many mixed opinions on it. We’d all be in the same school of thought. Until then, we’re just grasping at anything and naturally everyone has a different opinion.
  6. Your most embarrassing moment: Embarrassing moment? You realize I’m the masculine hunk, right? Mighty’s sake, let’s see. Embarrassing moment…embarrassing moment…Oh, okay.  Once while I was training, I must have been about nine or so, this girl came to watch us train. She was cute and dainty and I liked that once. But I wasn’t trained long and hardly had any experience with a sword. I sliced at the dummy but then I couldn’t get it out. I finally pulled so hard, the sword released and smacked me right in the forehead. Knocked me out cold. I woke up a day later in the infirmary. There, you happy? You’ve opened up old wounds.
  7. Favorite thing about the opposite sex: Ladies, eh? Hmm…what won’t make me look like a prick? You’re setting me up, Shelby, I swear it. Favorite thing…I like the way they look at the world. Laugh all you want but it’s truly fascinating. They see things so differently. They are gentle, they want to understand, they want to love every little thing. They think things through, over think them till they’re blue in the cheeks. It’s amazing to me and I can’t help but love that about them. Also, their hips.

Thank you, Cole! I hope everyone enjoyed seeing a side of Cole. Get to know more about him in my book, From the Ashes, to be published May 3rd. If you are interested in an advance copy in exchange for an honest review, contact me!
More questions for Cole? Leave me a comment!

How to Pick A Book Series Title

Who would have thought the name of a series would be so difficult? A title that must encompass the entire journey of your series. It wasn’t as hard as the title, but it was pretty difficult. I had batted around several ideas…but Legend of the Liberator was perfect. 

So how did I come to that conclusion? And how can you come up with your own perfect series title?  Here are some questions to ask yourself.

1. Do you want Series/Chronicles/Saga/Epic in the title? I had to think long and hard about this. It really does change the way your book comes across. If you don’t care, don’t include it in your title. If you just want it “The Life of Peon Hopeless Series” then drop “series” because it is automatically added when necessary. Your book will say “The Life of Peon Hopeless, Book One: A Miserable Beginning” and it will be referenced with “series” already attached. But if you think Saga or Chronicles makes the title, then add it. Something to consider…

2.Do you want it to be simply the name of book one
Some books don’t have a series name. Either they didn’t intend on it being a series, didn’t remember to assign a series title, or they just wanted the series to be easy to remember. If you can remember the name of book one, you can find the rest, such as *shudder* Twilight and The Hunger Games. FYI–I did some research into what people prefer it was a resounding vote for having a separate series names. It also helps search results! So it’s my conclusion to go ahead and give it an overall series name. Everything to help search results is great! 

3. Do you want it to be the main name of every book with a subtitle for each new book? 
This is an option I’ve seen quite a bit of. I’m not partial to it because at first glance it looks like each book has the same name and therefore, at least for me, easily skipped over as “alternate/old covers.” The exception is if you have the main title smaller, with the subtitle quite large. You’ve seen this before too, even if it wasn’t a book. Star Wars ring a bell? Each of them are Star Wars: such and such. Episode V Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, etc. It’s not called the Star Wars series. It’s have you seen Star Wars? Right? Right! But if you’ve seen the covers of these movies *gasp! VHS!* then you’ll notice the subtitle was quite large. So this is an option as well.

4. Does it summarize the theme of the book and give people an idea of larger story and what they are in for? 
If my book title is “Blood that Drips” and my series title is “The Naughty Little Pixie” then people will know what the whole series is about. This is good. If it’s about a naughty little pixie and not a vicious monster, they need to know upfront lest you get a very angry customer. Likewise, if my series title was “The Success and Failure of a Huntsman” then they could assume this is a series about the follies, life lessons and little moments of joy of a simple huntsman. It sells the entire series, not just book one. If your book title failed at “Woodchips Flock Together” but they fell in love with the series title, you may have made a sale. This is another way to sell your work. Be honest and try to really summarize the whole story. Make sure you don’t lead people on with series names that evoke one thing but deliver another. 

5. Do you love it as much as the title? Is it better? 
You are stuck with this series name for much longer than just a book. You better absolutely adore it. You better love repeating it a million times. You better love seeing it everywhere. You better love having that associated with your name.

6. Does it go with your individual book titles? 
If the title is “Blood that Drips,” perhaps a good series title is “As the World Flows” or “Blood’s Passage”. They should go hand in hand like peanut butter and honey. (Yes honey. Jam is gross.) So that way it reads “Bloods Passage , book one: Blood that Drips” and it works beautifully. Or my own example “Legend of the Liberator, book  one: From the Ashes” works well because the legend, or journey, has to have a beginning. Therefore, the beginning is From the Ashes. It works. But this works because my series is literally the legend of my character so just because your book follows a character, doesn’t mean you should call it Legend of Alyssa because that just doesn’t fit. 

7. Do you have the entire series mapped out?
Have the entire series mapped out. This includes all the titles as well as the whole story. If you don’t know where the story ends then you don’t know what the journey entails. If you don’t know what the books will encompass, you can’t give the entire series a name. Plan these things first!

8. Ask for feedback!
It doesn’t hurt to get input. I had to ask my editor, my husband, my cover designer, my coworkers until I could make a decision. The same with my titles for the books. A fresh eye can do wonders! 

But wait, Shelby! I don’t know how to summarize my entire series into a title! Calm down, have a cookie. Here is a little exercise to get the ball rolling. 

1. Summarize the entire series into a few pages. 
2. Summarize those few pages into a paragraph.
3. Now summarize that paragraph into one line. I know this is going to be super hard! It’s not just taking the words and saying it in less.  Notice I didn’t say “shorten/minimize,” I said summarize. 
4. Now it’s really hard. Summarize that one line into 5 or less words. Can you shorten it any further? Now this isn’t your title, or maybe it is! Say your line is “Alyssa the pony’s journey to become the best horse and win the grand race.” Okay so it’s not worthy of a full series, but I couldn’t spoil my own series 😉 That could be summarized into “Alyssa strives to win.” That is not a title. Yuck. But it gives you a starting point. Change it into “Breaking the Reins.” Does that still say “Alyssa the pony’s journey to become the best horse and win the grand race?” I think it does. It summarizes her attitude, her struggle, her greatest goal and what she’ll eventually do. That was a fake book and it came pretty darn easy. It won’t always be that easy. 

Do you have any tips to share? A method you use when it comes to selecting a book/series title? Need help picking  one? I’d love to give my feedback, for whatever that’s worth! 

Advanced Review Copies for From the Ashes

It’s that time already! From the Ashes is being edited and will be ready for its first readers next month!! I’m taking names for people willing to review From the Ashes when it is released. You will receive the book (in desired format) most likely at the end of next month and will have 3 months to read the book before posting an *honest* review on the date of release, at any review site (Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Blog, iTunes, etc). It’s your chance to try a new fantasy series for FREE! Can’t beat that! Have friends that love to read? Tell them about it! This is a four-book series in the making. If you’ve been waiting for From the Ashes, and don’t mind leaving a review, let me know! Leave a comment, hit the contact me button or email me at and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

Back Copy:
For eighteen years, Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she’s filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But underneath, she’s struggled to keep her dangerous gift a secret. Aia is a Bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.
When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions to those closest to her, Aia’s facade shatters. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.
Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of the Tharien. To do anything would require accepting what she is. Can she risk becoming the monster she’s dreaded in order to save those she loves?

From the Ashes Gone to Editor

The day is finally here! I’ve sent From the Ashes to my editor, with a peck on its cheek and a packed lunch in its hand. It will do much maturing whilst away from me. Yep…you can tell I’ve watched too much Reign as I’m sick in bed this week. Lovely. I suppose it could have been my body telling me it’s time for a break after charging full steam ahead. Read ya loud n’ clear body. Taking a break. Sort of…

Anyhow, Among the Flames is now being reworked to include changes I’ve made in From the Ashes. I am battling with what POVs and Subplots I want in Among the Flames. I hadn’t intended for one of my protagonists to keep his POV in book 2 and beyond. Mainly because his goal was over, his conflict solved, his fears realized, etc. There was no real point. Until I remembered that not all POV’s are subplots necessarily. So he may get his day in Among the Flames yet, I haven’t decided. I may see anger from my readers if they suddenly lose him.

The goal this month is to get most of Among the Flames first draft written. That would be easier if I wouldn’t keep adding and twisting and finagling the outline.  By the way, what is with it already being November?? I can’t even think about it. Off to celebrate by milestone with a sinus infection and tearing my hair out as I plan Among the Flames. Yippee!

3 Reasons to Set A Novel Deadline

So you went the indie route. Great! Among other things, it means no agent breathing down your neck to finish by your publishing deadline. Fantastic, right? WRONG!

How do traditional published authors pump out so many books so quickly? They have strict deadlines. But they also have someone on their back making sure that deadline stays put. As indies, we don’t have that. Unless you have a writing partner and you whip each other into shape. But writers are generally solitary creatures. And unless you are co-authoring a book, then you write alone. So, who is there to get on your back?

You know the answer. YOU! *dang it!*

Along with being writer, publisher, cover-designer, editor, public relations and marketing (with the help of a select few: namely cover designer and editor), you are now your own lit agent. Which means you have to set hard deadlines for yourself.

“But is it really necessary?” you may ask? No. It isn’t. Unless you want to publish your book, or multiple books.
Take it from me, no deadline=no book. It was only when I said “Alright, Shelby. This first draft will be finished by the end of this month” did I actually push myself. And guess what? That draft was finished by the deadline. But if I didn’t set that deadline, it wouldn’t have happened. It would have come after dishes, after working out, after painting my nails, after grocery shopping, etc. It would never have been a priority. But with a deadline, I treated it like homework. It was worked every day, more if I skipped a previous day or anticipated being busy the next day.

Here are my Top 3 Reasons to Set a Writing Deadline:

1. Ensures consistent writing. Without a deadline, I would go days, weeks, months without writing. It would be pushed to the back burner, fall off the to-do list and plain forgotten. It wasn’t valued. By setting a deadline, especially if it’s a challenging one, I was forced to make time to write. Every day. Resulting in more consistent writing. I don’t know about you, but my writing style changes from year to year, and if it doesn’t change gradually, your novel is going to look like it’s been written by two different people. You can’t let a massive amount of time pass between starting and finishing. Get it done and be consistent.

2.  Pushes yourself. Write an entire draft in 1 month. Sound impossible? How do you know until you try? Maybe you only think writing a novel takes years and years. Newsflash: most books are written in a year. Some in even less time! My first book was done over 3 years! 3 years! That’s insane! My writing was inconsistent, I kept forgetting about it, and I became discouraged that it was taking so long. If you don’t push yourself, it WILL take forever. Setting a deadline requires you to test your limits, push yourself and see what you truly are capable of. It’s like working out (or so I’ve heard). If you’re like me and only do a few situps a month, odds are you’ll feel that getting in shape is impossible! But if you do five a day one week, then push yourself to ten a day the next week, and so on and so forth, guess what? You’re going to learn you are quite capable of getting in shape and in less time. So set a deadline you may think is impossible. Then try? Who knows? I myself discovered I can write a new draft in two to three weeks. So my 3 year timeline for book one is down to about 1 now. Because I pushed myself.

3. Results. You want to see your book published right? You want to get on to the next story in your head? You want to shove the book at all your relatives who smiled politely when you told them you were a writer with no books published? Then you have to buckle down. Deadlines produce results. Period.

I know it sucks. I know it’s going to be hard. But it doesn’t have to be insane. Everyone is busy. Everyone. Set a deadline like…you’ll finish writing this chapter by the end of the week. Perhaps that would have happened even without the deadline. But guess what? With the deadline, it ensures it will. And you can be proud of yourself for meeting your goal. Any deadline is better than no deadline at all. Push yourself. You might be surprised.

What deadlines do you set for yourself? What deadlines are you going to set? Let me know!

7 Thing to Look For In Your Fiction Editor

So your book is finished. Maybe it’s your first, maybe it’s your fifth. Now you need an editor for your novel. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to use the same editor from book one and on, you need a new one. If you’ve never had one, you  need to find the perfect one for you and your book.

What do you look for? Here are my top 7 requirements:

  1. Testimonials: This is perhaps the biggest factor. These are other authors praising the editor you’re searching for. If you see one or two, this could be disturbing. Because it means either A) the editor doesn’t have much experience or B) they don’t have very good testimonials. So unless they are charging you very, very little, make sure they have a good lineup of previous work and some solid testimonials.
  2. Second Pass/Stages: I’ve looked. Not many editors offer a second read-through or do their edits in stages. If you can, you should really try to find one that does at least one of these. This is even more important if you are having them do developmental edits, content edits, and line edits. Those are all different levels of editing. Logically, they shouldn’t all be on the same draft. How can you “Tighten this scene” or “Develop the romance more” at the same time as fixing that dangling modifier? If you change something large, what you add will need to be edited, right? Likewise, if you have a ton of line edits on a page, it’s quite possible you may miss some or add in additional errors while correcting them. A second read through to ensure you fixed everything, as well as to make sure your editor didn’t miss anything, is beyond valuable.
  3. Pricing: This is all very opinionated. Ask anyone. Editors charge a very wide range of prices. First, find out what you can afford. And be generous. If you’re hoping to edit your 100k book for $300, think again. For the most part, you get what you pay for. For the most part. So if you do find an editor willing to do it for that little, odds are they don’t have much experience or education. That’s just the way it is. The price can vary widely, but stick to $0.006-$0.05, as those are the most common prices I’ve seen and they aren’t too low or insanely high. Personally, until I find an editor I want to stick with forever, I’m sticking to $0.01 or under for copy/line edits. Some charge more for developmental, some charge more for line edits. But no matter what, you should always feel comfortable with what you’ll be paying your editor. If you are uneasy, STOP! And remember, just because one charges $0.04 and one charges $0.008, it doesn’t mean the cheaper one does poor work. It could be because they want to help us poor indies. It could be becuase they love what they do. And the one charging more doesn’t mean they are better. It just means they charge more. So if you’re stuck between the two, obviously use this list as a guide, but let #4 show you who is really better.
  4. Sample edit: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS get a sample edit! Most editors offer a 2-10 page sample edit. If they offer less than 2 pages, I’d be wary. If they don’t offer one at all, I’d be even more wary. They should want to prove themselves and display how they operate. This will also put your mind at ease and you can compare sample edits to see who you feel can help you the most.
  5. Genre/Interest: Does your editor have experience in your genre? Or are they at least interested in your book? If they primarily do paranormal YA romance and you’re wanting them to edit a serial killer suspense book, do you think you’ll get the best help with your book? Or if they primarily edit fantasy and you give them a non-fiction book, do you think they’ll be interested at all in your work and give it the most time/thought? If they don’t do the genre, don’t fret. Find out if they rae at least interested. Perhaps they’ve never had the opportunity to edit that genre, but perhaps they read it all the time? The most important thing is that they WANT to work on your project.
  6. Teaching: Your editor should also be your teacher. They shouldn’t just fix your writing, they should point out problem areas and give you guidance on how to fix them. Your next book should be better, the book after that, even better. You shouldn’t be repeateing the same mistakes every time. If so, your editor is doing you a disservice and just wants to charge you more. A good editor wants to make you a better writer. It’s like a school teacher. They want to help you succeed because it reflects well on them and you’ll keep coming back. They don’t want to not teach you in hopes you’ll be held back and provide them with job security. So if you’ve been with the same editor for a while and you haven’t learned how to fix your big problem areas, consider his/her true value.
  7. Communication: Your editor is your partner in writing your book. Ask any bestselling author and they’ll tell you they’d be lost without their editor. In order to secure that strong bond, you need to feel like you can communicate with your editor. Do you feel your emails are an annoyance or a welcome teaching opportunity? Do you feel they are too formal or like you’re talking to a friend? Do your emails go days without a response or do you get it the same day? I personally HAVE to have an editor who is like a friend. I ask a LOT of questions. So I need to feel like I’m no an annoyance.
    8. Humble: If your editor thinks they are the sh** and you don’t need any other sets of eyes to look over your manuscript a final time (ie Proofreader) then you should pause. Most editors should end up reading your work at least twice. By then they are too close to your work for the final proofread. If they include the proofread with all the other edits, stay far away! If they offer to do the final proofread at the end, pause. I learned this the hard way. Go for a seperate proofreader who hasn’t read your work yet. If your editor thinks they are the best and don’t encourage you to seek other eyes, you should wonder.

So…you may be wondering if I’ve found such an editor? Well I have just secured a relationship with one but she, for the time, shall remain nameless until our first edit, but I will add her name once I’ve confirmed every step. But let’s just say, so far, with only the sample, she has met EVERY one of these requirements. Stay tuned to find out who she is and if she continues to live up to my expectations! I’ll also be working with a new proofreader, so stay tuned for that name too! They’ll both be added to my Team page.

What about you? Do you have an editor you love? Recommend her/him below! If they’re awesome, get them some more work! What do you look for in your editor?

From the Ashes in Final Draft

I’m going to die.

Not really. But I want to.

Okay not really. But I feel like I am. I am working on the final draft of From the Ashes before it goes to my editor at the beginning of Nov. So not quite the final, final draft, but the last one I can fix myself.

And I just got back beta feedback. Oy.  I have a HUGE problem with my main character. So she is in need of a total makeover so she isn’t quite so…realistic. 🙂 So, unlike Shattered, where I only had a few minor tweaks to my book and could squeeze in the final edit, all in a month, this book is going to kill me. I only have a month. To do a laundry list of changes. Which is my fault. I did have quite a few betas. But that’s good. Lots of eyes means lots of feedback which means lots of improvements!

Lemme just say how I love my beta readers and would be utterly lost without them. They take their precious time to read my atrocious draft of a novel and are kind enough to slog through and tell me what a mess it is. That is pure selflessness. This feedback is hard to get and some of it is a treasure to get. And I have a problem. Many authors will tell you that you only need pay attention to the things they really had in common or you agree with. I’m a little different. Why? Because I’m of the mind that improvement is improvement. And even if something only bugged/stood out to one reader out of ten, it means it stands to bug 100 out of 1000. So I take into consideration every little thing my betas bring to my attention. Their feedback is anything but undervalued.

Yes, I could just do a few tweaks to my character to solve the issues. I could ignore the remarks from only one beta. I could. But in reality, I can’t. I wouldn’t be satisfied. So now what I anticipated was a week of small tweaks has become a few huge changes and lots and lots of little ones.

So that is where I am. Taking a few minutes to lament this career choice. I actually had to take time off my day job so I could squeeze in two full days of writing/editing this month. Lame.

But! On a positive note, I’ve got my new editor chosen! And I’m super close to picking my proofreader. And also, my cover is being designed by an up-and-coming cover designer and I can’t wait to brag about her and be her first book cover! So at least I’ve got a good balance of stress and relief. 🙂

Also, Among the Flames, book 2, has a solid outline/rough draft prepared. Each scene is planned and it is waiting to be written. Which *gulp* will be next month, when From the Ashes is being edited. Yep. Writing two books at the same time. I’m crazy.

Till next update! Hang in there with me!

Maps for World-Building Fantasy Novels

Fantasy novels take a lot of world-building. Part of that is the map. If you’re creating your own world, you need (as well as your reader, possibly) a map to keep confusion at bay. What if you wrote a book about traveling America but didn’t know the size, shape or organization of America? It would be confusing for most. To avoid confusion or just help immerse readers in your world, a map is a no-brainer and can be a great boon.

But how? Who creates a map? How do you create a map?

I did quite a bit of research into this. I was tempted to have someone on Fivver create a map for me. This is still a fantastic option and one in which I may do in the future. But if you need to constantly change your map based on writing your book, you need something you can edit yourself.

Enter Campaign Cartographer 3.

This fancy little program allows you to create a great looking map with relative ease. It isn’t a huge investment and if you write fantasy, it will more than pay for itself. And trust me when I say I explored LOTS of different options before settling with CC3. This one looked like the best.

But it’s so confusing! I don’t know how to use a program like this!

Fear not. I was in the same boat. In fact, I’m STILL learning. But I found some FANTASTIC tutorials on Youtube by Joe Sweeney. The gentleman has a multi-part youtube video that takes you through creating a basic map. He also offers his email for additional help. This man got me through my first map for From the Ashes, my in-progress fantasy series.

So what can you expect to create after these simple, easy-to-follow tutorials? I’m no expert, but the map above is the one I created for my From the Ashes series. I’ll expound on it for each book with pertinent information, but it has all the necessary info for the first book. The videos take a little time and then a couple days (totaling a couple hours) to finish the map. Don’t consider it time away from writing. Because it’s not. It’s just not writing words. But it is working on your novel. It’s world-building and worth the time to create it.

If you’ve been wondering if you should have a map in your book, or even if  a map would help you organize, the answer is yes. Sometimes even as authors, we get confused about where we placed the Forbidden Swamp….was it northeast of the cotton fields or southeast? If you had a map, you’d remember!

What are some tools that have helped you stay organized when writing? Do you have another map maker you like?

9 Tips for Writing Your Novel Blurb/Back Copy

If someone were to ask what has been the hardest thing to learn since writing and self-publishing, I would have to say writing the blurb/back copy would be in the top three.

If you’ve ever had to write a book blurb (that little teaser on the back of a book) then you know what kind of hell it is. As a reader it probably seems like the easiest part. It’s like writing a trailer.


It’s the one chance authors have to entice you apart from their cover and title.  In case you hadn’t guessed, those are the other two in the top three hardest things I’ve had to learn.

As authors, we get one fleeting chance. We have a second to hook your eyes with our cover, another second with the title. If those two make the grade, you may just read the blurb. But if that fails to interest, explain the book, or leave enough of a mystery, that’s it for us.

At this point in my career, I’ve only published one book thus far, Shattered. I’ve had some readers say they love the blurb and a few didn’t. If you’ve read Shattered, you know it’s one mystery and twist after another. So what could I say in the blurb that wouldn’t give it away? So I went for the vague approach to give you a feel for the book instead of telling you what happens. Some liked this because it didn’t spoil anything. Others expected something different. So you really can’t win.

However, I shall continue to try to perfect the art of blurb writing. I am considering offering it with the book to my betas and asking if it is a good teaser after they’ve read the book. BUT I do try to stick to some rules when it comes to writing my blurb. And you should too. Guidelines, not rules, necessarily. 😉 So here they are!

You’ve seen blurbs. They are pretty short, some shorter than others. Try to keep it below 200 words. It should only be 1-3 paragraphs. But keep it punchy.

Just like writing your novel, you must hook your reader. You can do this with your protagonist or your world. But you should always do at least one so the reader knows who the story is about and/or where it takes place. This not only serves to entice them but also to ground them. Perhaps offer a line about her normal life, introduce the status quo and tell the reader what they are: “Rocket scientist Harry Shore from D.C.” or “College student Alexandra Bowen.”

What happens that changes things? Where is the problem? The twist is just as important as the status quo. We should have both.

What does the protagonist stand to loose if she fails? You must make the reader care in those small moments. If the protagonist stands to loose nothing, then who cares?

End with a question or prompt. Don’t make the ending predictable. Your goal is to make the reader buy the book to find out what the protagonist chooses. If you ended with “Can she sacrifice cake to save her brother?” then obviously the reader knows there is no real question. BUT if this cake happens to provide her with vital sugar necessary to live, that might change things. It must end in conflict. It must!

Carefully comb through your blurb. Is everything necessary? Did you spoil any surprises you’d slaved over? It’s wise to stop at a certain point in your novel, say half way or 3/4 through and not reveal anything more. So even if the stakes change, the risks change or the goal changes based on twists and turns, don’t reveal that to your character. Your intro challenges should be strong enough to make them want to read it without finding out there is more to your story.

Read Blurbs!
I keep forgetting this myself, but it helps to read lots of blurbs while writing your own. Especially in your genre. You’ll notice what works, what doesn’t and how to imitate that. Not copy, just imitate. You’ll see a pattern that works and your blurb may just pour out of you naturally.

Taglines and Shoutlines
Does your story need them? I personally love them. It’s just a couple more ways to entice that reader to read your back blurb. After all, if you see four to ten words strung together, it’s difficult not to naturally read them. For example, Shattered’s tagline was “Don’t Ask Questions” and the shoutline on the back was “What would you sacrifice to learn the truth?” I was able to (hopefully) give readers a lightning fast glimpse into the story without them even having to read the blurb. But this is totally up to you and must fit your story.

Avoid Cliches
Try, try, try to avoid these common cliches. Even I’m still working on these. (Particularly difficult in a thriller/mystery.) So if you can, weed these out.

  • Little did he know
  • Comes back to haunt her
  • Race against the clock
  • Vows to expose
  • Web of deceit
  • Determined to unmask
  • Wants nothing more
  • World falls apart
  • Forced to confront

Remember, all authors hate writing and have trouble with the blurb. But don’t slack on this part. It is crucial to your book. If you wouldn’t slack on the cover, don’t slack here either. Remember, these are your trailers, your teasers for your book. Make them as best you can. Have friends and strangers read and ask if they’d read the book or for their impressions. Getting a second opinion never hurts!

What about you? What guidelines do you use for writing a blurb? Any fantastic blurbs you’ve read recently? Tell me about it!

6 Lessons to Get Over Your First Bad Review

You’ve just published. It’s been out for a month or so. Or perhaps only a day! You’ve been told your book is amazing, the great reviews are trickling in and you couldn’t feel better about your novel. Perhaps you self-published and are trying to show those agents how wrong they were. Or perhaps your confidence was soaring because you were able to get a traditional publishing deal. Then it comes in. Big, ugly, hairy, and full of hateful words.

Your first bad review.

Those sad, lonely, one or two stars. It brings your average down along with your confidence. You read it over and over again. You dissect it. It haunts your thoughts.

Congratulations! You are a writer! Even New York Times Best-selling Authors have 1 star reviews. Believe it! If you didn’t go the traditional route, this is your initiation in place of a rejection letter. If you did go the traditional route, this is your first rejection!

You can’t please everyone. That is the first rule you must accept when writing. You simply can’t. Thing’s I’ve learned from bad reviews:

1. The reader often doesn’t even finish the book. They stop usually quite early. My bad reviewer couldn’t get past page 30. So that means they didn’t give the book a chance to resolve their complaints. It also means they didn’t read the whole book. So only what they read got 1 star. Not the entire book.

2. They don’t like your genre, not your book. One guy I was going to have beta read, couldn’t get past page 1 because what the entire book was about was not explained in the first page, the entire biography of my protagonist wasn’t laid out on the first page AND he also hated that the thriller book began with action. So clearly he was looking for a character driven book and not a plot. Or a thriller. 😉

3. They can’t say specifically what they didn’t like.  My review said “Dumb.” Well alrighty then. It was dumb. A lot of them weren’t worth the time it took for them to write the review. They offer nothing of use to readers or the author of the work.  Often they only leave a star-review and not a written one at all. These are a little naggy because we want to know why! Why did I only get 2 stars? Tell me what was so bad! At the same time, be grateful. If they had written what they hated, it might have been horrible. A simple star review does a lot less damage than a 3 paragraph 1 star review.

4. It makes your 4 and 5 star reviews more believable. Those that have 500 5-star and 0 1-star should make you question the authenticity of the reviews. They could be paid or simply fake. Believe me. It DOES happen. Let this be comforting. You are getting honest reviews. And if one person hated it enough to write a review, another person loved it enough to leave one as well.

5. They are silly! I had a review for Shattered that didn’t like that I had 2 POV. Only 2 but it was considered “jumping from person to person.” And it was just too much for them. They also didn’t like the mystery aspect of my Thriller/Mystery because they stopped reading after 30 pages because the answers weren’t all thrown at them in the first 30 pages. “Goes from her apartment to a hospital gown. What?” Yes dear, it’s a mystery. You must read to find out why. Sheesh. So even though the 1 star hurt, I just have to laugh. And I know that readers who read that review won’t think twice about it. If anything, that would make me want to read it even more!

6. Use them to get better! Only do this if the review is specific in what was wrong. Errors they noticed. Flat characters. Confusing head-hoping. Not enough conflict. Predictable ending. Things like that. Don’t take them to heart and don’t read every bad review with a pen and paper handy but just keep it in mind.  Just remember, some of them (most of them) don’t know what they’re talking about and will mention things specifically that others loved about your work. Such as my book beginning with action from page one. One person hated it, every body else loved it. So be selective in what you pay attention to.


You can’t change the review. You can only focus on writing your next piece and sharpening your craft. You’ll only get better the more you work. So ignore them. They’ve probably never written anything in their life worth reading, let alone a book! Be proud of your accomplishment and relish in the fans you are collecting. You don’t write for the 1 and 2 star people. You write for the 4 and 5 star people. They love what you’re doing. Which means you’re doing something right.

So. Go get a bowl of ice cream and read your 5-star reviews. Or better yet, turn your ice cream into a shake and get writing that next book! Writing should make you happy (hopefully) so go do it! And always remember, your next book will be better than the first. This is all a learning experience. These little  blows will only toughen your skin and make you stronger. They are necessary evils.

What do you think? What do you do when you get a bad review? What do you take away? How do you get over it? Love to hear from you!