June 2015.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Kayti Nika Raet this week. Kayti is the author of  the YA series The Outsider Chronicles, a five book series to which the first three are currently published.10659400_298202547035793_9011333378634101133_n

Looking at your books on Amazon, I see that you currently have three books published in a series called The Outsider Chronicles. Tell us a bit about this series and why it would appeal to your target audience?

Hi! Thanks for having me. The Outsider Chronicles is a five book YA dystopian series featuring a badass girl with a baseball bat and set in a world of acid rain and flesh eating monsters.

It starts of with Niko, the main character, searching for her brother, who went missing after a devastating fire. From that small goal the series expands to touch on things like genetic modification and classism.

As a dystopian, it leans more to the action horror side of the genre, but there are some sci-fi elements and quite a bit of romance.

I’m guessing the same person did the cover art for all three books. Can you tell us about who designed it and why you went with those particular images?

I’m lucky enough to have an artist for a sister! Hana Kura has done all my covers. I try to have them showcase a particular mood or scene from each book, while the color red ties them all together. I’m hoping for something that fits the dystopian genre but stands out at the same time. My sister has created three covers so far, and she’s working on the fourth one right now. I’m really excited about it.


Other than writing, do you have any other talents or hobbies?

I mostly like to write, but I do a lot of reading, dabble in photography, and occasionally create a new outfit to wear. I think 90% of my brain is dominated by writing though!

Give us an interesting fun fact about your book series.

NOTE:  Here are some links to my fun facts blog post.



These are always fun! I’ve actually made a list of fun facts for Niko and Harm, but I have yet to post something about Outsider, book 3.

1) The first draft of Outsider was finished before I published Niko. It was a personal goal of mines and I almost didn’t make it!

2) Alice and Zenith, two new characters in Outsider, where originally going to be named Alyss and Zen. At first they were twins, then they were a couple, then finally, I settled on brother and sister. They’re super fun to write (I love snarky people) and the kind of characters you’ll love to hate.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

For the most part. Though other things might grab my attention, I’ve always gravitated towards writing.

Are you working any anything new? A fourth book in the series?

I’m working on the fourth book in the series right now. I’m in the editing stage. It’s called Monster, and I plan on releasing it July 18th.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: http://kaytinikaraet.com/

Blog: http://writebitches.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kaytinikaraetbooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KNRwrites

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kaytinikaraet/

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1fb2cR7

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1IDVehs

Book Links:

Niko: http://amzn.to/1u5sFAe

Harm: http://amzn.to/1s9Nbz0

Outsider: http://amzn.to/1w3tP3H

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1uWYEpr

What advice would you offer to people just starting out in the book writing business?

Don’t be a hermit! Make writer friends! Don’t expect your book to be a bestseller right out of the gate. Have a social media platform in place before you hit ‘Publish’. Don’t stress. Have fun. Always learn.

I see that you are active on social medias. Which one do you like best for promoting yourself as an indie author?

Twitter has been really good for me. You just have to make sure you’re engaging and doing more than screaming ‘buy my book!’ I retweet a lot of stuff that I hope my followers will enjoy, and I use a tool called Roundteam to make sure that I catch most of my followers tweets and share them.

I’m slowly getting the hang of Facebook. I’ve had an author page for about 6 months, I use it pretty much in the same way that I use twitter. I try to share interesting and fun book related memes as well as sharing photos of fans who brought a physical copy of Niko. It’s been more fun than I’ve expected.

I also have a blog and tumblr account, which I need to be on more, and a youtube account where I review (fangirl over) books.

Basically, I’m everywhere!

You see quotes from books all the time online. Give us a memorable quote (or snippet) from one of your books.

Are you sure you want me to do that? I might get quote happy. I love making these things, but I’ll restrain myself and post just a few (five counts as a few, right? Oh well, it does now!)





The Rules of Creative Writing by author Kurt Chambers

The indie publishing scene has grown so massive over the last few years that writing and publishing your own book has become possible for anyone who wishes to do so. This has caused a lot of mixed feelings. The main criticism is the quality of writing. In order to become published mainstream, you usually need a fundamental understanding of the ‘creative writing rules’ in order to be taken seriously. Unless you’re a celebrity, of course. Self-published authors can publish anything they want without having to know anything.

When I first set out as an author, I didn’t care much for these rules. I believed you should write however you want. What’s wrong with some originality? I spent many years in a novel workshop, writing and reviewing, learning and slowly honing the skills that were taught to me. Now I can see why learning these rules was so important. It does make you a much stronger writer. When I questioned these rules, the advice I was given was, ‘You have to first learn these rules in order to know when it is okay to break them.’

In this post today, I want to share with you just a few basic things that will help make your writing stronger. You can use this as a guide when it comes to editing your first draft. Try it for yourself. Edit one chapter of your manuscript applying these few rules, and see what you think of the difference. Read it aloud in order to hear how your story sounds to the ear as well as in your mind.

Some Basic Creative Writing Rules

Show, don’t tell:

I was taught never to ‘tell’ the reader anything. This is a great rule that will add so much more depth to your writing if done well. To try and ‘show’ everything isn’t always practical. For example, you don’t need to go into pages of description about a particular uniform with a brass helmet and matching buttons just to inform the reader that this character is a fireman. But as a general rule, especially when it comes to emotions, it is better to ‘show’ as much as you can.


Johnny entered the dark room and came to a standstill. Something was wrong. The door slammed closed, making him jump. He was terrified.

Johnny entered the dark room and came to a standstill. His heart beat faster. The slamming door sent a jolt through his body. He gripped his chest, fighting for gasps of breath.

Both these sentences are describing the same scene. In the second sentence, I replaced the ‘telling’ statements with character action. It’s clear to see the difference between the two. Read through your manuscript one paragraph at a time and see how many ‘telling’ statements you could replace in a similar way.

I had a terrible ‘telling’ habit when I first started out, so I made a list of character actions to help me ‘show’ emotions. Telling is fine in a first draft, but when it comes to editing, you may find this list useful.


POV (point of view):

This is a very important aspect that all authors need to get to grips with. I never had an understanding of this when I wrote some of my first novels and had to spend many hours editing at least two complete novels to correct all the POV mistakes. Instead of explaining POV in great detail to you, I am going to take the easy way out and share an article by Pam McCutcheon, who explains it so wonderfully. It was this article that taught me what POV actually was, and I am only too happy to share it with you.


POV is something of a personal preference. The growing trend these days is to write in first person perspective, especially in young adult genres. It is said you can get a deep POV that really gets into the head of the character. I only write in third person limited myself and like to think I can get a deep POV using this method. I think it is the most popular POV for middle grade readers. We are all different. I guess it comes down to whatever you are used to reading.

Adverb abuse:

Adverbs (words ending in ‘ly’) are wonderful things but do fall into the ‘telling’ category. Using too many is viewed as lazy writing. It is quite easy to rely on them as a shortcut to describing a character’s feelings, actions and facial expression in just one word.

“I think she passed away,” he said sadly.

What you should be doing is describing the actions of the character in more detail to paint a better image for the reader.

“I think she passed away.” He held a palm to his forehead, releasing a long sigh.

It is a worthwhile exercise to skim through your manuscript looking for adverbs you could eliminate to make your writing much stronger. You will be surprised at how many authors use them wastefully, pardon the pun. Here is an example of how they can sometimes be placed in a sentence for no reason.

He crept into the darkened room quietly.

The verb ‘crept’ is strong enough to give the reader enough information on the actions of the character without having to use the adverb ‘quietly’.

We used to use a ball-park figure of no more than three adverbs per chapter. How many have you used?

Passive voice:

This is not the easiest thing to explain. There are certain trigger words that cause passive voice. Words like ‘was’ and ‘were’, for example. I am no expert in this field, so I will post a link that will explain it in all its glorious technical details, using examples to show the difference between active and passive sentences.


Although passive voice is difficult to explain, it is something that will become more and more obvious to you once you have a general idea of what to look for.

Repeated and unneeded words:

This may seem like something trivial to worry about, but by simply finding and changing words that are repeated often, you can improve the ‘flow’ of writing by quite a bit. Also, when you read your manuscript out loud to yourself, you may find there are some unneeded words that just choke up the writing. Use as few words as needed, well-chosen words.

These are some of the basic rules that I was taught in my novel workshop that I sometimes see lacking in the growing trend of indie authors. For those authors out there who are still submitting manuscripts to publishers and editors, these are some of the things that could lead to your MS being rejected. For those authors who are publishing themselves, I hope you find this helpful in bringing your books to a higher literary standard that will make them shine above the rest. Good luck to you all and happy writing (and editing).

Some other useful writing posts:

Hooks and Cliffhangers:


Best Social Networking Sites For Writers:


The Pitfalls of Self-Publishing:


Getting Published – Writer Beware:


Shameless plug:

Kurt Chambers

If you are interested in seeing the results of a finished novel putting into practice the above set of rules then you can download a free copy of my award winning fantasy novel, Truth Teller. It is a heart-warming tale of true friendship in an action packed adventure. It is free to all readers in any format.

Truth Teller

How could ten-year-old Charlotte ever envisage that magic really existed. For her, the world of other realms belonged in children’s fairy tales—or so she thought—until she discovers a strange shopkeeper, which begins an adventure that will change her life forever.


When she finds herself lost and alone in a far away forest, she must embark on a journey where heart-stopping danger and real life monsters are real. However, a far greater threat shadows her every move. Even with the strengths and skills of her new companions, they cannot protect her against a ruthless druid assassin.


But in this realm, Charlotte is not the vulnerable little girl she thought she was.





Barnes & Noble:


This weeks author interview is with the most talented and funny Christina McMullen. Christina has always dreamed of being a writer. Except for a short time in the late eighties :). She has nine books to date! I know I’ll be adding many of them to my reading list.


Looking at your website http://mcmullenwrites.blogspot.ca/p/the-books-i.html, I see that you’ve written eight books? Wow, how long have you been writing?

 Actually, as of right now, there are nine. 😉

While I’ve always written for fun and had hopes and dreams of becoming the next great American novelist, it was 2012 before I finally dragged out my notes, dusted off the computer, and actually finished an entire novel. Once I made it past the first book hurdle, the rest were much easier.

Of the books you have published so far, which is your favorite? And why?

 This is a very tough question, but I would have to say, Kind of Like Life, which is my only young adult novel at the moment. Why? Because it’s something of an homage to my own young adult days and how I would spend far too much time day dreaming and coming up with crazy adventures. Also, despite some very heavy and serious subject matter, it was fun to write.KindofLikeLifeMKLow

Tell us a bit about that story and what inspired you to write it?

I read a lot of YA and noticed that because there seems to be a formula, I had come up with some standard scenery in my mind. I recognized this scenery as being my ‘ideal world’ from my own youthful daydreams. From there I came up with the concept of a young girl with an overactive imagination who moves to a place that matches her ideal world perfectly. Her life goes from boring to the ideal ‘YA perfect’ practically overnight. Of course, I couldn’t let her enjoy it for too long because that wouldn’t make for an interesting story.

What happens next, also known as the spoiler that makes it impossible to talk about the remaining 80% of the book, was inspired by shows like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, where things aren’t always what they seem.

 What the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing?

To have patience. I really had no idea what I was doing when I first submitted my first book back in 2012. As such, I hadn’t edited nearly as much as I should have and ended up going back and uploading several revisions. That first book is still far from perfect, but it taught me to take my time and put out the best product I can.

In your experience, where do you find the greatest support for indie authors?

Amongst other indie authors. Through social media, especially the groups on Goodreads like Support Indie Authors, I’ve met some fantastic people and became part of something positive. It may seem cliché, but we really are stronger when we stick together. I think indies know this better than most. We don’t see each other as competition. We see allies.

Are you reading anything right now? Tell us a bit about it.

I just started reading Atomic Aardvark by Ryan Guy as part of the Indie Book Club on Goodreads. It’s a quirky, light fantasy that seems to center around a strange celestial event and an aardvark who had been a mascot for an Italian restaurant.

Who is your favorite author or favorite book?

There are so many. I have many influences of the famous or infamous variety, but I’ve really been digging on indie books for the last few years. If I had to pick, the closest I could come to naming a favorite would be to name all of the amazing women who write science fiction and fantasy, breaking the stereotype that these are men’s genres. Since I can’t name them all, here’s a few that I adore: G. G. Atcheson, Ann Livi Andrews, Chess Desalls, S. Usher Evans, and BB Wynter.

What draws you to the genre you write in?

I’ve been a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy (with a little horror and romance thrown in) since junior high at least. While I do like to stretch the boundaries as much as I can, I can’t imagine writing anything that I don’t love reading.

Did you always want to be a writer?

 Well, other than that awkward time in the late eighties when I wanted to be a hair metal rock goddess, yes, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

I always want to know this question… If one of your books is made in to a TV show or movie, who would you choose to play the main cast?

This is a very tough question because I live under a rock! Seriously, the last movie I watched was The Lego Movie and I didn’t recognize half the voice actors despite them being the hot actors of the day!


I have actually thought about this for my first series, The Eyes of The Sun. For Lucy, I would want an unknown actor. Hopefully, this would be the project that kick starts her career. Andre would have to be whoever the swooniest (that’s a word, I promise) young man of the day happens to be. The internet tells me this is Matthew Lewis. You go Neville Longbottom!

The older characters are a bit easier, even if casting this makes me feel old. For the ‘holy trinity’ of Evan, Dara, and Abe, I would go with the ‘holy trinity’ of nineties actors and get Brad Pitt, Selma Hayek, and George Clooney. And since we have Brad, we’ll have to give one of the diabolically sexy vampire roles to Angelina Jolie.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Blog: http://mcmullenwrites.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mcmullenwrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcmullenwrites
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Christina-McMullen/e/B00AM3R1MK/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/cmcmullen

Tell us a bit about the cover art of your books. Who designed them? Why did you choose those images? (Pick your two favourite covers)

I am my own cover artist. I don’t have a lot of talent for visual art, but I really enjoy dabbling and think what I’ve done so far is at least passable. I prefer to use my own images and art mainly because it’s so much easier than searching out and carefully reading the licensing agreements on stock photos. Also because the pics are mine, I know that my covers will be unique.


My favorites would be Past Life Strife and Going Green. The painting I used for Past Life Strife was only meant as a placeholder until I figured out what I wanted, but it turned out nicely. Unfortunately, it set the bar pretty high for that series and I’m not sure I can keep that up. Going Green was serendipitous in that my husband and I found the remains of an abandoned theme park in the Adirondacks and I was able to snap a shot of him wandering about with no other people.


Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you very much for the interview opportunity. I’ve had a great time answering these questions.






How to Develop Realistic Characters



Today, I thought it would be fun to talk about what makes a fictional character believable. It’s easy to describe what a character looks like and give her/him/it a cool name. But how do you make your readers care about what happens to that character? What’s the secret to bringing your characters to life?

Okay, so it’s not necromancy. Sorry.

But here are five questions to ask yourself when you’re developing characters for your story:

1.  Why are they here?
Every character you include needs a purpose. Are they driving the plot, do they cause the conflict, are they necessary to move the story forward? If not, then why did you include them? What is their role in your story? If you can’t answer that question, maybe your character needs to sit in a corner while you think about their purpose.

2.  What do they care about?
What makes your character get out of bed in the morning? World domination, a quest to throw some jewelry into a volcano, a burning desire to find the love of their life? And think beyond the big stuff. Do they prefer dogs or cats? Coffee or tea? Chocolate or vanilla? Vampire or zombie? Battle axe or morning star? You need to know what motivates your characters, because it will make their actions and reactions more believable.

3.  Are they consistent?
This can be a tricky one, especially when you’re writing a longer piece, but it’s essential. If your character hates frogs, make sure they hate frogs throughout the story–unless, of course, they have a life-changing experience that alters their feelings about frogs. But seriously, your characters should always act in character. Nothing frustrates me more than reading a good book (or watching a good show) and then suddenly having a main character do something that is literally unbelievable. When that happens, you’ve lost me.

4.  Do they act like real people?
So, you’ve invested the time in creating your character. You know what their purpose is, you know what they care about, and you know how to ensure they are consistent throughout your story. Now you have to make sure their actions are convincing. Your spider-loving protagonist probably wouldn’t squish an arachnid. And your claustrophobic antagonist isn’t likely to take the elevator. More importantly, you have to remember that people are complex creatures, which means your characters (even the non-human ones) should mimic that complexity in their own actions.

5.  Do they sound like real people?
Finally, a word about the importance of dialogue in character development. Good dialogue can make a great story even better, but bad dialogue can ruin a great story. You have to make sure your characters talk like real people, but you also have to make sure their dialogue is relevant to the plot. Read my post, Rules for Writing Killer Dialogue, to learn more about mastering dialogue in your writing.


Guest post contributed by Suzanne Purkins, blogger at Apoplectic Apostrophes. She is a writer, editor, mother, step-mother, dog owner, sleep-deprived, tea-drinking chaos-magnet. Check out more of her articles and posts.

So I’ve written a book! Now all I need is a book cover that sums up the whole thing in just one image. Ha! A lot easier said then done, as many of you might know.

I had an idea in my head of what I wanted for my cover but didn’t have the talent to do it myself. So, having worked in the media industry, I reconnected with a former coworker to help me out. After explaining my story, my friend Brianna Schretlen signed on for the challenge. She’d never done a novel cover before but hey, neither had I. Her years of graphic design knowledge shone through with ever draft she produced. Some of you  have seen my finished cover but I wanted to show how that cover came to be.

For starters, it defiantly helped  the whole cover design process that my Brianna read my book not once, but twice. (That’s dedication for you!) We both agreed that the cover should depict as least one of the white spirit animals talked about in the book. There was a white deer, white bear and a white crow. The animal associated most  with the main character was the white deer.

Here are a few of her first drafts. Although beautiful, they did not make the cut.

Harmless covers 004Harmless covers 002Harmless covers 009Harmless covers 010Harmless covers 001Harmless covers 008


I loved the images of the white deer, the contrast between black and white, and the silhouette of a faded totem pole.  Figuring out how to put all those images together was another challenge. So back to the drawing board!

Round two of cover design.

Upside down deerDeer with totem brown footerDeer legsDeer in the forest

Sticking with the deer theme, Bri come up with these covers . The upside down deer was a little to ‘Hitchcock’. The full face was really nice but, I didn’t like the shading on it’s face. Cover three didn’t do much for me. And cover four, it was nice but a little dark and busy.

So, round three… The final cover! A seamless integration of the white deer, shadow and hint of a totem. I also like  it’s monochromatic  color scheme with it’s eyes matching the color of the title. I  can’t wait to see it wrapped around 400 pages of YA fiction!


Brianna is now working on my kiosk displays, promotional materials, illustrating the graphic novel prequel to Harmless, and the Harmless book trailer. I’d recommend her to any author looking for polished professional images for their books.






This week I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the young writer Sydney Scogham. Her debut novel Chase is due out soon. I’m told the target audience for this YA fantasy novel is geared towards horse lovers, old school video games enthusiasts and  those who have a soft spot for original Disney movies. So, without further adieu… Sydney Scrogham.

author photo

I’ve read on your website (www.sswriter.com) that you have a book coming out with a publishing house in Virginia Beach, VA. Can you tell us a bit about this book?

Two worlds will collide under one reigning Promise.
He’s chosen to die.
She’s destined for Snix skin.

 Financial strain from her mom’s lost job means Lauren has to sell her horse. In a desperate attempt to keep her beloved animal, Lauren pursues an escaped genetic experiment worth a ten thousand dollar reward—a bright red horse.

 With the red horse in sight, Lauren disappears into Agalrae and comes face-to-face with Chase, a man raised by Alicorns. Lauren wants to return home, but the Snix, Chase’s enemy since birth, has other plans. The Snix confronts Lauren with an ultimatum: Kill Chase for ten times the red horse’s reward money, or sacrifice the lives of her mother and horse.

 Forced to stay in Agalrae until she decides, Lauren wrestles with possible outcomes. But she can’t hide the truth from Chase forever.When destiny splits, which path do you follow?


Chase has been through a rocky publishing road, and you can’t tell that from reading the back cover copy. I had to wait until my 18th birthday to sign a traditional contract for publishing with a small press. I was so excited—I still have the pen I signed the contract with. But a little over three years later, the contract was broken on the publisher’s end, and my dreams were smashed.

In the midst of that fallout, I was worried that the small press I’d been signed with had published Chase and sold it without my knowledge. (Very stressful time that took me forever to get to the bottom of things.) Now in the present day, I know that’s not the truth, but at the time in 2014, I was so worked up about “the scandal” that I decided to scrap the entire manuscript (which received so much negative feedback at this point I was sick of the thing) and rewrite the whole story for NaNoWriMo 2014. That means I rewrote the story in 50,000 words during the month of November—while I was a senior in college—yes, crazy, but it happened.

Since my fresh version of Chase didn’t have a publisher yet, I experimented with writing query letters and sent countless e-mails to agents and publishers. Three months-ish later (a very short window of time, in my opinion), Nora Firestone, an acquisitions editor for Koehler Books, got connected with me, and as they say, the rest is history. I’m currently on the Emerging Author Program track that Koehler Books offers (a hybrid publishing deal that could lead to a traditional door), and everything is going beautifully. This is how it should’ve been the first time around!

It’s hard to believe that, finally, four years later, after all the tears and struggle, I’m going to hold Chase in my hands. Yes, it’s for the rest of the world, too, but this book means so much to me especially after losing the story’s main inspiration, my first horse named “Blue,” back in March 2015 because he broke his leg. Koehler Books has allowed me to include a picture with Chase’s dedication to Blue, so I’m not only sharing my story with the world, I’m sharing my horse. And I know when I hold Chase, Blue’s going to come galloping back to me.

How did you come up with the idea for this story?

I was home schooled between second and ninth grade, so I had a lot of time to think and write as a kid, and I loved it. Oftentimes in the quiet playground of my room (littered with Bionicles and Breyer model horses), God would snap his fingers and story ideas would pop in my brain. He still does that. When He snapped the idea behind Chase into my brain, I had a friend who was going through a particularly hard time and debating whether or not God really cared about her. I wrote Chase because I felt God wanting me to show that He wants to romance people rather than force religious regulations on them. But be warned, Chase reads like a hard-core YA fantasy with romantic sparks. You won’t see any inspirational Christianese unless you’re looking for it. (I think the traditional Christian market would turn me away. 2

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book?

 Well, for one, I didn’t know publishers backed out of contracts. I’ve also been enlightened behind how much has to be done with a book outside of the writing process. Writing the beast is the easiest part! As a student fresh out of college, coming up with the finances to do this hasn’t been easy. I wish that, for all the young writers out there, that money will never be a defining factor in whether or not you can publish your book. I’ve had incredibly supportive family as well as understanding people on the Koehler Books end. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, even if you have to beat that way through a brick wall.

Lastly, about the writing process itself, I’ve learned… Nothing will ever be perfect. There comes a point when you’ve just got to let your story go. Not even the best sellers are perfect, which is refreshing, because it means indie authors can have just as much success.

How did you come up with the title?

It’s the hero’s name, and he’s possibly my favorite part about the book. Chase was raised by the Alicorns, and so he thinks like a horse. Writing his parts was so fun! That’s where Blue’s influence really shines on the pages.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website/Blog: http://www.sswriter.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SydneyScroghamWriter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sydney_writer

Lnkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=403799906&trk=hp-identity-name

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sszoewriter/

Amazon Author Page: (coming in July)
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/42938734-sydney-scrogham

WattPad (to read a free story that’s about the history of Alicorns before Guardians like Chase arrived in Agalrae): http://www.wattpad.com/story/40692041-nephtali%27s-gift

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 12, I wrote 30+ “books” in a series within a year. I had never felt so alive, but my writing wasn’t heavily encouraged and was often met with phrases like, “You’ll never have any money.” That deterred me. I let my writing gift go unused after Chase because I used all my extra time trying to get the manuscript ready for print while I pursued a “real job.” Redoing Chase last year cracked open the closet on my writing gift, and I’ve had words spilling out of me regularly again since then. At the ReWrite 2015 conference in Austin, Texas, I knew yet again that I’m meant to be a writer, and I’d been running from it trying to find that “real job” so I can “have money.”

Life’s too short to be governed by having money. Even though it’s scary, I’m pursuing what I know I was made to do. And yes, it’ll probably be a few more years before I can work from home. But that’s okay.

Do you have any suggestions on how to become a better writer?

Write and read. It’s that simple. And don’t ever force yourself to write something you don’t like. You are your first audience. Write to please you. The world will come later, and you’ll see that you weren’t alone.

Are there any new authors out there that have grabbed your attention?

I’m in love with Tamara Shoemaker’s debut fantasy Kindle the Flame. http://goo.gl/Rgi7nh

And I’m excited to read Margaret Locke’s debut romance, A Man of Character. http://goo.gl/8yLC4o

Tell us a bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image?

*drum roll*

I… don’t have it yet. I’m waiting with just as much enthusiasm as you are! The team at Koehler Books is working hard for me, and they’re expecting to get something to me by late June.

chase promo graphic with Blue

What’s your favorite movie and TV show?

TV show: Hands down, ABC’s Castle. That was one of the things that encouraged me to write again. I’ll still be watching episodes from my rocking chair when I’m 80.

Movie: Oh, it’s so hard for me to juggle between Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor… But if you’d asked me when I was way younger, I’d have told you my favorite movie is Pocahontas.

Are you reading anything right now?

I’m doing reviews for a lot of people right now, and currently I’ve got my nose in an advanced reading copy of E.D.E Bell’s The Banished Craft. https://goo.gl/q3Qhql

 Who is your favorite author and what strikes you about their work?

Maggie Stiefvater—The Scorpio Races http://goo.gl/5eX2d0

Anyone who’s read that book knows I don’t need to say anything beyond that. Everything about the style and tone of The Scorpio Races influenced my second draft of Chase. Stiefvater’s voice is incredibly poetic. She could write about making toast and I’d be happy. I’ve gone back and reread my favorite lines so many times. It’s beautiful.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I love connecting with people, especially if you’re a young writer people. I don’t care how old you are, if you write a My Little Pony inspired story and ask me to read it, I will. I promise to recognize that your book is your baby, and I won’t crush your hopes. Everyone’s got a story inside of them.


TRUST YOUR VOICES. You can and do write great things.

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Come To The Bright Side: Character 101 – By Sydney Scrogham


You know the rules.  Things have got to get worse before they can get better.  Let your character have a goal, but don’t give him what he wants.  That’s why people keep reading.

You’ve also got to dish up all your character’s flaws on a silver platter.  To have a moving story, your flawed character needs to face his darkest moment, and step away from it victorious.

With pen and outline paper in hand, you build your story, weaving twists and turns that will leave your reader begging for mercy. (That’s your plan anyway–it says so in the outline.)

Then you get to the end of your story, that bright, shining moment after you’ve tortured your character and pulled all his strings.  He (or she) is a new creation, transformed before your eyes, and you finally bestow upon your lead the crown of victory.  Everyone can stand back and say: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.



That’s right.  Doesn’t that sound a little hollow to you?  You need something great and touchy feely that’ll put the icing on the cake for your character and readers.  It’s not enough to send your lead into impenetrable darkness and bring him out safe and sound.

You also have to let your character have his (or her) happiest moment.  How do you discover this blissful retreat?  Well, you interview your character.  Get into his (or her) head, and ask.  You might be surprised what you discover.  I think it’s also important that what your lead’s happiest moment be different from his (or her) heroic goal (or want) that propels the story.

For example, anyone watch ABC’s Castle?  The story goal there is always to catch the killer.  And then, as the story developed deeper in seasons 2-4, Richard Castle’s happiest moment began to form.  He fell in love with Kate Beckett.  His happiest moment, separate from the story goal, would be to spend forever with Kate…  (Thankfully, the writers delivered that–but doesn’t that help you see the difference?  Doesn’t that pull at your heart strings twice as much as just catching the killer?)

The happiest moment can be simple, small, and it adds dimension to your character.  It lets him (or her) be human.

Where should the happiest moment happen in your story?  That’s completely up to you.  You’ll have a sense of when your story really needs it, whether it’s at the beginning (and your character discovers that truly wasn’t the happiest moment), the middle (and your character realizes this is what he (or she)’s been looking for and the whole story turns around), or at the end (icing for the delicious cake of triumphant victory).  Or any mix of locations in between–even the end of a series.  You’re the creative genius.  I have complete faith in you to figure it out.

It’s time to release your character’s bright side as well as the dark side.  Don’t start writing unless you know both sides of your hero.

What's Next




What’s Next…


As a self diagnosed achieve-a-holic, I’m always asking myself this question… What’s next? This repetitive query plays like a broken record in my head pushing me to constantly explore and think out of the box. Even now, when my goal/to-do list is a mile long, and great things are in the works… I’m still asking myself, what’s next in my writing career? What can I do to make this book of mine a booming success? So, in terms of my writing, here’s what’s next for me…


  1. I’m looking at having a book trailer made for my novel. As my audio-visual skills leave something to be desired, I’m hiring this one out. Ha… if I did it it would resemble power point presentation done by blind cavemen. (Zoom in from far left… fade to sparkles…Ta-da!) I’m also on the hunt for the perfect song to go along my trailer… I think I may have found one! Yeee!


  1. I’m thinking of joining my local Toastmaster club to polish my public speaking abilities. I’m not as bad at public speaking as I am at making a video trailers but my skills defiantly need a tune up. When I was a kid I competed at many a public speaking competition though my local 4-H club. It was mandatory, and something I wouldn’t have done to do if I had a choice. I’m sure glad I did though; I even made it to provincial level competitions a few times.


  1. My book is not out until fall but I’m already thinking about how I’m going to get those oh so crucial book reviews. I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head on how to do this… All of them involving lots of tedious of man-hours. (Insert dramatic sigh)


  1. I’m working with an artist to create a fantastic booth display I can use when doing book signings. I’ve been very lucky find such creative people that are as dedicated to this project as I am.


  1. I’m already taking notes and swirling around ideas for book two in the Harmless series. Hoping it won’t take as long as book one to write.


  1. The graphic novel prequels to Harmless are started. Not sure if I’ll market them as a prequel series or an accompaniment book. Time will tell…


  1. Always looking for new ways to promote myself and other fellow writers. Along with my #Mondayblogs, and Friday book review/blog, I’m now starting Wednesday author interviews. If you’re an author and would like to be interviewed, give me a shout.


  1. And last but not least… I’m working on the editing of my novel. I’m half done! I don’t mind the editing part; it’s the merging of the 20 individual chapters in to 1 ‘Pangaea’ of documents that has me fretting. But, it will feel good once it’s done!


So, I ask all you writers out there… What’s next for you?

Author Cristen Iris is re-launching her website! Check it out everyone!

We're open










This blog post was the first post on my first website. The sentiment still holds and so I “begin” this blog on this, my new and improved website with it too. I’m glad you’re here.


The start of anything new is always exciting.  This blog is no different.  And yet, as I consider all that has preceded this first real blog post it strikes me that this is not a beginning at all; it is the continuation of a long and thoughtful process, one that continues to mature and evolve.

The same is true in any business.  The first day we turn the key and flip the sign to welcome customers is our grand opening, but it is not our first day in business. For we have been in the business of opening for months, perhaps even years.

In the past year I have watched two businesses in this process.  Franco’s New York Pizza, which was at the corner of Gekeler Lane and Boise Avenue suddenly disappeared one day.  I was sorry to see it go, another victim of the recession.  Or so I assumed.

A short time later I noticed that they had not closed at all.  They had relocated just a mile or so west on Boise Ave., closer to the Boise State University Campus.  A “coming soon” sign appeared in the window.  I watched with curiosity as little things began to change.  The new permanent signage went in.  Things were happening, but then, they seemed to stall.

I began to speculate about what was happening.  I began to doubt that they were actually going to open their doors.  I was sorry to see that it was not going anywhere, another victim of, well, what I did not know.  Or so I assumed.  But then, finally the key turned, the open sign flipped, and they were back on the scene.  Their patio is often full and the neighborhood appears to have embraced them.

I learned valuable lessons as a curious bystander to Franco’s move.  First, what may look like failure from one corner may actually lead to success when looked at from another.  Secondly, things take longer than expected, and our journey on the road to success is often a halting one.

Shortly after Franco’s vacated their previous location, a new sign went up in the window at the corner of Gekeler Lane and Boise Avenue.  Coming soon was Amir Mediterranean Bakery. This intrigued me.  In short order the little bakery opened its doors.  It is a simple little place, a place that seems to say, “you’ll come here for the food”.  Not long after the bakery opened, the adjacent space, which had been empty for quite a while, began to show signs of life.  Amir’s simply little bakery was expanding to allow for a full restaurant.  There’s something special about that plain little space right next door to a gas station.  There’s obviously something special about those business owner who saw the potential for opportunity and growth in it as well.

This reminds me that business is a journey, a journey that begins in the mind and progresses through many iterations.  Some of those iterations are far from illustrious, but they should always seem to say, “it’s the food that matters most”.  And if we focus on feeding our clients and meeting their needs in a way that keeps them coming back, they will forgive us any sparseness and see, as we do, that our current station and location is not a beginning nor is it an end, but somewhere in the middle.

So, the pressure of beginnings is relieved for this blog.  I am sure that it will go through its own amendments and improvements, but for now I hope that you are nourished by its substance.

Today I turn the key and flip the sign.  Welcome.


Originally published in 2014

Cristen Iris 2015