Friday, October 30, 2020

Root Deep: A Short Story

 In a post that has nothing to do with my new book release which has been consuming my time and thoughts for many days, I've decided to share a short story about acceptance.

Root deep, Gareth felt autumn’s chill sinking into his world. Winter always made Gareth sluggish, and when he was unattached, he would have quit his human job and returned to his tree for the season.

But this fall, everything was different. He had a human wife.

It wasn’t something he’d planned. Spring had woken a yearning for connection and Laura came to his tree every day in the park. He loved the books he read over her shoulder, the photographs she took on her phone, the way she conversed with herself in writing. He had to meet her. Once met, the connection between them became undeniable. They met in the spring, married in the summer, and as the fall days weighed on him, Gareth didn’t think he could keep his secret.

Standing in the park, next to his root tree, Gareth felt a pull toward it. A tall cedar with curved branches which dipped close to the ground, Gareth’s tree could withstand any storm and stay green in all seasons. He loved his tree, his other self. He almost reached out and touched the trunk, but he stopped himself and shoved his hands in his pockets. He had to talk to Laura. She was meeting him here.

The sun light hit the golden leaves of a nearby maple tree, setting it on fire. As Gareth felt the sun’s warmth soak into him, Laura came around the trunk of the maple.

Laura’s graceful walk showed her connection to movement, her training as a dancer and an athlete. It was one of the many things Gareth loved about her. He held out his hands to her as she came up to him.

Taking his hands in her own slender ones, Laura gazed at him intently. “What is it, Gareth? You seemed so tired this morning and your voice, on the phone, sounded worried.”

Gareth wanted to pull her close, but he didn’t. He had to see her expression as he told her the truth.

“Laura, what I’m about to tell you, it may sound unbelievable, so I’m going to ask you to trust me long enough to demonstrate something.”

She frowned. “This doesn’t sound good.”

Gareth bit his lip, then spoke in a rush. “I’m a dryad, Laura. This is my tree.”

Laura stepped back and let go of his hands.

Gareth wanted to grab her hands again, but instead he reached out and touched his tree. The bark glowed and his hand became part of the trunk, his skin darkened to match the bark, and he knew his eyes had turned green.

Laura moved closer to him with her lips parted. “What are you?”

“A dryad. A tree spirit. I can stay in human form nearly all year long, but in the winter, I long to step into my tree, to sink into the roots for the season.”

Laura reached her hand out. “Don’t leave me, Gareth.”

Gareth took her hand. “I won’t leave. I’ll be right here.”

A tear formed at the corner of her eye. “When will you come back out?”

“In the spring, or sooner if I can.”

She threw her arms around him. “Can you wait, just one more night?”

“Yes.” He withdrew his other hand from the bark and held her in his embrace. “Winter hasn’t come yet. I can wait until then.”

“Good. You have a lot of explaining to do.”

“I do.” He kissed her on the top of the head.


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Preparing to Launch a Book: Three Keys to Choosing Comp Titles


Choosing anything is difficult for me. I get decision anxiety when someone asks me a question that starts with "What is your favorite...?" or "If you could pick only one..."

So, choosing comp titles is just as tricky for me. I have struggled with this for Liftoff as much as I've struggled with my book blurb.

So, I did some research, and I came up with these three key components for choosing comp titles:

1. Comp Titles and Your Audience

Knowing who your ideal book audience helps with book creation and book marketing. I have a tendency to write for an imaginary audience with some similarities to myself. In the case of Liftoff, I literally wrote the book to entertain myself during the early days of COVID, but I after writing it, I realized I really wrote it for a younger me, or the younger me inside of me. 

My ideal audience is a nerd teen fangirl of SFF, pop culture, literature, action flicks, and sweet romance. Teen fanboys and adults who are all good with finding their inner teen spirit are all welcome, of course, but my ideal audience is pretty specific.

So, what Comp Titles work?

I originally thought of Captain Marvel (strong heroine, action-packed movie, SFF), Cobra Kai (pop culture, 80s references, action, cheesy/sweet romance), and Code 8 (action-packed, SFF, Netflix Movie, popcorn movie.). I liked these, and then I thought, wait, what about books? I named all movies. Is that okay? I don't know. Aaaagh. 


So, after a momentary panic, I went back to my idea cave, and I thought, maybe a better comp title might be:

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson. 

But then, oy. Am I comparing myself to Brandon Sanderson? That's...crazy.

Maybe Guardians of the Galaxy...wait, movie again.

And, then I remembered. My novella is supposed to be the text equivalent of an action-packed popcorn movie. I wanted it to be that way. Maybe all movie/show comps are okay?

2. Comp Titles and Your Genre

 Knowing your genre and understanding the books/movies/music in your genre can help you understand your audience more, or even hone in on your audience.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson is an excellent teen girl driven Science Fiction novel, so it's in my genre, but is it really in my genre when I think about sub-genres? Skyward is more serious in nature than my novella. It does have sweet romance, but it's a slow build sort of sweet romance, mine moves a little faster. It does have action, but it also has plenty of think time for the character. Hmm. It is also a full novel. Mine is a novella. Okay, so the more I thought about it, Skyward isn't a really good comp title for my book.

Liftoff is a little more space opera and quite a bit more like a popcorn movie - fast, action-packed, with tropes (On Purpose!)

I would really love my audience to look a little like this when they are reading it:


If I were going to have the temerity to pick a Brandon Sanderson novel to compare to Liftoff, I would go with Steelheart, from his Reckoners Trilogy about teen superheroes. Liftoff has more in common with the themes in those books.

3. The Promise of the Comp

Oy. This is the one that was really a problem for me when I was comparing my novella to Sanderson's work (any of it). I don't know if my novella really would satisfy fans of Sanderson. He writes some really in-depth, detailed descriptions in most of his world-building. I don't. I love world-building, but honestly, I leave a lot of it off the page and just stick with the hard and fast necessities. 

One of the original reasons I chose Code 8 (Netflix Movie) for one of my comp titles is that I wanted to let the audience know the level of novella I've written. I haven't written the next best SF novel for teen readers. I haven't written something comparative really to some mega-star author's book. I have written a fun, entertaining, popcorn-movie style novella. It's definitely more like Code 8 and Cobra Kai than any of the other comp titles I could come up with. 

So why Cobra Kai? It was a Youtube show created by people who loved the Karate Kid series. It leans into tropes and it bends them a bit. The romance is definitely sweet teen romance, complicated by drama, assumptions, and miscommunication. There are some beats there that suit my novella. Plus, it's action-packed and really fun to watch. 

Do you see the refrain: action, fun, tropes, entertainment, popcorn.

So, I went back to my comp title selection and re-configured it a bit.

For SFF and sweet romance readers who like the action-packed levels of Cobra Kai, Code 8, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

So, why did I drop Captain Marvel? Because although I do have a strong heroine, and there are some parallels to the story (aliens and humans), I think Liftoff is a little more like Guardians of the Galaxy than Captain Marvel in tone and pacing. 

So, yeah, I think I found my comp titles. 

Although if I think about it too much I feel like this again:


So, how do you choose comp titles? Do they inform your reading decisions? Please let me know in the comments.

Liftoff on Goodreads

Monday, October 12, 2020

Blurbs, Newsletters, Tropes, and Other Questionable/Questioning Writer Activities: Preparing to Launch the #liftoffnovella

 My book launch for Liftoff: Rayatana Series, Book 1 is less than a month away at this point.

I have checklists. 

I have awesome help and encouragers! 

Although I am happy to have more help and more ARC readers - please let me know if you are interested!

And, because I struggle to decide anything, I always have questions.

Please feel free to chime in on any of these questions or questionable activities in the comment section.

PRIORITY 1: Blurb Writing and Blurb Question

I think writing a book blurb is far harder than writing a book. I think I've written the blurb for Liftoff at least a dozen times. I've had help. I've changed things. I changed things again. I know it's down to the wire, and I have the pre-order option up, my final cover is being finished for my paperback, and I really should have this finalized, but...

Out of these two blurbs, which would you pick up?

Transplanted from sunshine to rain in the aftermath of family loss and her parents’ divorce, Amaya has struggled to find a sense of home and self. The old movie theater in town welcomed her in with popcorn, licorice, and a chance to escape from grief. 

But during a matinee, the movie theater rumbles, lurches, and throws Amaya off her feet. When Sol, the cute guy who can make even the dorky movie uniform look good, shows up to help, she questions the rips on his uniform. Because of her hesitation, she becomes involved in an ancient alien war.

On the run from alien enemies in a battle she doesn’t understand, Amaya must make choices for her own safety and the safety of Earth. What happens if she makes a mistake based on a cultural misunderstanding? How can she survive a war between enemies who have fought for a thousand years, who have a deep distrust of one another, especially when she finds out she might be an enemy to both sides? Or, even worse, they may expect her to save the galaxy?


An old movie theater welcomes Amaya in and wraps her up in the smell of popcorn and licorice. But one sunny afternoon during a matinee, the movie screen goes dark. The theater rumbles.

 A spaceship in disguise,

An Earth girl searching for a sense of home,

And a Thousand Years’ War between alien races of The Great Galaxy

All collide on a summer afternoon.

When the spaceship rumbles to life, it traps Amaya in the middle of an ancient alien conflict. Angry and frightened, Amaya entangles herself in a life-changing cultural misunderstanding with Sol, a young alien who keeps omitting key information, even while they’re on the run from his enemies.

What will it take to survive a battle between alien races involved in an ancient war?

I feel like the first is too wordy, and the second is too glib. Argh. I leaned toward the second for my cover reveal, and then within a day, I leaned back. Oy. Must make a final decision.

Question 2: Newsletter Content

If you could choose, would you like or not like:
1. News about the research the author has done for writing, updates on projects, and news about new releases, and possibly book excerpts.
2. Quizzes, updates on projects, news about new releases, and possibly book excerpts.

Question 3: Tropes and Blog Tour Content

I have some wonderful bloggers helping with my blog book tour, and will be focusing on sci-fi tropes for many of my blog stops. If you had a choice, which of the following tropes would interest you most:
1. Aliens Among Us 
2. Interstellar Travel: lightspeed, warp, gates, and cryosleep
3. Simple Solutions to Language Barriers: Babel Fish, Translators, Downloaded Language Lessons, and Trade Languages
4. We all breathe oxygen: Aliens Just Like Us
5. Ancient Alien Artifacts Are the Key to Life, Peace, and Understanding the Universe
6. War of the Worlds and Alien Take-overs
7. The Chosen One, Again
8. Four Alien Typecasts: Just Like Us, Q, Tribbles, Monsters
9. Spaceship Captain Bad-boys: Kirk, Mal, Han, and More?

Other Questionable/Questioning Writer Activities

So, originally, I thought about just shooting from the hip for all of my trope posts, but then I went down a rabbit-hole of searching through lists of tropes, lists of movies who used various types of interstellar travel, deciding if I wanted to include in-solar-system travel (The Martian), and other stuff. I even thought maybe I should re-watch a bunch of trope-filled movies (it's for "research", really). I think I read about fifteen different articles on various subjects, then decided I might be over-thinking it. 

What do you think? Is it easy or tempting to go down a rabbit hole of research in the last month before a book launch? How factual do you expect blog tour posts to be? 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

October IWSG: Working Writer and a Cover Reveal for the #LiftoffNovella


The Insecure Writer's Support Group is here for you, writers!
Come join us by posting and by visiting blogs by other writers.
Hosted by Founder: Alex J. Cavanaugh and an awesome group of co-hosts: Co-Hosts this month:

OPTIONAL QUESTION: When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if the latter of the two, what does that look like?

What I mean by a working writer is someone who works persistently at their craft, even if they've had a few weeks or days, or even longer, where they've had a sulking cranky-pants fuss at their own inability to create awesomesauce, marketable writing every time they sit down. By "they" I mean me. I've had those bad days.

A working writer hones their craft, finishes their work (at least to publishing standards of 95% error-free), and sends it out into the world in some form or fashion. By sending out into the world, I mean a working writer can submit their work to magazines, anthologies, news outlets, traditional publishers, small press publishers; Or, the working writer can send their work into the world via blogging, social media, online forums, fan forums, and self-publishing platforms. This doesn't mean a working writer finds acceptance for every piece, or gets glowing reviews for every published item. A working writer keeps writing, finishing, and sending out work.

My insecurity these last few months: even though I've done it before, do I still know how to self-publish a book? And, can I do it "right?" That last question gets under my skin, but I am working at doing my best. 

Today, I'm hosting my Cover Reveal for Liftoff: Book 1 of The Rayatana Series! This cover was brilliantly created by Carrie Butler, author and designer.

The Rayatana, Book 1

A fast-paced read for fans of Code 8, Captain Marvel, and Cobra Kai.

An old movie theater welcomes Amaya in and wraps her up in the smell of popcorn and licorice. But one sunny afternoon during a matinee, the movie screen goes dark. The theater rumbles.

A spaceship in disguise,
An Earth girl searching for a sense of home,
And a Thousand Years’ War between alien races of The Great Galaxy
All collide on a summer afternoon.

When the spaceship rumbles to life, it traps Amaya in the middle of an ancient alien conflict. Angry and frightened, Amaya entangles herself in a life-changing cultural misunderstanding with Sol, a young alien who keeps omitting key information, even while they’re on the run from his enemies. 
What will it take to survive a battle between alien races involved in an ancient war? 

Liftoff is an action-packed science fiction novella for teen/YA book lovers who enjoy space battles, fistfights, and a hint of romance.
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Paperback ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-9889933-8-9 
Ebook ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-9889933-9-6
Cover Artist: Carrie Butler
Editor: Chrys Fey

Pre-Order Price: 99 cents. Pre-order for Kindle Here.

To enter a hashtag giveaway for a chance to win an eCopy, post on Twitter or Instagram with #liftoffnovella and one of the following messages and/or images:

A spaceship in disguise, an Earth girl searching for a sense of home, and a Thousand Years’ War between alien races all collide one summer afternoon at the movies. #liftoffnovella

Girl meets alien boy at the movies in the middle of an ancient conflict. #liftoffnovella

And add a photo of your choice from the cover image or these:

In a completely unrelated way, I'm hosting a challenge on social media sites: #101daysgratitude. If you'd like to join, you can join anytime and post as often as you would like. If you use the hashtag, I will be able to find your posts on Instagram and Twitter. 

The next #IWSGPit is coming early in 2021. Are you ready?