Advance Review Readers Needed for The Box Under The Bed – this is your big chance!

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The Box Under The Bed

– a scary anthology with stories from over 20 authors.

Order your copy today! Click HERE!

The paperback version of The Box Under The Bed is available now, and quite a few people have lined up to preorder The Box Under The Bed in eBook format,

but we need a few reviewers to post reviews as Advance Review Copy readers.

Here are the rules:

  • you have to order the eBook or buy the paperback

  • you send me a digital receipt or other proof that you purchased the book (use the Contact Me button and I’ll reply; attach your receipt to the reply email)

  • I will immediately send you a PDF of the book for you to read

  • You must post your honest review within 7 days of the eBook’s release, and preferably post it on October 1. (You can do that; it’s a fast read.) Review rules: Be honest. Love it or hate it, that’s up to you.

  • You CANNOT be a contributing author for the book

That’s it! Easy, huh?

Contributing Authors: if you have friends who have been begging to read this, here’s their chance.


What To Do In A Second Draft To Create An Un-Put-Downable Book

your humble host


It’s a second draft.

For me, that means it’s probably a second coat of paint – but in a different color. It’s time to find places to dive deep.

Yes, that’s a mixed metaphor. So is a second draft.


I’m not talking about typos and commas. That’s different. I’m talking about finishing a story and letting it rest, and then attacking it again.


And it’s an attack.

Because you’re going to be ruthless.


A lot of times we get an idea for a story and the energy just bursts forth, and we start writing – and after a few thousand words the energy is gone and we’ve hit the wall. Writers block. The abyss (one of many you find yourself in as a writer). Whatever you want to call it, you run out of steam.


One way to avoid that is to outline your story so at least you have a direction to keep moving once that initial surge of energy starts to fade.


But there’s also another technique to consider.


Not consider, really. Employ.

Because it’s something I do and I’ve found that by doing it, my stories have gotten much better.


And that is this:


First, finish the story.

First and foremost, you have to do that. Nothing else matters if you have a million great ideas and you don’t finish any of them. So finish.



in that second draft, sometimes you’re taking out stuff that is boring or that you didn’t say very well. Sometimes you add.


My suggestion for removal?

Anything your eyes want to skim the second time through or third time through, highlight it in yellow and think about a way to cut it in half or 2/3 or condense it down to the smallest non-skippable length possible.


That’s what they mean when they say trim it to the bone. I’m good – if I let my manuscript rest long enough. And even then, I’m not an expert. I rely on other people to point out the parts that are difficult for me to trim.


But then there’s the addition side.


There, you have your story “finished” and you’ve let it rest, and you’ve probably taken out some of the boring bits…

but you need to add a second coat of paint.


  • For some of you, it will be adding emotion.

  • For others, it will be intensifying the action.

  • For most of you, it will be heightening the tension.


And to be honest, for ALL of us, it’s ALL of these. How much additional emotion I think my story needs is different from how much you think your story needs, but for both of us it’s MORE. Mine needs 30% more and so does yours. Because 30% in my story to my eye is probably the same amount of work for you looking at your story with your eye. Like, if you go to lift a weight, maybe 20 lbs causes you a 30% strain in your muscles, but for Arnold Schwarzenegger to strain 30% he has to lift . . . I don’t know. A car, I guess.


Wait, what? Which one of us is Arnold?

Okay, forget that. Even though the analogy totally worked, it’s a little off topic.


Anything you add your story is either supposed to be revealing characters or moving the plot forward (according to Vonnegut). But part of that is making people want to turn the page to read on.


And the best way the best way to do that is to have TENSION.

Something we have to turn the page to find out the answer to.


Allow me to explain.

If you have a character cross the room to pick up a pencil, there are two ways to say it.


One is to say:

He walked across the room and picked up the pencil.




Another way is:


He inched his way across the floor to the table where he reached out his trembling fingers and picked up the pencil.


Neither one of those is very good because let’s face it picking up a pencil isn’t that damn interesting.


But what if his daughter is about to be murdered in the next room and he’s a pacifist and it’s not a pencil but a knife or a gun? Now going over and picking up the pencil/gun is much more interesting.


But we would make the same mistake, wouldn’t we?

We’d say he raced across the room and grabbed the gun.


Which is why I made it a pencil first, so you’d all see how dull that writing is. Making it a gun and changing the situation changed the overall tension, but we still need to draw that reader in more!


We might say:

Rubbing his hand over his forehead, he looked at the wall, hearing his daughters screams from the other side. He inched his way to the table, reaching out with his trembling hand to pick up the gun.


See what I mean? Now, we have some dilemma. Tension. We had that before, though.


But we’ve added depth to the emotions. We’ve:

  1. heightened the reading experience for the reader by

  2. showing physical manifestations of the character’s emotions in the scene,

  3. allowing the reader to conclude the character feels a certain way, and thereby

  4. immersing the reader in the story more.


And while it’s perfectly suitable to say he reached over and grabbed the gun, sometimes it’s better to dive deep and amplify what the character is going through at that moment. Don’t say he’s nervous; show his trembling fingers and sweaty brow. Don’t say he hesitates; show him staring at the wall and hearing his daughter and running his hands through his hair.


These are things that physically show what’s going on and allow the reader to conclude he’s nervous and conflicted about what he’s going to do.


And it takes a lot of effort to write the scene, get the characters all doing what they’re supposed to do, and make things as intense as they need to be – all in one take. It’s work! And it’s tiring! And you’re doing it while also thinking about how he rushes in and confronts the bad guys –

so are you 100% focused on the reader’s experience?



You say he grabbed the gun – and you assume the reader totally understands the character’s mindset because YOU do. You see it all, the screams and the panic and the fear . . .


But is what you had in your head what you put on the page?



Not after the first draft, usually.


So you can’t do it all the time, but you’re going to have certain places in your story where you innately want to do it. Those will be fine. You’ll spend time on those because they’re important.


I’m telling you to go back when you’re done with the story and find other places where you can really raise up the tension or emotion or drama. Because they’re ALL important, or they shouldn’t be in the story.


And let’s face it. Reading is an escape. It’s done for pleasure.


If it’s a pleasurable escape,

make sure when you put your readers on the roller coaster you take them to the top of the big hill AND the bottom of the big hill

– and lots of other hills in between.

The twists and turns and all the things that make the roller coaster riders scream with glee are the kind of things you want in your story for your reader to rave about to their friends.

Anthology Update: get Ready, HERE IT COMES!

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The Box Under The Bed comes out October 1 in eBook

Order your paperback copy today! Click HERE

People have asked me if I’d do another anthology, after seeing how much work it is.


The answer is YES!

I don’t pretend it’s not work or that I like messing up and having 20 people call me on it, but like anything else, it’s a learning curve and I expect to get better each time.

My first Word Weaver Writing Contest was borderline overwhelming.

The second one was MUCH smoother

because I knew what to expect – and how to pace myself. The next one, probably in November (maybe sooner) will be even easier as I continue to build the muscles needed to do the lifting.

Same with the anthology.

I had almost no idea what to expect when I decided to do this. In truth, some things I thought would be easy turned out to be hard, and some things that I thought would be really difficult – like formatting the paperback – were really easy. (Thanks again, Jenifer!)
This anthology stuff will get smoother with each one we do, too, and it’s been a lot of fun learning how to coordinate this, taking people’s stories and turning them into a book, and helping a few people become published authors for the first time.
I really can’t wait until we start the next one! (But I will. Because I’m kinda exhausted.) More of you will get published for the first time, with some bestselling authors! Where else can you get a deal like that?

On the first, the real work begins: marketing.

Rest up! We’re gonna need everyone’s help!


your humble host

Occasionally on the blog we turn the reins over to someone with thoughts they want to share.

Sarah Zama has always lived surrounded by books. Always a fantasy reader and writer, she’s recently found her home in the dieselpunk community. Her first book, Give in to the Feeling, comes out in 2016.


Have a look at her thoughts on the future of the industry, and then check out her website. 

The last few years have passed like a hurricane on the fields of publishing. In a matter of five or six years everything has changed for everyone involved with books (authors, publishers, readers, booksellers) and at the speed of the lightening.

It is still changing. I don’t think we’re done yet.

Although utter change has invest anyone who works with or enjoys books, the big debate has centre itself around the means of publishing a book: most of commentary, especially on the indie side, hails the advent and freedom of self publishing and prophesises the end of traditional publishing as obsolete and unable to meet today’s shifting market.

author Sara Zama

Personally, I don’t think this is a black or white issue. This is my take at it.


Self Publishing: total control


What all writers want is seeing their work in print. We all want to see our stories and hard work transformed into an object (physical or digital) that can be ‘given’. We want readers to appropriate that object, that book, and share the experience with us and other readers.

In the old days, we would either have to get the interest of a publisher, or have money to invest in printing the book ourselves.

The digital era has ushered the revolutionary practice of self-publishing. Anyone can now publish a digital book, at no cost, if one so desire.


On the surface, this sound like an author’s paradise. There are many good things that comes with it, and the best of all is the total control the author has on the entire process:

  1. We decide when we want to publish
  2. We decide where to publish in terms of both online stores and nations
  3. We can decide how much money to invest. We can even decide to spend nothing.
  4. We decide how we want to promote our book, to the point we can change the price as we see fit.
  5. We can change anything about the book (the cover, the blurb, event he text itself) or the promotion plan in any moment


Paradise, isn’t it? In fact is sounds too good to be true and if we look a bit closer, we’ll see there are a lot of things we should consider carefully.


First of all: Do I really want that much control?

Sure, having the freedom to decide whatever I want may sound the best thing, but before I self published my first book I asked myself lots of questions: Do I have the skills and the preparation to take all these decisions? Do I have the know-how? Am I able to do everything which I’m expected to do in a professional way?

I knew then as I know now that I’m not and I don’t.

Being a self published authors requires to wear many hats. Even if we are willing to learn, we’ll never achieve mastership of all those skills. For example, I am a visual person, I do like to create images and graphics. But create my own cover? Sure, I can put together a pleasant image which is not too shabby, but I’ll still need the right tools to create one that also looks professional enough (we all know PhotoShop is the best tool… but not the easier to muster). I’ll have to learn composition and typography, the theory of colour, the best use of any kind of fonts. Ideally, I’ll also have to learn the best practices in my particular genre, which are the colours associated with it, which the images, the textures, the ideas that will be recognizable to readers. And sure I can learn all of this (in fact, I’d love to), but how long would it take before I muster that art well enough to make a professional job?


So here we start to see that we cannot actually do whatever we want and there are indeed some limitations to our freedom.

The first are: ability and time.


If we can’t do it ourselves, then we can hire someone who can. This is the essence of the author as soloprenaur: we gather our ideas, work out what we need, pin down what we can do ourselves and then hire out what we can’t. We become managers of our activity as authors.

But here lays another limit: money.

As much as we like to think – and we are often told – that we can publish without spending anything, the truth is we do that at our risks. The indie market has become very competitive in a very short time and readers are becoming very smart and very specialised, they know exactly what they want and they’re learning to recognise it at first glance. No author can afford to be unprofessional today.

We do pay for that.

So, the question is: can we actually afford to self publish? Can we meet all the expense? Can we offer a professional cover, a professionally edited plot, a clean text and an effective marketing strategy?

I feel that unfortunately the answer is: not always.

Take me, for example. As much as I’m trying and as much as I have improved, I’ll never be a good promoter of my work. I simply don’t have the mind that is required (natural inclinations is yet another limit we should consider). I’d love to hire a PR who knows how to do the job, but at the moment that’s simply too expensive for me.


Self publishing is a wonderful opportunity, one that only a few years ago was unavailable. But we should take this path knowing what we’re heading towards and being able to weigh pros and cons.


Traditional publishing: a team effort


Getting a book in the hands of readers is hard job.

We need a good story, but that’s fine. We are writers. Writing good stories is what we do. It’s what comes after that which may prove to be a problem. Editing the story, formatting it for publication, getting it into the store. And last of the list, but certainly not lest of the worries, is promoting the story. Because, let’s face it, very often we are the least prepared person to do it.

This is probably why all authors are extremely sensitive toward this area of the publishing business and why I hear so many complaint: if I have to do all my promotion, why do I even need a publisher?


There’s something that always surprises me about this line of thinking: we see very easily the huge change self publishing has brought to authors, but it seems we fail to notice that change has struck traditional publishing too. And very hard.

Authors who expect publishers to give advances, offer the entire process of producing a book and then promote it single-handedly are actually thinking at publishing as it was five, ten, twenty years ago. That kind of publishing doesn’t exist anymore… if it ever.

If we went the indie way, we would pay for every single service of the list. Do we think that comes at no cost for a publisher?

The cost of publishing a book hasn’t much change, but the ways to have a return of money has shrunk for publishers. Self publishing has created competition where it never used to be and this has unsettled all the balances in the traditional field.


Indie books are published at a mind-blowing speed (I don’t mean by a single author, I mean as a consolidated market), no publisher can keep up with such pace and indie books normally have a lower price than traditionally published books.

The matter of a book’s price is something we often overlook when considering the relationship between a publisher and its authors. Most indie authors have an easy-going relationship with their book price, the most hard-press question being, what’s the best price to get the most income and the most readers? It’s sort of the other way around for a publisher, for whom the question is, which is the lower price at which I’ll cover all the expenses?

The book’s price is what keep them on the market. Not only traditional prices are assaulted by indie lower prices, the publishing platforms royalties are also another steep point of competition. Where a publishing platform has very few costs in publishing a book (because most of the cost is sustain by the author) publishers still need to cover all their professional expenses.

This is one of the main reasons why today traditional publishers have less possibilities to invest in anything which is not actual production and of course this impacts on the amount of money they can invest in promotion. Authors often point out the small time and money publishers invest in promotion, but really that’s because publishers don’t have much time and money to actually invest, whether they want it or not.


It used to be done through media promotion and distribution, which were (and to some extent still are) venues only available to publishers.

Today promotion has spread everywhere and this means once again that competition has become fiercer and demands for higher investments of both time and monay. Expecting a publisher to promote all their authors (who will be hundreds if it’s at least a Small Press) is simply unrealistic. The amount of time that it would require is unavailable to any publisher.

On the other hand, the relationship with the readers has dramatically change. It used to be that information went from the publisher to the reader and even when an author was willing to be available to her fans, that relation would be handle by the publisher, since authors were seldom willing to give away personal details like their addresses or phone numbers. Contacting the publisher was the only way a fan had to get in direct contact with their favourite authors (that’s what I did too).

Today, the relationship between an author and her fans is laid out online.

Most anyone can be reached via social media, which is an acceptable way to get in touch inside safe limits.

This means that readers now expect to get in touch directly with the author and have no desire or need to get in touch with the publisher. Communication with the publisher is often perceive as promotion, not human contact and so it may result in negative outcomes.

Any marketing person will tell you that the success of a promotion campaign will depend on the quality of the human connection between author and readers, so as authors we must be aware that, any route we’ll take, we will need to make at least a part of our own promotion. That’s the most effective one.

I’ve never been traditionally published, but I’ve worked for nearly fifteen years for QuiEdit, a university publisher in my city, and I can tell you that, if this publisher cannot afford to continuously promote any book, he will never turn his back to any author willing to do the job. He will do anything he can to help.


So, if traditional publishing faces all these limitations today, why would we be interested in it?

Well, because a publisher is a machine specifically designed to publish books. All those decisions we need to take as indie authors will be handled by the publisher, together with the expenses, which a publisher – who works at many books and projects at the same time – can optimise with the least impact on the cost of the finished book. The publishing house becomes a specialised ecosystem in the publication of stories, the best environment to learn and grow as an author. The publisher naturally congregate experiences, professionals and authors on a wide range of different kind of stories, in a environment that – when vital – can push us authors further and sometimes in unexpected directions than we’d go of our own accord.


This is the reason why, even if I have self published a couple of stories and I plan to publish more, I’m still seeking traditional publication for other stories. I know that working inside a professional environment that isn’t created by me will give me experiences and skills I never thought I needed.


Unfortunately, getting in isn’t easy.


The hybrid author: choosing the best path every time


The indie/traditional publishing debate – one that is often heated –  seems to concentrate on the supposed opposition between the two ways of publishing. If one way succeeds, then the other must be doomed to vanish.


Things are still furiously changing, so it’s very difficult to guess where the publishing industry will go. But it seems to me this debate hints at our fate is to be either indie or traditional authors. While I do believe that our natural qualities will make us lean towards one form of publishing or the other (I’m a slow writer, for example, it would be hard for me to focus solely on indie publishing), I think that the true difference lays in the project and not the author.

There are projects which are best handled by the author herself, for many different reasons. Maybe the theme is too unconventional for a traditional publisher, maybe the story is too short, maybe it is best suited to use as a free token designed to build an author platform. Other projects may be more suited for traditional publication, maybe because they are particularly complex and a team effort would be more effective, maybe because it requires means that are difficult to get for indies. Why then would we want to see one form of publishing or the other perish?


I don’t believe indie and traditional publishing are opposite ways to create books, I think they are very different but complimentary ways to do the same thing. That’s were the true control resides, in my opinion: in the freedom to decide, for every single project, which is the best way to go.


I do believe that the future belongs to the hybrid author.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sara!

Gang, check out Sara’s links below.










Great Storytelling In Bad Stories

your humble host

There’s a movie on cable right now called “Nocturnal Animals” that isn’t very good and I’m not recommending it as a movie,

but it has Amy Adams in it and I would watch her onscreen for 90 minutes just breathing.

That aside, it has a really great scene in it. So remember I’m recommending the scene, not the movie. The movie sucks. The scene is very good. And Amy Adams is always awesome.

The family is a husband and wife and teenage daughter driving on a desert highway at night and they get forced off the road by another car. The other car has sped up and slowed down and yelled at them and said bad things and generally been obnoxious, ultimately resulting in the other car banging into the family sedan and forcing them off the road. What we find out at that point is, it’s all intentional on the part of the bad drivers, in the family is about to be terrorized.

What happens next is awesome because it’s horrible. Let me just tell you: the two women are separated from their husband/father and raped and murdered. We all fear that’s what’s coming when they get forced off the road and the men in the other car get out and start harassing them.

What makes it great is, every step of the way we know the guy/the family shouldn’t do the things they do.

They know it, too.

But they’re stuck between two bad choices and after a few bad choices you realize there are no good choices and no matter what they do – they’re going to get killed, so they’re really just hoping to play along and stay alive for a little while longer, hoping for a break. Maybe a cop car will come by. Maybe the bad guys just want to harass the family a little and take their money and beat them up and humiliate them – maybe they will remain alive.

The other thing is the reactions.

Again, every step of the way the audience is yelling, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it,” and so are the people in the car. The daughter or the mother or the father, every step of the way they are saying NO.

But then they’re trying to figure out the lesser of two evils, to simply stay alive for a few more minutes and hope to emerge on the other side of this debacle.

But that’s not what happens. And while you were yelling don’t do it, so were they. Why that’s important is because the people in the car are reacting.

They are behaving the way someone in your story should behave.

Someone in your story should always be reacting the way you want the reader to be reacting.

In this case, we are all sitting there saying don’t do it don’t do it, so we need people in the car saying the same thing. Don’t do it!

And then they have to make a split second decision, and if it was you, you can’t say they made the wrong decision because they were both bad decisions. And there were no good choices.

It’s a difficult scene to watch because they’re good actors. But if you can watch it a few times and look at it as a sketch of how to do something, you will see what you’re not doing your own stories.

You have your hero rush right in while you have your victim being victimized, but you don’t have anybody reacting the way you want your audience to react.

When you add that, you have added something huge