Have you heard about FIRE IN THE WOODS? Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

Wow. Just Wow. What an emotional roller-coaster I have been on.

Project2When you get a book published, you have all these dreams and fantasies—how good it will do … How people will rave about it … How fans will clamor for more.

Project1But in reality, while all authors HOPE this will happen, in the back of our heads, we know the chances are slim.

When FIRE IN THE WOODS released September 23, there was an initial rush (I use that word mildly – a rush of about a dozen) people buying my book. This is always to be expected. Then you find out what the book industry is really like.

[insert cricket chirping sound bite]

Yeah, you guessed it. After the first few days, despite the great reviews, FIRE tanked.

I was okay. I just pulled up my big-girl britches and moved on. After all, I had another contracted novel to write.

Fire-in-the-Woods-Cover 3DThen, by a stroke of luck, Month9Books had a birthday and to celebrate, they offered all their ebooks for $.99.  FIRE IN THE WOODS was one of the better sellers that day.  Again, not monumental sales by any means. But I was told to sit back, relax, and let the book speak for itself.

I didn’t know what that meant until two days later, when the power readers finished my book.


Social media started to buzz:

“Couldn’t put it down.”

“Stayed up late to read it.”

“Finished in one sitting”


“Omisogh, I neeeed book two like, now!”

“One of my Favs.”

“I need more Jess and David in my life.”

PKO_0001147I was thrilled beyond belief. It didn’t matter to me (and it really didn’t) that the sales numbers weren’t huge. People were liking my book. It was a great feeling.

It didn’t really occur to me, though, that OTHER PEOPLE were reading those social media posts as well.

I couldn’t believe it—but two days AFTER THE SALE had ended the numbers rose. Exponentially. And those people finished in a few days. And they, too, felt strongly enough to take to Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram, and Goodreads.

The coveted “word of mouth” was rolling. And I could barely keep up with it.

Missing Piece of Cake2Then the proverbial icing slathered itself all over my purple alien-colored cake. British booktuber @benjaminoftomes picked FIRE IN THE WOODS to read for his Goodreads Book Club. A mind-boggling amount people joined.

PKO_cheer20007376Within a week, FIRE was #5 in Teen/Aliens in the UK, and held in the top 20 for nearly a month. (And is still in the top 50) Yay!

After a few weeks, FIRE started climbing up in the SciFi/Dystopian ranks in the US, and is holding pretty steady in the Teen/SciFi top 100 now, with daily momentum.

I can’t thank everyone enough for all the posts, tweets, reviews, pictures of yourself with the book, picture of my book “in the woods” and pictures of my book with your snacks. It’s YOUR enthusiasm that has brought FIRE IN THE WOODS to life.

Jess & David Double base BASE ONLY coverEvery little blip from a fan means more to me that you can imagine … and makes me want to type the sequels faster.

Because someone is out there, waiting to find out what happens with Jess and David.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


Lesson Eight from the Manuscript Red-Line: Magically Appearing Items in the Setting


For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

This is really more like an amendment to Lesson Seven, but I figured I’d call it out separately, just to make it more clear.  In Lesson Seven, we discussed how important it is to make sure a character has a reason for doing what they do.

Also watch for “convenient” items popping up out of nowhere.  In a recent writers group meeting we discussed this very topic… making sure that a gun doesn’t suddenly appear in the glove compartment of an eighty year old grandmother from Ohio…  Silly things like that.

It is easy for a writer to place an item somewhere convenient…  but remember to give that item a reason for being there.

Example from my own manuscript:

Meagan has a candle in her room in the end of the novel.  It’s very important.  It’s never mentioned before, but I talk about it like it’s always been there.  I  caught mistake after digesting Lesson Seven.   I just can’t let the candle suddenly appear like that, and act like it’s always been there.

Convenient fix by me:  I needed a new chapter near the beginning of the novel, because I needed a place to SHOW that Meagan realizes that Magellan is supernatural.  (This is to avoid a “telly” section later).  I placed the scene in Meagan’s room, and actually used the candle as the driving force for that scene.  It worked wonderfully, and I killed two problems with one chapter in a neat little
package.  (And only about 550 words)

Like magically appearing characters, suddenly appearing items can be distracting, and make you lose credibility.  Give important items a reason for being where they are, and keep your settings fluid throughout your novel.

Vlog – Video Blog “Why would anyone want to read your book?”

Fire in the Woods CoverHere’s installment three of my video interview tour for FIRE IN THE WOODS.

Fire in the Woods CoverA look at the fish in the background, and Why would anyone want to read your book?

Lesson Seven from a Manuscript Red-Line: Where did that character come from?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

This is another comment that seems silly when you say it, but when I was thinking over my own manuscript (and one of the comments that a BP made that I blew off) I think I may have one of these mistakes, too.

The publisher red-lined a scene where the phone rings, and there is a conversation, but it is never really clear why the second character called in the first place.  Yes, some important information is exchanged during the conversation, but the reason for the original call is never made clear enough.
The comment from the publisher was that all actions must have a reason from the character that created that action in the first place.

Now, thinking over my own manuscript… There is a point where Magellan and Meagan are in the Aviary when the lights go out.  They are worried about Jerric, who is also in the aviary.  Meagan calls out his name, and Jerric steps out of the bushes and says “I’m right here.”

One of my BP’s said: “that is awfully convenient.”

I think this is pretty much the same thing as the comment above.  There needs to be a reason for him to be there.  Honestly, there is.  He is watching them.  The problem is, I never SAY that, so there is never actually a reason (in the reader’s mind) for him to be able to step out of the trees so easily.

So, where I  “blew off” that comment before, because I knew why he stepped out of the trees, now I am going back to make it more apparent that he was standing there and listening.  I have to let the reader know why it is so easy for him to step out of the trees.

Always make sure there is a reason for your characters to be where they are, and a reason for them doing what they do.  Other wise, as this publisher puts it, it  ends up sounding “contrived” or, as my BP put it “too convenient.”

Vlog – Video blog! What makes your character different?

Fire in the Woods CoverHere’s installment two of my video interview tour for FIRE IN THE WOODS.

Fire in the Woods CoverWhat makes your character different from the other paranormal leads out there?

Lesson Six from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Watch that Voice! #MondayBlogs

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

When you are writing, especially if you are writing YA or middle grade, watch the voice. In the Gold Mine Manuscript, I know I mentioned the voice when I was beta reading, but my BP said her teenager read it and said it was okay, so I figured maybe I was just behind the times.

In this novel, the Main Character is supposed to be 15, but my brain just made him 17 (no matter what the novel was telling me).  Do you know why?  I believe it was the voice.  I mentioned it, but my BP seemed comfortable with it, so we moved on.

I was also having the same struggle in my own novel, and was on an up and down roller coaster with my own young character’s voice, so I know how hard a young boy’s voice can be, so I knew I was no expert.

You know what the publisher marked up over and over again in the gold mine manuscript?  THE VOICE.

2014 Edit:  I had a wonderful opportunity to have my manuscript read by Harper Collins. They loved my story, but guess what they said I needed to work on?  VOICE. I knew voice was key to FIRE IN THE WOODS. As soon as I nailed the voice, I got an editor to pay attention.

[continued] They mentioned that teenagers answer in quips and half-completed sentences.  I have to admit, my middle graders do the same thing. No perfect grammar for them.  Simplicity is the key.  “Yeah” instead of “yes” is more realistic than a full sentence.

I’m wondering about my own novel on this one.  My kid is from another planet, and grows up under the tutelage of a King.  I don’t want him saying “yeah”, but I don’t want a publisher calling me on it, either.  Maybe a few of the other characters can slip on their grammar a little.  Hmmmm…

My suggestion:  If you are writing for teens, get several teens to read it and ask them to be honest.  Same goes for Middle Grade.  This publisher actually had a teenager read the manuscript to make sure of the voice, and the teen said it didn’t sound real and they didn’t get the words she was using.  Yikes.

Moral of the blog:

If anyone reads your manuscript and tells you that there are possible problems with the voice, I’d take them seriously… ask a few more people to read it.  Drop it on a web site (I like Nathan Bransford’s site).  Get as many opinions as you can.
In the end, you still might not end up okay.  (To be honest, my five-year old drops bonus S.A.T. words all the time, so if I wrote his voice for-real, this publisher would red-line it—so who knows?)

There are a lot of things I’ve not changed about my manuscript that people have mentioned, but voice is one that I have always paid attention to.  If one person mentions something, I may tweak just a little, but if a few people mention it, I tweak a lot.  There is still a possibility that my MC may age a few years in the opening scene, just because of voice issues.

Don’t fall in love with your characters so much that you cannot recognize that their voice is all-wrong.


Video Blogging – Vlogging 101. Times are a-changing

For the last three months, I have not only been sprinting to finish ASHES IN THE SKY. I’ve also been on book tours to support the release of FIRE IN THE WOODS. I have to admit, with all that I needed to do, I would have gone crazy if it were not for my lovely publicist, Jamie, who kept everything straight for me and made sure my ducks were I a row – because by that time my quacker was sufficiently quacked-out.

As I scrambled to the end of my first draft of ASHES, Jamie contacted me and said “How about a vlog tour for the paperback release of FIRE IN THE WOODS?”

Ummmmmm. [Cringe] “I guess, but I’ve never done a vlog before.”

“Just be yourself.”


And before I knew it, the marketing company had seven stops set up. YIKES!

So, I took a deep breath and figured it out. I had two weeks to do them. No biggie. (All the while keeping up with my daily word counts)

I planned on filming them over two weekends, but the tour started earlier than I expected, so I had to give myself a crash course in making a video. I did two sessions on a Tuesday night and sent them off to Jamie, and the remainder I taped over the weekend before the tour (yeah, nothing like pressure)

Here are my pearls of wisdom:

  1. Get a tripod. You will thank me for it. Trust me.
  2. You’ll need a decent background. No one wants to see my messy desk. (Trust me on that, too)
  3. Don’t overthink it.
  4. If you mess up, don’t start over. Editing isn’t as hard as you might think (I used the free Microsoft Movie maker program that came with my computer.)
  5. Don’t be afraid to have fun (Even better, make fun of yourself)
  6. Know your audience. Is it a teen site? Give it a MUCH different tone then the “Mothers Review books” site. Record something your viewer will relate to/enjoy watching.
  7. Put on make-up. The camera will make you look like a zombie. Trust me.
  8. Put on more make-up. The make-up you used just makes you look like a cuter zombie
  9. Are you done with that make-up? Look like a clown? Are your kids running away from you screaming? Yep, you probably have it right, then. Make-up disappears in front of a camera for some reason. Guys, I think this goes for you, too – unless you don’t care if you look like a vampire. And not a cute sparkly one, either.
  10. Like Jamie said: Be yourself. Don’t sell your book. Just talk like you’re having lunch with the camera. Have fun.
  11.  Don’t wait until 10:00 PM when the kids are in bed. Your eyes will look red and glassy if you are tired.
  12. If your dog walks in and burps on camera… just go with it.

Putting it all together after you tape:

I’ve always had an interest in electronic art, so I spent some “fun time” learning about fades and swipes, inserting footage, and adding music. But I had to use the “learn as I go” method, so I didn’t know as much in the first video as I did in the last one. I’m hoping if I do another vlog tour, I will have learned to add effects, because I think that would be AWESOME fun.

All in all, I’d have to say it was a great experience. My interviews are not professional by any means, but you can see my style and expertise (with adding “extras”) improve with each video. (I think the last is my best-probably because I had relaxed more by that time as well)

So, for grins and giggles, now that the tour is over and the content is no longer “exclusive,” I am going to post all these videos here. Even the ones I’m not as happy with, because, hey… if you can’t laugh at yourself, who CAN you laugh at? And I never said I wanted to be a YouTube personality.

I’ll upload one video interview a week to avoid vlog-overload.

Starting with #1 below (Hosted on a teen-based site). Enjoy!


Slapping yourself into realizing: “You did it.” – Accepting that you’ve achieved a goal.

About a week ago, I was planning on writing an article about coming to terms with failure. By failure, I mean not achieving a goal.

In this case, the goal was finishing writing ASHES IN THE SKY: Book two of FIRE IN THE WOODS on time. I entered last weekend still reviewing beta comments, and completing the tail end of an overwhelming content edit that changed most of the second quarter of the book… with the manuscript due on Sunday.

I know. Impossible.

I needed to read ASHES from front to back, FOR THE FIRST TIME, over the weekend. Yes, to my shame, I had not read the book in its entirety yet. I had no idea if it “flowed”— especially with the sweeping changes. (Suggested by beta readers — the only ones who HAD read it front to back)

PKO_0001507 tired pink robeFriday night, I completed the content edits and sent them off to a very critical beta reader… Someone who I trusted not to baby me or fan-girl. I told her to be straight with me… that I was planning on asking for an extension anyway.

And then I collapsed into bed.

Everyone asks for extensions, right?

PKO_0007393 Yipee Wahoo Jump Pink RobeSaturday morning I popped out of bed to the sounds of pelting rain. Score! Thank you God! (Because soccer had been cancelled… Sorry kids, but now Mommy has four extra hours of editing time.) So I made the kids pancakes, and settled down for a marathon read through.

A few hours later, I’m thinking, “damn… either I’m tired, or this is pretty good!”

In early afternoon, the critical beta comes back suggesting minor changes. Easy breezy.

I make the changes and keep going. In the back of my head I keep thinking about all those reviewers who read FIRE IN THE WOODS in one or two days. I can’t read that fast, but I was delving into the world of the power-readers… those who pick up on pacing and plot errors, because they read a book in one sitting. It gave me a more critical eye, and helped me to tighten.

At 6:00 Sunday night, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and said: “Yes, it’s done.”

Manuscript submitted with six hours to spare.

I sat back, confused and drained, unable to believe I’d done it.

I’d come up with a concept, written a novel, completed a content edit and line edit, and submitted something respectable (I hope) in four months and two weeks.

I gave myself a week off, wanting to distance myself from Jess and David a little, but I was only able to do so for a few days. By Wednesday, the new deadline was hanging over my head.

PKO_0010650 pink robe clockEMBERS IN THE SEA has an even tighter deadline than the second book.

I had four months and two weeks to write book 2.

I have exactly four months to hand in book 3.

And I just wasted a few days “resting”.

So, after writing this, I will be starting book three.

Time to take a deep breath, and restart the clock…


Jess & David Double base BASE ONLY coverBecause the world just can’t seem to keep out of trouble without the help of a few teenagers. [Wink]



Lesson Five from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Let’s keep it in the past #MondayBlogs

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?


I suppose this doesn’t work for those of you who are trying to write your novel in the present tense.  The Gold Mine Manuscript was written in past. This post pertains to “Past Tensers”

This publisher noted that present tense words are okay in dialog only.  In narration, they should be cut.

Now, in the gold mine manuscript, the present tense word was “almost” used as narration.  It was “sort of” an inner thought.  The POV character looked at a big mess, and was thinking about cleaning it up, and the narration said “he’d have to tackle it today.”  Now, I think the problem is that it was set off as narration, not as a complete inner thought.  If it was in italics, like the POV character was actually saying it in his head, it may have been okay (again, this is my opinion here).   But since this writer’s style is to have most of the character’s inner thoughts as narration instead of italic thought, this publisher found the use of “present tense” words to be a problem.

So, in a nutshell… if the narration says:  He’d have to take care of things today.  This is no good.

However, if the same character says out loud, or as an inner thought: “I’ll have to take care of this today.”  That is fine.

That’s a pretty simple one, but it might be one many overlook if they have their inner thoughts as narration.  This can be overcome simply be making your inner though more concrete, and putting them in italics so it is very clear that this is an inner-thought, and not the narration.

Amendment:  Guess what?   I just found one of these in my own manuscript!  In the MC’s POV, the narration says:  – It isn’t cold, like it is here.— Now, this isn’t past tense, but the “here” sounds weird because it is in the narration.  I need to change this into an italic thought, or change the wording to be slightly more detached.  One or the other.  It is basically the same principle.

Happy editing!


Guess what? FIRE IN THE WOODS is still $.99 but you have to act fast. Prices return to normal some time tomorrow.


To celebrate Month9Books’s birthday, all Month9Books titles on ebook were only $.99 on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

And the price of FIRE IN THE WOODS has not increased to $3.99 yet!



If you haven’t picked up FIRE IN THE WOODS yet, Now is your chance to get it for only $.99.

Fire in the Woods Cover


Zing to Amazon to pick it up:


Zing to Barnes and Noble to get my copy: