Does anyone else turn into a mess right around book release time? I swear, Goodreads and Amazon have made us neurotic. I’m always on Goodreads, hands trembling, waiting to see what awful thing has been said about my work now. Then my stomach is in knots because *GASP* not EVERYONE LOVES ME? WHAT IS THIS??

But I’m here to tell you—you don’t need to stress over those bad reviews.

Let me tell you why.

First of all, you wrote a book. And not only did you write it, you edited it (hopefully), and published it. How many people do you know who’ve said, “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” but they never have? Dozens, probably, maybe more. You wrote a book. You are a hero. You look at your book and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. LOOK AT IT!

Secondly, writing is learning experience, not an exact science. Let’s compare it to school. We start out in kindergarten, not knowing all that much. But we’ve got people to help us. We’ve got teachers and parents and our community. By the time we’re seniors in high school, we think we have this whole school thing figured out, only to find ourselves in college with no idea what the hell we’re doing. Being a writer isn’t all that different. We all start out at the beginning, but we learn and we grow. Maybe your first book wasn’t a bestseller, that’s okay. You’re learning. You’re making mistakes, but more importantly, you’re learning how to correct them. (And remember college? We may have a degree, but sometimes we still don’t know what the hell is happening!)

Truth is, you can’t undo that book you published. Maybe if you self-published, you can edit again, change the cover, try to garner some better reviews, and you SHOULD, especially if the book was unedited. (Please don’t publish unedited work. There’s nothing worse.) But if you’ve grown as a writer, if you’ve learned from the books you’ve published, then you have nothing to stress over. I know. It’s art. It’s so hard to put something out there only to have people tear it apart. But the past is in the past, and that book, it’s now a part of your past. You’re not the same writer you were when you faced that first blank page. You’re not even the same person.

Did you learn something about grammar?

Did you learn how to foreshadow?

Did you learn how to subtly nuance a character’s personality?

Did you learn not to split infinitives?

If you learned, then you are doing it right.

There will always be people who don’t like your work, and that’s okay. It’s hard to accept, but it’s okay. When you sit down at your computer to write, are you thinking about those people who don’t like your work? No. You’re thinking about how great it is to write. How it feels to accomplish something. You’re remembering that fluttering in your stomach when you reach that really important scene. You’re finding your release. And maybe, just maybe, you’re a little scared, because you’re really putting yourself out there this time. You’re really taking chances. You’re writing about something that matters to YOU.

So let those bad reviews roll off your back and keep going, soldier. There’s still books inside of you and many more lessons to learn.


I’m up to my neck in my latest rewrite and it’s got me thinking. What do readers REALLY think about happily ever after (HEA)? What are the rules of the classic HEA? What about a happy for now (HFN)? How do readers feel about an unhappy ending?


I did a quick poll of my Facebook and Twitter followers, and the answers may surprise you. (Or not, that was my blatantly obvious attempt at suspense.) The HEA may not be as necessary as we think, and readers want, what’s this? An ending that makes them think? Who knew?!


Warning! There are spoilers from Allegiant in the next paragraphs.


Sara says, “I don’t like when it feels unnecessary to the story. Romeo and Juliet needed that ending… I just finished the divergent series… And I was not a fan of the ending…”


Me neither, Sara. What is it about killing off a main character that makes us so angry? Especially when we spent three books growing to love the absolutely kick ass Tris. While Veronica Roth promises she wrote the ending she saw for the story, I have to wonder, how could she put her characters through all that turmoil just to let her die? It hardly seems fair or necessary. Sorry, Ms. Roth. I think you’re fantastic, but we’ll never see eye to eye on this.


Jacci says, “I don’t like them because they ARE like real life. Some people read to escape to a “happier place” than what their life is about.”


I’m down with this, but it kind of limits the genre of books you can read. And…what about that dreaded, unexpected unhappy ending? Sometimes they take you by surprise (see previous rant about Allegiant). Sometimes you go into a book expecting a character to die, why hello, every John Green book ever written. Sometimes the author gives you the heads up, thanks Cassandra Clare. And sometimes, you know EVERYONE’S gonna die.


Lana says, “If it’s an unhappy ending in the first book, then it’s really not necessarily an unhappy ending. So long as you don’t continue these unhappy endings in all of the books! Because then you would be Game of Thrones.”


I’m about a quarter of the way through A Clash of Kings by good old George RR Martin and I already know not to get attached to anyone. Spoiler alert: Everyone dies. Don’t believe me? Behold the series, with every death tabbed.


It seems closure is important:


Angela says, “I would prefer happy endings, but if they are not necessarily happy but at the end I feel like I had closure, then I’m okay with it. If it’s for the best, you must do what is needed!”


Leah says, “First book, ok, overall, not a fan. There’s Harry Potter where everything was resolved, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it happy. We lost a lot of good characters in the fight for peace. I was good with the closure.”


Of course, we had to bring up Harry Potter. I’ll admit, while it was a semi-happy ending, half of the characters died. Damn, there’s another spoiler. Sorry. I’m fifty-fifty on the end of Harry Potter, only because I didn’t even care about any of the characters until the end of the fourth book. I wasn’t ready for them to die yet. And, she didn’t kill any of the main three characters, so, can we really count it as unhappy? Harry got Ginny. Ron got Hermione. Good won. Sounds pretty darn happy to me.


Jeff says, “If the ending is unhappy because that’s just the way the story was going to go, that’s fine. If the ending is unhappy because the author just decided to be mean spirited, then no. I’ve seen stories end where everything went to crap at the last minute for no discernible reason, and I hate it.”


A mean spirited author? Well…I’ve never! I have to agree with Jeff on this point. Some writers employ the “I’m God, therefore, this can happen,” approach. Need your character to fly? Suddenly they have powers. Need them to turn invisible? They amazingly discover this ability. Same thing goes for endings. If you can’t give me a legitimate reason…I’m probably not going to buy it. (Want an example of this? Read anything by Alyson Noel.)


Kristin says, “First of the series = good story telling. You’ve sucked the reader into an unhappy ending and now you HAVE to read the next book, because naturally we secretly want resolution.
And in the case of a single novel with an unhappy or uncomfortable ending…… Sometimes the moral of the story is the hard lesson we take away from the book. Maybe the death or catastrophe needs to happen so that the character learns something, or the reader learns something. I like a variety. Some happy, some not.”


Yes. Yes to this so much. Want a perfect example of this? Read The Fault in our Stars by John Green. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. If something makes you uncomfortable, then we’re probably headed in the right direction.


Pat says, “I’m thinking of Grapes of Wrath . . . a happy ending would negate the whole premise of the novel. Some people read for entertainment only – they read the same romance novel a hundred times (only the names and a few details are changed) – they know how it will end, and like it that way. I want the ‘end’ of a novel to work – it’s great when it’s happy, but not always necessary or ‘good’ for the reader.”


You mean it’s not okay to be oblivious to things like pain and suffering? This is a novel idea (pun intended).


Lastly, we go to Twitter for my favorite response.


Kevin Moore says, “I feel happy endings are the end for characters. Endings with a bit of disarray let characters live on in the mind”


Right on, Kevin, right on. I mean, who watched Inception? Who is still wondering if that damn top is still spinning?


So, what’s the verdict?


It seems to me that it comes down to planning, plotting, and weaving the perfect story. The ending may be awful, but if it’s necessary, go for it. Now, hold on a minute, don’t be killing off characters for sport (also don’t randomly give them magical powers), you must have reasons. And these reasons the reader must understand.


What say you, readership? Do you like HEA, HFN, or the necessary unhappy ending? Sound off below!


All the best,



The past year has been a tremendous time of growth for me as a writer. A little over a year ago I joined the Flint Area Writers, an amazing group of gals and guy (and occasionally guys) who have taught me SO MUCH. It’s taken my writing from “just okay,” to something that’s a bit more. While I’m not one to blabber on about my own stuff, I can tell a difference, not only in my writing, but also in my confidence. Sometimes now I actually feel like I might know what I’m talking about.

1. Show your work to a lot of different people.

Writers tend to be stagnant. Admit it, we’re set in our ways. When you work with lots of different people, you’re going to get LOTS of different opinions. My favorite thing when working with someone (either as a writer or critique partner) is when you get or give the response: Oh, I hadn’t thought of it. Interesting…

I write YA. This means I’m always in fantasy land because I’m an adult. I tend to overlook things like “laws” and “rules” that apply to normal life. My writing group is really good at pointing that out.

2. Let your work simmer.

I’m an anxious writer. If someone tells me to fix something, I fix it and then get all frantic to get it back to them for more feedback. Give yourself a few days, weeks, if you can manage it. Let the feedback settle, look at your work from a different angle, THEN rewrite. Then simmer again before you send it back.

You don’t want to regret your revision decisions. In the end, your story should resonate with YOU, which brings me to number 3.

3. You write for YOU.

It’s great to think, “Oh X person is going to love this because I totally considered everything they think when I wrote it.” Except, no. We write because we have to. And I don’t mean that in the it’s a job so I must do this kind of way. We write because it fulfills our lives in a way that nothing else does. Your writing should make you happy. You should feel proud of it. If you have edited something beyond pride and happiness, it’s no longer yours.

Claim ownership! Sometimes this means saying no, and that’s okay.

4. Know how to say no.

Have you ever heard the phrase Those that can’t do, teach? This is true of some editors, too. They can’t write their own work, so they want you to turn YOUR work into THEIR work. Don’t. Do. It.

This doesn’t mean that you need to say no to every editor as this isn’t always the case. But you need to think and consider what they’re telling you to do. If it changes WHY you wrote the story to begin with, they may not be the editor for you. Writing is your art, it’s subjective, but it should always be yours.

5. Have an open mind.

It’s hard to have your work critiqued, but my view on this has changed. I used to be scared to get responses, but now I LOVE IT. You should take any chance to improve and immerse yourself in it, especially from people who are better writers than you. The writing world is unique in this way, we love to help one another. Every critique may not be the correct one for you, but you should consider it. Welcome feedback. Beta with someone you don’t know who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings.

6. Write the stuff that hurts/ that’s scary/ that takes you out of your comfort zone.

So many times I hear, I can’t write that! And I ask, why? Time and time again, the answer is, I’ve never done it before or I’m scared, or I don’t know how. Here is where I quote Warm Bodies:

“What wonderful thing didn’t start out scary?”

Writing can be TERRIFYING. We face fears, we slog through trauma and life experiences, but writing is meant to be FELT, not just read. If it doesn’t hurt sometimes, you’re not doing it right. Make a list of things outside your comfort zone. Pick one. Write.

Remember when I did this? THINGS I WANT TO WRITE ONE DAY.

And I’ve tackled some of those. Short stories? Check. Male lead? Check. Third person? Check. Make a list. Make it happen.

7. Don’t ever expect to be perfect. (Or think that you are.)

We learn from the moment we are born until the day we die. You will never be perfect and that’s okay. I suppose I could change the title of this to Be Humble.

1. not proud or arrogant; modest: to be humble although successful.
It’s okay to be proud of your work. It’s not okay to be conceited.

8. Help Others.

Teach what you know to everyone around you. Teach those who ask for help. Offer help to those who don’t. (REMEMBER: OFFER!) Unsolicited critique will be met with anger, almost ALWAYS. Offer help. Accept help in return.

Tomorrow starts the Sucker Literary Blog Tour. I hope all of you will come along for the ride!

All the best,




Once again, I’m featuring my good friend RLL. Today, to complete Witches and Insanity, we have Vampires (oh my!)

FICTION FACTORY. Welcome to my mini-self-publishing imprint for short stories running around 30,000 words. These stories are not collected or bundled with other tales. If you buy WITCHES, you won’t suffer disappointment in later life by finding WITCHES reheated for a collection called TALES TO IMPRESS PALAEONTOLOGISTS. Be thankful for that small mercy.


 Crashing parties used to amuse Vance. He hurled himself into a world of no commitments. When the synthetic blonde offered more of the same, guided by brusque phone texts, he didn’t see the harm in another meaningless fling.

 “Rule 1. If I text and you are busy, that’s fine. The rule runs in both directions. No pestering.”

 He was okay with that.

 “Rule 2. We never attend social functions. I don’t do weddings, though I will crash parties.”

 Suited him, just fine.

 “Rule 3. No gifts.”

 Saved money.

 “Five rules. Rule 4. If we see each other with strangers, no questions. No introductions to family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, serial killers…”

 Vance had no problem with the fifth rule. He thought his problems began next day.

 There, in red lipstick, she’d left a mirror message.


 The bar? Reasonable. Didn’t try too hard to be trendy. He knew no one here – not on a Wednesday night. Vance watered at the venue on the odd weekend. Open the door on a world without strings. In.

 Scene. The jet minx in front of him shook hailstones from her bobbed coiffure. Melting pellets bounced off his heavy coat. By contrast, she appeared to be wearing a black plastic bag for no protection from the night.

 He eyed her tight black jeans. Painted on. Sheathed legs stopped at bare ankles and shiny stab-me black shoes. Hang about…

 37,000 words, plus notes.

The Prologue:

This prologue is best-read while listening to Pretty in Pink, by the Psychedelic Furs.


“What the fuck’s this?”

“That’s self-evident.”

“Oh yeh? Do me a favour, love. Next time you declare something self-bleeding-evident, make sure you know it’s self-bleeding-evident to me.”

“This is an invitation to a masked ball.”

“Very similar to a dropped ball. Sounds a bit hairy.”

“We have been cordially invited…”

“Invited as cordial.”

“To. A. Masked.”


“You were being flippant.”

“I parked on yellow lines once. What a crime.”

“Don’t believe you.”

“It’s true. I was lying about parking.”

“Are you finished?”


“Please do go on.”

“When’s this masked ball?”

“Are you still being flippant? You CAN read the time on the invitation.”

“I wasn’t being flippant a moment ago. Am being now, though.”


“Don’t do the eff-thing. I hate that.”

“You swear all the time.”

“Not word after word, love. Fuck fuck fuck. I don’t do that. Apart from just then.”

“Neither do I. I use the word off as a stress-reliever. Are we going to this fucking party or not?”

“Were you invited?”


“I’ll consider going.”

“You are going. I’m bored. Bored bored bored. Existence is boring. I want to party. You haven’t been to a party since…”

“The last time. What was the last party you were at? Oh, I remember. The Nazi Party.”

“Don’t judge. That was 1933. I look stylish in black boots and a peaked cap.”

“Seen Adolf lately?”

“He’s back with Eva.”

“Yawn. Heard it all before. Quiet night in with the Hitlers.”

“They are now the Goldstein family.”

“Learning Yiddish, is he? Blending in?

“He’s clean-shaven. And he stopped wearing brown shirts. Hebrew. He’s learning Hebrew.”

“Yawn again. What do they get up to, of an evening?”

“Stuff. You know. Things.”

“Wall-to-wall history shows. He foams at the mouth every time someone mentions Churchill or Stalin. Come midnight, Eva blacks up and does her minstrel cabaret act. His heart’s not in the playbill.”

“She sings all the wrong songs. Won’t listen to advice.”

“Then it’s some half-arsed bloodsucking from the bags in the fridge. She spends her time on the world’s largest jazz cigarette.”

“That alleviates the tension.”

“He stays up until dawn writing letters to the party faithful and trying out new speeches in front of the laptop. Computer wallpaper? Freeze-frame shot of a rally. Massive crowd. Look closer and you’ll see it’s a photo of the London Marathon. All the colours of the rainbow represented, but someone’s cropped the rabbinical contingent from the happy event.”

“Bormann’s a Microsoft engineer. He dabbles in desktop publishing. Admin’s more his thing.”

“You can say that of a lot of Adolf’s friends. I thought Bormann was declared dead in 1973.”

“Marty still had friends in government then. Called in a Bundes-favour or two.”

“Night in with the Hitlers, eh. Timeline? Five minutes until cock-crow. Adolf suddenly remembers he’s a vampire and reluctantly returns to the bunker. Am I wrong?”

“Your sweep of the details is broad. Though that sweep is, lamentably, correct.”

“Are the Hitlers going? To this ball…”

“Don’t know. Should I call and ask? Oh, what if they haven’t been invited? Does it matter, either way?”

“Depends. Wouldn’t be the first party Hitler crashed. Does it matter to me, you mean?”

“You may imagine from my impending silence that I am mentally repeating FUCK OFF in a loud angry manner. Inside my head.”

“Well that saved a bother of repeating it outside your head, next mine. What was the question?”

“Which side were you on, back then?”


“World War Two.”

“Was there a second one? Bloody hell.”

“Are you being flippant? Before you answer, you should know that I am being flippant in asking.”

“I can’t remember. Things were quiet at first. Then there was a load of bombing. I’d wander the war-torn streets at night, picking up tasty nibbles. Could have been anywhere.”

“Were the nibbles speaking German?”

“I didn’t give them time to speak, love. You don’t talk to the food.”

“That’s nonsense. I always do.”

“You are the chatty type.”

“So from 1939 through to 1945, you managed to survive in some war-torn landscape. Without ever having a conversation.”

“Don’t remember. What’s there to talk over? Someone bombed my house. You’ve had a rough day, mate. And the night’s about to get rougher. Fang you very much.”

“Crap. You were in London in 1941.”

“Maybe. It’s all a blur.”

“You still have that accent. Go by landmarks. Transport. Music of the time.”

“Nothing. Accent. Yeh. Where did you dig up that American accent, exactly?”

“Concentrate. Fashion. Slang. News items. THE LANGUAGE.”


“Yes. Finally. The language. Goes with the accent, I’m guessing.”

“I remember wandering choice sewers. Built to last.”

“Victorian engineering.”

“Yeh. London, then. Going by the sewers. Had to be.”

“Well, I strolled in Berlin. For a time.”

“Where did you go, after?”

“I lived in Moscow. That must have been 1942. Mix-up. Commie phase.”

“Looked stylish waving a red flag, did we?”

“If we meet Hitler at this ball, and he starts waxing lyrical about his vampire superspy deep in Soviet territory…”

“Stroll on. Seriously?”

“The story may surface. Let’s ensure it surfaces as I’d prefer to tell the tale.”

“Are we going?”


“Right. Dress inappropriately. Then you’ll match me.”

Here’s the link:


neon gods brought down by swords cover 61Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords. FREE TODAY AND TOMORROW.

Visit RLL in all the following locations:


 Signpost blog, RLL AUTHOR.

 Blog, REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE. (THOUGHTS ON PUBLISHING BY AN AUTHOR ON THE RUN.) See the HALLOWE’EN INAUGURATION page for a free story – The Chalice in the Snow. Also available – TWICE AROUND THE LIGHTHOUSE. A complete Doctor Who novel, released as fan fiction on my blog.

 Author of…

 Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords.



 And in the FICTION FACTORY line…





All the best,



I am so excited to reveal MY cover for ANTITHESIS. This has been a long, LONG journey, and it’s still not over, but I feel so blessed to be here at all. While I have your attention, I want to thank some people that were so instrumental in the creation of ANTITHESIS. Missy – though technically you don’t “exist” anymore, I still know who you are, and I am so grateful for everything you’ve done for me. You’ve been a friend, mentor, and sounding board, and we’ve had a whole lot of fun along the way. Amanda – my sister, for reading my crap when it was still crap, and for answering when I called to tell you my book was accepted. Thanks. RLL – for your ten page emails and your adorable audios. (I know you hate that I just said adorable, but your accent really is pretty cute.) Thanks for being a curmudgeon. The ladies from my writing group, The Flint Area Writers – thank you, thank you, thank you. I have come SO far since I met you, and you guys, above all else, have taken me from there to here, from just “okay” to sometimes “fantastic”. Mart and Kelly – for everything. The Sunday dinners, the impromptu writing sessions, for letting me complain. You guys rock. The awesome team at Inkspell – Thank you. Shilpa, Melissa, all the writers, you guys are amazing. Especially Melissa, for encouraging me to submit in the first place and holding my hand when I needed it. And Jon – my husband. You are a brave, strong man for putting up with me. It has to be tough living with a writer. I give you props and love and more love. Thanks for believing in me, especially those times when I don’t believe in myself.

Now for the reveal!

Antithesis CoverANTITHESIS by Kacey Vanderkarr

Available July 21, 2013 from Inkspell Publishing

My name is Gavyn.

Liam doesn’t care that I only have one arm. He actually likes my red hair and freckles. I might forgive him for kidnapping me.

My name is Gavyn.

I lost my Liam. I’ve lost them all. And now it’s my job to make sure they don’t show up again.

My name is Gavyn.

I had a life with Liam, but he couldn’t give me what I need. Then I killed his father. I don’t expect he’ll forgive me for that.

My name is Gavyn.

About the author:

100_0118Kacey Vanderkarr is a young adult author. She dabbles in fantasy, romance, and sci-fi, complete with faeries, alternate realities, and the occasional plasma gun. She’s known to be annoyingly optimistic and listen to music at the highest decibel. When she’s not writing, she coaches winterguard and works as a sonographer. Kacey lives in Michigan, with her husband, son, crazy cats, and two bearded dragons.

Twitter: @kacimari



A Short Story Excerpt

I haven’t posted much fiction lately, mostly because I’ve been in a writing stupor, blind to everything except the absolute horrors going on in my manuscript. Don’t be alarmed – these things are AMAZING.

A while back I was taking a writing class, but then work came between the two of us and we had to part ways. I started writing a short story for said class, it’s pretty good, if I may say so, but it’s also unfinished. So I’m going to post the couples pages, get some comments and some encouragement to finish. It doesn’t have a title yet…so yeah.

            Cord crushed the cigarette in his fist, watching as the flecks of tobacco spilled from his fingers. He’d promised himself he’d quit, hell, he’d promised a lot of things over the past few years. With a sigh, he fished the crumpled pack out of his pocket. The first drag brought everything into focus. Reaching once again into his pocket, he retrieved the business card and train ticket.

“Hey, you can’t smoke here,” a passing man said, face contorted with righteous disgust.

Cord looked up, catching the signs changing, informing him that his train was running on time. “Fuck off,” he muttered, but the man was already out of earshot. Cord dropped his cigarette anyway, smashed the embers with his boot and headed for the platform, hitching his backpack on his shoulder. The woman there stamped his ticket without looking at him. She didn’t ask for ID, probably didn’t care that the name on the little stub wasn’t his. He didn’t thank her, just snatched up the ticket and strode into the belly of the station, pulling his leather jacket tight around his shoulders. That was New York for you; nobody really gave a shit anyway.

The train ride was long and boring and Cord found himself dozing against the window as the train rumbled past cities and long stretches of what passed for countryside. The woman in the next seat roused him when they reached the last stop. He felt like shit when he couldn’t muster a smile of thanks. He supposed he’d spent too long in the city, watching his life slide by in a steel-colored lull.

Cord palmed the business card as he stepped into the snap of brisk autumn air. It was colder here without the long fingers of buildings to block the wind. Good, he thought, scanning the station, which was much smaller and dingier than the one in the city. He read the tiny words printed on the card for the millionth time.

Congratulations, you have been chosen to attend a weekend of secret festivities.

            Secret festivities, he scoffed. It was the quote that caught his attention.

“If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.”

            He’d found the card and train ticket on his brother’s dresser while stealing money for cigarettes. It was probably some self-help seminar that would leave him cross-eyed with boredom, but he figured, what the hell? Couldn’t be any worse than spending the weekend at home while Mom drank herself into a pathetic stupor. So he’d pocketed the card, ticket, and thirty dollars, and left his cellphone in their place.

Anger burned hot inside of him as though he’d swallowed the flame of the devil himself. He didn’t give a fuck about his family. They could rot in the tiny shithole apartment for all he cared. Besides, if the “secret festivities” sucked, he figured he’d just escape and spend the weekend lost in the unfamiliar town.

He hailed a cab out front and gave the driver the address from the back of the card. Thirty minutes later, they arrived in front of a lonely gated driveway that disappeared into a dark thick of woods. He paid the driver, skimping on the tip, and watched as the taxi pulled away.

Cord looked around, tamping down a frisson fear. He was from fucking New York City; a house in the woods was nothing. He crossed to the intercom next to the gate and depressed the button.

A tinny, disembodied voice answered. “Name?”

“Co—Aaron Adams.” He almost forgot to give his brother’s name.

The black gate swung inward, creaking. Without looking back, Cord slung his bag over his shoulder and went inside.

There it is! Now I’m off to manuscript land once again.

All the best,



Wow. Feels like it’s been forever since I last blogged. You’re not mistaken, it has been. I haven’t been wasting the days, however. I finished the initial edits on Through the Reflection Pond and sent it out to betas, hence, this blog post. I have some friends who don’t believe in betas. I’m not entirely sure if that’s because they’re AFRAID to have someone critique their work, if they’re too PROUD, or they just don’t understand the absolute beauty of a beta. That’s right, my wonderful betas, you are beautiful to me.

Here’s the list, in no particular order.

10. Repetition – We all do it. There are words and phrases that are our “go to” items. YOU know what yours are, just as I know mine. For Through the Reflection Pond, I used “heaving” (Seriously? Heaving. What an awful word.) and “yank” in every other sentence. I went back and edited those annoying little buggers out, but what about the words and phrases I missed because the writing seemed otherwise smooth? Enter, the beta.

9. Repetition, revisited – see what I did there? We like to say things twice, mostly because we write like we talk, ESPECIALLY if you’re writing in first person. Especially, then. I don’t catch every one of these because it sounds like a flowing conversation in my head. Thank you, thank you betas, for catching my rambling.

8. World building – Inside our heads we know exactly what everything and everyone looks like. Our readers don’t. So when we say he had green hair, we know that we really meant, his curling locks fell to his waist in a tumbling cascade if shimmering emerald. The reader, who only read, his hair is green, quite possibly believes that he has a Marge Simpson fro the color of strained peas. Betas read, betas get lost, betas comment on the confusion, problem solved.

7. He said, she said – If you’re like me (now) you try to cut out as many dialogue tags as possible. They’re nothing words used only to direct the reader. Sometimes in our merciless hacking, we remove too many tags and end up with pages and pages of back and forth dialogue that leaves the reader reeling. Dialogue should flow smoothly, the tags lending direction when scenes grow long. Betas can help identify not only too many, but also too few tags.

6. What do you mean I have no plot? – It’s happened to all of us. We’re reading along happily and all of a sudden, bam! We’ve stumbled right into a gaping plot hole and broken 37 bones. Wait, what? And this is an edited and published work? WHOA. How did the author, editor, and publisher miss this? Answer: We’re not perfect. We make mistakes. The more eyes you have on a manuscript, the more likely it is that plot holes will be found.

5. New ideas – Each of us is unique and views the world based on the experiences we’ve had. The reaction we have to words affects us differently, and so, we will have different ideas, questions, and input. So when we read a dramatic scene, our questions as to where the story is headed will be different. Often times betas will ask me questions that I hadn’t even considered, which leads to new scenes and chapters.

4. Fact checking – In light of the election tomorrow, let’s talk about the facts. We are not all-knowing. I know Google is great, but sometimes we get it wrong. Having a variety of betas helps us identify factual errors. A young person may be able to fix teenage dialogue, and older person may pick up on an era faux pas. Like I said before, we’re not perfect. Maybe you’re terrible at history and think WWI happened in 2001. Maybe you don’t know when the iPod was created. Little facts like that can make you look hugely idiotic if you get them wrong. Let me emphasize HUGELY.

3. Because you aren’t alone – Writing is a very solitary job. We sit at our computers and bang out novels, visit worlds richer than our own, filled with interesting people and concepts, yet most of us are socially inept. Recluses. But I want you to ask yourself, WHY do you write? Is it because you want people to read it? Because you want to share? Because you can’t stand the thought of your stories going unheeded inside of you? Then, may I also ask, why the heck can’t you share it with a beta?

2. YOU ARE NOT PERFECT!!!!! – I decided this needed its own number, because it’s so important for writers, especially those that are new, to realize. Writers often have huge egos. We write, and it feels great. We read it, it sounds amazing. But what sounds awesome to us may be awful to someone else. Maybe you’re a rambler, and you go on and on about stuff no one cares about. Maybe you use stilted dialogue that makes no sense. Maybe you have no clue how to world build. If you decide to indie publish, let me encourage you to find a beta reader and an editor. Your work needs it and your readers will thank you. After all, you’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. Authors who have dozens of books published are not perfect. FAMOUS AUTHORS USE BETAS. You are not famous. You are not published. You are not perfect. Get help. PLEASE. Indie is the new black, but because the writing is usually unedited and unbetaed, it’s HORRENDOUS to read. I can’t stress this enough. Please. Please. Please. There are great stories out there buried in junky words.

1. It will make you a better writer – Writing is dynamic. The more we do it, the better we get. Now think seriously about this, in order to learn and become better, we need someone to tell us what we are doing wrong. (Please refer back the #2 if you’ve already forgotten.) Betas are not all-knowing, but if you find good ones, they want to help you become a better writer. That’s what I want when I beta. It’s not about tearing someone apart, it’s about helping, enriching, encouraging. We never stop learning and if you don’t see a huge improvement in your writing every time you finish a work, you’re doing something wrong.

Now for the disclaimer – Betas do not know everything, and the best part is, you’re still the author. You still own the work. You can take or leave their advice, it’s completely up to  you. Some people are afraid they’ll lose their “voice” in all the beta suggestions. But why would that ever happen? Here’s an example.

The original work: Mark hated bees.

The beta suggestion: Bees were the bane of Mark’s existence. He’d never gotten over the awful allergic reaction he’d had.

Your change: Ever since the terrible allergic reaction, Mark hated bees.

You don’t have to accept everything. You can take a suggestion you like and work it into your own, but I can guarantee the right beta will make your manuscript shine.

All the best,



I’m sure most of you have realized this before, as I talk about her ALL THE TIME. First, I loved her for her writing, then I loved her because of how she interacts with her fans, and then it was because she tweeted my blog, and then because of how she’s just so down to earth…and now it’s because she’s just plain awesome. For those of you that don’t follow her blog and updates, she’s been the victim of hate bloggers, but that’s not really why I’m blogging. In her response to the hate bloggers which I encourage all of you to read HERE, she says something about writing and writers that I think needs to be repeated and splashed all over for us to see. She’s one smart lady, after all. I think as writers we tend to be very critical of ourselves and our work. That’s fine. We all do it. But what resonates with me is when someone with as much success as Cassie posts about insecurity in her own work. See? Famous authors are just like us. They were right here, struggling to make it in a big, scary world full of amazing authors. Truthfully, and don’t make fun of me, I teared up a little reading this because it gave me SO MUCH HOPE. I’m not really someone who gives up, but we all struggle through the ups and downs as writers. One week I’m on a roll and the next I feel like I couldn’t write something decent if someone handed me a million dollars. Anyways, I’m just going on and not really saying anything important. So here’s the snippet that I loved from Cassie’s blog:

“There is no book out there that someone doesn’t think is bad. I try to write good books, to make them the best they can be, but (like almost all other writers I know) I am sure I suck a lot of the time.You write books, you put them out in the world, and the world forms opinions about them. We all have to remind ourselves that we are works in progress, our writing isn’t perfect, and there is something to be learned even from the harshest criticism. I don’t mind being called racist/sexist, either: I am sure that I am, in the sense that we are all products of our conditioning, and we are conditioned by a racist/sexist society that works on us from the day we’re born. I try to be aware, and fight that conditioning, to remember my privilege, to tell fair and truthful stories but that doesn’t mean I’m not a work in progress myself, that I’m not going to screw up.”

I just love her.
That is all.



I want to get out, run away, go away, escape.

I don’t.

I go home, cook dinner, watch children’s shows, and fake smiles. The ache is there, today it’s my chest, my gut. It’s everywhere and nowhere and I wish I could just hide. If only I was smaller and paper thin. I would fold myself into little squares, tinier and tinier so that my surface space was so inconsequential that you could walk right past me and never know I was there. I could hide between the couch cushions or underneath the refrigerator. I could be a speck of lint you pick off your sweater and toss into the trash.


All that would hurt less than this.

Exploding would hurt less.