Indy e-Con: Formatting your Ebook

Ever wanted a step-by-step guide to formatting a Kindle ebook? Well, I created one just for the ongoing Indy e-Con. Check it out below!

And… because of the way the links and my blog is working, I can’t actually post the video so you can watch it from my blog. But I do have the link, so if you click that you can watch the video. 🙂


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Indy e-Con: The Value of Beta Readers

This article is part of a really cool Indy e-Confrence going on right now, based from Kendra E. Ardnek’s blog. You can click the picture below to check it out. 🙂

The Value of Beta Readers

There is no one secret to producing a good book. Hard work, patience, more hard work, dogged determination, and did I mention hard work? Yet it is so worth it. And, the more I write, the more I value one particular asset every writer should have.

Beta readers!

Beta readers are wonderful. Sometimes they are friends. Sometimes they are other writers. Sometimes they are people you’ve never met before but who have signed up to help you. Whatever the case, they provide an excellent new look at your own work, commenting on points you’ve missed because of your closeness to your story. If there are problems you are trying to ignore, they will be quick to point those out too. Grammar, plot, characters, awkward wording… everyone is different, and each beta reader tends to focus on different aspects of your story and will find different things. Together, they help smooth and polish your story to a great degree.

I first started writing, I didn’t even know of the term ‘beta reader’. I had help, but to me, they were friends who were helping with my story as I helped with theirs. Together we improved each other’s work. While I still beta read for friends, and they for me, I now reach out to other readers and get as much aid and new eyes on my story as I can. Without beta readers to provide feedback, I would be lost.

A writer can find beta readers in a number of ways.

The first place to look is among friends. You may have some friends (or fans) who enjoy your work and who are willing to correct your book for the mere chance of reading it. There are other friends who may be writers, and you can arrange a swap of manuscripts, each correcting the other’s work. And you can simply ask. If you are in a writing group, tell people what you are looking for and have them contact you if they are interested in helping. Create a form people can fill out (Google Forms is great for this) and post it on your blog and Facebook with a blurb about your book. You might be surprised at the number of people who want to read your novel.

There isn’t a set number of beta readers one ought to have: anywhere from five to twenty, as a general range. If you can’t interest anyone, there are writers who hire themselves out as beta readers, as well as professional beta readers you can hire on places like Fiverr. But generally, it’s not hard to find a handful of readers among your circle of friends and acquaintances.

Once you get your beta readers, you must loosen your grip about your manuscript and let people actually read it. Depending on the length, you may send the whole story at once, or in pieces. I prefer sending a novel in parts both because I can correct it easier in smaller chunks, and because it forces the reader to correct a section before finding out what happens next in the story.

At this point, I’ll create an Excel sheet, or a chart of some kind, with the names of all the beta readers, their emails, when I sent them a particular part, when I got it back, and when I corrected that part myself. It helps keep everything in one place, especially when you have a large number of beta readers.

Now remember, unless you are hiring these beta readers, they have a life of their own. I have had numbers of stories beta read and there are two main things I account for when beta readers sign up to help me.

Firstly, I consider how long it would take to beta read a story, then add a few weeks. Then I expect some beta readers to be late. Because life happens. Some readers might whip through your story and have it back in a week. Others might take two or three months. If you do need your novel back in a particular timeframe, encourage everyone to send what they’ve corrected to you by that date, even if they aren’t finished.

Secondly, there will normally be a small percentage of beta readers who end up not getting back to you. This is nothing against beta readers because I understand that things get busy. Just expect it. If everyone sends you your manuscript by the deadline you set, that is great. If not, it’s nothing to worry about. It happens.

Eventually, you start receiving feedback. I like to correct my novel as I get comments back. The cool thing about beta reading is that everyone picks out different things. Five beta readers can go over the same page and pick out different spelling, grammar, or plot mistakes. Together, they are a powerful force.

And there is something you might start to notice. Beta readers can disagree among themselves (unintentionally, of course, since they don’t know what the others have said). Some love a particular part. Others think it could be changed. Some love a theme. Others don’t quite get it.

It is important to approach beta reader feedback correctly. Remember, one book isn’t for everyone. There will always be some people who don’t quite care for a style or idea. There is nothing wrong with this. Take each beta reader’s comment into careful consideration, but they are not Gospel truth. You can keep the thoughts, or decide they aren’t right for the book, or pick and choose what you like. Now, if everyone is agreeing that something is a problem, then it likely needs some help, but otherwise use what comments you can and don’t feel bad if you don’t agree with all of them.

Finally, and this goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, treat your beta readers with respect. They deserve it. They have gone over your story, helping you improve it, just for the sake of reading it themselves. Make sure to thank them and maybe even mention them in your acknowledgements.

If you haven’t had beta readers before, don’t hesitate to find some. Once your novel is finished, but before you plunge into detailed polishing, send your book to beta readers for feedback. You won’t regret it.

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Rose of the Night & Rose of the Oath

As many of you know, I’ve written a second Beauty and the Beast retelling to replace Rose of Prophecy. Because of some tight scheduling, I’m actually sending out my new novella to beta readers before Shadows of the Hersweald is launched. *sighs* It’s not ideal, but if I didn’t, anyone who wanted to read the novella and/or it’s prequel would only have around three weeks. So, without more ado, here are a few quick blurbs.

Rose of the Night (a Beauty and the Beast prequel novelette)

Behind every beast, there is a curse.

Behind every curse, there is a promise.

Behind every promise, there is a sacrifice.

Two hundred years before Beauty was born, blood and tears wove a legend of hope and sorrow. A timeless tale of a forbidden rose and the smooth voice of a masked stranger. A story of rebellion and despair and love. A story of a promise given and of a hope received.

Rose of the Oath (a Beauty and the Beast novella)

War clouds the horizon, and wolves howl into the night. With rebels on the move, Elissa is desperate for her brother’s return. When she receives a mysterious message concerning his capture, she knows she must save him.

There is no one else who can.

But the rose that granted her warning now holds her captive in safety. According to her mysterious scarred host, even that safety is tentative at best as wolves and dark figures stalk the night.

Outside the valley, war threatens those she loves most. Her host might hold to ancient promises of the Prince’s return, but Elissa knows the blood-drenched truth. She is on her own. And she is willing to do almost anything to keep her family safe.

Like last time, I’m not actually posting a sign-up form on my blog. I do, however, have a small email list of anyone who is interested in getting notifications about beta reading. I’ll be sending out the official form for Rose of the Oath later this week, so if you want to sign up for beta reading alerts you can do so HERE.

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March Vlog

Extra post today, but here is my March vlog! It is also part of the Very Awesome Vlog Challenge. And… YouTube picked a weird picture for my thumbnail, but I didn’t feel like finding a new one so… Enjoy. 😉

Oh, and random question. Are any of you going to the Best of the British Bible and Science Conference at the Creation Museum? I’ll be there with some friends in May and I’d love to know if you were there too!

As always, if you have any questions for me just comment below and I’ll answer them next month.

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Beyond the Parchment: Part 7

Here we are. 🙂 Welcome to my serial story, Beyond the Parchment

So far we learned that a dysfunctional portal, invented by a weary writer, May Ann, actually begins to work, bringing characters to our world. And herself into their world.

Anyway, you can read the first parts of the story here. You could just read the short blurbs about them, of course, but you’ll probably miss some important details. The blurbs are there for those of you who have read the story and are trying to keep track of all the names, more than anything else. You’re welcome. *bows*

Part 1: It Just had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second: in which a writer, May Ann, wakes up to find a portal she’d designed in her book has become operational and two brothers, Jerinthreo and Daraton have come through and engaged in a bitter fight.

Part 2: All brothers fight sometimes, right?: May Ann tries to keep the brothers from killing each other. Grabs Jerin and pulls him into a secret passage, only to discover she has Daraton instead (they are identical twins). Break out of the passage into May Ann’s kitchen only to discover Varizan, a villain May Ann created, waiting for them.

Part 3: My kitchen will never be the same: Another fight between Daraton and Varizan breaks out in May Ann’s kitchen and May Ann saves Daraton’s life by shoving them both through the portal (which so happens to be the fridge).

Part 4: I am never doing that again: May Ann and Daraton arrive in Braceaon, Daraton is wounded and Varizan’s soldiers have taken over Daraton’s former home. May Ann helps Daraton away and they find Ethred, a lady both Jerin and Daraton seem to respect, and her daughter, Adella, who happens to be Lord Daraton’s wife.

Part 5: Well, that complicates things:: May Ann confers with Ethred and Adella and discovers they are both wordsmiths, chosen from their generations to record what happens in other realms (with some creative license). With Daraton resting, May Ann finally tries to get some sleep. But her eyes have barely closed when she finds herself wide awake. And captive in her own world.

Part 6: Why can’t this just be a dream: May Ann is a Varizan’s prisoner in this world. She (and he) realize that she is now in both worlds, though only awake in one. Varizan cryptically questions her, wanting to use her power as a wordsmith, then knocks her out.

Not my preferred mode of travel

My eyes fly open to glimpse Ethred and Adella bending over me. I groan and shove myself upright. “This is not how that portal was supposed to work.”

“Back, are you?” Ethred straightens and flashes a grin at Adella. “I told you she’d be fine. Besides,” she turns her attention to me. “You are the Wordsmith. Of course it would work differently on you.”

I groan, swinging my legs over the edge of the bed and pressing my hand to my forehead. “If by differently you mean being in two places at once and not being able to get a mental wink of sleep, while one body is unconscious and the other has to survive deadly dangers, then yes. I’d say it works differently.”

Adella crouches beside me, her brow furrowing she places two fingers to my neck and feels my wrist. “You’re sure you are fine? You were… you looked dead, almost.”

I force a smile. “Self-diagnosed as not dead.” I shake my hair out of my face and scan the room. What had Varizan said? Ask Ethred about the power of Wordsmiths? And Daraton… Black Shadows? A bit redundant but still, somewhat cool.

“Does Varizan know?” Ethred crosses her arms, standing before me as Adella slips back to where Daraton still sleeps. “About this shifting between realms deal?”

I blink. “Why do you think I woke up so quickly?”

“Fair point. He must be jealous.”

I press my hand to my forehead. Sleep. I need sleep. Except that only means Varizan again… “Daraton? How is he?”

“He hasn’t woken,” Adella replies. “Salendrian poison…” She shakes her head and presses her hand against his forehead. “Varizan knows of the cure. If he were here…” Her jaw tightens and her eyes flash as she lifts her gaze to mine. “Can you get that portal working again?”

“I wish.” I bite my lip. I shoved myself to my feet and turn on Ethred. “The power of the wordsmiths, what do you know of it?”

Her brow furrows. “We record, I already told you that. At least, we do our best to record. We don’t have any–”

“That isn’t what Varizan claims.” I advance a step. “There is something he wants. I’m still figuring him out, but he seems confident I can provide it. I’m assuming it is something a wordsmith in one’s own world can’t offer, else he’d have come to you instead of bothering with a portal.” My voice gains confidence. “Words cannot bring back the dead, but they have power. And I suspect you know a bit more about it than I do.”

For the first time, Ethred glances away. Her lips press in a tight line.

Well… that is an answer of some kind, anyway.

“What about the Black Shadows?” I press my advantage.

Both heads snap toward me.

“Black Shadows?” Adella rises to her feet. “Where did you hear that name?”

I roll my eyes. “Varizsan, of course. I didn’t make it up if that is what you are wondering. Well?”

“They were… raiders.” Ethred speaks slowly. “No allegiance. No nationality, though many of them hailed from Salendria. Lord Balstin fought them during the wars. Routed them. Never a single defeat, or so we heard.”

“And Varizan…?” A raider, perhaps? But no, he’d been a villager. A farmer. He had a family; one that died, by his own admission. Black Shadows. Bandit wars. Lord Balstin the Undefeated… pieces shift, twisting into various shapes and possibilities. I shove them all to the side. “Does Varizan have a captain or second in command of some sort nearby?”

Ethred narrows her eyes. “Why?”

I stare back. “I need information on this ambassador if we are to figure out how to stop him. And maybe he’ll know about a cure for Daraton.”

Ethred is already shaking her head. “And you think Thrayton will help you why, exactly?”

I pace to the end of the room and stare out into the night. Night… how can it still be dark? “Depends. Does he care for Varizan or fear him?”

“My dear, there is nothing on this earth Thrayton fears.”

“Well then,” I spin, planting my hands behind me on the windowsill. “How about a deal? Varizan is trapped in a cruel hard world and if Thrayton ever wants to see his…” I searched for a word. Master? Friend? “If he ever wants to see him again, he’s going to help us.”

Adella’s eyes gleam. “Nice. He might even believe you.”

Ethred still frowns. “And… you can reopen the portal?”

I scowl at her her. “Not yet. But I will figure it out.”

“Hmmm. I’m not–”

“I’m going with you.” Adella strides across the room and slings her quiver over her shoulders. “We’ll improvise if something goes wrong.”

I raise my eyebrows. “You mean if it turns out he doesn’t want Varizan back and we twist the story so that Daraton is the only one to can stop him and we need help.”

Adella doesn’t blink. “Something like that. Yes.”

“Adella!” Ethred steps forward, her eyes slipping between us.


Ethred hesitates, then her knuckles whiten over the back of a chair. “Be careful. And don’t you dare get captured, because I can’t tend to your husband and rescue you at the same time. Understand?”

Adella inclines her head. “I’ll be careful. We should be back by dawn. Unless,” she looks at me, her brow furrowing. “Unless she goes to sleep again.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m not just going to fall asleep.” Does Varizan have a way to wake me up, though? If he does…? Hmm, not sure what would happen. Could be interesting. I’d rather not find out.

I follow Adella from the cottage, back into the cool night. My fingers close about the dagger I’d saved from Daraton’s wound. Maybe Thrayton will recognize it. Whatever the case, I have a weapon of my own now, never mind the fact all my knowledge of how to use one came from a book. It is a knife. How hard can it be? I grimace.

Adella’s steps are firm, quick, retracing my own steps from earlier that evening. I grip her arm, pulling back as lights glint from a manor house. “Where are we going?”

She raises her eyebrows. “Did you think Thrayton was holed up in some cave or camp? All the ambassador’s men lodged in the manor. Thrayton will be running the place by now, or at least keeping some semblance of order.”

Thrayton… I shift through my memory as I fall in pace a step behind Adella. Nothing. I have nothing. Varizan really isn’t as well developed as I thought. Some skills–well, more than some. And… that’s about it. It’s not my fault! I wasn’t done with him yet, or with any of the others for that matter. I scowl.

My steps whisper against the grass and my fingers tighten around my dagger. The manor looms before us, dark. Deserted. One man rests on the top step, his arms crossed over one raised knee, his head leaning against the doorframe. Wonderful. A guard. Of course…

Shouts and the tramp of feet drift from the barracks and stables, but here all is surrounded in a pool of silence. Torches lift the night into a gloaming. The man shifts slowly as we approach, not even turning his gaze on us until we are mere paces away. His eyes flit over us and he scowls as he pushes himself to his feet.

“None of the lords are here, nor the ambassador either. I’d suggest you hurry back to the village. The night isn’t safe for such as you, even if you do carry a bow.”

I start. That voice… I’ve heard it before. Daraton and I… the stables. What had he said? Everyone vanishing isn’t natural, even for him. He’ll have got himself in deeper than he meant to this time…


“Obviously.” He crosses his arms as we don’t move. Light and shadows rove back and forth over his face.

Adella glances at me. I glance back at her.

She scowls, then advances a step. “We actually came to speak with you. And unless you are declaring open war on your hosts here at Braceaon, then I call upon your honor to help us.”

“Honor?” He springs forward a step. “Varizan has vanished. With a dozen of his men! On this land. I will do as I please until we get him back. If you have information about his location, then speak. Otherwise,” he flung out a hand, then turned away. “Just leave. I’ve other matters to deal with.”

Adella presses her lips tight, but I hold her back and advance a step. “I’ve seen Varizan.”

“Indeed.” Thrayton snorts then pauses as he glances at me, taking in my clothing. His eyes rest at my belt, freeze, then snap back to my face. “Let me have that!”

“This?” I draw the dagger. “It’s why we are here, actually. We need–”

“Let. Me. Have. That.” Thrayton strides forward and holds out his hand. “How did you come by this?”

I relinquish the weapon with a scowl. “Hurling a knife at someone is not how someone generally tries to keep their daggers safe.”

Thrayton grunts, holding the dagger up to the light. “Someone was wounded.” It is a statement, not a question. His eyes jerk back to me. He sighs. “Varizan poisoned his blades again, didn’t he?”

“And now Lord Daraton is dying,” Adella says. “We need the cure. And we need it quickly.”

A shadow crosses Thrayton’s face. “That is not something you will get unless you speak with Varizan himself.” He watches me closely. “Ah, so you do know where he is then?”

I blink. How had he just…?

“Where is he?”

“There is a portal, or was a portal…” I glance toward the stables. “He’s trapped on the other side.”

“Enjoying himself immensely, I’m sure.” Thrayton scowls. “How do we get over?”

“We don’t,” I say. “Lord Jerinr… Jerin…”

“Jerinthreo,” Adella supplies.

“Right. Anyway, he opened it. I’ll need to speak to him to figure out how to reopen it.”

“And where is he?”

“With Varizan.”

Thrayton throws his arms into the air. “And what use is all this news to me? You know where he is, but you can’t even speak to him or–”

“I can speak to him,” I interrupt.

Trayton pauses.

I shrug and glance at Adella apologetically. “I just need to go to sleep.”

Her jaw tightens, but she nods and pulls several flowers from her pocket. “I suspected as much. These will send you away quick enough.”

Well, then… I take the pale blossoms and sniff at them, then grasp Adella’s shoulders as the ground suddenly spins.

“Not here!” I hear her voice faintly. “What… don’t you know how…? Thrayton, help me, would you?”

Strong arms slip around my knees as they buckle, and another arm catches my shoulders. Blackness, flecked with petals, washes around me…

And I blink away back in my closet. The door is ajar and shouts echo through the house. More drift in faintly from what must be outside.

“Jerin…” my words slur, then jerk to a stop. The ropes are cut. The closet is empty.

The door opens and I lurch upright as a shadow moves between me and the light. Varizan smiles. “How nice to join us again. I hoped you would. And I’m afraid I need your help.” He taps the daggers at his belt. “You see, I’m very worried that Jerinthreo has just succeeded in rescuing himself.”

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March Prompt Challenge

At the beginning of January, I posted a prompt challenge for a complete scene instead of just a caption. Behold the prompt:

And the winner isAnne of Lothlorien!

“He’s gone. You left him. You left him. You left…”
“I know!” she gasped to the icy gusts, dropping to her knees, her mind tortured with images. His gentle face. The blood on his back. The look in his eyes when she had fled. Pain and love. Such a deep love.
Her grip loosened from the flagpole and it fell to the ice. The sword in her other hand dropped until it too rested on the ground. It was over.
She had left him when he needed her. She had run when she should have fought. And now he was surely dead, and she was paying for it.
She just wanted to die.
She wanted to escape her haunting memories.
‘Please, let me die.’ She closed her eyes for what she hoped was the last time.
Her mind reeled. It couldn’t be… but it was his voice.
‘Get up. Open your eyes.’ She desperately wanted to, but she couldn’t. She was too cold.
She felt a warmth drape over her, and then she was being lifted, and carried away. Was she dead? Was this the White Shore?
Three words were breathed in her ear, in that voice she knew.
“I love you.”
She opened her eyes.
It was him. He was carrying her, wrapped in his cloak.
“I found you.” He said. “I love you.”
She reached up, hesitantly, and touched his cheek, wanting to be sure this wasn’t a taunting dream.
It wasn’t.
“I love you too.”

You have 100-250 words to write a short story/scene that goes with this picture. You have until March 31st to submit your scene in the comments below. I’ll announce the winner in March.  Anyone can enter, but keep your entries clean. No swearing, no gore or sensuality. Have fun!

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February Highlights: A Launch Team and the Marines

My Life

One thing I enjoy about being the oldest of nine children is watching my siblings grow up. I watched a brother and sister go to college and get jobs. One of my little brothers is starting to write and has eight books planned. He is thirteen. Another brother is reading everything I give him. I am quite happy to oblige.

One thing I didn’t expect to be doing for some years yet was watching a brother join the military. Yet it has happened. My oldest ‘little’ brother, Josiah, signed up for the Marines last week. He’s not officially in quite yet…he has to get a waiver for his feet (something we are hoping he’ll get this next week). If he gets the waiver (and it is likely he will) he will head off to boot camp in June. If not, he’ll be leaving next year.

It is a bit startling to suddenly realize that one’s siblings are as old as the young men leading armies and rescuing nations in my own stories. And that they are leaving on their own. Though Josiah is the first, I’ve feeling he won’t be the last of my brothers to join up as the years pass.



  • Scarlet Rose – correcting/rewriting: 16,068 words/part 1 finished
  • Fidelyon: Outline finished. 16,111 words/5 1/2 chapters rewritten
  • Mercy of Fate: Written; awaiting corrections
  • Shadows of the Hersweald: Finished
  • Song of the Sword: Edited (finishing today)
  • Rose of the Night: Second round of corrections finished
  • Rose of the Oath: Working on second round of corrections

Google Searches:

  • How did they make rope in medieval times?
  • How long do rebellions last? Why do I expect there to be an answer for this?
  • The Russian Revolution Which lasted only a few months. Well, a few days, then most of year, then there was another revolution. Great for some ideas I needed…
  • Counter-Revolutions
  • Causes of a permanent limp hint: you don’t have to break your leg to get a limp
  • How far is it from South Bend to Chicago?
  • Drugs to fake death Ok, it’s just in scifi? Well, good thing I’m writing fiction
  • What does a dead body look like after being in water? You probably don’t want to know
  • How long does it take someone to die from a stab wound to the chest? Yes, Google, I know that is an extremely specific search. No, I didn’t murder anyone. And you seem to have a surprising amount of answers for the question…

Other Writing:


Finally, you can join my launch team for Shadows of the Hersweald. Check it out here, because it’s going to be fun and I’m looking forward to working with you and besides, quite frankly, launching a book is not something one can do on their own.

What have you been up to recently? How many writing projects do you work on at a time? Has spring appeared yet? Feel free to chat below or ask me questions. 🙂


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