Leave a comment

Character Sketches: Assembling Your Players


Starting a new writing project is always fun. Or at least I think it’s fun. Being a fiction writer, I love the process of figuring out which story will be next. Where will it take place, what will the death stakes be, who will be the star and who will be the supporting cast. How will it start and how will it end. The list goes on and on. But out of all the different aspects of getting ready to pen that opening paragraph, creating character sketches is my favorite.

I work with the writing program Scrivener. For anyone who hasn’t tried it, I can’t recommend it enough. It has been a huge help to me as far as organization of manuscripts and (especially) for formatting/publishing purposes. It has so many functions and uses that I haven’t figured them all out yet, but the ones I have figured out, I really love. One of my favorite tools in Scrivener is the character sketches section.

Now, if you don’t have or don’t use Scrivener, you can do this without it. Scrivener just gives you a ready-made template to do it with, and they’re right there on your manuscript screen along with your notes and chapters, so it’s perfect for quick reference.


The template gives you a few basic sections to fill out for each character: name, role in the story, occupation, physical description, background, habits/mannerisms, personality, internal conflicts and external conflicts. There’s also a section for extra notes and you can upload a picture, if you want. I find this helpful because for my main characters I like to find a face to represent them. Sometimes it’s someone famous, or someone I know. Sometimes it’s just an image from Google. No matter which I choose, it helps to keep that face in my mind while I’m writing.

Every character in your story should be unique from your other characters (duh, right?). I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, but sometimes that’s harder than it sounds. Every character should sound different when they speak. They should have different habits and mannerisms. They should react differently to situations.

Someone told me once that if you take out all the tag lines from your dialogue, you should still be able to tell who is speaking.

Character sketches help with that goal. For me, going through and writing down all the details (from the list above) about each person in the book (main characters) has been a great way for me to flesh out who they are. Each character’s background and personality is what will determine how they will react to any given situation. Their internal and external conflicts are what drives the story forward, and their habits/mannerisms helps to set them apart from other characters in the book.

No matter how you work your process when you prepare for a new project, gathering your characters and figuring out each one’s role is important. Great characters make for great books, and who doesn’t love a great book? At the end of the day, it’s the characters we fall in love with (or hate). It’s the characters we dream about and wish happiness for. It’s the characters we relate too, and who become our friends. It’s the characters we remember, long after we turn the last page of the book.


Check out The Flames of Guilt HERE! It’s available in paperback or on Kindle.

Check out Horns & Halos: Against The Giant HERE! It’s available in paperback, Kindle, or it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited.


Also check out the FREE Horns & Halos short story:

Boy-Eating Plants HERE.

Leave a comment

Book Review: Write. Publish. Repeat.


Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success is a book of educated suggestions by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (and a guest appearance from their partner in crime, David Wright). I bought this book after hearing about it from a youtube video that was going over some quick tips about Scrivener (the most excellent writing program that I use). I didn’t know much (well, anything) about the authors when I purchased Write. Publish. Repeat. but boy oh boy am I glad I did! Not only did this book give me some helpful ideas about things I can do in my own self-publishing career, but it was quite the fun read. And how often can you say that about a how-to book?

From page one, this offering is written in a very light-hearted manner, and yet you can really feel the experience and know-how of the writers. They use examples from their own careers throughout the book to show different methods and suggestions when it comes to writing, editing, publishing, and marketing.

Since I published my first book, The Flames Of Guilt, two years ago, I’ve been weaving through the world of self-publishing basically learning as I go. It’s been a bumpy road at times, but now having my second novel, Horns & Halos: Against The Giant, released a few months ago, and with my third right around the corner, I feel much more confident about the process. I’m not ashamed to say that a boost of that confidence came from reading Write. Publish. Repeat.

Reading this book came with one of those moments where I felt like I was reading something from kindred souls. People who think a lot like I do, and have similar goals. It was very refreshing and left me feeling more like I was on a team rather than standing out in the self-publishing world on my own.

If you are an indie author, or are working towards becoming one, I recommend Write. Publish. Repeat. It’s a great read, with some awesome information about how to format your books, making the most of your Call To Actions, promotional strategies, advice about social media, and so much more.

And of course, the most important point of the whole book is just what the title says: Write. Publish. Repeat. I love how much his book emphasizes the importance of continuing to work. Continuing to write and put out new material for your readers to devour. As a writing addict, I deeply connected with this mantra. 


The Flames Of Guilt is available now on Amazon in paperback or on Kindle. Check it out HERE!

Horns & Halos: Against The Giant is also available in paperback, Kindle, and it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited! Get yours HERE!


Boy-Eating Plants

boyeatingplants_promoTo help kick-off the release of Horns & Halos: Against The Giant, I’ve decided to add a free short story to go with it! Boy-Eating Plants takes you on a wild ride with Horns & Halos’ main character, Allyster Williams, as he traverses a strange world full of massive, flesh-eating plants who have found him guilty of committing the worst of all treasons – dating outside of his own kind. Now they have declared him lunch, and Allyster must find a way to escape. He befriends a wingless fairy named Lucy along the way – though her guidance often comes in the form of insults and trivial information. Allyster’s best friend Jasper is on hand as well, but so is his never-ending mouth, which seems to hurt more than help. Then there’s the brain bugs. And the smell. There’s really no getting away from the smell. 

Pummel through this Horns & Halos short story as you follow Allyster and Jasper into this vicious land. Please avoid all snapping plants, and for goodness sakes, don’t touch the bright orange (and yummy-looking) brain bugs! Brace yourselves as the boys fight to NOT become delicious entrées, and as they wager the cost of standing up for what they know is right. 

Read it online or go ahead and download it to keep it forever! You can do both HERE!

And don’t forget to check out the full novel, Horns & Halos: Against The Giant. It’s available now, just click right HERE!

Leave a comment

New Release: Horns & Halos: Against The Giant

hh-full-coverFighting against the system sucks. It’s even worse when you’re only sixteen and you’ve already been devastated by it, while your parents stood by and watched. Allyster Williams started fighting the moment he realized that the life of segregation he’s always known is wrong. In his world, people are separated by their horns and their halos – physical characteristics that have borne lies, hate, distrust, violence, and rumors – and it’s only getting worse. Allyster may be young, but as he discovers others who are willing to hear the truth and change for the better, he must grapple with hope to try and find the strength to keep fighting. To raise the flag. To knock down the barricades. To prove that things can get better, even as his greatest nightmare becomes a reality.

Horns & Halos: Against The Giant is now available! Grab your copy of this first installment of the Horns & Halos trilogy. Don’t miss out on this different take on segregation and what happens when people allow their physical difference to become a wall of division and hate.

Get yours HERE!

And don’t forget to check out the FREE Horns & Halos Short Story: Boy-Eating Plants. FREE DOWNLOAD!

Leave a comment

Cover Reveal: Horns & Halos: Against The Giant

againstthegiant_promoIt’s finally here! After slaving over my second novel for what has felt like forever, it’s finally time to give it a face. Horns & Halos: Against The Giant is the first book in this Young Adult trilogy. The story follows Allyster Williams, a sixteen year old who lives in a world segregated into two groups: horns and halos. As a horn, Allyster has grown up believing that halos are different. Diseased. Foul snares. But as he gets older, Allyster realizes that it’s all lies and nonsense, and now he’s fighting against the system in the name of integration.

Support is minimal.

The dangers are high.

And then there’s the relationship he’s been keeping a secret, but even that is on the verge of collapse as the giant of segregation looms overhead. 

Horns & Halos: Against The Giant will be releasing in early October, 2016, so don’t miss it! And until then, here’s a look at the full cover. Enjoy!!


Leave a comment

Indie Authors: The Garage Bands Of Our World

song-of-ice-and-fire-1177625_1920Everyone starts at the bottom. On the floor, looking skyward. Being an author is like most professions: you have to work your way up. The journey is different for everyone. Some people go on to have their work picked up by publishing companies. They join a preexisting team that is there to help them with promotion, exposure, cover art for their titles, editing and content, and yes, they share the paycheck, too. And to those people, I say bravo! Success should be celebrated, and for those who go down the path of traditional publishing, it took a lot of hard work for them to get there.

But for some of us, traditional is just not the way to go. People have various reasons for deciding to take the indie route instead. For me, everything I write is weird. I’m not ashamed to say it. It’s totally freakin’ weird, but I like to think it has a point, too. Every story contains a deeper meaning, despite the odd characters and worlds you’ll find yourself in to get to that message. You’re not going to find anything mainstream about my books or short stories. You just aren’t. That’s a turnoff for some people, but that’s kind of the meaning of not being mainstream, so I’m cool with that. I did my time in the contests – and even placed in a few of them – but once I started working on full-length novels, it was pretty clear that trotting down the indie way of life was where I was headed.

Somewhere in my fanciful mind, I liken us indie authors to the indie garage bands from the ’90s that I adore so much. Doing things their own way. Making their own path and bucking the system in the name of standing on your own, rather than bending to the corporate rules. Bands today are still traversing this way of life. Even some known bands – groups that are on big name labels and are having their paychecks signed by “the man” – are jumping ship and going their own way. They’re putting their albums out on their own, using Kickstarter and other such entities to help them raise money and support from people so they don’t have to be locked into contracts and under the thumb of corporate giants. It’s rather exciting to see people making such a brave choice.

My second novel, Horns & Halos: Against The Giant, is about to release in just a few weeks. It’s been a long time in coming and I’m beyond stoked that it’s finally ready to give to the world. My first novel, The Flames of Guilt, earned a few fans, and I’m hoping that Horns & Halos will bring in a few more. The slow build of readers – it’s like starting off playing birthday parties with your band, and then you move up to high school dances, and then maybe a gig at a local event. Then maybe some shows out of town. Then you make a video to plaster all over Youtube and on and on and on. And in between, you practice until your mind bleeds.

Just like those of us who live the writer’s life. 

So to all the indie bands and indie authors out there who are doing the slow climb, heres to you! Don’t give up. Improve along the way. Earn your stripes, and appreciate every reader/listener you get.

Never stop writing. 
Find your voice, and stay true to it.

See you all soon for Horns & Halos: Against The Giant

Leave a comment

Fall Out Boy In Chey-Town

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 6.20.56 AM

For the last few years Fall Out Boy has been on my list of bands I’d like to see live. Admittedly, it’s a short list, but they were at the top of it. Here in Wyoming, we get a lot of country acts come through, so you can imagine my disbelief when my 13-year-old son came home from school and announced that Fall Out Boy was going to be playing Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Frontier Days is a yearly event when our city is taken over for a week by tourists, rodeos, stage acts, and yes even musicians. KISS and Kid Rock are two examples of bands we’ve had grace our dusty streets, but Fall Out Boy? I couldn’t believe it. FOB is currently in an upswing in popularity. Their last few albums (Save Rock And Roll and American Psycho/American Beauty) have had huge success scoring multiple hits across radio, television, and countries all over the world.

I admit I was skeptical, so I had to look it up for myself and low and behold, it was true. FOB was coming to Chey-town. It took a little convincing to get my husband to agree to go (since tickets for the four of us would be pricy) but he eventually gave in.

This would be our first family concert.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 6.20.10 AM

(In Wyoming we mix our rock shows with our rodeos. The stage was just to the left of this)

We spent months being excited about it, and when the night finally came, we were all ready to go out and enjoy one of our favorite bands. We hitched a ride with a bus of volunteers who were going to work at Frontier Days (which was really cool) and once at the fair grounds, we bobbed and weaved our way through the crowd. We found our seats, and spent the next hour waiting for something to happen. In mean time, we watched the people fill up the stadium and the pit, we got to see some of the rodeo horses walk through the ring and we got to see lots of people sporting FOB merchandise.

Soon the show was on with opening act Rooney. They started to play and the front man did quite a bit of talking on the mic. Rooney wasn’t a band we were too familiar with, but we had heard of them before from years ago when they guest starred on the television drama The O.C. so it was neat to see them in person.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 6.20.19 AM

(We went through most of Rooney’s set in the rain. But we also got to see the sunset and this awesome rainbow. Their frontman couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful the sky was)

After Rooney, we had another wait – probably a good thirty or forty five minutes before FOB finally took the stage. But it was worth it. We weren’t super close to the stage, but we were almost right in front of the jumbo-screen, so we got to see everyone. We stood, we clapped, we sang along and it was really fun. Being surrounded by so many other FOB fans and all of us getting to sing together was a great experience.

Pete Wentz handled most of the mic duties, introducing songs and even telling us the old story of the turtle and the scorpion as the lead-in to The Kids Aren’t Alright. Patrick Stump’s voice was absolutely on key and the boys ran through every single song I was hoping to hear, which was awesome. They even played their cover of Michael Jackson’s Beat It, which was especially fun.

By the time the night was over, we were exhausted and ready to go home, but it was definitely a night we will all remember. I’m super happy that FOB took the time to stop by Wyoming and give us a show. I hope we get to see them again one day. 


(Everyone turned on their cell phones for Jet Pack Blues)

Leave a comment

On Writing: The Importance Of Notes


It’s three o’clock in the morning when I open my eyes and grope for my cell phone on the bedside table. I hold the phone close to my face, squinting from the blinding light as I swipe my finger across the touchscreen and pull up the notepad app. Inspiration has just struck, and if I don’t write it down, there’s no way I’ll remember it when the new day starts. I type with one eye closed, trying not to go blind from the blaring screen light, before I shut the phone off, and fall back on the bed, closing my eyes.

I’ve learned over the years that notes are an important part of my writing process. I keep a full-time job, have two kids and a husband, so needless to say, I’m not always able to jump on my laptop to dive into my WIP whenever inspiration decides to show up. Instead, I have various tools I use to keep track of all the random ideas – everything from a new plot factor, to a great character name, or even something one of my existing characters should say. I write it all down as soon as it hits my brain, because if I don’t, when I do sit down to apply the muse, it won’t be there. I’ll scratch my head, and spend an hour saying to myself, “Now, what was it I was thinking about yesterday?”

I’ve learned that lesson way too many times; now I know better. I keep a notepad app on the home screen of my cell phone. I have notes on a bazillion topics stored there. If someone ever got ahold of my phone and looked through my notepad, they would think I was insane.

I also keep a physical notebook – three of them, actually. Each one is for a different purpose. I have a smaller one that I keep with me so when I’m out and about and I need something more than the notepad app, it’s there. I have a medium-sized one that stays by my computer. This is my everyday planner for whatever thoughts and ideas burst into my imagination. It’s a terrible mess, and no one could decipher it but me. My third one is a regular spiral notebook, and this one has all my story outlines in it – future, past, and present.

On my work desk, I keep sticky notes. These are for the day job, but I also use them for story ideas I want to jot down before I forget. Sticky notes are awesome for this, because not only do they come in fun colors, but then I can stick them right inside one of my notebooks and BAM! More notes.

I’m a huge fan of the Scrivener writing program, and it has a notes section for every project. Which. Is. Awesome. I absolutely use the hell out of this feature. You can keep notes on each scene, chapter, or general notes for the overall project. It is fantastic. I have so many notes for each story in my Scrivener world, that I scare myself sometimes. This isn’t even counting the character/setting sheets that also encourage you to keep notes and even add pictures for more reference. If I was ever going to fangirl over something, it would be for Scrivener.

I’ve also been known to grab a pen or marker and write notes on my hands and arms. Usually only in the most desperate of situations. I always transfer these notes to a notebook later, but for a day or two I get to walk around with things like “The Weasels And Warthogs Are The Bad Guys” or “Warp & Woof = Martin’s mother” or “All their names need to start with J” written on me.

This always leads to me having to explain my body graffiti to my husband and kids, which is met with eye rolls and “Mom, you’re so weird” comments.  And of course I always counter with, “Don’t write on yourself, it’s not good for you skin.”

Oh yes, I am a role model. . .and a master notetaker.

Leave a comment

It’s Not All About The Good Points


It’s so easy to talk about our characters’ strengths, isn’t it? I know I do. I’m quick to bring up their good points.

He’s really great with computers, so he can help the story in that way.

She’s a fighter, so no matter what she never gives up – and I love that about her!

He’s able to read people, so even when everyone else is fooled, he’s not – which will be super important to the story!

She’s a great mom, despite her circumstances (whoop for all single moms!).

He’s good with money.

She can sing and play guitar (rawkfist for the female musicians).

He’s handsome.

She’s a hard worker.

He’s sweet and charming.

And on and on and on it goes.

Strengths are important, there’s really no question about that. If fictional characters had no strengths, they’d never make any headway in the story. The money wouldn’t be made, the debt wouldn’t be paid off, the trial wouldn’t be won, and the long-lost sister would never be found on the deserted island inhabited by spider monkeys who have learned the basics of nuclear physics (Booyah! for the spider monkeys having a stellar strength of their own!).

But along with these amazing strengths, don’t forget the flaws. Unbecoming traits aren’t just for villains, just like coveted good character traits shouldn’t be reserved for protagonists only. I know that with my own characters, I almost always think of their strengths first. Maybe that’s just the natural way I think of people – positive first, negative second. But what I’ve learned over the years is that flaws aren’t really a negative.

Flaws help to make a character relatable. Flaws can drive conflict and tension within a story. If my characters are walking around showing off their strengths but never their shortcomings, then they’re going to come out flat and unbelievable, and that’s a quick way to kill a story. Nobody wants to read about a perfect person who’s invincible. Flaws make your characters vulnerable, and being vulnerable is just as important as having all those attributes we admire. As people, we’ve all got our flaws. We all have things we suck at or things we always seem to screw up, so I make sure to dress my characters in varied shades of “oops!” as well as “hoorays!” Sometimes, I even like characters more for their flaws than for their strengths.

When you get down to the bones of a story, flaws aren’t a negative, but another way to bring the character in your head to life on the page for others to get to know – for them to relate to, and ultimately, to care about.

Here are a few of my favorite character flaws. . .in no particular order:

Anger Issues




Tunnel Vision

Being Overzealous For All The Wrong Things

Loyalty To The Character’s Own Demise


Being Too Trusting

Bad Fashion Sense (Yes, I Count This As A Flaw)

Bigotry (In All Its Forms)





Leave a comment

On Writing: Getting To The Monkey


I think it’s rather amazing how the things we never see coming are sometimes the ones that end up effecting us the most. For years now, my husband and I have had differing tastes in music. While I stayed with the rawk-boys I’ve loved since I was a teenager, he has drifted off into the worlds of jazz, comedy, and classical. A lot of what he listens to is an absolute bore to me.

This has never been a secret between us.

So imagine my surprise when one day he says to me, “I think you’ll like this song.” The song that came on was King Kong by the group Tripod – a singing comedy outfit. The basis of the song is the 2005 version of King Kong and how, even though the movie was pretty good overall, it took awhile for it to really get going. As the audience, you’re there to see “the monkey” but a massive amount of time goes by before Kong makes his first appearance on screen.

The song goes on to cite more examples of movies that could have benefited from just “getting to the monkey”. It was this point – this silly lyric – that hit me hard as a writer. Instead of thinking the song was cute or clever (the reasons my husband wanted me to hear it) I, instead, thought, “Holy crap, they’re right! I have to get to the monkey!”

And so began a new perspective on my writing. I started to look at each chapter – at each scene – and think, “What’s this chapter’s purpose and how can I get to it without losing my reader? How can I get to the monkey?”

It’s made a world of difference. I find myself cutting characters, cutting scenes, dialogue and even whole chapters that were either not needed, or just extra filler that did nothing but keep the monkey off screen just a bit longer.

In those moments when I find myself rambling on paper, I hear the lyrics repeating in my mind: get to the monkey! And it helps. It helps me to focus and dissect what’s really important to the story.

As a fantasy author, I want to take my readers on a journey. I want them to feel the story, imagine the worlds, and relate to my characters. But most of all, I want them to see the monkey.

Inspiring song below: