“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.

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.

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.

A look back and a look forward

Welp, it’s 2020. I checked my resolution for 2019 to see how I did … I’d resolved to read all the unread books on my Kindle.

Welp. Failed that one. In fact, I now have more unread books than I did in 2019. Bad llama. According to Goodreads, I only read 15 books in 2019, and half of them were school books I read aloud to the kids. But hey, that counts, right? I’ve been in survival mode with a crawling baby, so that’s my excuse.

Over the course of last year, I wrote 12 more fanfics, most of which were novel-length, including two trilogies I’m very proud of. Now, if I could do that in 2020, only with original books, I’d be golden.

Speaking of which, Dean Wesley Smith is running a class challenge where everybody is supposed to publish 12 books in 2020. That’s 1 book a month. You don’t have to write them, only publish stuff that’s been sitting around, languishing and collecting dust. I think I could do 6 books, since I have three sitting around, waiting for revisions, and I could write a few novellas before June. I have another baby due in June, so after that I can’t commit to any work-related stuffs. That’ll be my sort-of resolution for 2020, is to try to do that challenge and see how I do.

I did start picking up art commissions in the end of 2019, so that was fun to get back into. I think it was Butch Hartman who said something like, “Go out there and do the thing. Eventually people will see you doing the thing, and they will come to you and ask you to do the thing.” And that’s what I’m seeing happen.

Here’s a big one I did and couldn’t post until after Christmas, because it was a Christmas present for the client’s boyfriend.

This pic took about three weeks of back and forth with the client and with critiques from an artist group. It came out all right, but I was kind of overwhelmed by the end.

So we’ll see how the year goes. I don’t really have a word for this year, since I really have no idea what will happen. Each year has been so drastically different from the one before, I’m hesitant to make any real plans. I have a couple of easily achievable goals, and I think that will suffice.

Never run down your work

Ever see a piece of artwork that just blows your mind? It’s incredible, and it looks like it was painted it just a few strokes. Yet it somehow captures the essence of the subject in a way you’ve never thought about before.


Then you read the description. And the artist says something like, “I whipped this up in five minutes. It’s not very good and I hate it. I’ll probably take it down later.”
And you feel let down, because YOU liked it. But the artist knows better than you, right? And it must be crap, somehow. So you go away slightly offended without knowing why.


Dean Wesley Smith talks about this in a blog post called No One Cares. He’s talking about writing, but the same rule applies:

When you wrote a book and got it out, it was the best you could do at the time. Some readers paid good money for it and many liked it and bought more books from you.

So you go learn something and now YOU CAN SEE WHAT WAS WRONG. Before, those same words looked fine to you, but now you can see “the problem.” Oh, no…

But no one else can see. And no one cares that you have learned something you add to future books that wasn’t in older books.

Only you know. Only you care.

And one additional thing.

NEVER PUT DOWN YOUR OWN WORK. Especially older books.

Some reader might think your older book is the best thing they ever read and the last thing they want is to be insulted by you putting down their tastes in books.

Keep your mouth shut, keep learning, write the next book, and get it out. Repeat.

And if you really do realize no one cares but you, the freedom in your writing is amazing.

Go have fun.


See, when you put down your own work, whether it’s writing, artwork, dance, music, or whatever, you’re insulting that person who liked it. Sure, you can remark that you have room for improvement. Don’t we all? But stand by your work. Don’t run it down and cheapen it. Your audience liked it. Don’t insult them.

I could go on about what’s wrong with this pic. Or I could point out what’s right with it. Negativity doesn’t make anybody feel better.


Good storytelling owns all

No art to show this week! I’m working on some, but it’s not done. Maybe next week.

Meanwhile, I wanted to write about something that I don’t want to write about. I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this blog post. Because I don’t want to admit that maybe, just maybe, all of the education I’ve given myself on how 2 rite gud is more or less worthless.

I won’t say that learning story structure and characterization and grammar and the rest of it is meaningless. That’s the basics of the craft, after all. All those are important for a writer to know.

But there’s a vast chasm between writing and storytelling. And a good storyteller can tell a story despite their lack of craft chops.

This is a hard pill for me to swallow. I’m a literary snob. When people misspell things or use bad grammar, I snicker at them. This author actually said “She was such a beautiful site”. Haha.

And then those books go on to be bestsellers. My literary snobdom means nothing.

When I was in high school, one of my assigned reading books was Smokey the Cowhorse by James Will. At first, I thought it was the worst-written book I’d ever seen. Here is the first page.

As a know-it-all teen, I rolled my eyes at this vernacular. Oh gosh, what pile of trash am I reading THIS time? I moaned. But it was assigned, so I kept reading.

And wouldn’t you know, it turned out to be such a good story, a kind of Western Black Beauty, that I stopped noticing the vernacular. I was hooked, and to this day, this book remains one of those shining reads in my mind.

The other day, I was poking around fanfiction dot net for something decent to read. I ran across a Destiny story that sounded interesting, took a look, and after a few pages, was hooked. I read all ten chapters and I’m waiting breathlessly for more.

And yet, this is the first page.

There’s passive voice. There’s boring description. The paragraphs are long and dense. There’s very little dialogue. And yet, the story being told is absolutely riveting. You wouldn’t even know it’s Destiny, because it’s set about five hundred years before the game, after civilization has collapsed, and humanity is ruled by these warlords. It’s like medieval fantasy post apocalypse science fiction, and it’s great.

The writing, itself, is obtuse and hard to follow. But man, the story. I would drop cash to read this story. It’s called The Lords of Ambros, if you’d like to take a look.

All this is to say, the writing community obsesses about adverbs and character arcs and all the other minutiae of the craft. In the end, only story matters. As a literary snob, this galls me to say. But it’s true.

Mystery boxes in stories (and why readers love them)

I’ve written 19 fanfics since last May, and it gave me a lot of leeway to experiment. Mostly, I’ve been able to step back and look at which stories consistently get the most hits.

I like to write in a lot of different subgenres. For Destiny, I wrote sci fi > drama, sci fi > romance, sci fi > mystery/thriller, and sci fi > humor.

While all of them found a decent number of readers, the ones that always do the best are the mystery/thriller types. Or, as I like to call them, the mystery box stories.

Now, you’d think that romance would be the most popular. And stories with a dash of romance have performed well for me. But the mystery box stories have them beat, hands down.

What is a mystery box? This is a concept JJ Abrams talks about in his TED talk here. A mystery box is simply a box with something in it. But you don’t know what it is. So you open the box and solve the mystery.

But what if there’s another mystery box inside that box? Ah, the puzzle isn’t solved, then. You have another box to open. And so on and so forth, mystery after mystery. The human brain is wired to be curious. We can’t stand mysteries. We have to find out the answers or it bugs us.

My first mystery box story was about a girl who gets revived by a ghost who can’t talk. (Ghosts are these little robots.)

Why can’t he talk? First mystery box. Turns out he’s broken. But why is he broken? Second mystery box. This is hard to find out because he won’t let anybody touch him. Why not? Third mystery box. Turns out, he’s been rebuilt with alien tech. But how, and why? Fourth box. And on it goes, each mystery getting the heroine into hotter and hotter water. The final mystery isn’t solved until the very last chapter, when the heroine is on trial and only the ghost coming clean will save her neck.

That story went crazy for a while. It got a ton of hits and interaction. People had to see the mystery solved. It still gets hits, even though it’s a bit older, now. It doesn’t have any romance–only the somewhat stressed friendship between the girl and her ghost.

Right now, I’m posting another one that also deals with mystery boxes. In this case, it’s a very Bourne Identity setup–a guy with amnesia just might be a covert operative with the key to a super weapon in his memory. And it’s getting a ton of hits and interactions. People want to see what’s inside that mystery box.

I’m considering doing a romance/thriller to see how it does. All the romance stuff AND mystery boxes? Of course, I’ve been partial to romantic thrillers since I first read Mary Stewart’s books. She does the mystery boxes hardcore. I still think about this one twist in the Moon Spinners that took me completely by surprise.

Anyway, I think all genres can benefit from a few mystery boxes. Not only do they keep the reader curious, but they keep the suspense engine running. I think all authors do this more or less by instinct. But it’s fun to actually build your boxes and scatter them throughout your story. Because, in a story, mystery boxes are also Pandora’s box–opening them should unlock a whole bunch of new problems for your protagonist.