The Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Jonathan D. Allen

Upcoming Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Are you a writer who writes in a hard-to-market genre? Do you cross or blend genres in your stories? Have agents and editors told you they love your work but don’t know how to market it because it is so “different”? Don’t fear…here’s one author’s take on how he made his writing style work for him and how he took the publishing reins into his own hands…

In interview #2 on The Many Ways to Skin a Cat I have the pleasure of Jonathan D. Allen’s company. He kindly agreed to sit down with me and chat about Publishing, the route he chose and  the tips he has learnt along the way. Jonathan found that his talent for blending the genres of dark fantasy and horror didn’t necessarily translate well to the Big6 but this did not stop him. He took matters into his own hand and decided to go the Indie route.

1. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Jonathan >> It means being the master of my own destiny. That can be a good and a bad thing – if things go well, not only am I able to take the kudos, but most of the profit comes back to me, and can be re-invested into things like covers and editing. Of course, if things go badly, I also take the burden of those losses and mistakes. It’s enormously freeing but also scary and depressing at times.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion. Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Jonathan >> After a round of rejections from literary agents (most of them friendly and personal – some even praising the writing but saying they didn’t quite know how to sell it), I realized a few things. One was that, in the old model, the traditional route might well have worked for me. It also answered a burning question that’s plagued me throughout my career: when would I be ready? Those responses told me that I was now ready. At the same time, I realized that the kind of fiction I write has limited mass appeal, and I have no interest in changing what I write. If I really wanted to blend genres in the manner that I’m currently pursuing, it made a lot more sense to go it alone, at least for a while.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing. Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Jonathan >>As I said above, I did try the agent thing. That had been my dream for years – close to 23 now: get the agent, get the publishing contract, and then see my books in stores. I was 13 years old when I figured out that whole equation, and it was just “what you did” if you wanted to be a novelist. I still toy with the idea of going back to the old way of doing things, but sooner or later something occurs that reminds me that things have changed forever. I won’t lie, part of me misses that old system, but I’m also excited about the future of this industry.

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Jonathan >>Right now, I’m flexible. I would prefer to stay indie or possibly move over to a small press that gets what I’m trying to do, but I also won’t lie: I’d love to be able to do this full-time, and if a large six-figure advance dropped in my lap, I’d have to snap it up. I don’t necessarily see that as “selling out”, as I would never accept a contract, no matter the size, that changed what I’m doing. Of course, my current path makes that dream contract a lot less likely, anyway.

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Jonathan >>”You know, you can do this.” I can still hear that in my head all these years later. Those came from my 10th grade English teacher, who encouraged my creativity at a critical time. She allowed me latitude in the papers that I wrote for that class, and showed me ways that I could use my imagination in not just creating stories, but in my everyday life. I learned from her that I had…well, an exceptional imagination, but I had always believed that either others were better at it, or I was wasting my time with it. She showed me quite the opposite.

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Jonathan >>That I’m not a very good marketer. Actually, I’m not so sure how I’ve done, as I’ve followed a lot of the “conventional wisdom”, consumed marketing books for self-publishing, done book blog tours, etc. and seen very little bang for my buck. I’m slowly realizing that the only real conventional wisdom that works is the oldest one: the best marketing for your books is writing and releasing another book (or short story these days).

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author. Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Jonathan >>To some extent, I do agree. I couldn’t tell you exactly how my “own brand” would be packaged, but I do know that my stories have certain themes in common, and I can see how they’re evolving as I write them. I think sometimes writers fear that establishing a brand means they won’t be able to write what they want, but I tend to disagree. Look at Stephen King. He’s written sci-fi, horror, straightforward literary fiction, and fantasy, yet each of those stories have an undeniable “Stephen King quality”. It’s all about establishing a signature quality. I’ve focused on that and keeping my book covers consistent as a way of building a brand. The other stuff seems like wasted time.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Jonathan >>I think it’s incredibly important, but not in the ways that a lot of social media marketers would tell you. Sure, it’s a way to advertise your work and maybe get more people aware of your existence as an author, but I think it’s far more important as a tool to connect with other authors, publishers, and readers on a personal level. I’m a total Twitter junkie, and I always shake my head when I see people who spam a link to their book, with no other information, over and over. I think it’s fair to expect a little of that when you follow an author, but the whole point of something like Twitter is carrying on a conversation or giving micro-blog updates to friends/readers. The same applies to Facebook.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing,  and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Jonathan >>Marketing. Hands-down. I’m in a difficult-to-market genre, which makes getting across the unique aspects of my story even harder. Many times I wonder if the issue is really my approach or just that I’m writing material that is difficult to package.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Jonathan >>Extremely. I will not allow a novel to be released under my imprint without it having been edited professionally. The same goes for the beta reading process – nothing leaves without at least one level of beta reading (usually two). Would you want to buy a product that hadn’t been quality tested at some level? I think it’s the same thing here.

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Jonathan >>I’ve found that deadlines are counterproductive to my own creativity. That’s not to say that I “wait for inspiration”, I’ve set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words a day, but just that when I have a set deadline, I feel pressure and begin to worry too much over mechanical aspects of the work. That’s fine in my day job as a technical writer – in fact, it’s desirable, but fiction is a whole different beast. I keep myself motivated simply by knowing that I’m mentally healthier when I’m writing on a regular basis. That and the 1,000 word goal are enough to keep me going.

12.  If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Jonathan >>

  1. Think about what you want – what you really want – out of your career. Be brutally honest with yourself. Are awards and associations important? Would you rather make more money at the risk of appearing less “legitimate”, or would you like to have someone help you chart the waters? There are lots of pros and cons to both traditional and indie publishing.
  2. Ask lots of questions. Talk to people who’ve been both places, whether it’s one person who has done both or several who only have experience in one or the other. Get a feel for what their experiences have been like. Ask them about their pros and cons, and weigh those against what you want from your career.
  3. Remain flexible. Over the course of my first year, I’ve already gone back and forth between which I would prefer, and while I’m fairly settled at this point, I still have some doubts from time to time. What you want may change as your career evolves – try to be open to those changes.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers today Jonathan. What really resonated for me was: “in the old model, the traditional route might well have worked for me. It also answered a burning question that’s plagued me throughout my career: when would I be ready? Those responses told me that I was now ready. At the same time, I realized that the kind of fiction I write has limited mass appeal, and I have no interest in changing what I write. If I really wanted to blend genres in the manner that I’m currently pursuing, it made a lot more sense to go it alone, at least for a while…” So often we as authors want to stretch our wings and pursue a genre that is perhaps a little more off-the-wall than others. Understandably traditional publishing is generally speaking less willing to take a risk on a hard-to-market genre or a blended genre story. This is when Indie is sometimes the best option. At the end of the day, readers will read stories that keep them turning the pages, not caring whether it is an Amazon imprint or a BIG6 imprint. Good stories trump marketing and genre-marketing any day. As you have said Jonathan: “I’m slowly realizing that the only real conventional wisdom that works is the oldest one: the best marketing for your books is writing and releasing another book…”. No matter what route a writer chooses to publish, Keep Writing. ~ Kim

Author Notes

Born and raised in the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Jonathan wrote his first fantasy/sci-fi novel at the age of 13. After studying writing and communication at James Madison University, Jonathan turned his passion for writing into a full-time technical writing career in the DC Metro area, working for companies like Sprint/Nextel, Time Warner Cable, and Sirius XM Radio, where he had an opportunity to combine his love of music with his love of writing.

 He may have drifted away from fiction at times, but it was always his first love – and he always returned to it. Now living in Bethesda with his wife, two cats, and two quirky guinea pigs for whom his publishing company is named, he crafts the kinds of stories that he had always hoped to read but just couldn’t quite find.

You can find him at:

The Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Introducing Patti Larsen

Upcoming Blog Series: Researching the many ways “to skin a cat” in publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I have the great pleasure to kick off this series of “The Many ways to skin a cat” Talking Publishing options with a prolific YA Author and one of my closest friends and writing mentors: Patti Larsen

Patti Larsen is a YA author with 15 books published. Her readers love her and other authors respect her. She is an author first and foremost and writing is her business.

So pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable as Patti talks about her business, the business of writing and publishing, with me on Dragonfly Scrolls.


1. Patti, you have made yourself a well-known and well-regarded name amongst Indie authors & YA authors. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Patti >> Being an independent author/publisher means I’m able to be my own boss, just how I like it. There was a time when having a publisher (and I’ve signed with two in the past) was the best thing in the world, the core of the dream I’d been longing for my whole life. But times are changing and my inner entrepreneur (I’ve owned three businesses) just couldn’t tolerate not having the reins in my hands. I’m the type of person who has to try every single job in a profession in order to understand that profession, and working with a publisher simply didn’t give me that flexibility. I like to get my hands dirty as well as know exactly what’s happening day in, day out, with my business–from sales to pricing, marketing to production, cover design, editing, you name it. I often found myself in the dark and waiting on one publisher (I’ve now parted ways with the company) for even the most basic answers. The realization I had lost control, that signing away my rights meant I no longer had the ability to see how the process advanced, I put on the submission brakes and dove back into what I love–being a writer AND a businesswoman. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion. Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Patti >> Think of it this way: you can have a boss (traditional publishing) who assigns you work and gives you a paycheck based on what they think you’re worth at the end of every quarter(if that frequently), with no transparency on accuracy of profit reporting and no input into how your work (cover design, final edits) is produced. All while expecting you to do the majority of the marketing, relying on you for the success of the work while keeping the majority of the profit. Or you can open your own small business (indie publishing) and take the project on yourself, hire a team of professionals to come together as a partnership, ensuring the final product is exactly what you wanted. Track day by day the amount of money you’re making and keep the profit for yourself, minus expenses. I’m not bashing traditional publishing. For some people, the first scenario is what they are looking for. And that’s okay. But to me it’s a no brainer.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing. Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Patti >> Settling seems like a harsh word. I feel now like had I signed a large contract, that would have been settling. None of us are immune to the call of the dream, however: write a best seller, find the perfect agent who signs you with the big publisher for the seven figure advance and everyone lives happily ever after in a nirvana of creativity and public accolades. It’s been thrown in our faces over and over again as the only way to be successful. Thank goodness the lie of the dream is finally being challenged. I spent years querying and submitting to agents and publishers, signing with two separate presses. I’m so glad it happened that way first–had I signed with the Big 6, after all I’ve learned, it would have been like selling my soul.

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Patti >> They would have to change their model drastically for me to consider it. Drastically. For instance, I’d need full transparency on all financial matters. They would have to prove to me the value of publishing with them beyond putting my books in brick and mortar stores. That’s my new rule of thumb–what can you do for me I can’t do for myself? 99% of the time, the answer is nothing. As things stand now, I would turn them down. I’m a highly prolific author with a structured release schedule. Having to veer from that because of their demands or being forced to go from publishing two books a month to one a year would simply not work for me. And since most publishing contracts (especially coming out of New York) now require a non-compete clause (meaning I’d be unable to publish on my own while under contract), that would put a serious damper on my schedule. There are a number of other reasons, but mostly because I’m a businesswoman and see the pure benefits of being in charge. Besides, signing a contract and receiving an advance doesn’t mean anything until you earn out that advance. I recently read of an indie author who is being forced to pay back his sizeable advance to his publisher because of low sales. No thank you!

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Patti >> I hate to beat a dead horse… my dear friend and incredibly talented writer, Joseph Paul Haines, ( was the one who broke the last thread of control the dream had over me. We butted heads over the issue at first, me the champion of traditional publishing and he the level-headed voice of reason. He finally asked me what the hell I, a capable and seasoned businesswoman, was thinking (it still makes me laugh). I will be forever grateful to him. 

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Patti >> This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. A career. Like any business, it takes time to grow. We’re actually in an enviable position as writers/entrepreneurs. With the connectiveness of the world through the internet, building our business is much easier than ever. Bear in mind, most small business don’t see a profit for up to five years. Meanwhile, I’ve been selling independently for eight months and I’ve made back my investments already. Am I typical? No, I know I’m not. But the other side of the equation is production. Dean Wesley Smith, ( an advocate of indie publishing, himself the author of over 100 novels and a veteran of the publishing industry, puts it like this: think of your business like a bakery. If you make awesome cookies, fantastic. People will rush out to buy those cookies. But if you only have one kind to offer, eventually folks will get sick of them and you’ll lose business. But, if you have a fully stocked store with new merchandise available all the time, your customers will keep coming back over and over again. He’s so right. When I do a special promotion of one of my novels, I see a wonderful upswing in sales of that book–but I also see an equal rise in sequel sales. Meaning I’m not just benefiting from one book, but many. Readers then peruse my store for more goodies, driving up sales of my other series. The more you have to sell, the more money you make. It’s simple math. So many writers put all of their time and effort into marketing one book. And while it works for some, the majority come out disappointed. Marketing is important–but if you don’t have much for sale, you’ve pretty much thrown your efforts out the window.

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author. Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Patti >> Yes, I agree with branding, though I know for some it’s a dirty word. As authors, we’re notorious for being introverts who hate coming out into the sunlight except for book signings and grocery shopping (and both begrudged!). I’m fortunate in that I’ve had a lifetime of performance experience, so I’m very comfortable and even welcome media attention and the connections that come from networking with readers and other authors. I make sure to use the same bio image for all of my sites, promos and posts, as well as on the backs of my books. My flagship series, The Hayle Coven Novels, has a very distinctive look, allowing me to use the imagery as an easily recognizable symbol representing me and my writing. I guest post as frequently as possible and am always available to other writers as a helping hand as well as doing frequent giveaways to readers. And I’m everywhere I need to be as often as I can be, at least virtually, from Facebook to Twitter, Goodreads and my Amazon author page as well as many other sites like LinkedIn and Pinterest. I if you’re just getting started branding, I highly suggest you not overwhelm yourself with a million different sites. Pick one, get really comfortable with it, then add another. First and foremost is a webpage/blog. Second is Facebook. Third Twitter. And so on. Don’t frustrate yourself by taking on too much at one time. Remember what I said? This isn’t a sprint. You’ve loads of time to build yourself and your books into a visible presence.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Patti >> My biggest tip? Don’t use social media as a sales avenue. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but think about the name: social media. It’s a place to connect with people, not sell them things. A place to make friends from around the world, not annoy the ones you already have with BUY MY BOOK. The only times I post my books on social media are A) when I have a new one released. I alert everyone once, on all networks. And B) when I’m doing a freebee or giveaway. The rest of my status updates are either links to other people’s free books, witty (I try anyway) stuff I think might make people laugh (I’m sure I’m way less amusing than I think I am), one-time shares of blogs I’m guest posting on and occasional updates on how my writing is going. I do have a Facebook fan page: this is where I update folks on book progress, cover reveals and all things Patti Larsen Books. But again, I don’t overload them with marketing. I offer a page where they can find links to all of my books. And on my webpage, instead of pushing sales, I offer an Amazon trailing widget ( that scrolls my books past you on the top of the page with clickable links to each novel. The best way to market your books is to be accessible, friendly, open and willing to help others. Making connections with people, friends even, comes first and foremost. Because when you do, they automatically jump on your bandwagon when the time comes to sell more books. Please don’t get me wrong–I don’t see my online friends as tools, not in the least. Our relationships come first. But I’m happy to know they think enough of me to pimp me out.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing, and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Patti >> This is such a huge question. The learning curve has been enormous and I’m still at it (and always will be). In fact, it’s had such a huge impact on me, I’ve created a course on the subject, which I’m teaching more and more frequently. That said, I love a challenge, so this evolution has been the most fun I’ve ever had. If I had to choose one thing that was the hardest, marketing would be it. Not because it’s hard, but because there is so much conflicting advice on the subject and every book requires a different approach. Trial and error, experimentation rather than sticking to one method has served me well, though I feel like I’ve finally found a good promotion strategy for myself. But even that is ebbing and changing all the time! Best advice? Have fun with it, seriously. Don’t look at it like a job (this goes for social media and building your brand, too!) or a drudgery. This is an awesome part of the process that should leave you happy.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Patti >> I can’t stress enough how important a good editor is. If you find one (I guard mine jealously and hope she never, ever leaves me) do the dance of joy. You’ve just found a partner who will help you take your work above and beyond, into a place of greatness. Always, always, always (did I say it enough times?) put out your very best work and only your very best work. And an excellent editor is a vital component to that end. How do you find one? Start auditioning them. I know having a few edit your first chapter won’t help you know if they are good at content edits or not, but you’ll at least see how fast they are, their take on grammar (so important!!) and how comfortable you are with them. Ask around as well, to other Indie authors. Many great editors are leaving publishers to freelance. But be cautious: there are more bad editors out there (with good intentions, don’t get me wrong!) who don’t really understand what you need than there are good ones. Choose wisely!

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Patti >> I’m a very structured and organized person. I track my progress daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly. I know what my plan is well in advance, balancing cover design delivery with editing on the last book while I write the next one, etc. Without a plan, if you don’t treat writing as a career, it’s easy to fall into the procrastination pit and not get anything done. Trust me, I have my days. But I also have very firm goals and readers to please, so I have to focus. It helps I love what I do so much I can hardly stand it. This is what I’ve always wanted, ever since I was twelve years old. And while life can get in the way of my passion, there’s no silencing the voices.

12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Patti >>

  1. One: Do your research. Check out The Passive Voice (, a legal eagle blog that dissects contracts into human terms, as well as Dean Wesley Smith and his wife, Kristine Katherine Rusch ( Both have been in the industry for years and years, been publishers themselves, have had Bix 6 deals and have independently published. They know their stuff.
  2. Two: Ask yourself–what can a publisher do for me I can’t do for myself? Right now, the only things are a) free editing (but bear in mind you then have no control over that editing–they get what they want, not the other way around), b) free cover design (see previous) and c) placement in brick and mortar stores. Is that worth 90% (in the case of the Big 6) of your royalties? Not to mention the 15% your agent will take from that measly 10% you receive once or twice a year with no idea if your publisher is tracking and reporting your sales correctly (I’m not blowing smoke, here. There’s an inquiry happening right now on just this issue, involving ebook reporting).
  3. Three: Decision time. Are you the type of person willing to put in the work necessary to make this happen? I’m in the enviable position that this is my full-time job. And yes, I work hard at it–but that’s why I’m doing so well. Effort out, success in, like with anything. But many people are succeeding while working full-time. So, are you excited about doing it yourself but a little scared/daunted? Then go for it. If, however, you’d rather just write and have everything done for you, traditional publishing is your way to go.

Patti, thank you for your time and your advice. I especially love “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. A career. Like any business, it takes time to grow. We’re actually in an enviable position as writers/entrepreneurs. With the connectiveness of the world through the internet, building our business is much easier than ever. ” I could not agree more. This is a marathon and us writers are in it for the long term. This is also our business. It’s serious. You gave some really great tips and gave us all a great peek into the world of publishing Indie-style. Definite food for thought there. ~ Kim


Author Notes

Patti Larsen is a middle grade, young adult and adult author with a passion for the paranormal. Her YA thriller series, The Hunted, started it all, released in August, 2011. The first four books of The Hayle Coven Novels, Family Magic, Witch Hunt, Demon Child and The Wild are also out now, with book five, The Long Lost, due for release this May. Her YA steampunk series, Blood and Gold, can be found on Amazon along with The Diamond City Trilogy. Her YA paranormal novel, Best Friends Forever, is also due in May along with more of the Hayle Coven Novels. Two of her books, Family Magic (Hayle Coven #1) and Run (The Hunted #1) were recently shortlisted for the PEI Book Awards. Patti is a full-time writer and a part-time teacher of her Get Your Book Done program. She lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband and four massive cats.


You can find her:

XOXOXO thank you 🙂

Talk to me…It’s not in your words, It’s all in the way you move…

People are communicators. We love to communicate. We want to communicate. We need to communicate. But what about when words don’t get your full meaning across? What about when talking is just not enough? Have you ever traveled to a country where you did not speak the language there or did not speak it well enough to communicate? What did you fall back on to communicate? You used body language. You used facial expressions. Words can sometimes only go so far and even if you speak the same language, words may have different meanings to different people. So people use body language or non-verbal communication to get their meaning across.

Non-verbal communication is 90% of the way we communicate and verbal communication (words) is only 10% of the way we communicate. So it really is true: Actions speak louder than words.

When a reader picks up your completed novel, they are visiting a new country that is foreign to them. They are entering the world of your characters that you as the writer have created. You may know all the rules. You may see all the scenes in your head. But just because you can, don’t assume your reader can see them too without you communicating these scenes to them. Yes you can use descriptions to describe scenes and you can use dialogue to give a presence to your characters. But how do you show what the character is thinking or feeling in action? You use non-verbal communication, body language, facial expressions and micro expressions.

Ok, so how do you learn to write body language? Before you get to that question, you should first ask how do you learn to understand body language in the real world? We have all heard the expression: write what you know. Body language definitely comes under this. If you don’t do some research on body language you as a writer will be forced to either have the talking-head syndrome or you will be using clichéd phrases and descriptions to communicate your character’s body language. Clichés sometimes are avoidable and they do have their place but it is far better to try for something original.

So who are the experts in body language? Who can you talk to, to find out more? Here are some options for you:

  • The Police
  • Lawyers/Judges
  • Jury Members
  • Medical People
  • Psychologists/Psychiatrists
  • The Military
  • The Airline Industry – Pilots, Flight Attendants
  • PR (Public Relations) Experts
  • Communication Experts
  • Sales People

Off the top of my head these are just a few of the industry experts who need to read, and understand body language. From my day jobs in both sales management & training and my days as an international flight attendant (especially in this role) body language was key to doing my job correctly. In terms of my airline experience we were taught by two police detectives and a psychologist how to read body language. A lot of the most missed body language comes under micro-expressions. Below is a short video detailing the basic micro-expressions all people use to communicate various emotions.

The other layers that make up the linguistics of body language are voice tone, body posture, sign language and then individual “tics” that are unique to each individual. Think of it the next time you are in a room with someone. Think what body language you are using. Does it contradict what you are saying or does it add to it? Think of the other person. What does their body language tell you? Like most things in life, learning to read and recognize body language needs to be practiced until eventually it will become an unconscious habit.


So how do you add your new-found linguistic skills in body language to your scenes? Let’s take a simple expression that we all can recognise and all have used: smiling

Eliza smiles.

The above sentence is fairly self-explanatory. You have a character named Eliza and she smiles. But 10 people could read that and get 10 different images in their minds explaining the smile. As a writer you have a choice to either let the reader choose their own interpretation or you can open up the scene for them.

Her lips curve slightly before she can pull them straight.

Now I have opened up the scene a bit. I have told you in one sentence that she smiles but is trying to hide the smile. Perhaps she is nervous or perhaps she is shy.

In the doorway he stares at me and smiles.

Again there is nothing “wrong” with that sentence but it lacks emotion and falls flat as a result. How does he smile? Why is he smiling? What does the doorway look like? What is he thinking/feeling? The above sentence does not tell the reader any of that.

Standing in the shadowed doorway, his eyes crinkle at the corners and his lips twitch into a knowing smile.

Now the reader can picture the doorway. The reader can picture the man. They can imagine him perhaps leaning against the doorway. The reader can see his smile is a teasing smile, perhaps with a slight twinge of arrogance or confidence.

These are just two twists on using body language to open up a simple expression of smiling. You could come up with 100 others.

Here is a simple exercise: Go to a mirror and smile. But think something when you are smiling. Perhaps you are thinking of something embarrassing and the smile that comes to your face will be a nervous one. Look at what your eyes are doing, how are your lips curving. Are you smiling with your teeth showing or are you smiling with a closed mouth?

A myriad of micro-expressions can come into a simple smile depending on the person’s mood or the circumstance or the person they are with. Using these skills of describing these micro-expressions will bring a scene to life for your reader.

Two television shows that are fantastic for learning to recognise body language are Criminal Minds and Lie to Me. Criminal Minds is a television show based on the cases of a team of behavioral specialists & experts in the FBI. Lie to Me is a television show about a man who makes a living from being an expert in body language and micro-expressions. Most police shows are very educational with learning how to recognise body language but these two series are my favourite go-to series.

Do you make a conscious effort to use body language in your writing?

What is your most challenging “simple expression”, like smiling, to write using body language?

What happens after The Day the Sun Stops Shining…Find out what could here!

26.12.11 - 31.12.11 End of the Year...Blog Hop...Click on the bullet to join up.

Christmas has ended… The gifts unwrapped, the tree lights dulled…

Not a sound stirs until midnight on the 26th…

The stars fall from the midnight sky and the moon rises…

It is the time for the Moon to rise...the sun has stopped shining

This moon does not disappear at dawn nor does it pale…

The sun has stopped shining…

Day has deserted the world…

What happens now?

Join me and other Indie Authors for “The Day the Sun Stops Shining” Blog Tour.

It starts 26.12.11 and ends 31.12.11…

There will be giveaways, interviews, contests…

Do you write or read dystopian, fantasy, paranormal, horror or science fiction?

Follow this tour…sign up if you are a writer…

Don’t miss out…it might be your last chance…before the sun stops shining…

End of the year? End of daylight? End of the sun?

Let us tell you what might happen after The Sun Stops Shining…

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Losing yourself in your character’s world

World building = Creating complete new worlds that live and breathe and surround your characters

World building is often underplayed if your WIP is not a fantasy or a sci-fi but world building underplayed is to the detriment of your story and your characters. The reader cannot see what you see in your mind without you doing some world building. World building is more than just your setting of a scene or description of a place. World building is about building a world for your characters as much as for your reader. It is about translating this “new” world so effectively to your reader that they leave their own reality to enter that of the one you have created. After all, is that not the end goal of fiction.

What if your world is some place real? Then you need to write what you know. This does not mean that you are limited to your small town that you have lived all your life. No, it means that there are a multitude of ways to get to know the place you are wanting to set your story in. Now, with social networking and the internet there is no time for excuses anymore. You could travel to that place and immerse yourself in the 5 senses peculiar to that place. But not everyone has a bottomless wallet nor a disposable schedule. What then?

Google Earth and Google Maps are the cornerstones of the traveller who sits in his living room wanting to explore the world. With Google Earth you can get accurate current time images of a particular street let alone just a town. Google Maps is fantastic for authenticity of urban areas in particular. If you are writing about New Orleans, for example, you want the reader who lives in New Orleans to believe you have been there also instead of them finding huge plot holes in your setting. Google Earth and Google Maps are simple to use and cost you nothing but your time. Be careful though, you may get lost in the wonders of these tools.

Another way you can “travel” and “explore” somewhere is to search for personal blogs or travelblogs that post about the place you wish to write about. Bloggers and travel bloggers in particular can give you a wealth of information. Their posts can also add colour to a place by writing about the people, the specific venues, the culture and the vibe of a place.

There are other parts of world building that you may want to explore for your WIP. What about the activities that your characters occupy themselves with? You may have a character who is a detective and needs to be a good shot. Ask your local police station if you can spend a day with a patrol car for research purposes. You might have a character who is a sword-fighter. Find a fencing class and go for a couple of lessons.

Costumes are another favourite of mine for world building. If I am writing about the tightness of corset stays, I need to know what wearing a corset feel like. If I am writing about a character needing chainmail as armour then I need to know what chainmail feels like.

Food and drink is another way to world build. Taste the foods your character eats. There is no better way to find out the sweetness or the tartness of something than tasting it yourself.

This is what I believe is meant when you hear the cliched saying: write what you know. Learn to know things to be able to write about them. Your diligence in immersing yourself in your characters’ world will come across as dedication to your reader. Your reader will see what you see and what your character sees. The experience of writing your WIP with your new knowledge will be palpable with richness of actual experience which will make the reader’s experience of reading your story the richer for it.

For this week, I challenge you to come up with a place where a new story is set and build a world around it using the tools above. You are not expected to travel there in body but travel there in mind through all the above and tell me what you find. Your only borders and limits are your own imagination. You may just spark a new idea for a story.

In the name of Research and world building, I spent this weekend at the Gypsy Fair…surrounded by essences with the names of Dragon’s Blood, Black Magic, Night Queen, Liquid Moon and hearing the soft tinkling of hand blown glass and crystal wind chimes…took photos galore, bought chakra oils and perfume and cleansing herbs (all again research material) and bought a gypsy dress to truly immerse myself in “being” a gypsy. I took a walk inside the home of one of the gypsies – an original horse drawn painted wagon. I watched a fortune teller read the tarot for someone and saw another read their palms. There were sounds of guitars from the traditional gypsy band, laughing children, barking dogs and miniature horses. It was truly like entering another world. I was so entranced that I am even considering traveling with the gypsy fair for a week: now wouldn’t that be incredible. (More to come on this excursion in an upcoming blog post.)

Tell me: what is the craziest or weirdest activity you have undertaken in the name of world building/research?

What activity would you like to take up in the name of world building in your current WIP that you have not done already? 

#CoffinHop | Evil has a face…

Click on the Full Moon to be thrilled and chilled by the Coffin Hop…
the gory details:

3) THIS TOUR STARTS: Monday, October 24, 2011 at Midnight (PST)
THIS TOUR ENDS: Monday, October 31, 2011 at Midnight (PST)
Winners will be drawn and posted November 1, 2011
***Authors have full discretion to choose an alternate winner in the event any winner fails to claim their prize(s) within 72 hours of their name being posted or after notification of win, whichever comes first. Anyone who participates in this tour is subject to these rules***

My Contest – Prize Time

My next WIP is a psychological thriller and it involves psychological twists and a cold-blooded killer. This killer curdles my blood. Already the killer haunts my dreams. But the worst thing about this character is that I am struggling to name him. He does have a moniker that he will be known by in the story but he does need a name.

Let me tell you a little bit about him. He is a psychopath. He is exceptionally cruel and sadistic. He is also a perfectionist who never leaves any trace of himself at the crime scene. He is fastidiously clean, almost surgically I would say. He preys on people that he feels are “fallen”. He is incredibly alluring and seductive. He is hard to say “no” to. By the time his victims realise he is the final person they will see, it is too late and they are taken by surprise. This man could be anyone. He might be your friend, your brother, your father, your lover, your husband or your colleague. He stalks you like a silent lioness. Do you know his name?

So…this is where you blog-hoppers come in. I need you to put your creative hats on and spin me a first name and surname for my sadistic killer.

The best name will win three ebooks by three phenomenal authors. (I will be announcing the names of the authors and their books closer to Halloween but believe me you will want these ebooks.) 

The best name will also become the name of my sadistic killer.

You need to be subscribed to this blog to enter (so join up if you are not already) as well as leave your best answer (along with your email address for winner notification) in the comments on any of this week’s posts on this blog. You also need to have visited and commented on at least 5 of the CoffinHop bloggers.

The winner will be announced on this blog on 5th November. Multiple entries are welcome.



(Aside: This is reposted from my other blog

but I have reposted here because it is relevant to this hop.)

The Dark Side

Do you have a Dark Side? You may think you don’t. But I have news for you. If you are human then you do have a dark side. It is part of human nature. Does that make you dark in nature? For some the answer here may be yes. For most, the answer will be no. I am sure you are wondering where I am going with this. Well let me tell you.

Today in one of my online writing groups one of the writers posed an incredibly interesting question that got me thinking. Part of the question is why we write? I have been focusing a lot on this over the last few weeks. For me, writing is cathartic.  But I also believe it serves a tool in giving a voice, in a safe environment, to people who feel they have no voice. 

The question also explored why one writes in a specific genre. A lot of my writing explores the Dark side of the world and/or human nature. Is it because it fascinates me or repels me? I would say both reasons would be correct. For whatever reason people who have been severely hurt in life are drawn into my inner circle. I believe that everything in life does happen for a reason even if at the time a person cannot understand it or explain it. This I believe includes the Dark Side of life. 

Do I believe there are evil people or do I believe that there are just people who commit good and bad deeds? Again my answer would be yes to both of these questions. I have had a brush with a really evil person in life. It still haunts me to this day. But I am thankful for that experience. I will not go into too much detail here but I will share a bit. When I was growing up, there was a spate of missing girls in the same age group as I was. (early teens) We used to buy milk cartons that had the girls’ pictures on and asking for people to phone in with any information. It was something to be feared especially because the police had no leads on why these girls went missing or what the link was beyond their similar age brackets. The girls were taken over a large area and over many years so police did not connect the dots. I remember numerous news casts warning young girls to be vigilant.

During a school holiday I was visiting a friend and on one of the days we were out walking in the holiday town that she lived in. After a while we noticed a car that seemed to be trailing us for a few blocks. Being a holiday town where people were often driving very slowly and sightseeing, this may not have been unusual. However, something prodded my sub-conscious. 

I have always had an uncanny sixth sense. For many years I viewed this sixth sense as a curse. What is my sixth sense I hear you asking? It comes in two parts. I can tell a person’s true nature within moments of meeting them. I inherently know when people are deceitful or dangerous. You may think this is a great tool to have but it is not. You see, sometimes you do just want to see the surface mask of a person. You really do not want to see any hidden skeletons straight off the bat. That day my sixth sense kicked in.

Something prodded my sixth sense into overdrive and I told my friend we had to get to somewhere with more people immediately. My friend though confused saw my alarm and urgency and agreed. So we picked up our pace but the car just increased its speed to keep up with us but not overtake us. All of a sudden, the car passed us and pulled up onto the curb in front of us blocking our path. An older man got out with a map in his hand. At this point everything in me screamed to run and not look back. Danger with huge flashing lights seemed to be playing over and over in my mind.

What about the man’s appearance triggered this? To be honest, nothing. But when I locked eyes with the man I felt sick to my core. I felt like I was looking at pure evil. I could not explain it but it is just what I felt at the time. He was an ordinary and unprepossessing character. He could have been someone’s kindly  and quiet uncle. In fact on pure appearance he looked trustworthy and non-threatening. But it was there in his eyes. They seemed dead to me. Not without emotion dead but there was a nothingness there, a hollowed inhuman look that seemed to want to penetrate my soul. 

The man started moving towards us and he started saying he was lost and needed some directions. All the time he steadily advanced towards us keeping eye contact all the time. As much as I wanted to break eye contact I could not. My friend started then walking towards him. Being a sweet girl she was always the first to help others. However this time I knew this man did not want nor need help. He did not look lost. In fact he seemed to know exactly where he was and what he wanted. Everything in me told me it was not directions he was after.

I grabbed my friend’s hand harshly and started running with her. She struggled at first and said that I was being paranoid. Until she realised the man had got back in his car and done a u-turn to pursue us. I ran with her to the building nearest us which happened to be a clinic. We ran in the clinic. A nurse came out with us to see what we were running from. There was nobody there. The man in the car had disappeared…

Though this event shook me and my friend. I eventually put it to one side in my mind. But there was always a niggling reminder. It was not until about 5 years later while watching an emergency news broadcast that suddenly I went ice-cold. The broadcaster announced that there was an emergency announcement from the police. They had solved the cases of the missing girls. The murderer was found after a suicide-murder in which he killed first his partner in the kidnapping and subsequent murders of the young girls and then killed himself. They unearthed the bones of a few of the girls. But many they could not find. The police showed pictures of the murderer/kidnapper/paedophile and his partner. 

I was watching the news with my parents at the time. I turned white as a sheet and almost fell from the edge of the chair that I was sitting on. A cold permeated my being that I could not shake. The picture of the man in the tv was the same man who my friend and I had run away from when we were young girls in a holiday town. It was then that I told my parents what had happened all those years ago. They could not believe it. 

To this day it haunts me that I came so close to a killer who was so evil. I am thankful that I was with my friend that day and that my sixth sense kicked in. I shudder with dread to think what may have happened if I had not been there. She might have been another picture on a milk carton. But it also haunts me that this man went on kidnapping/torturing and killing girls for 5 more years before the police knew who he was. To the nurse at the clinic that day my fears seemed irrational and childish. I allowed her to convince me that I had just over-reacted. What if I hadn’t allowed her to convince me otherwise? That question haunts me to this day.

Perhaps this is why so much of my writing has vulnerable girls thrown into dangerous, whether it be physical/psychological/supernatural. events and having to find a way to survive. Perhaps I am trying to re-write the stories of those missing girls whose pictures haunted my adolescence. Perhaps I am trying to re-write stories where the victims can become victors and take their vengeance or become survivors that can teach/help others. 

But I do believe that our lives and the events and experiences do form us as both people and writers. We all have events that haunt our memories. This event that I have described above has had a huge impact on my life. I shared it because there are some truths that do need to come to light. For me writing is a way to give these hauntings a place to free themselves from the clutches of my memory. Writing these stories and these characters give me a safe way to cleanse my mind of horrific and difficult situations.

  • Do you write to let out your inner hauntings, those memories and events that lock onto your sub-conscious?

Writing and Truth are two-edged swords. The power of the written word can both harm or heal. Much like truth. I believe writers like all artists have a powerful purpose in this world. We can depict truth in all its ugliness and beauty and people can heal through our work. We need to wield our words carefully. We can choose to cut to heal or cut to harm with this sword. It is a task not to be taken lightly.

Hunting for the Truth | Interview with Reid | Patti Larsen

We Are Hunted

Kids are going missing. We see the posters everywhere. The kids from happy families are the ones with posters up and rewards are offered. But what about all those faceless kids lost in the system. The street kids, foster kids and orphans. Who misses them? Who notices that they have gone missing too? Where are these missing kids? Why aren’t we asking more questions? Enough is Enough. One brave woman asked too many questions and she went searching for answers. Her name is Patti Larsen. She was one of the people who started asking questions about the faceless kids, the ones nobody had wanted in the first place. She got in contact with one of these missing kids. Through covert meetings and phone calls he told her his incredible story. When I first read the four accounts of the horrors that are happening to kids, my heart jerked in terror. I also wanted to meet this faceless kid, an orphan, who had such a harrowing story to tell. Patti thought it would be a good idea for the kids to tell their side of the story. It is time for us to put faces and names to these lost children. It might be late for some but it might just be in the nick of time for other lost children.
Yeah, he’d rather stay in the dark anyway…
Wants to know if you’re a reporter…
Trying to tell him this is about his story but he’s a little freaked.
No….I am sort of a investigator…a seeker of truth.
Too many kids have been going missing and I am asking questions.
Yeah, I know all about that.
I am on the kids’ side.
What do you want to know?
Hi Reid…can I call you Reid?
My name is Kim.
That’s my name.
So Reid….I have been really concerned…and I am not the only adult who is….some kids are going missing…it seems without a trace.
Patti told me I should get in touch with you.
I’m trusting you. But only so far. Okay? You have to understand what we’ve been through.
Can you tell me…firstly…are you with some of these kids? How long have you been missing for?
I cannot even imagine what you have been through.
We’re in a safe place now. I can’t tell you where. And don’t bother tracking the IP address.
Yes, I’m with some survivors.
Ok…good…so there are survivors….but then…that means there are some who didn’t survive? Is that correct?
A lot…
Who didn’t make it…
Oh No! That was my worst fear!
Reid…do you know who is behind this?
I’m not supposed to talk about it. But… damn it, people need to know. And understand.
It was a government program…
Well let me help you get your story out there…
Through the military…
I am all ears…
This crazy scientist. Dr. Kirstin Lund. She was doing experiments on animals, creating super creatures or something, decided to start testing on humans.
I guess she figured orphans–foster kids–were the most disposable.
Like you?
Hired this guy, Syracuse, to round up kids.
Yeah. Like me.
The cops, they figure we just ran away, you know?
Reid….do you mind if I take notes? Should have asked you before?
Yeah, go ahead
Drew told me you’re not tracking this.
Sorry to check up on you but we can’t be too careful.
No I am not.
Please go ahead…I have nothing to hide…you can trust me….and I know that is difficult for you right now.
It’s not so bad anymore. We’re okay. Trying to forget. But, it’s hard.
Well…I have been investigating this for a couple of weeks now….the officials have been telling us that all you kids were runaways and since you were troubled kids…you probably ran away to join a gang or something.
That is crap.
They really don’t give a shit about us, Kim.
They never did.
I am beginning to see this Reid.
And it’s not like this program wasn’t sanctioned.
They had a military base.
Reid…can you tell me how many survivors there are now?
One of the guys–Marcus–his Dad was the commander.
Oh that is terrible!
Eight and Minnie – she’s my lab
Eight including you?
Are you all roughly the same age?
Well, the youngest is thirteen–hang on, let me ask.
Yeah, Cole is thirteen and Marcus is eighteen so that’s the range.
They’re all here you know.
They want to know what this is about.
Can you give me the names of the survivors? It is better for me to be able to make people realise you are just kids and knowing your names will help…you are not faceless then.
Let me ask…
Milo’s pissed because I counted wrong and he thinks I missed him on purpose. LOL
You can tell them all I am here to get the truth out…your truth? Enough is enough!
So nine: Me, Leila, Drew, Kieran, Nishka, Sarah, Milo, Cole, Marcus and Minnie.
Ok and where are you all from?
I’m from Arizona.
Drew’s from NY state.
Leila’s from Cali.
Marcus says he’s from nowhere–army brat.
Kieran is from Ohio.
Nishka from Maine.
Milo’s from South Philly he says.
Cole is from Seattle.
Ok…so all from the US?
Sarah’s from New York too.
Reid…I think this is bigger than just the US though….
Kids have been going missing from Mexico and lower Canada.
There wasn’t really a whole lot of time to ask where people were from, you know?
Which is why I am here asking questions….it has been making international news.
Yeah I get that.
Barely had time to ask names…
How long have you been hiding? on the run?
Since June.
What is the last thing you remember that was normal?
My mom and dad alive. Nothing was normal after that
Foster homes for a year.
But you have a sister…I have spoken to her…
We made a new normal.
About a month ago.
I interviewed her, as one of the family members…
Well… What did she say?
She said that you were troubled since your parents died…..
She thinks you ran away.
Maybe if she wasn’t sleeping with the guy who got me into this–
Whatever…She had no idea if I was troubled or not.
Reid…something did not gel with me when she told me her story…
She never even tried to contact me the whole year after Mom and Dad died until the day she got me out of foster care.
She just did not seem that worried….I mean I have a younger brother and if he went missing I would go after him.
It was her fault…She told her boss/boyfriend about me…I didnt’ know at the time.
This guy…she is together with…is this Syracuse?
WAS Syracuse…Guess she didn’t tell you she killed him.
Was? No!
Almost got away with it…
Reid … what is Marcus’ dad’s name?
Colonel Brackett.
Right…so the suspects are: Dr Kirsten Lund, Colonel Brackett and this Syracuse fellow – who is now dead…as well as your sister Lucy?
Yes. She was part of it for sure.
Brackett worked for Lund. So did Syracuse. One was her collector the other her bully but she was the core of the whole thing: She made the stuff that turned kids into monsters.
What sort of monsters?
The hunters.
Hunters? Men with guns?
Not exactly….
Okay, so we’re getting to the stuff that you’re going to judge us for.
Only tell me what you think is necessary Reid.
Dr. Lund was running this secret program to create super soldiers…
She developed this stuff that turned normal kids into these hybrid creatures
silver eyes, shark teeth, claws — you get the picture?
Thing is… The stuff made us into monsters…bloodthirsty. So when under the influence so to speak, the kids became bloodthirsty…hunted other kids…
So that would make it appear that you are the guilty ones….cunning evil plan by this Dr Lund.
Yeah totally…like we were the bad guys.
Are you still under the influence of this experiment?
um… I don’t know how to answer that
I mean, we’re all changed.
But we don’t take dust anymore. Unless there’s a mission…
Ok…so the changes are permanent? They don’t wear off?
Our senses are different, like hyper…
Eventually they don’t…if you take enough and Dr. Lund changed the formula
she said we were immortal but we’ll see… I don’t really believe her…
But we’re not bloodthirsty or anything, not dangerous.
This Dr Lund? Is she still alive? Where is she?
Unless you’re our enemy…
She’s dead.
And Colonel Brackett?
But there will still be people who know about this…their soldiers and helpers?
No, not really–well sorta.
There was a general who came to clean up the mess but everyone who was responsible is no longer able to stand trial, you know?
(Trying to be subtle.)
Yes I understand…but Reid if you kids are all changed, it also means it is not safe for you to come forward.
Is that the sum of it?
That’s why I was (we were Drew made me type) worried about this.
But people need to know!
‘Cause if it gets out, they’ll think we’re monsters…and we’re not…not anymore.
OK…Could you tell me this? Do you think this is still going on? Maybe that we don’t know about?
I… we never thought about that…
Lund is dead so we figured…
Drew wants me to ask you why you’re asking?
Reid….kids are still going missing…
I…from here?
The US?
Yes and other places.
I’ll ask–I have someone I can check with…but I don’t know how it could be… not with Lund dead.
We’d have to do something about that!
That’s why I am talking to you.
I am going to do something about it…and I have people I trust who are going to help me.
If there is more going on, this is your only warning:
Stay out of our way!
Reid…you need to promise me that you kids will stay in hiding? Don’t tell me or anyone where you are…
We’ll do what we have to if this is still going on!
But I will give you an email address that you can contact me on.
We ALL agree!
Reid…is there anything you kids need … anything at all?
No. We have everything we need.
Thanks for asking and for telling me about the other kids.
OK…..then the last question is: is there anything any of you want to say to the world? Tell me now and I will be your mouthpiece.
I’m not so great with words… hang on, Leila wants to answer this…
Hi, Kim. We just want everyone to know that we’re real. We exist. We’re not evil or monsters, that we may be foster kids but we’re not disposable. And we’re not dangerous. We just want to live our lives and not hurt anyone ever again. That’s all. Thank you for your kindness. Leila..
Okay, she’s done.
Ok…Leila, Reid and everyone else I will get the truth out there….
Trust me.
Just be careful…if you’re poking around there’re going to be consequences.
I will…I don’t trust just anyone….I have been trained to take care of myself…
Listen, if a guy named Aberdeen knocks on your door? Go with him – don’t hesitate, it means you’re in danger…
Ok…Aberdeen…I will remember that.
Reid…I have got to go case anyone else is trying to track this…I have it pretty heavily encrypted but you never know…
Okay. Um…Thanks.
Contact me if you need to…anytime…any day ok.
I will.
We will.
And thank you for trusting me…and telling me the true story behind all your kids’ stories….
Please take care of one another. Be safe.
Just get it right!
I will.
That was intense!
Not so bad…
That was intense.
The kids were right here with me.
Its’s going to be a good story…
Well the kids were brilliant…I thought it would be a good idea to get their story…in their words…
It is time for the truth to be told.
All four books are now available on Amazon. If you want to read more of Reid, Drew and the others’ story get your copies now. It is a story that needs to be read and shared. The order of this harrowing series are:
Patti Larsen | In the Spotlight | Run or Hide (
Run | Patti Larsen | This year’s Next YA Amazon Hit (
Night Terrors in Patti Larsen’s Mind (


Meeting the Antagonist | Drew Cross

We all know what a hero looks like. We also know what the Bogey Man looks like. But it is an art form to write a Bogey Man that jumps out from the pages of a story and truly scares you. Today I have asked one of my favourite writers to guest post on this topic. Drew is perfect for this topic because not only does he have real life experience in chasing down the bad guys but his antagonists are truly original characters who will definitely haunt you. 
When Kim asked me to guest blog about scary antagonists I was well and truly in my element!
I’ve had to invent a number of ‘bad’ characters in my crime and children’s novels to date, and I have something of a formula for what I personally find scary and how as a writer I project that fear onto the reader.
Here are my tips:
1. Outward normality.
I don’t know whether it’s residue from my time in the police force, but I’ve generally stopped thinking about antagonists as hideously ugly and obviously frightening to behold. I think it’s infinitely more terrifying to take the real life psychopath/sociopath as a starting point for your antagonist – outwardly there’s nothing unusual about most of them (I’ve met a few in prisons and on the streets, and they look just like me and you), but if you’re able to peel back the mask of normality then there’s something truly scary underneath. Letting the reader in on the secret thoughts and actions of such beings is always good fun and practically guarantees a shudder or two.
2. An obsession.
Whether it’s the obsessive urge to murder and mutilate of the serial killer, (Dr Lecter step forward) or the erotomania (obsessive love) of a stalker (think Ian McEwan’s ‘Enduring Love’), a memorable antagonist should have something at the heart of their desires that preoccupies them and drives them to evil acts. That obsession could be for revenge, the desire to possess something or someone, or taking simple sadistic pleasure in the suffering of others; but it’s memorable because we recognise it as being at odds with what it means to be truly human.
3. Insanity.
Rightly or wrongly we tend to fear the seriously mentally ill; unpredictability and irrationality threaten our love of order and control, so a character who exhibits these behaviours is a frightening prospect for the reader. I studied psychology some time back, and there are a wealth of different personality traits and disorders that translate into useful fodder for the writer: Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction, the archetypal ‘bunny boiler’, exhibits strong characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder, for example.
4. Originality.
Finally, and here’s the most difficult part, you need to find something original (or nearly so, since there’s precious little left that hasn’t already been done) about your antagonists. That might not necessarily be the nature of the character’s actions themselves; it could be the setting, or something about their life or motivations that sets them apart (The character Dexter of book and TV fame is a good example), but unless you’re entirely happy with being considered derivative, you need to be able to point out what sets your bad guys apart.
I hope you find this interesting and/or useful, but I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
Drew X.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Drew can be found at: Twitter – @authordrewcross                                                                                      Website – authordrewcross

Night Terrors in Patti Larsen’s Mind

This week I am writing about things that scare me and why scary things are so irresistible. So today’s guest blogger was the perfect choice to slot in this week’s theme of all things scary. If you have read any of this author’s work, you will be surprised to find out that she is actually terrified of the dark and all the creatures that it hides. This author’s tales give me the heebie jeebies but still I come back begging for more. So what scares Patti Larsen? Let’s find out.

Writing Horror When You’re Scared of the Dark

You’re laughing at the title, aren’t you? Fair enough. I didn’t set out to write thrillers, let alone horror. But my muse, the voices, whatever term you wish to give authorly inspiration, has led me down a dark path the last little while. Yes, I’m still writing my YA paranormal fun stuff with lots of adventure and sarcasm. And my middle grade work is all action adventure, just how I like it. 

But there are story lines crawling forth from the black, creeping out of my closet, sliding free from under the bed… and I’m honestly having trouble sleeping.

We have a nightlight in the hall outside my bedroom door. I kid you not. My husband thinks it’s so I won’t trip on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. He has no idea I use it to keep an eye out for whatever my over-active imagination seems to be stirring free.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m just writing this to give you a bit of a chill? Um, no. I wish. And while I’d never classify myself as a coward, I hate the dark.

I finally let it out in my work, thinking writing about it would ease the fear somewhat. Like popping a blister or pulling a band aid free. Figured the first truly horrifying work that came to me was my psyche’s way of dealing with some here-to forgotten trauma. That penning fearful prose would ease the anxiety I get when I switch out the light and dive for the safety of the covers.

Wrong. It’s made it worse, in some ways. Now I’m writing about voodoo dolls and bones buried in cursed ground that rise to torment the living, dark creatures that hunt and kill for sport when they aren’t feeding on fresh livers and still-hot blood. A boy with horrid powers of control over others who devolves so deeply he forces an entire town to build a throne in his honor out of the bones of their dead.


I’m hoping this is a phase. That my compulsion to write this stuff will eventually dry and up go away in favor of butterflies and sparkly unicorns. Trouble is, every time I think that might be the case, the butterflies grow fangs and claws and attack the unicorns. They end up gutted, blood pooled beneath them, staining their polished white coats the deepest crimson, while their entrails curl in greasy ropes around their shining and delicate hooves. Can you hear it? The final beating of their precious hearts?

Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba. Dum.

That’s it. I’m sleeping with the lights on for the rest of my life.

About the Author: Patti Larsen is a middle grade, young adult and adult author with a passion for the paranormal who writes a great deal of horror for someone who is afraid of the dark. (SEE! It’s true! It’s right in my bio.) She lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband Scott and four enormous cats. 

Her new series, The Hunted (Run, Hide, Fight and Hunt), is available now at and

You can find her at



Books Blog: 



and her work on

Thrill me | Chill me | Don’t kill the MC (
Patti Larsen | In the Spotlight | Run or Hide (
Run | Patti Larsen | This year’s Next YA Amazon Hit (

Thrill me | Chill me | Don’t kill the MC

Thrills / Chills / Kills

The Boogeyman…The ghosts around a campfire…Vampires….Hansel & Gretel’s witch…The evil step-mother…Monsters

Our childhoods are filled with tales that thrill us with adrenaline and chill us with fear. We grow up being told fairy tales of witches, evil killer step-mothers, red shoed witches and monsters of every shape and ilk. Our teen years are filled with ghost stories told around a camp-fire, scaring each other in the dark, continuing the tales of terror, visiting horror shows in fair grounds and roller coaster rides.

What is it about our morbid fascination with all things scary? Why are thrillers and horrors the biggest box-office hits in cinemas world-wide? Why are the scariest rides the most popular at fairgrounds?

When we are faced with things that terrify us we get a giant kick of adrenaline that surges through our bodies and electrifies every single nerve fibre in our body. Adrenaline pushes us to action. Whether we decide to run for the hills or stand our ground and fight the terror, we are forced to act. Our emotions are kicked into hyper-drive and we feel more alive than ever. So there is no great mystery why things that scare us draw us in time and time again. We crave that adrenaline hit. We crave that singing feeling that sends our nerve ends buzzing with an irresistible energy.

Throughout life we dare ourselves and each other to face our fears. In every culture there is a facing of fear task that needs to be overcome to get to certain stages of maturity. Facing our fears and overcoming them turn us from children into adults.

Whether it is ghosts, the dark, different phobias – we all understand fear and its features. But human beings are the only creature that seeks out the things it fears. Perhaps it is our search for adventure that is an antidote to the mundane and normal. But unlike animals, reptiles and birds; we run after things that scare us.

It is more than just the adrenaline. It is also a need to feel connected and feel raw emotion. Fear is one of the most basic and instinctual of all emotions. But fear is not necessarily always a bad emotion. Fear can help us reach the strongest parts of ourselves and resort to acts of courage that we would ordinarily not find. Fear can push us to act rather than just react. Fear also makes us feel completely alive and gives us a rich appreciation for our own survival. Fear casts a harsh light on the fragility of the human condition but it is also forces us to count every second as precious. 

What makes a story scary? 

The setting can be a huge part of setting your reader / viewer up for fear. It could be a graveyard on a misty night, a darkened alleyway, an abandoned house, an office building at night, a creaking floor and opening door…all of these would immediately put you in the seat of fear.

Characters can be another set up for fear. Creepy old people, a child that seems to look into your soul, a menacing individual or the guy/girl who seems just too good to be true…

But for me the scariest scenes are those that could happen and that might happen. When we read something and watch something and believe that it could happen. When the normal suddenly degenerates into the bizarre and twisted. These are the ideas and stories that really scare me. Monsters don’t scare me but vengeful spirits/ghosts do. Vampires don’t scare me but sharks and snakes do. 

Watching or reading something scary makes me appreciate safety and security. It makes me feel alive and immeasurably grateful to be alive. There is a lot of things and people in this world that are truly scary but to know the light we sometimes need to confront the darkness. Another reason why I love reading and watching thrillers is that the good guys always triumph, it may be by the skin of their teeth, but they do triumph. The bad guys always end up on the worse end of the tale, either being killed, destroyed or caught. 

A great thriller walks a close line between the bizarre and normal. It brings out the flaws and fears in the characters and forces them to new levels of strength, fortitude, courage, survival and the most basic levels of humanity. 

I am often asked why I not only read and watch thrillers but write them too. I am drawn to the ultimate fight between good and evil and in every good thriller – book or movie – good trumps evil. I write dark fiction because it helps me balance emotions. I also love pushing characters into terrible spots that they have to get out of to survive. I love writing that is filled with conflict and tension. There is no way that one can hide from darkness in this world but we can teach ourselves that light can triumph over that darkness. After all, it takes only one small match that when lit can light up a whole room. Darkness flees from light. That is the natural order of things. The night can be long, dark, cold and threatening but eventually the sun rises with dawn and the warmth of a new day brings hope. 

This is why I write dark fiction. I write it to remind myself that there is darkness in the world and there are dangerous things, people and situations. But there is also light and goodness. There is also courage and human compassion. Writing dark fiction allows me to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and courage over fear. Writing a believable antagonist that fills me with fear and foreboding makes me write a believable protagonist that fills me with hope and courage. Writing dark fiction allows me to acknowledge darkness and fear but more importantly it allows me to celebrate light and courage.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  ~Ambrose Redmoon

Rachna Chhabria | Character Secrets

The Mad Hatter, Alice, Gollum, Samwise, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter…

These are all characters we feel we know as well as our own loved ones. They are characters that we grew up with or came to know and love. The authors of these characters may fade with time but their creators – the memorable characters – will live on in our memories.

So what makes a memorable character? Why do some characters just creep into out hearts? What makes a character jump from the page of black and white words into a fully formed 3d character that lives, breathes and acts?

Rachna Chhabria guest posts today and tells us how she comes up with memorable characters and what the secret ingredients are. 

Creating Memorable and Enduring Characters


As readers, long after we finish reading a book, the characters remain with us. These are what we call memorable characters. Many times we put up with dull books because we have developed a fondness for the characters, especially the main character. We put up with the story because of our affection for the characters.


When we start writing our own stories and books, we strive hard to create memorable characters that will haunt readers for a long time. I have had quite a few readers telling me that they identified with Leo-the lion, who was the protagonist of my first book ‘The Lion Who Wanted to Sing’. Leo’s passion to learn singing from a singing bird, was something everyone identified with. We all have plenty of desires that we wish to fulfill. Achievement of a Desire, forged a bond between the readers and the character. Leo’s sacrifices: giving up meat, roaring gently instead of loudly to enhance the musical quality of his voice and few other sacrifices struck a strong chord with readers across all ages.


Memorable characters are created when a character comes across as a believable character. Readers easily identified with Leo; bored with the monotony of his life as the king of the Jungle. His desire to learn singing to infuse a fresh lease of life into his dull life resonates with every human. We have all tackled boredom and monotony at some stage or the other in our lives.


There has to be a sense of oneness in situations, between a reader and the character’s life. Leo had to endure the taunts and jibes from small creatures who use to tremble before him, this is something we all can identify with. Time and again we encounter detractors who try to dissuade us from activities that they consider out of our reach. After that it’s up to us to prove them wrong.


It’s a completely false notion that for a character to be memorable they have to be perfection personified. Imperfect characters brimming with fear of failure, battling insecurities, harbouring frequent doubts about their abilities are more realistic than characters who breeze through life whistling a tune. Perfect characters or characters who have very few flaws have an artificiality about them. We immediately detest such superior than thou creatures as they hold a mirror that reflects us in poor light.


Characters who are not scared to show their emotions appeal more to readers than characters as closed as a clam. If a reader is getting acquainted with a character and following him page after page, he/she needs to see the character with all its flaws. The reader is literally making the journey with the character and a journey has its fair share of sorrows, joys, fears, success, failures, frustration, strengths and worries.


The lion’s frequent questions regarding his ability to carry a tune echo the doubts that often crop up in our minds when we start a new endeavour. This brought about a sense of identification with the character’s emotions: anxiety and doubts.


Characters who encounter both success and failure are ones readers identify with. Isn’t life all about both the highs and the lows? The lows the protagonist undergoes makes us rejoice when they experience a high. If characters keep tasting failure without a bite of success, then the readers label them as complete losers. And when characters constantly meet with success, they are labeled as overachievers and the readers start resenting them.


To hide his insecurity and doubts from his family, Leo often secretly practiced the singing lessons inside a cave so that the next time he sang before his teacher he would be a little better than the previous session. Leo’s constant battle with the thought that carnivore animals could not sing is as realistic as it can get and becomes a mirror image for all of us. Isn’t life all about conquering fears, both internal as well as external. We have as many inner conflicts to overcome as external conflicts to battle. And our fights with our inner demons is a constant one.


Characters who arouse our sympathy, definitely wriggle their way into our hearts. I need to clarify that I don’t mean weepy or weak characters get our sympathy. Characters whose circumstances close in on them, are more sympathy evoking than characters who are caught in a sad state because of their deeds. When we empathize or sympathize with a character, concern for their well-being creeps in a reader’s mind. It’s this concern that sees us enduring the story despite its flaws.


Thanks Kim, for giving me this opportunity to guest post on your lovely blog.


Find Rachna on her blog: Rachna’s Scriptorium 

Character Recipes | Spices & Secret Ingredients

Shop with spices in Morocco

Image via Wikipedia – Spice shop in Morocco

Do you love cooking?

Or do you prefer baking?

Personally I love cooking. In baking you have to be very careful to follow a recipe to the letter. You have to be precise with times, temperatures and measurements. The smallest variation could be disastrous. Frankly the thought of baking leaves me cold. I tend to leave that to the experts like my clever CP who is a baker extraordinaire and my amazing mother who is the world’s best baker. Cooking however, is something I love and something I thrive at: especially when it comes to making my own tasty recipes where the only rules and limits I need to stick to are the boundless limits of my creative imagination.

The art of creating a memorable character has more in common with cooking than baking. You have your standard ingredients as your base but the rest is up to your creative skills as a writer: you are the chef in your own Character Recipe. So what’s my Character Recipe? What spices do I use to flavour? What secret ingredients do I use to make the character breathe with depth and emotion? What is my inspiration for the recipe? This brings me to the topic for this month’s Tuesday Blog Hop.

Topic for Tuesday August 9th:  Character Recipe 

Alphas, betas, helpless Hannas we all have characters we love and those we hate.

But how did we create them? What’s your character recipe? 


The best cooking is rich with spices, sauces and exotic flavours. The best dishes are when you, the cook & chef extraordinaire, can come up with a new twist on a well-known dish. Writing a story is very much like this. Just by changing the spices in a dish you can create a whole new flavour explosion. Characters are the spices that writers use to flavor their own dishes: the stories.

Very few plots are completely original. I read a quote this week that your story is either a Romeo & Juliet or a David & Goliath but just in different variations. In just the same way most cookery dishes are just new twists or different variations on the old tried and true favourites. But the difference between each dish is the combination of spices, herbs and sauces that add the final WOW touches that create an EXPLOSION of taste-bud orgasm that leaves you breathless and wanting more. We have all had those moments where we have had a plate of food put in front of us that may have looked similar to a well-known dish but the moment a forkful is put in your mouth: Your tastebuds just melt in submission of a flavor EXPLOSION that is happening in your mouth.

Creating characters is like adding my favourite spices, herbs and sauces to a dish. They are the WOW factor in a dish that will make you begging for seconds, thirds and fourth helpings. For me characters are what I love or hate about a story. Sometimes it is even  a question about loving to hate the bad guy/girl in the story. They often are the most memorable. Just like a great spice they might be sharp, spicy-hot or colourful. I have always had a soft spot for the villains in the piece. Maybe it is because they are limitless and in-your-face with their attitude and their lack of moral or ethical restraints. They do what we may in our deepest parts dream to do but dare not.

In my current story I have two Main Characters and a shadow character that binds them together. I have quite a few beta characters and secondary characters but these three characters that I mentioned are the heart, gut and backbone of this story. I am going to write an individual post for each of these three characters. So let me start today by introducing you to the character who started it all.

My favourite character in the story is actually my antagonist or villain. Her name is Eliza Chambers. She is also the inspiration for the whole story. The story is really her story and all its complications. She isn’t the easiest of characters to work with and in the beginning she was quite stubborn and reticient in sharing with me. But I am equally as stubborn and with a lot of persistence I managed to tease the story out of her. She lives in Victorian London in the suburbs. She is the eldest daughter of a very well known and high society family. But she does not fit the mould of either her society’s view of a woman nor her family’s. She is feisty, headstrong and incredibly independent. Her heroes of the day are the many inventors of the Victorian age, starting with her father. She also sees and communicates with spirits. This starts getting her in all sorts of trouble and soon trouble is brought to her own doorstep  in the form of deadly family secrets & skeletons that force her to face her own capacity for rage and scorn. The twist is that she ends up confronting her worst self and she becomes the family skeleton & secret.

One of my betas told me they found her creepy. I loved that reaction and that description. It meant that I had interpreted Eliza correctly and done her justice even though justice is the last thing she has coming. The story is about ghosts, family secrets, cursed love affairs, revenge and redemption. Without Eliza Chambers there would be no story. She will give you the creeps but she will also fascinate you as she has me. I love writing all her chapters because it stretches my skills and my imagination. Because she lives in a Victorian time I had to think, speak and act like a Victorian woman. She starts off very stubborn, secretive and austere, even cold at times. But as the complications ensue, passion and scorn transform her into a woman bent on revenge and seething with rage. Hell hath no fury like Eliza Chambers being scorned. In the end this is a woman who even ghosts & spirits fear to tread with. I think women will understand her even though they will swear they have nothing in common with her and men will fear her. She has given me sleepless nights many a time since I first met her last year in October.

Where did she come from? I really don’t know. One day she just appeared and started telling me her story. It was all I could do to grab a pen and start writing down the bones of this story. Perhaps she came from my fascination with ghosts & the afterlife which usually co-exist with family secrets & skeletons, both literal and figurative. I am also in love with the Victorian era and often believe that is my true era. I also like strong women who don’t always fit the mould. Are there elements of me written into the character? That is a difficult one because when you create a character there is a fine line between yourself and a created personality. Would I behave in the ways Eliza does? I would hope that I didn’t. But in the same manner, I can sympathize with her. The fun part of a mean & vengeful character is that you get to act out without actually acting out.

Eliza Chambers will remain with me for a long time even after this story is finally put to bed. She is a complex individual who chooses the wrong turns. Her story is an extreme story of cursed love, taboo relationships, betrayed secrets, broken hearts, revenge and thrown together with large helpings of the supernatural. But the one reason why I do respect her is that she never apologizes for who she is and above all she stands up for her views of right and wrong, good and evil: even though her views may be slightly skewed and twisted. Do I like her? Yes, there are many parts of her I like. Do I like her actions? No, although understandable, they are extreme and usually bent to her own agenda which is tinged with revenge, scorn and rage. But all of these same characteristics make a great story and create a multi-faceted person who you will either love to hate or hate to love.

 Eliza Chambers

is the spicy pepper,too hot chilli and pungent garlic to my, or should that be her, story: The Raven’s Court.