2020 creativity recap (and 2021 resolutions!)

2020 was quite a ride, wasn’t it? At the beginning of the year, I decided to take the Publishing 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. I had a baby due in June, so I figured that I would be doing really well to publish 6 books. I wound up publishing 5 books and a novel-length fanfic, so I figured that counted. Here are the books:

They’re all the same series. I have to figure out how to have the Vid:ilantes series labeled as happening inside the After Atlantis series. You’ll notice that Guardian’s Vow is book 2. I redid the cover for book 1 when I launched the paperback:

Once I had the baby, my writing mojo went out the window, of course. I wrote a few very short fanfics because fanfics are easy. I also drafted all of the next Vid:ilantes book, where the HeroTubers meet up with the characters from the After Atlantis trilogy. It’s still in edits, and I’m hoping to launch it late January or early February.

My goals for 2021 are to write one more book. And one more. And one more. I don’t have a set number. But I’m halfway through writing the book after the next book, so that’s at least two books for 2021 already. Maybe this year I can actually get some advertising traction so folks will hear that this series exists. It’s superheroes who film their own exploits and put them on HeroTube for those sweet ad clicks. And everybody’s powers come from Atlantis, which sank and is a modern-day island chain visited by tourists and cruise ships. It’s terrific fun, and I can’t wait to write more.

As for resolutions, my only resolution is to write and improve my writing, and to continue to improve my artwork by studying fundamentals. We’re hoping to move sometime in 2021, so I’m not planning anything beyond that. Moving is a brain-suck, just as much as having a baby. I’m going to keep on posting my weekly art blogs, with the occasional opinion piece here and there.

Speaking of art, here is a Destiny Christmas art, which I finished on New Year’s Eve:

A warlock takes his daughter to the City to see the decorations.

And that’s my very simple goals for next year. Let’s make it a good one!

On fanfiction and publishing

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and books on writing lately that are changing my perspective a bit.

It started with Don’t Give Money to People Who Hate You. This book was eye-opening for me. But it also gave me resolve to go on writing the sort of entertainment I’ve been writing. You know, fun, fantastical escapes. People need that more than ever.

Then I picked up The Pulp Mindset, which explores how pulp writers of past decades wrote fun, entertaining books that sold like hotcakes. James Bond, Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage, and other heroes are from this era. With the advent of ebooks, we’re back in the era of cheap, fun entertainment for the masses.

I finished the first draft of Mercurion on Saturday, and immediately started writing a couple of fanfics I’ve had waiting in the wings. As I did, I got to thinking about those books I’d just read. Fanfic is just another form of publishing. People read them by the truckload. Here’s some of my stats from May, which is the last time I published a story:

Stats for May, when I published a new fanfic

That is a lot of hits. That is a significant amount of people reading my stories. We’re talking over a thousand unique visitors who came back every day or two to read the new chapter. Some reread the old chapters while they waited for new ones.

Fanfiction is the unsung pulp fiction of today. It makes no money, but people read it for the same reason they read anything–for escape, for entertainment, to have an experience.

It made me sit up and realize that if I write for this hungry audience, they deserve the best content I can produce, the same as my paying readers. I don’t know why I never thought of it that way before. I guess I don’t think of fanfiction as “real” writing because it doesn’t go through a publisher. For me, fanfic is play or practice, kind of like the sketches I’m always posting on this blog. But those are serious readers. A lot of them. So I’m going to work on giving them what they want. And I’m going to try very hard not to do what other writers have done to me and drive off my own readers by chasing the almighty buck.

“Whump” … you have to earn it

The other night, I was up late with the baby and idly scrolling through Pinterest. Pinterest shows me all kinds of weird, random things, and for some reason, it started showing me Whump prompts.

Whump is a splinter-genre that mostly hangs out in fanfiction. It’s the story of a character who is injured in some way, but conceals it from their friends until they collapse (the “whump” is them hitting the floor). Here are some sample prompts:

So, basically, it’s teasing out the scenes in books when a character is hurt, and then wallowing in just that scene via fanfic. Probably some fetish thing.

Anyway, as a professional author, I wanted to point out both the weakness of Whump, and how it make it stronger:

You have to earn it.

If the reader doesn’t care about this character, why should they care when they’re injured?

This works well in fanfic, because the original writers have already done all the work worldbulding, establishing the characters and their arcs, relationships, etc. Readers come to the fanfic with all that background already in their heads, and thus enjoy a story about their favorite character in peril.

But what if the fanfic writer did a little more work? What if they wrote a character arc and a story with actual stakes? That way, when the character is injured, readers have even more reason to care.

What about original stories? You have to work even harder so the worldbuilding and character arcs make sense. If you’re writing any kind of adventure story, the characters taking an injury is one example of conflict and raising the stakes. “If we don’t get medical help, he’ll be dead in eight hours!”

Readers love caring about characters. Make them care about the character first–make them funny, or annoying, or agreeable, or hateable–anything you please. And then put them through hard things to see them react and watch them grow. Readers love stakes and conflict. It’s what makes a good story. Whump is only a small, small part of it. So if you want to write something like whump, make sure you’ve done the work to earn it. You’ll have your readers screaming in anguish. And the screams of readers are a feast for the author. 😀

Why don’t publishers hire ghostwriters for the books they want written?

It’s summertime, and writer’s conferences are in full swing across all my social media. My writing groups are full of people writing proposals and summaries, trying to catch the eye of various publishers or agents. It’s a busy time full of hopes and dreams.

I’m sitting in my corner, doing revisions on my own work, and watching this go on. I’m watching my friends get rejected, watching publishers with really weird requirements. And a question has arisen in my mind that I’d love to ask publishers:

Why do you accept submissions at all when you already know what kind of books you want? Why don’t the publishers write proposals and summaries, and hire writers to write those books?

Publishers don’t want authors who write random books. They want particular books: romance, mystery, or whatever. They want particular formulas in those books. They want particular writing styles. Authors who don’t fit those requirements get rejected, no matter how good their book is.

So … why don’t publishers just hire ghostwriters? Any writer worth their salt can write according to somebody else’s rules. Heaven knows that enough authors have to rewrite their books according to what an editor or agent thinks will sell. Why not go all the way and just write a book from scratch that the publisher has ordered? Authors of licensed fiction do it all the time for Star Trek and other properties.

I think my author friends could avoid a lot of heartache by self-publishing their books and picking up ghostwriting gigs from publishers. I mean, there are indies like Bella Forest who are just a pen name for a jillion ghost writers churning out series books. It’s a thing. I just don’t know why publishers continue to use the old model in the modern era. It’s nonsensical.

Book launch: Vid:ilantes book 2 – Bloodbound

I’m so excited to announce that the second Vid:ilantes book is live!

One by oath, one by blood, one by election.

In a world of superheroes, Jayesh has a rare healing power that he uses in the local hospital. When teenagers are admitted with feather-patterns burned into their backs, Jayesh is reluctantly drawn into the underworld of black market magic smuggling.
A chance encounter with Omniscient, the villain in charge of the smugglers, leaves Jayesh with his magic shattered. A portal to the hospital goes wrong and Jayesh is instead sent to an island in another dimension: an island that has awaited its Bloodbound for centuries. In exchange for healing, he is magically bound to the island, and half his magic is turned into a tiny dragon.
Now, with the help of the Islesworn, James Chase, Jayesh must go undercover to recover the mysterious Pandora. But this means facing off with Omniscient, a villain who can bring a person’s fears to life—and who is increasingly ruled by his own power.

Grab it here!


This is one of those stories that was just so much fun to write. Jayesh is the gentle, quiet, introverted type, very much a healer. And he goes and gets himself into very hot water, just because of trying to do the right thing. I wrote it as an escape, mostly, so all the parts where he hangs out on the island Sanctuary, just walking on the beach or resting, were because I wanted to go to a place like that, myself. I hope readers enjoy the visit as much as I did. I’m already messing with a followup because I just can’t leave this universe alone.

The third book in the trilogy will take it full circle and plug everything into the After Atlantis trilogy. Tane might even appear in Bloodbound. Everybody from After Atlantis will meet up with the Vid:ilantes, and things are going to get really crazy.

Launch of the Vid:ilantes

A few years ago, we were on a long car trip. I was sitting there, thinking about YouTuber drama. Then I started thinking about all those Marvel movies, and how cool it would be if superheroes recorded videos of their crime fighting exploits and put it all on some kind of Youtube. Maybe … HeroTube. And the best heroes got invited into the big networks, and got big name sponsors, and the best ad affiliates. And they were always trying to outshine the other supers in order to win those sweet, sweet ad clicks.

Then I went, why don’t I just plug my SpaceTime characters into this universe? They needed a new home, and I’d unpublished their original books because the books weren’t that great. Heck, I could bring over the villains, too.

That was the beginning of what came to be called Vid:ilantes, a book about superhero Youtubers. And it’s finally available!


In a world where everyone develops superpowers at puberty, James Chase is an aspiring superhero, dreaming of having his own popular HeroTube channel. But when practicing his powers opens a portal to an island in another dimension, he unwisely posts this video to HeroTube. It goes viral and James finds himself in over his head. The networks want him. The villains want him. And worse, he has tapped into one of the lost secrets of Atlantis, one that many people would kill to steal.

Now James must join forces with his roommate Indal, along with a super on the wrong side, and an irritable nonhuman inhabitant of the island, if he wants to save the world–and himself.


Now available at most retailers! Click here!

I’m already writing the next book and having a blast. The Vid books tie in with the After Atlantis books, so you might give those a look while you’re waiting on book 2. (It answers a lot of questions raised in Islesworn, like who is the Guardian and what is the Mercurion?)

Anyway, I am so excited that this book is finally out there for folks to enjoy. Hopefully I can have book 2 finished and out in another month or so. 😀

A little art and a lot of writing

This week I only had time to finish one pic. And it was a pic I drew ages ago and just got around to coloring.

Just Destiny stuff, as usual, heh. I just really like drawing the armor and stuff from it.

I did a speedpaint this morning, but I only got the first couple of stages done.

Just the big colors and shapes blocked in at this point. The armor is really detailed and fiddly, and I want to spend more time on it than I had.

This week I buckled down on edits for Vid:ilantes, the superhero youtubers book. It’s looking pretty good so far, just needs some more polish. I’d love to kick it out the door by next week, but that depends on how fast I can do a cover.

I also finished the first draft of a sci-fi story this past week, which felt really good. It’s very soft, as sci-fi goes (not much math, heh), more space opera than anything. I’d love to launch it next month, but we’ll see how many revisions it actually needs when I read back through it.

My next project is a sequel for Vid:ilantes, since I’ve been carrying it around in my head for months, now. Time to get it all out and see how it goes. It’s fun, because the After Atlantis trilogy deals with Island 1, Vid deals with Island 2, and the sequel will bring in Island 3. Then the book after that will be the big, fat crossover, where everybody unites the islands to face a bigger threat. I’m having way too much fun with this.

Guardian’s Wager launch

Today, the third book in the After Atlantis trilogy is live! These books have been a long time coming, and I’m so excited to have the whole trilogy finally out there.


All’s quiet on Mercury Island after the events of GUARDIAN’S VOW, but Tane has not forgotten Gladiolus, her curse, or his role in breaking it.

But an old threat has arisen–the scientists responsible for the alterations done to Cirrus and Maria have returned. They are eager to recapture their old experiments … and their descendants. They promise Gladiolus a breakthrough treatment for her blind eye, circumventing the curse. Accepting this treatment means Gladiolus must leave her old life behind, including Tane and the Atlantean Islands.

But the monster who laid the curse cannot be thwarted so easily, and accelerates Gladiolus’s sickness in revenge for her choice. Now Tane must rescue Gladiolus from the curse, and his friends from the clutches of the scientists, and he’ll need the full might of Mercury Island’s superweapon to do it. Available on most retailers here!


Book 1 is available here and book 2 is available here, in case you’d like to start from the beginning.

These books have been languishing on my hard drive for two years, awaiting edits and nice covers. Thanks to my husband (a ferocious editor who holds my feet to the fire) and my friend Sherri who is an eagle-eyed copyeditor, I’m confident that these books are ready for primetime.

They also represent my writing struggle of two years ago. Two years ago, I was burned out on writing and publishing. I’d trained myself to outline a book before writing it, and only churned out sub-par stories. The fun was somehow gone. I couldn’t seem to achieve the depth and fun I’d had while writing fanfics as a teen. As a teen, I’d written without an outline, just chasing the characters and plot through all the logical twists and turns of their choices and actions. And I’d written some glorious stuff. What had happened? Was I losing my ability?

Turns out, my brain works best with no outline and a sandbox to play in. I wrote these three books as one long story, just re-learning how to write in a way that gave me joy. These books do have some rough edges that I chose not to remove, because they’re artifacts of my learning process as I was rediscovering my joy.

And the whole trilogy is basically an inverted Beauty and the Beast story, only with superpowers and hecking big lasers. I described book 2 as “Beauty and the Beast with Serenity’s ending.” You know that scene at the end of Serenity when the doors open and River is standing on a pile of bodies with two dripping weapons in her hands? Yeah, that, only with less blood.

So now, this trilogy is finished. And it’s time to shift over to Vid:ilantes, another series in the same world that will dovetail into the After Atlantis books. I’m looking forward to writing a crossover, when my American superheroes and my Atlantean heroes inevitably meet and clash. It will be glorious.

Guardian’s Vow launched

This week was the final push to get Guardian’s Vow through final edits and out the door. My two proofreaders were invaluable, especially my husband, who sacrificed two whole evenings to catch my missing commas and name-change gaffes. I’m satisfied that the book is clean and ready for primetime.

This is book 2 of the After Atlantis trilogy:

Tane and the rest of the island crew have gotten Mercury Island back and are parked a mile in the air above the islands of Atlantis. They are frantically preparing to meet the attack of the warship Fellstorm, which is coming to capture Mercury Island.

When they are joined by Gladiolus Lark, a half-blind girl with a magical malady, the team dynamics begin to shift. Friends draw closer, and even rivals are persuaded to work together. New powers are unlocked as the team delve into the mysteries of Atlanticite crystal, and even the island, itself.

Now the arms dealers National Weapons Enterprises approach to capture the island, and the sea monster Tyrannith waits in the ocean below. Tane must make a terrible choice–to save his friends from one enemy, he must appease the other. He can’t talk NWE down … and appeasing Tyrannith may cost him his life.

Book available on most retailers now! And here’s Book 1, in case you want to start at the beginning.


This is superhero fantasy, so called because it’s people with superpowers in a fantastic setting. It’s set in modern day, but postulates that when Atlantis sank, it became an island chain like the Bahamas. Cruise ships visit regularly, and there’s lots of people constantly excavating the ruins and dredging up all kinds of magitech. There’s a type of magic crystal called Atlanticite that amplifies or just outright grants superpowers. And our heroes accidentally uncover the biggest superweapon of Atlantis and wind up with targets painted on their backs. It’s great fun, if a bit unconventional.

So far, publishing a book a month has been going great. I also just discovered that I have enough short stories with rights reverted that I can compile and release a short story collection. I am enthused about that. So, February’s book will be the final book of the trilogy, Guardian’s Wager. March’s book will be a parallel book in the same universe, Vid:ilantes, a book about superheroes who film themselves doing heroics and post the videos on HeroTube for those sweet, sweet affiliate clicks.

I am excited about this lineup!

Nothing to show off–yet

Well, didn’t complete any artwork this past week. I have a landscape in progress, but all art is on the back burner as I work on my 12 Books Publishing Challenge.

My new year’s resolution this year was to do Dean Wesley Smith’s publishing challenge, which is to publish 1 book a month. You don’t have to write the books. This is just a way to kick those books out the door that are written, but just need revisions and a cover. I have three books just sitting here, staring at me. So out they go!

I’ve been working on the second After Atlantis book, and also updating the first book to bring it more in line with the worldbuilding in Vid:ilantes (due to be published in March, if all goes well). This is a light superhero fantasy series–hero teams having conflicts, mustache-twirling villains, robots, and superweapons. I wrote it a few years ago just for fun, and I’m just now emerging from my Destiny fugue and deciding to, you know, actually publish some stuff.

I was looking at my vast collection of Destiny fanfics and realizing that they’re all earning ad revenue for the sites hosting them. Alllllll those fanfics and alllllll those chapters … ads upon ads, day in and day out. And they get hundreds of hits a month.

This kind of burns me.

So I’m looking at just writing and publishing my own stuff steadily, the way I did my fanfics. I know how to do developmental editing, and I have a couple of very good copy editors lined up. I can also make my own covers. There’s literally nothing holding me back from writing and publishing as many books as I want. I’m not super concerned about making a ton of money as much as I am about making my stories accessible. Even my fanfics are only available on two websites. My books can be available on dozens and dozens of bookstores.

My end goal is to entertain people. People have hard lives, and a book can help them forget that hard life for a few hours. I want to write more books for my cozy mysteries, for my superhero series, and heck, maybe some short stories. I also want to mess with science fiction, the kind of space opera stuff that Destiny and Star Wars are, that I love so much.

So hopefully a new book will be coming along in the next week or so. Guardian’s Vow is in the second round of revisions, just polishing and deepening a few scenes. Have to do a cover for it and update the cover on book 1, and off we go.