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Writer Resources: Wix


Welcome back! In this week’s post, I am bringing you Wix. I’m sure you’ve seen their advertisements on YouTube—Rhett and Link from Good Mythical Morning are currently spokespeople. You might have seen some advertising on television too, though I’m not entirely sure about that, since I haven’t had television service in about five years now.

If you’ve seen it and you question whether it could really be as simple as they make it out to be, let me spoil the rest of this post for you: IT IS.

The Particulars

The Price: You can use Wix for free. You won’t have a custom URL, which I like, but it will look like this: If you want to upgrade to a premium plan so you can use your own domain, here is the price breakdown as of today’s posting:
Wix Prices (1)

Ease of Use: ♦♦♦♦♦

What’s The Fuss?

Before I stumbled onto Wix, I spent several weeks fighting with another hosting site which, at the time, seemed to advertise more. This other website, let’s call them SquireSparce…claimed to provide a website building platform which was super simple and gave highly professional results. It…didn’t.

Wix really does.

Not only can you drag and drop, resize, and generally edit your website flawlessly, they also make it super easy to edit the way your mobile site looks and feels, too.


Search Engine Optimization is this crazy, headache-inducing hullabaloo that eludes almost everyone. It is important, though. Wix guides you through all the tough stuff, though, and within a few clicks you’re far better off.


If you tossed a virtual rock around the writing community, you’d hit on at least three-dozen separate blogs and vlogs advising that writers have a newsletter and email list. You can absolutely use a service like MailChimp for this, but if you have your website with Wix, you needn’t look any further than their integrated Shoutouts system. It is just as easy to create professional-looking newsletters as it is to edit your website.

In my humble opinion, we writers should focus the majority of our time to our books. The platform-building and marketing stuff is important, too, but if you can streamline your marketing time and keep yourself in as few places as possible, that just frees up more writing time. Boom!

Tons of Apps

Want an easy-to-customize contact form? They’ve got it.
Want to integrate your Instagram feed? It’s simple.
Want to add a status tracker your readers can see on where you are for your WIP? Not hard at all.

There are hundreds of things you can add to your Wix site,
so simply you won’t find yourself reaching for the aspirin.

Easy to Use

I know I’ve said this a few times in this rather short post, but it deserves to be repeated. Instead of attempting to show you its beautiful simplicity through a series of screencaps, though, I found a short video on YouTube I recommend watching if you’re interested in learning more about it.

I Put My Money Where My Mouth Is

$14 per month, to be exact.

If I didn’t make it clear in my last post, no matter my skill level in the resources I’m bringing to you in this series, I believe in them 100%. I use Wix for my website, and WordPress (obviously) for my blog. Why? Because there is no other blogging platform I’ve found that compares to WordPress.

If you’d like to see what my Wix-built website looks like, please give it a gander, by clicking here. (Bonus points if you sign up for my newsletter!)

That’s all I have for you today, friends. I hope you have an excellent, super-productive week! See you soon!



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Writer Resources: Trello

Copy of WR_ PWA“Why do anything unless it’s going to be great?”
Peter Block


Welcome to my next blog series: Writer Resources!

I’ve been told on more than one occasion I come across some of the most interesting resources, and sometimes I mention one of them in my blog and I’ll get a DM on Twitter (or an email, actually) for more information about it.

So, I figured I’d bring you a series dedicated to some of my favorites, as well as navigate a few still new to me. The lineup I’m bringing you samples everything from organization, to editing, to design, and everything in between.

It was difficult to decide where to start, where to end, and how to get from A to Z! The natural choice, however, was Trello—my favorite organizational app.

The Particulars

Price: Free for Personal Use | 9.99/mo for Business Class | 20.83/mo for Enterprise
Ease of Use (Web): ♦♦♦♦♦
Ease of Use (App):  ♦♦♦♦♦


I was first introduced to Trello shortly after its release and I used it to help me organize a 10k word paper I had to write for school. If you are familiar with the “pin board” concept of Pinterest, then you’ve already got an idea of how Trello works. Let me show you:

Trello - Web Boards


Great for Web | Great for Mobile

photo (1)

If you’re anything like me, you float from using a desktop or laptop to using your mobile device for all things regarding your writing career. It was important for me that however I organize my thoughts and ideas be just as useful on my desktop as it is my phone, and Trello does not disappoint.

In fact, it’s the most seamless web/mobile transition I’ve ever encountered. It is nearly instantaneous to add something on your Trello app and then find it on your desktop and vice versa.

This is EXCELLENT for people who design something on their desktop and then want to add it to Instagram.

I take full advantage of any opportunity I have at work or during travel to go over my Trello boards and examine how I’m doing on my goals (which each board contains goals) and I’ll work on my plot and character outlines.

Creating a Trello Board

Creating a board is super simple.

Trello - Web Boards (1)

I don’t want to show the contents of my active boards, so for the sake of this blog post, let’s start a sample board.

But sample board is kind of boring, so let’s make a fictitious story board. We’ll use one of my scrapped titles: Someone Else’s Dream.

Trello - SED Added to Boards

Add it to one, and it’s automatically on the other.

Now let’s enter the board and start fleshing out this novel.

Trello - SED Adding Cards
Ever had an app that didn’t function as well in landscape as portrait or vice versa? Trello works well in either. Actually, I can’t think of a thing I don’t like about it.

The first card I always add when I’m starting to organize my novel is the first little spark of the idea. I know the heading says synopsis, but that might not always be the first card I add, especially if it is a brand new idea and I haven’t actually made a synopsis. I never want to forget the first thing that sparked the idea, because, in my opinion, no matter how much the book changes from inception to publication, that little nugget of inspiration is the truth of the novel.


For instance, the idea that sparked Alabama Rain was a little line of dialogue from the voice of an elderly lady. “Besides, don’t God’ner the Devil want me.”

Therefore, that is the first card on my Alabama Rain board. I never want to forget the surge of energy those few words gave me, and it comes back to me whenever I read it.

(Bonus points if you guessed what I’m watching in the background by reading the character names…for the seventh time.)

Inspired Organization

Did you notice how my existing Trello boards all have different pictures for their thumbnails?

Once I have really narrowed down the feel of the book, I change the background image from the default color to an image in keeping with the tone I’m going for. It’s just one more little way I can get slip myself into the mood for writing.

See where it says menu on the right-hand side? Click that and then you can decorate!

Trello - SED New BG
Once I start getting ideas for scenes, I add a list for scenes and I start adding in cards with very loose ideas for them. The great thing about Trello is that you can drag and drop them to rearrange them.


Let’s take a closer look at the menu bar.

Trello - SED Menu

If you’ve been saying to yourself that you can more-or-less do all of this in Scrivener so far, pay attention. Now, I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve toyed around with Scrivener, so I apologize if I have missed something, but these Power-Ups are something you cannot do in the popular writing app.

Trello - SED Power-Ups
There are an astonishing number of power-ups you can integrate right into your Trello Boards.

If you are using the free-version, as I suspect you are, you are limited to only one power-up per board. The paid-versions do allow you to use as many as you want.

There are power-ups for just about everything, from calendars to MailChimp and so much in-between.

For the sake of this demonstration, let’s set up a calendar that will help you track your word counts and writing goals.

Trello - SED Calendar

Once you enable the Calendar, you need to assign yourself some goals. Create a list of word count goals.

Trello - SED Word Count Goals

When you click on the goal, it will open up this menu:

Trello - SED Adding Due Dates

Once you’ve added in a due date, it will show up in your calendar. I will go ahead and set several due dates so you can see what it looks like.

Trello - SED Calendar with Due Dates

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It’s a good thing those are fictitious word count goals! 😉

The cool thing is that you can set your calendar to give you reminders. In fact, earlier, while I was writing on this very blog post I got a reminder from Trello that I had a blog post due tomorrow.

There have been a few Thursday blog posts that wouldn’t have been written if it weren’t for these Trello reminders.

Also, thanks for all the Instagram love. ♥♥♥


Information Hub

Beyond keeping up with word counts and scenes, Trello is great for keeping absolutely everything about your book in one place. As you’re writing and plotting and planning, it’s a great idea to start planning for how to market your book, so I always keep a marketing list in the story’s board.

I am a huge fan of having a book trailer, so let’s look at how I might go about planning for this book trailer. If your thing is getting into bookstores, or printing up bookmarks, coffee cups, pens, or anything at all, this will be helpful.

Trello - SED Marketing

Trello - SED Book Trailer

Notice how I added a due date, and added reminders such as which website to check out? These are things I would likely forget if I just scratched out “Book Trailer” in my planner.

One of my favorite things about these cards is the Checklist feature I’ve circled in the picture above.

What I use this for the most is when I want to do a giveaway. (Hint, one will be announced really soon.)

I will list everything I want to include in the giveaway and check them off as I acquire them.

Trello - SED Book Trailer Checklist

I hope this has convinced you to at least give Trello a try.

You can find the app in your App Store, or you can visit the Trello website to sign up.

If you already use Trello, I’d love to hear any hints, tips, or tricks you use to maximize your organizational experience, and if you haven’t tried it but this post has inspired you to do so, please let me know in the comments!

***I get absolutely nothing if you sign up for an account. This post is not sponsored, and all opinions are my own. I am a long-time user of this service, and am only sharing it with you because I believe in it.***

That’s all I have for you today! Don’t forget to tune in next week!

Happy organizing and happy writing!


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Combating Writer’s Block

Combating Writer's Block“I’m sitting in my office trying to squeeze a story from my head. It is that
kind of morning when you feel like melting the typewriter into a bar of steel
and clubbing yourself to death with it.”
-Richard Matheson

It’s 5:03 pm on Sunday and I am just now getting around to my blog post. It isn’t for lack of desire to write, but let’s just say it’s been a really, really bad few weeks, and today just kicked it up a notch.

My husband woke me a little less than twelve hours ago and not long thereafter I had to take him to the emergency room. I won’t get into the particulars because I respect his privacy, but he was being treated for about five hours before we could come home…with a few follow-up referrals with specialists and a few prescriptions to boot.

If you read my post from Thursday, you’d know I was already having a stressful year, so his hospital visit didn’t do me any favors. But, I am taking my own advice, and I am going to keep powering through. It actually ties in quite nicely with what I am set to blog about today.

I considered eschewing today’s post entirely. I don’t think anyone would’ve blamed me…except me, of course. I checked my blogging board on Trello just to see what I’d be skipping, and I LOLed at what I had scheduled for myself for this particular day:

photoThis was so funny to me, because I remembered hating the placeholder title and subtitle I’d given myself when I was mapping out this quarter’s blog posts all the way back in December.

I almost never use the placeholder titles I give myself.

But it just fits so perfectly for my state of mind right now. It’s not that I feel like I’m suffering “writer’s block,” it’s just that I’m unable to concentrate on my world of fiction when my reality seems so hellbent on my mental destruction.

I know it’s just a coincidence, but it was almost as if I was giving myself a little push for today, even from way back then. Past me knew that future me was going to have a really crappy March.

Anyway, it’s inspired me to go on with today’s post, so let’s get started.


Writer’s Block: The Debate

Because we cannot have anything in this world without a debate, naturally there is one—and a rather heated one, in some circles—about the existence of Writer’s Block. We aren’t here today to decide whether it exists. I’ll let you do that in the comments below.

We can’t deny that sometimes the words flow and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re more like a trickle, and sometimes it’s too laborious to pull them from wherever it is they hide in our cavernous writer brains.

To the naysayer’s credit, though, sometimes we only think we’re blocked. Sometimes we’re just so steadfast in the scenes we’ve written, we forget we often times just need to change the direction of our story in order to keep it moving.

For instance, recently I was having an extremely difficult time deciding how to proceed with a certain section of Alabama Rain. It took a lot of erasing, writing, erasing, and writing before I determined the story just needed a shift. Once I zigged instead of zagged, the words began to flow again, fast and free.

For the sake of the block, though, we aren’t going to rule anything out. If you’ve never experienced a period where the words are clogged and your imagination is more stale than yesterday’s toast, then lucky you.

For the rest of us, sometimes we need to get rebooted. So, without further adieu, here are three things I do to get things moving again.

Get Outside

One of the first things I do when I’m feeling a bit stuffy in the idea department, I get out of my apartment. Writing somewhere else might do the trick, so I might take my laptop to the library or to a coffee shop.

My apartment is tiny and in itself is a rather stuffy place, therefore finding myself in a new, fresh environment helps me think of things from a new perspective.

View from the parking lot – Clingman’s Dome, NC

Sometimes, however, I have to go for a longer drive. There’s something about driving through the mountains with my windows down and the wind in my hair, the radio on…it’s desperately hard not to refuel my creative batteries. In fact, it was at the approach to Clingman’s Dome where I had a spark of an idea that snowballed into the loose plot for Underthings. I also had to come here when writing Sex, Love, and Formalities.


Going for a walk—preferably through the woods for a few hours—also helps. Exercise releases endorphins…and I think endorphins aide in creativity. Let’s not get all sciencey to prove me wrong here. It works for me. 🙂


Channel Your Inner Child

Lego pizza, anyone?

Think about it. Children have wildly creative imaginations. I don’t have kids of my own, but I love to listen to my nephew babble on about what his vast collection of toy cars and trucks are doing, how their races turned out, etc. He’s got such a vivid imagination, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in his little tales. So, it only makes sense to me that our own, adult imaginations might check out for a vacation because they’re so keen on having fun. Bills, work, and day-to-day adult stresses aren’t fun. What are my favorite activities in which to indulge?


  • MadLibs | Not only is this fun and good for a few giggles, it’s also writing. 
  • Lego | It’s like real-life Minecraft. Sort of. Just don’t forget to put them away, they hurt like hell when you step on them.
  • Tactile play | Playdoh, magic sand, silly putty, polymer clay


Interpret A Scene

This little secret of mine is probably the one most people would scoff at, but hear me out. What I do is I’ll either turn to Netflix or YouTube and choose something I’ve never before watched—this is important. Once I have selected something, I turn off the sound and I begin to watch. I don’t want to hear their voices or the scene’s background noises.

Sometimes I take notes, sometimes I just start typing away while I watch, but I write a scene based off what I’m seeing. I’ll make up the dialogue based off the actor’s body language. If they’re in the city, I interpret what the city sounds like (are their sirens, barking dogs, people shouting, etc.)

Sometimes, I feel, our imaginations just need a little help getting restarted. I take out some of the work by watching something on my screen, but I enjoy filling in all the details.


Writer’s Block Traps

Hand (1)
Don’t accidentally put your muse in a cage.

Though we all have our own tricks to combat Writer’s Block, there are definitely things that only serve as distractions from it, as opposed to working through it.

  • Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration isn’t the same as a dog, it doesn’t come when called.
  • Don’t watch television. I know I just said to watch a scene and write what you see…but what I don’t suggest is binge watching something for hours on end.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Just because another writer has hit the word lottery and is dropping thousands of words a day, does not negate the fact you’re a perfectly valid writer. When you hit your stride again, the other writer might hit a slump. (So, when you are trending thousands of words a day, remember to encourage others!)


When all else fails: Fake it until you make it. Take your cue from one of our favorite Disney pals and just keep writing. This is what the pros do. They don’t wait for the words to magically reappear, and if you want to be a pro, neither can you.

That’s all I have today, my friends. I hope those of you who are struggling with your own dilemmas, find peace soon. Take comfort in your words.

Don’t forget, my next blogging series will start up soon. You really don’t want to miss this one, so don’t forget to subscribe! There’s going to be an amazing giveaway!

Until next time, my lovelies!

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Let’s Talk: THE SENSES

The Five SensesAll our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.
– Immanuel Kant


Since grade school, we’ve known about the five senses. We know the general functions of them and why they matter…what we weren’t taught in grade school was how to write about them.

It might seem easy, but evoking the five senses in your writing can be terribly difficult.

First, a quick note about Deep POV:

When you’re writing deep into someone’s POV, you shouldn’t use the obvious words:

She sees/saw
She hears/heard
She feels/felt
She smells/smelled
She tastes/tasted

I will schedule a blog post about getting deep into POV at some point, but there is plenty of information on the ready out there already.



Obviously, setting the scene is important whether you’re writing Women’s Fiction or a Dystopian Fantasy.

Don’t Describe Everything | How annoying would it be if the book you were reading had its characters going for a walk through the woods and the author described every stinking tree?

…then Denny and Suzette passed the sycamore tree which was thirty-six feet tall, and had four-hundred little branches, next to it was a small crop of magnolia trees, with white blossoms and three birds’ nests. One was a red bird, and the other two were pigeons, or at least they looked like pigeons, but Denny wasn’t too sure.

None of those details were important to the story, so don’t bog your readers down with information they don’t need. It’s one thing to set a scene, but if you find yourself describing every tree in the forest, you’re describing far too much.

Take the time to describe the anomalies. For instance, in Alabama Rain, my characters go through a walk in the woods, and while I don’t describe the trees, I do describe the absence of trees in the middle of the forest, and a nearly-dried up creek running through the middle. I also point out that there are dozens of little blue flowers–which is significant since they’re in the middle of a drought.

Tighten Up | This is good advice for all aspects of writing, but here’s what I mean:

The clouds hung low in the sky. [The clouds hung low.]
The recovered dolphin swam through the water with ease. [The recovered dolphin swam with ease.]
He tripped on the maze of roots in the ground. [He tripped on the maze of roots.]

Your readers will know the clouds are in the sky, where else are dolphins going to swim, and where else do tree roots trip people? Save your words.


Very few scenes are silent. In the city cars are always honking, in the country, the birds are almost always chirping. Evoking sounds can help set the scene in your story.

Get Beyond Volume | This goes hand-in-hand with showing vs. telling.

Don’t tell me the orchestra is loud, let the timpani rumble the seats.
Don’t tell me someone whispered softly…for that is the nature of a whisper.

Smile, You’ve Got Similes | If you can’t think of a way to describe the way something sounds, you can fall back on a simile.

The violin hummed like a songbird.
The emergency test on the radio screamed like a toddler on a plane.


Sometimes a Touch is a Touch | Does the thing’s texture need to be described? If you’re in the middle of a poignant scene, where a father and son embrace for the first time in years…do you think it matters that the son’s sweater is soft? Probably not.

Good or Bad | I’m not necessarily talking that sort of good touch/bad touch. (That’s another blog post for another time) but the sensations you assign to things can have them go one way or another:

His velvet kiss…
His gritty kiss…
The silky sheets…
The stiff sheets…
The dewy grass…
The dried up grass…



Nostalgia | Nothing can stir someone’s memory like the sense of smell. Every time I smell bacon frying, I instantly think of my great uncle John, who carried that aroma deep within his clothes.

The sense of smell is so strong (for most people) that you can convey a lot while saying very little:

The warmth of cinnamon wafted through the house, as grandma had set a pie to cool on the windowsill.
As the children leapt from the bus, they delighted in the return of freshly cut grass–a sure sign that Summer was fast-approaching.
His cologne overpowered the entire theater.


Food & Stuff Most of the time you describe the taste of something, it’s going to be because your characters are eating or drinking. Describing the way everything tastes is probably unnecessary. If it is important—such as your MC is a chef and it’s part of their job—or it’s the first time they’re tasting something, then it’s probably okay to describe it.

But if your character eats pepperoni pizza sixteen times in the book, don’t describe it sixteen times.

It can be hard not to use “taste” when describing the flavor of something, but it’ll read much stronger if you get the hang of it:

The dark chocolate tasted too bitter.
The dark chocolate made him sputter and spit and gargle his water.
The wine tasted expensive.
The wine smoothed over her tongue like cherry-flavored silk.

As you start your editing/revision process, be mindful that you’re using all five senses to help ensure you’ve got a balanced approach to scene-setting.

That’s all I’ve got today.

I’ve got a fantastic series of posts coming up with an awesome giveaway hitting the blog in April, so please, please, please hit that subscribe button and share my blog with your friends.

Maybe afterwards I’ll finally give in and write about dialogue.

Maybe not.

Have a great week my lovelies!

Hot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHT (1)

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Let’s Talk: Character Building

Character Building“If you treat your characters like people, they’ll reward you by being
fully developed individuals.”
Don Roff

Happy Monday, y’all! I hope, unlike me, you had a spectacular weekend. I did manage to add a few thousand words to my manuscript for Alabama Rain, but even doing so I know I’m behind on my goals for it. Being behind is no reason to give up, though!

I had a shortlist of things I wanted to blog about today, so how did I pick the winner? How did we land on character building, you ask. Because it’s a thing I’ve seen popping up in several book reviews lately.  (Luckily not of my own.) There seems to have been a shift away from character building, and lots of reviewers are pointing it out.

DNF, too many flat characters.

I couldn’t keep reading, because the characters were so underdeveloped.

The author didn’t give me anyone to root for or against.

These are just a few examples of the reviews I’ve seen lately for books I’ve been interested in reading. I don’t always pay attention to reviews, but when one book gets multiple reviews like that, it makes me reconsider.

So let’s do something to prevent the continuation of that cycle.

Let’s talk about the six areas you need to consider about your characters so by the time your readers get hold of them, they’re reading stories about believable fictional folk and not just…mannequins with dialogue.

Growth (1)
Let’s be honest, it’s next to impossible to get the amount of physical descriptions just right for every single one of your readers. Therefore, I offer you no such advice here. Your beta readers will probably let you know if you’ve gone too far on either end of the spectrum.

When describing your character’s face or body, it might be helpful to you to look at pictures of people who look similar to the way the character looks in your mind…but don’t just describe the color of their hair or eyes, though. Literature is littered with women who have flowing blonde hair and men who have piercing blue eyes.

These cliche descriptors are completely forgettable. Instead, give your readers something they’ll remember. For instance, in Alabama Rain, one of my characters has an ear that was half-chewed off by a dog…that’s not likely something my readers are going to forget.

Does your character have a tattoo? Of what, where, and was it botched?
What about that birthmark?
Surgical scars?
An amputation?

Challenge yourself to go beyond just brown hair and pale skin.

Another thing to remember about physical descriptions: Make them organic. Don’t plop your character down in front of a mirror and have them dictate every nuance of their own face to the reader. Unless this person is a model who is having their makeup done before a runway show…most people do not do this.


Growth (2)

I don’t recall the exact source, but I remember hearing a piece of writing advice a while back that said if a character is worthy of a name, they’re worthy of a backstory.

This is so true. Does this mean you have to write out a lengthy paragraph or two detailing every named character’s life?

Absolutely not. But, just because you aren’t going to include it in your manuscript, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a general idea of what they’ve gone through, what shaped and molded them into who they are in your story.

Knowing your character’s backstories will help you navigate the actual story for them. If someone nearly drowned as a child, are they going to hesitate when crossing the raging waters of a river? Probably.

• Was your character bullied in school? That’s going to affect them!
• Were your character’s parents alcoholics? That’s going to affect them!
• Did their dog get kidnapped and held for ransom? That’s going to affect them!
• Did your character win a slew of pageants? That’s probably going to affect them!

We’re all products of our pasts, so you need to give your characters one. It will guide you when you have to make decisions for them.

How do you do this, you ask? How much should you know? That depends on how vital the character is. If they only appear in a few chapters, you might get by with a paragraph or two. If it’s a primary character, you should probably be able to talk about them like you’ve been acquainted for a long time.



Your character’s starting emotional health is directly affected by their backstory, so now that you’ve fleshed that out, you will have a better grip on what they’re like emotionally at their introduction.

It’s important to know so you’ll be able to write how they react emotionally to the piles of heartache you’ll shovel onto them. If it is inconsistent with who they are, your readers are going to point this out. For consistency’s sake, don’t skimp on learning their emotional state.

• Is your character hot-headed? Then would they really sit idly by as someone berates them? Probably not.
• Is your character afraid of conflict? Then would they really lash out at a teacher because they scored lower on a test?
• Does your character harbor a grudge against love? Then would they really instantly succumb to the batting blue eyes of their new next-door neighbor?

If you’re going to make your characters go against the grain of their typical emotional reactions, this is something your readers will sit up and take notice of. It’s not always a bad thing, and it can lead to some great developmental points. That character from the first bullet point, the hothead? Maybe he has to bite his tongue as someone shreds him a new one because they’ve got a gun pointed at his wife’s head.

Your readers will know he’s being made to do something he normally wouldn’t, and they’ll feel the tension it creates for your character as he fights his baser instincts.


Emotional (1)

Just as with knowing your characters emotionally, you need to know them spiritually.

Are they religious? Yes, what do they practice?

This will also dictate how they react in certain situations…so I want to focus less on that aspect, because it does mirror emotions so closely, and focus on something I’ve seen a few authors get horribly wrong. Can you take a guess at what that is? No? Yes? If you guessed they don’t know the spirituality or religion they’ve assigned their character, then you guessed correctly! Give yourself a candy bar.

If you were raised in a predominately Christian home and you decide you want one of your characters to be Buddhist, then…you should know something about Buddhism.

I won’t name the work, but I have seen an author write about someone’s religion being Atheism, and then go onto say that character was a devil-worshiper. Only…atheists don’t worship the devil.

So, please, do your research.


This is another area I’ve seen in several books that needed a little more attention.

How many times have you read a book where the character is said to have attended some major university, graduated at the top of their class, and now they run a multi-billion dollar corporation…and then they do the dumbest shit you’ve ever read in a book? Come on…how many? I’m guessing it’s been more than once.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of highly-educated idiots out there, but your novel probably shouldn’t be filled with them.

If you’ve got a character who never made it past the sixth grade, then they’re not likely to have the same vocabulary as their long, lost sibling who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton.

But let’s reverse this. Your Princeton grad is also probably going to sound crazy awkward if he tries to acclimate to an inner-city way of speech. Ebonics is going to be hard, foreign even, when you’ve spent over twenty years speaking straight out of an English textbook.

Also: intellect doesn’t just come from the classroom, remember that. Wherever your characters got their education, be it school, college, on the job, the streets, the military, or on the farm, make sure their intellectual voice coincides with it.


As we’ve made our way down this list, you can probably see how all of the above traits have mingled with one another and how they can all have an effect on one another.

This one is no different.

Your character’s strengths and weakness can stem directly from their physicality, back story, emotional health, spirituality, and their intellect. So, when you’re getting to this stage in the character mapping process, take all of those things into consideration.

All that said, I want you to keep one thing in mind: Characters need Kryptonite.

Is your steadfastly Baptist woman unable to have a weakness for bondage? Nope, not at all…this would be an incredibly interesting juxtaposition to flesh out, don’t you think? There is all sorts of internal and external turmoil that might come from such a fascination from such an unlikely person.

Hell, Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes.

Sure your Princeton grad might be hella strong in all things science, but what if he develops a fear (or weakness) of fire? That Bunsen burner is now something he can’t face…so what is he to do?

Do you see where I’m going here?

This brings me to the bonus point I’d like to make about Character Building:


This is perhaps the number one complaint I’ve been seeing in reviews as of late. These complaints are coming in from both Indie novels as well as highly-anticipated traditionally-published novels:

Lack of personal growth.

One of the first things I said about getting to know your characters emotionally was that their backstory would help you learn about them when you first plop them in your manuscript. That is your baseline. That gives you their starting point.

You’re going to mess them up, though. You’ll give them conflict and challenge their beliefs. They need to change as a result. They need to have learned lessons and applied new knowledge and skills they’ve learned during their journey.

So, when you’re plotting your characters, don’t just plot who they are at the beginning of your manuscript…plot who you want them to become by the end. Draw a character arc, do a bullet list, anything to help you visualize where your character is going.

Any number and combination of these areas we’ve talked about today can and should go through a personal growth transformation.

A long time ago I came up with some Writing Aides that may help you as you’re outlining your characters. If you’re so inclined, have a look and let me know if they’re in any way helpful. (Which might inspire me to make similar things in the future.)

That’s all I’ve got for you today!

Just a head’s up, I am working on a series of posts dedicated to some amazing writerly resources I’ve found over the years—you aren’t going to want to miss out on those, so click subscribe!


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Let’s Talk: ROMANCE

steps up to 2018 (5)Romance makes the promise that no matter how bleak things sometimes look,
in the end everything will turn out right and true love will triumph — and in
an uncertain world, that’s very comforting.
-Leigh Michaels

We’re just a few days away from Valentine’s Day, so it’s only fitting we talk about romance. What makes a romance story a good romance story? Is it the flirting? The first kiss? The tension? The sex? The constant fear it might end?

Yep. It’s all of that.

Today I’d like to examine what might make a successful fictitious romance, and what might make a not-so-successful one. Also, peppered throughout the post you’ll find tips from fellow writers, and even a couple of excerpts from their work. Feel free to click on the images, they’ll take you directly to the author’s Twitter page.

Where should we start first? I vote tropes.

Is there any other story line as bloated with tropes as a good old-fashioned romance? I struggle to think of one. Let’s have a look at five common tropes.

1.| Billionaires. Someone rich falls in love with someone poor, but they struggle to woo their intended because they rely on their money to do so—effectively offending them.

In a certain trilogy-turned-major-motion-picture-trilogy, however, we see a BillionaireWriting Tip_ Allison Temple, Large who most definitely flaunts his wealth on every page. Occasionally it amuses his love interest, but often it just offends her. He still manages to get her in his red room, though, because…well…reasons full of clichés. More on that in a few.

2.| Forbidden Romance. Your two lovebirds’ passions are flamed by the fact something, or someone, wants to keep them apart. The most infamous example of this is Romeo and Juliet. They loved one another dearly, but their families were long-standing enemies.

Writing Tip_ Vania Rheault3.| Love Triangle. Three hearts, two loves. Usually this pits two men against one another as they vie for the affections of a lovesick, indecisive woman…or sometimes a woman torn between a vampire and a werewolf.

4.| Reformed Playboy. The hero in the story is known for his roguish ways. He’s had many lovers, he doesn’t play by the rules, he’s tatted up and drives fast cars…until the day he meets her, that is. I don’t know why, but when trying to think of an example of this, I instantly thought of Uncle Jesse and Rebecca Donaldson’s budding courtship in Full House. Have mercy. 

5.| Scars. Be them physical or mental, one person cannot fully give themselves to the one they love until they overcome the anguish of their scars. The movie Pay It Forward comes to mind.

Writing Tip_ Tante Willemijn, LargeFor a complete list (if there is such a thing) of all the tropes, you should do a Google search. It’s mind-bogging.

My least-favorite tropes:

Instant-Love: Instant attraction is one thing, but if two people go on a date and at the end of the night they’ve already said they love one another? Yeah, I’m probably going to pass.

On again/Off again/On again/Off again: I am all for a break up. Have the fictionalHot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHT1 couple argue and dissolve their love, and then have them fight to repair it. Just…don’t make it happen in every chapter. More than two (maybe three) break-ups in a novel would be hard to keep my interest.

Wimpy Woman: This might be a case of lacking character growth, but I’ve found more than one book where the woman is abused, whether physically or emotionally, and she just accepts it. I often write about abuse, but I hate when the abused doesn’t do anything to change their circumstance. I haven’t come across a book where the abuse happens to a man, but I’m sure it exists and it’d be just as wrong. Let your characters grow and evolve.

Tropes vs. Clichés

Tropes are bad, yes?

Not necessarily.

Tropes are common plot devices, like the ones we just discussed. They’re familiar and grant your readers an idea of what they might expect. You can turn a trope around and make it your own. It isn’t always easy, but it can be done. (Boy meets girl is a trope, perhaps the oldest trope, but you can expand upon it and make it unique.)

Writing Tip_ Harley La Roux, Large

Clichés are what readers usually find annoying: The virgin who is suddenly a sex kitten. The hero who can fight in epic battles and then make love to a duchess, despite having a slew of new wounds he should probably have seen. The woman who runs off at every misunderstanding. Avoid clichés at all costs. Readers have seen them more times than they’d wish to count.


Keep it real.

Just like last week when we discussed Sex Scenes, your love scenes and romances should usually be realistic. That isn’t to say you can’t have aliens who are in love with warlocks, but there are certain things to keep in mind when attempting to make the heart sing.

Writing Tip_ Christina L. Olsen, Large


1. | Keep Your Characters In Mind. This may sound like duh advice, but how many books have you read where the heroine does something wildly out of character, and for no apparent reason? If your characters are straight-laced, would they really jump in the sack after just meeting each other?

2.| Don’t Forget It Needs a Purpose. If you’re writing a romance novel, then the romance is definitely the point of the story. If you’re writing a paranormal thriller with a romantic subplot…that subplot needs to do something. Everything, including your romance, should further your plot. If it’s just tossed in, it’ll read that way.


3.| Keep your purple prose in check. 

I am all for a Hot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHTbit of flower in my descriptions from time-to-time, but if your love scenes are overstuffed with long sections sugary-sweet prose, the effect you’re going for is ruined. It probably shouldn’t take four paragraphs to describe the fleck of gold in the lover’s eyes.

4.| Milk the tension. Don’t underestimate the enormous power of milking both romantic tension and sexual tension. The will they/won’t they trope is one with the capacity to keep your readers turning the page…and it also prevents the Insta-Romance. Love at first sight isn’t really a thing. Lust at first sight is. Know which one you’re writing, if you must.

5.| Don’t forget about chemistry. Your characters need it. Opposites might attract, but it has to make sense. A billionaire isn’t likely to fall in love with someone who is homeless. If they do, then there needs to be a solid reason, otherwise no one is going to believe it.

Excerpt_ Vania Rheault6.| Each of your lovebirds should have their own issues. If Partner A is always the one who has problems to work through that put a strain on the relationship…your readers are going to wonder why Partner B is even sticking around. Let there be some back and forth, for tension’s sake!

7.| Keep it age appropriate. I’ve seen way too many young couples written as if they’re in a mature relationship like middle aged married people. This just isn’t realistic at all and may contribute to unhealthy relationship goals for younger people. If you’re writing for young people, it doesn’t mean you can’t tackle difficult subjects, just do so for them.

8.| Don’t forget your research. Love is love, right? Maybe, but it was handled differently throughout time. If you’re writing about a romance in 1545, it’d behoove you to research what the dynamics were between men and women during that time. Don’t forget about age of consent when writing historical romances…it might be younger than you’re comfortable writing.

9.| Are your characters flawed? (They should be.) So should their romance. I’ve read one or two books in the last two years where the author attempted to write the perfect romance. Meaning the couple always stood by one another, never argued, had a string of tender moments, and nothing ever threatened their happiness. This isn’t only unrealistic, it’s also boring. Bring on the tension, baby!

That’s all today! Please give my contributors a click and check out their social media pages and websites. They are dear, sweet people and I couldn’t be more thrilled they were willing to participate.

I had dozens of submissions and couldn’t use them all, so if you don’t see yours today, I apologize. I appreciate so much your time and effort, and I promise I will keep you in mind for the next blog post like this one.

Until next time, I hope you have a lovely, romance-filled Valentine’s Day! Hot and Steamy Excerpt_ ALIGHT (1)


   Love ya!

   Aila xoxo





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Let’s Talk: SEX

steps up to 2018 (3)“Love scenes feel very mechanical. But our whole job is to make it look real.”
– Erika Christensen 


**Disclaimer: This post may not be safe for work.**

When most people think of February, I bet Valentine’s Day isn’t far from mind. When people think Valentine’s Day, I bet sex isn’t far behind.

Sex has become less and less taboo over the years, but people still seem to be a little squeamish when doing the deed becomes the main topic of conversation—so as writers, let’s put aside the nerves and talk about it for the sake of well-written sex.

As a writer and a reader, I want a couple of things from sex scenes. I want a natural flow. I want showing, not telling. I want heat. I also want a point. This doesn’t necessarily apply to erotica as a genre, because the sex can be gratuitous, therefore this post is not about erotica. You erotica writers write your sex scenes with a flourish and without abandon!

But a gratuitous sex scene in any other genre is generally a no-no.

You’ve heard the advice before that everything, everything, should further your plot. Every decision your characters make. Every conversation. Every accident. Every minor character…everything should drive your plot forward.

And this definitely includes sex.

**Disclaimer: I am about to share three of the most common things achieved by writing in sex scenes, but these are not the only reasons to include them.**

1.| Start or end a relationship.

I do not mean that a new relationship can’t occur without sex. Of course it can. Most of the time it should begin without sex to keep things realistic. But, it can be used to strengthen bonds between two people, or if used to show infidelity, it can be used to shatter bonds between two people. Sex can cause conflict just as easily, if not more so, than it can solve it.

Maybe two people have what they think will be a one-night stand, only to discover there is a much stronger connection than originally thought.

Maybe a husband succumbs to the flirtations of his next door neighbor.

Maybe a married couple make love before one of them goes off to fight in an intergalactic war, one where no one has returned alive…and a pregnancy results.

The possibilities are endless.

2.| Change a character’s personality.

This could be a good thing or a bad thing that happens to the character. In Sex, Love, and Technicalities I wrote a very bad experience for one of my characters that led them down a self-destructive path. I’ve read other books where a character has exceptionally good sex and came out of the experience renewed with self-confidence. Either the light or dark path can change the trajectory of a character’s path.

Maybe a princess is violated by one of her suitor’s guards, and she abandons castle life to live among the commoners.

Maybe a slightly depressed woman in her mid-fifties is pursued by a younger man, and when she gives in she realizes how much more she has to live for and it turns her whole life around.

Maybe an otherwise sweet and unassuming young man has a sexual experience that leads him down the dark road of sexual addiction.

Again, the possibilities are endless.

3.| Achieve a goal.

Let’s not pretend sex can’t be used as a tool to get what one wants. A promotion, maybe. To get out of trouble. Revenge. To gain information. There are any number of things one might obtain by using sex.

Maybe a young spy uses sex as a way to gain entry into someone’s room and finds the incriminating evidence she needs.

Maybe a young teacher has sex with a school board official to secure funding she needs for classroom materials.

Maybe a reporter has sex with a politician to get the big scoop.

If you guessed I was going to say the possibilities are endless, you’re right.

So, now you know what you want to accomplish in your story by having your characters hit the sheets. How do you go about writing the act?

**Disclaimer: I am about to share with you three of the most popular ways to approach sex scenes, but these are not the only ways to approach them.**

1.| Hide it. 

I know. How is this writing in a sex scene? More or less, the sex is hinted at, followed by a scene break. Let’s look at what hiding the sex looks like:

Fiona and Devon enjoyed their bottle of wine, laughing at each other’s bad jokes, and learning about one another’s childhood fears. When her glass emptied, Fiona slipped off her heels and let them fall to the floor. “Come with me,” she said, and held her hand out for his.

Devon paused a moment before entwining his fingers with hers. He had an idea of what she wanted, and the bulge in his pants proved he wanted it too, but what about their working relationship?

“Don’t be frightened,” she said, leading him into the bedroom. “I don’t bite…unless you ask me to.”

We don’t see them have sex. It’s heavily hinted at, what with the wine and presumed excellent conversation and entering the bedroom, but then we’re left to wonder what went on once the door shut. How might the next scene begin, then?

Devon woke at the squeak of the bathroom door. He sat up in bed, his head still swimming in the clouds. “Everything all right?” The memory of their earlier activities stirring his manhood to attention again.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Fiona said, peeking her head from around the door, her toothbrush dangled from mouth. She disappeared again for a few moments, finally emerging wearing nothing but a sparkling smile. “Since you’re up, mind if we renegotiate the Parisian contracts?”

When might hiding the sex in a story be better than actually writing it?

1.| Writer inexperience or discomfort. Nothing reads as awkwardly as a poorly written or rushed sex scene.
2.| The act of sex in itself isn’t significant. In the above example, it didn’t matter that Devon had ripped abs, or that Fiona looked like a Greek Goddess in her black, lace teddy. All that mattered was, from what we can surmise, Fiona used sex as a bargaining chip for contract negotiations.
3.| Genre/age appropriateness. If you’re writing something younger audiences might pick up, it might be better to leave a lot to the imagination.

What about when things need to be shown?

2.| Go for emotional vs. physical reactions.

This is actually how I prefer to write my sex scenes, and how I wish some other authors I’ve read would’ve written theirs. We aren’t so focused here on the mechanics of sex: His arm here, her legs there, the angle of thrust, etc. Let’s rewrite Fiona and Devon’s scenario so we don’t see a scene break, and instead we see more of what happened in the bedroom.

Fiona eyed Devon as he sauntered across the room. Delicious was a word that came to mind, and one she hadn’t expected. Eager to get things over with, she’d already abandoned her dress in a heap on the floor, but Devon seemed pleased to prolong the experience, leaving a trail of clothes with each step.

She gulped. “You must do cross fit.”

“I do. Yoga?”

“Pilates. Only for a year,” she said behind a smile. “Thanks for noticing.”

He snaked his arms around her waist and eased her onto the bed, pulling her into a kiss so laced with desire she lost all memory of how she’d gotten there. He moved with much more expertise than she thought proper for a pencil-pusher. Fiona knotted her fingers into the sheets and cried out in glorious release. She had had no intention of enjoying herself, but the evidence of her good time pooled beneath her.

We still didn’t get into the mechanics of sex, but now we are at least in the room with them. Without a flashback, internal dialogue, or future conversation, we could never have known by skipping the sex scene that Fiona enjoyed herself despite only intending to get her way in negotiations.

When is this route the most appropriate way to write the sex?

1.| The details are in the emotions. If you need your character to experience something emotionally during the act of sex, but the mechanics of the sex aren’t of high importance, this is a much more highly effective way to write it.
2.| Writer ability. This particular way of writing a sex scene is more palatable than writing it explicitly for writers who aren’t comfortable with it, yet who still need to convey something with sex.
3.| Genre/age appropriateness. If you’re writing for an age bracket where sex is a part of life and it wouldn’t be natural not to include at least someone having sex, but it also wouldn’t convey what it needs to if you hid the scene, then this gives you a happy median.

3.| Get down and get dirty.

Quit wagging your tail, I’m not going to be rewriting the scene again. There’s plenty of good smut for you to turn to after this post. (Might I suggest three of my favorite writers with erotic works out there: Vania Rheault, Jewel E. Leonard, and Joshua E. Smith, all links to Twitter.)

Tips if you choose to go this route:

  • Don’t get bogged down in the mechanics. Unless it matters where her elbow is, or that his foot is balanced on the second shelf of her bookcase, don’t include details like this, they’re distracting. You also run the risk of head-hopping and giving details that shouldn’t be known. If someone is on all fours, they aren’t likely to know their partner is gritting their teeth.
  • Don’t use silly euphemisms for genitals.  In fact, most of the time you may not even need to name body parts, silly or otherwise. If you do, and you start using names like her secret garden or his glorious man-rod, you’re going to lose your readers. This reads comically. If you’re writing a sexy comedy, then these may work for you. Your readers will get the giggles. Clinical words don’t work well either most of the time. People read penis or vagina and they’re sent straight back to sex-ed, where, again, they got the giggles.
  • Focus on other body parts, instead. When you have your characters in the throes of passion, readers know they’re connected at the genitals. Stretch your skills and expand the reader experience by directing our attention to other areas, evoking all five senses. The scent of her perfume mixed with perspiration. The guttural growl he makes. The crispness of champagne juxtaposed with saltiness as it is lapped up from one’s navel. The glimmer of moonlight striking her diamond necklace. The sting of a riding crop on one’s buttocks. All. Five. Senses.
  • Make it real. Real sex isn’t a highly choreographed pornography. People think during sex, they get toe cramps, they laugh. Positions sometimes do not work. Sometimes climax isn’t achieved. Real sex is far more interesting to read than porn. Let your characters be vulnerable to all that can go wrong during lovemaking. This especially holds true if you’re writing about someone’s first sexual experience. First times are often times awkward and the things someone notices or obsesses over during their first time are different than someone who frequently has sex.
  • Don’t forget your research. I’m not being coy here and encouraging you to watch porn. But if you plan on writing about something you have no experience in, you’d damn well better research it because someone out there, lots of someones, are experienced and they will call you out on it.  Want to write about a man using Viagra, but you’ve never encountered it? Research it. Want to write about a dominatrix, but you’ve never made it out of missionary? Research it. Don’t talk about butt plugs and nipple clamps if you flush at the mention of flavored lube.

Aside from writing erotica, where this type of sex scene reigns supreme, the number one reason I can think of to incorporate this type of scene is because it is what works best for the story. I have read a few books over the years where this sort of scene was used, but it was apparent there was little to no thought behind why. Perhaps it’s just fun, and that’s okay, but it should never come across as thrown in just to, I don’t know, pad your word count, unless you’re aiming to win the Bad Sex in Fiction Award—yep, that’s a real thing.

That is all I have today. Feel free to tell me your favorite and least favorite traits in sex scenes, you never know who you might help.

Until next time, my lovelies! Happy reading and writing! xoxo

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Getting To Know Aila, Goals, Organized, Positive Mindset, Self-Care, Self-Publishing, Success Mindset, Writer's Life

One Month In: How’d I Do?

steps up to 2018 (2)

We’re a month into 2018 and I have talked an awful lot about productivity and turning your wish lists into “did lists.” So…how have I done?

My successes:

My blog | I am pleased to announce I have kept up with my blogging schedule without failure since December. My engagement has gone up, and I have gained roughly twenty new subscribers in the past month alone. (Thank you one and all who have taken the time to read and subscribe! You lot are amazing!)

My newsletter | While I haven’t gained quite as many newsletter subscribers as I would’ve liked, I have gained more than I thought I would…if that makes sense. Also, I am aware I’ve only had occasion to send out a couple of newsletters, but I have met my deadlines and I am proud of what I came up with.

Self-Care | I have done more to take care of myself in the month of January than I ever have before. I’m already enjoying the benefit of better sleep, even if the quantity hasn’t changed much.

My neutrals:

My word count | I am currently sitting at 12,407 words into Alabama Rain, which isn’t where I want to be, but I’m further than I was when the year started, so that’s good. I have managed to write something nearly every day…though I did cut and rewrite a certain chapter three times and took on an unexpected project or two.

Personal Goals | I had a couple of personal goals I kept private, and I’m floating somewhere in the vicinity of 60% on track and 40% stalled…so not quite a fail, but not quite a win, either.

My failures:

Social Media | I’m still using Twitter regularly, but my Instagram usage isn’t where I’d like it to be. Facebook? I’m never going to enjoy Facebook…I’m not giving up, necessarily, but I think it is time I reevaluate my Facebook goals.

What this tells me:

I’m writing, but not enough | When I first owned up to this shortcoming, I immediately came up with a laundry list of excuses and determined this will sort itself out…and while this may be mostly true, I don’t want to rely on letting this work itself out, so I am carving out writing time whenever and wherever I can instead of waiting to get cozy with my laptop at home.

I am getting better with keeping self-imposed deadlines | When someone else puts me on a deadline, I don’t dare disappoint them. When I assign myself one? Until just recently I was okay with making any excuse, telling myself the only person I was letting down was myself so it didn’t matter…but I had a long hard chat with myself and realized it is far from okay to continually let myself down. My employers are not invested in me or my goals anywhere near the way I am invested and dedicated to theirs, which means if someone is going to care about my goals and successes, it’s got to be me.

I am not a quitter | No matter what falls into which category, I am not giving up–not even on Facebook, which annoys me greatly.

How are you doing on your goals so far this year? Please let me know in the commentary!

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The DNA of Bad Cliffhangers (1)“Would you dare to walk with the beast on the dark side of the moon?”
– Demetri Daskova

The other day I was firing off what I had hoped would be the last few emails before I could punch out for the day and come home. It was all standard stuff: Warning about system updates, W-2 notices, meeting reminders. I was even chatting with a coworker friend of mine on the phone, indulging in a little light, office gossip. As she and I mused over trivialities, several emails piled up in my inbox in rapid succession.

See, if I’m on my office phone and someone calls me, an email automatically pops up telling me I am missing phone calls and from whom.

Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.
Missed call.

Within the span of thirty seconds, I had a total of six missed calls from my boss’s boss and my boss’s boss’s boss.

I hung up on my friend and started dialing.

No answer.

Where were they? They just called.

Another email pinged, from the boss’s boss: “I just called you twice. Don’t leave. We need to talk.”

Five minutes later, as I stared blankly at my computer screen, three stern knocks at my door were almost my undoing.

This is a true story, and after everything was settled (which, by the way, while I was being blamed for something, it turned out not to be my fault) it took a few minutes for my adrenaline to die down.

On my way home that day I couldn’t help but replay the events in my head and it dawned on me how perfectly this cliffhanger had been set up and it got me to thinking about how to build a successful cliffhanger…and how to build an unsuccessful one.

For the newbies in the back, what is a cliffhanger?

It’s a plot device where something happens suddenly and there is no immediate solution. (Like how I couldn’t figure out what the pandemonium was for) Sometimes there is a physical danger, sometimes the cliffhanger is emotional.

Authors want to construct a cliffhanger that compels their readers to keep reading in order to find out how the character is going to be affected. Will they die? Will they get the girl? Were they in the car crash? Did they get out before the house fire? Did they burn dinner? Did they have the dress in the right size? Did they get into their number one school?

I’ve read, or attempted to read, lots of Indie novels over the course of the last two years and one thing I’ve seen many authors forget is how and where to incorporate a cliffhanger.

Notice how I said I’ve attempted to read lots of Indie novels? Yeah. There’s a reason I, and many other readers, have put so many Indie books in the DNF pile.

Let’s look at some of the common issues I’ve had with cliffhangers in Indie novels.

1.| Not enough cliffhangers. I’ve tried to get through more than one Indie novel where the author seemed hellbent on waiting until they reached the climax to give any sort of cliffhanger. When someone is reading a novel, the place they are most likely to put it down to tend to other things is at the end of a chapter or at a scene break. I’m not saying every scene break needs a cliffhanger, but it might be a good idea to sprinkle in some mini-cliffhangers to spur readers on to the next scene, and definitely a good idea to do something at the end of each chapter that will captivate readers and make it hard to put the book down. If the writer doesn’t make it hard to put the book down, they make it easy not to pick up again.

2.| Repetitive cliffhangers. The one I have seen several Indie novels use over and over again is the will they/won’t they cliffhanger in more than a few chapters. Repeating the same cliffhanger creates the-boy-who-cried-wolf scenario and quickly leads to disinterest. I read a certain fan-fiction-turned-major-Hollywood-film and found myself thinking oh good, they’re fighting again. Look, they’re in love again, I wonder if they’ll argue again…yep, yep, there it is…well, this chapter is about to end, so I guess they’ll think about breaking up, yep.

Inversely, some cliffhangers are unsuccessful because they came from far out in left field. If an author is writing an epic western drama, and the first fifteen chapters give no indication of science fiction but then out of nowhere an alien spaceship lands in the middle of a shootout at high-noon…that’s just…no. The cliffhanger needs to make more sense than that.

3.| Not enough emotional development. Cliffhangers should happen to characters in which your readers have invested some time. A writer can’t expect readers to be all that concerned someone mentioned once, sixteen chapters ago, was shot…There should be enough of a bond between the reader and the character the writer is inflicting fear/pain/harm upon that finding out what happened is a necessity.

If at the end of a chapter a writer wants to entice me by having the great uncle I’ve never heard of call to say he’s coughing up blood, I’m going to be left with questions, yes, but not ones the author wants me to ask.

Let’s look at couple of examples:


After shopping, Leslie walked her usual path home. She and Greg had worked out a lot of their issues and she looked forward to their night. As she waited for the crosswalk, she blacked out and hit her head on the asphalt, moments before the bus was due to arrive.


Dangling her shopping bags from her index finger, Leslie’s heart skipped a beat thinking of what Greg’s reaction would be to her new lingerie. They had worked through so many issues, and he’d taken therapy much more seriously than she ever imagined. Maybe we have a chance, she thought while waiting for the crosswalk light to give her permission to cross. Eleven years. She still couldn’t believe they’d made it to their anniversary. Her thoughts drifted to what wine would pair best with their dinner when her lungs failed to draw in her next breath. She looked down at her arms which now felt like anvils. She dropped her bags and fell forward, her head bouncing on the road’s fresh asphalt.

Onlookers screamed as a bus screeched to a halt.

I won’t believe you if you say gave you a more emotional response.

I just made that shit up, but let’s pretend that is the end of an amazing chapter. My readers are thinking oh, no! What happened to her? Did the bus hit her? Is she dead? OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG!

I’ve successfully created a cliffhanger my readers are invested in, and they’ve decided to forego finishing the laundry to keep reading. Is my job as an author done?

Nope. A successful cliffhanger must be followed by its resolution—and a bad resolution will ruin the cliffhanger. How might a resolution kill the cliffhanger, you ask?

4.| Rushed resolutions. Cliffhangers are supposed to be a swift kick in the groin. They happen and then the writer enters a page break. Your reader should feel a reaction. They need to think oh shit! What just happened? I need to know! And be inspired to turn the page.

I’ve seen Indies who write a decent cliffhanger and then resolve it before they start the next chapter or scene, leaving no sense of urgency to turn the page. We don’t want this.

The resolution should usually come in the next scene or chapter, but not right away. Milk this emotional thing your reader has going on for a little while. Get them invested in the chapter. If the resolution happens in the first sentence or two, the reader isn’t likely to keep going, as they will have gotten the instant satisfaction of knowing what happened next.

Which sounds like a chapter opening that will get the most out of this emotional buck?


Sitting up in her hospital bed, Leslie stretched and took a sip of cool water. I wonder where Greg is, I’d like to do a crossword puzzle together.


The incessant beeping of machinery would be Greg’s undoing. He couldn’t peel his eyes from his wife, her face was so swollen he barely recognized her. All he wanted in the world was to trade places with her. He had been the one who screwed things up for so long, it wasn’t fair she had to fight this battle, too.

Greg closed his eyes and pictured their last fight, the one where he came so close to hitting her. He was a different person then. Never again, he thought.

“Greggy,” Leslie said, her voice soft and scratchy—just like the doctor warned would happen from the feeding tube. “Greggy, where I am I?”

If really sounds better to you, then you’re going to love a lot of Indie books.

Does the resolution always need to occur in the next chapter? No. Delayed satisfaction can be a powerful tool, but it shouldn’t feel forgotten. Maybe Leslie doesn’t wake up in the next chapter. Maybe there are two or three chapters where it is touch-and-go, but if in the next chapter Greg is out drinking with his buddies and never once mentions his wife, and in the next two or three chapters he starts seeing some chick named Hildi and finally in that fourth chapter Greg gets the phone call his wife has woken up…readers are going to be a little angry.

An author can also delay gratification by giving the resolution in smaller doses. Leslie is awake, but can she remember who she is? Can she walk? Will she be in a wheelchair? Will she ever dance again?

5.| No resolution at all. This is the king of cliffhanger mistakes. A writer has successfully gotten his reader to turn the page, desperate to find out what happens next, and then nothing ever happens. The cliffhanger has turned into a loose end. A plot hole. When, if, the reader finishes the book, they are going to be bummed they never found out what happened. This is not a good feeling when one has finished a book.

But what about endings, you ask?

If an author is writing a stand alone book, I caution using a cliffhanger at the end because of the fact there will be no resolution and the reader will be left unsatisfied. I can’t think of a time this is a good idea. Feel free to show me one in the comments.

If a writer plans on a sequel and wishes to employ a cliffhanger, the author should be aware that this cliffhanger isn’t just getting someone to turn over to the next chapter, but it must entice them to buy another book. People don’t part with money easily, so plan on making a humdinger of a cliffhanger.

Also keep in mind that no matter how good your cliffhanger, if you wait to publish the sequel, people will probably have forgotten the first book and the cliffhanger. So make sure the second book is ready relatively soon thereafter…if you’ve succeeded in developing an amazing cliffhanger, you’ll increase the sales of book two by leaps and bounds.

What is your favorite cliffhanger, either on the page or on screen?

That’s all we have today, my lovelies! Until next time, happy writing! xoxo

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Getting To Know Aila, Goals, Self-Publishing, Success Mindset, Tips, Writer's Life

The Success Mindset For Introverts

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“That’s the thing about introverts; we wear our chaos on the inside
where no one can see it.”
-Michaela Chung

We’re two weeks into the new year! How are you doing on your goals so far? I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve been writing every day—just not always on the right project. But, I’ve managed to stay on track with my goals for Alabama Rain anyway, though ideally I’d like to be ahead of the game. Which I’m not.

As for my other goals, I’m really pleased with how I’m keeping up with my personal goals. Things are happening and it’s nice. With my author goals, I’m pacing myself. I’ve learned I’ll burn out quickly if I do everything now, now, now. I’m still daydreaming, though, of new things to try. Different avenues of reaching readers and new writer friends.

The other day at work I shared some of these lofty new ideas with one of my employees, along with a general update on how I’m tackling some of my current, active goals. And she posed this question to me:

“How will you react if your dreams come true?”

Listen, if you’re an extrovert (or even an ambivert—which, by the way, lucky you!) who hasn’t a single issue with public speaking, or hell, even speaking one-on-one, who is visibly happy around people, who never gets sweaty palms, who is bubbly and bright in every situation, and has never met a stranger…this post is probably, most definitely not going to mean much to you. I encourage you to read on so you know what the rest of us go through.

Guys. I’m so introverted (not to mention some social anxiety) that sometimes I need a vacation from myself. And while being a successful author might not mean I’d have to be in front of people as often as if I were a, say, actress, attaining even a modicum of success will put me in situations far outside my comfort zone.

I tried to reconcile this by saying that I’m good at what I do in my current field and that I’m no longer scared to death to speak during meetings. I interview people, do performance reviews, and I even have to tell people no who are otherwise not used to hearing no—and I do it with relative ease now. So, for a few seconds I thought this might segue nicely in my writing journey.

But, no.

 Being an introvert isn’t going to stop me, though. It doesn’t stop me in my current job, so why should it stop me at reaching high on a path I truly love? 

The answer: It won’t. You and I are going to prepare right now! Here are five ways introverts can prepare for meeting new people and public speaking engagements.

1.| Shun the notion that being an introvert is a character flaw. It isn’t. It isn’t a crutch, either. We are just as capable and just as deserving of success as our extroverted friends. Being an introvert isn’t something you can fix because it doesn’t need to be fixed. We’re perfectly fine just the way we are. It may mean we have to prepare in different ways, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t apologize for being introverted—to yourself or anyone else.

2.| Start small, but push your boundaries. It’s called reaching for success for a reason. If success was just sitting around at arm’s length, everyone would have it. But maybe don’t send out press kits to your local TV stations before you’ve been interviewed by someone for their blog. Growth should always be a goal. One of the ways I’ve begun working on this step has been simply to tell people in my personal and professional life that I am a writer. This has garnered lots of questions, some I was prepared for, some I wasn’t. But each time I have told someone new, I’ve gained a little confidence and it has become less difficult each time.

3.| The 12.12.12 rule. Have you heard of this? I’m fairly certain I’ve also heard this referred to as the executive presence rule. This is something you can, and should, practice if you’re going to present yourself to the world when your natural inclination is to hide from it.

This is all about first impressions.

Get a friend or a loved one who doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable and ask them for help. How do you look from twelve feet away? As writers, we aren’t usually found in the wild in business attire, but do you look clean and presentable? Most importantly—does your body language make you approachable? What are the first twelve words you say in response to common questions? And finally, what tone do you give off in the first twelve seconds of conversation?

4.| Right along side #3, Distinguish between introversion and a lack of confidence.

The two are not mutually exclusive. You can be an introvert and also hella confident in yourself!

You want to present yourself as someone who is confident in their abilities, you want a certain degree of authority when you speak—without sounding arrogant, of course. So say, for instance, you’re seeking out small speaking engagements like I am: know the gist of what you want to say and research the hell out of it. You can’t bury your nose in your note cards, so you will want to know what you’re talking about without having to sound rehearsed. Don’t sign on to speak at an event on how to pitch to agents and publishing houses if you’re an indie writer who doesn’t know anything about traditional publishing. Don’t go to speak at a technology conference about [insert something impressive here] if your area of expertise is [insert something equally impressive, but not in the same ballpark here.] Yeah, shows you how much know about technology, huh? But you get what I’m saying.

A lot of times introverts think no one will want to listen to what they have to say. We may feel we sound less impassioned than our 417ea4037d82e6f8494c9a900524c2bcextroverted friends, and often times the world thinks of us as geeks or nerds. But have you ever asked a geek or nerd who their favorite Doctor is and why, or what they’re doing these days with Raspberry Pi? You’ll get some of the most impassioned answers you’ll ever hear, most likely. (By the way, guess which Doctor is my favorite.)

Your dreams are probably something you feel quite passionate about, and it’s perfectly fine to exude it. (And stop apologizing for it!)

5.| Use your introversion to your advantage. In most situations, you don’t have to be the first one to speak. If you’re in the position to let others speak first, do it. Gauge the room. Listen to what others are saying and how they say it. This isn’t for you to mimic them, but it’s for you to strategize. Did someone leave a vital piece of information out, that you can now offer? It isn’t that you want to make someone else feel stupid—you should never, ever do that—but it may help you to listen first. One of the traits of an introverted person is that we sometimes feel other people won’t want to hear what we have to say, so why bother? But if you listen, you’ll often times find you have more than plenty valuable thoughts and ideas to bring to the discussion.

If you find yourself in a one-on-one situation where the other person isn’t likely to drone on and on, you can still use this listening strategy by asking broad, open ended questions that will give you time to listen and gauge the trajectory of the conversation.

Use those listening skills to your benefit!

Bonus Tip: If you haven’t checked out my blog post from last week, we discussed setting goals using the SMART method, which I believe is also a handy-dandy way for us introverts to prepare for success. Especially the part about acknowledging the hurdles between specific steps in your process and achieving them. So give it a glance.

If you have any tips for introverts I didn’t cover, leave’em in the comments below!

Until next time, my lovelies! xoxo

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