Guest Post: Why Mix Paranormal & Dystopian?

Why mix Paranormal and Dystopian?

Guest Post by Emily S. Hurricane

Two words: why not? Okay but seriously…I really love end of the world stories. But as with most tales, I also love something with a paranormal twist. I wondered what it would be like for a set of people to have the entire world at their fingertips because there are just so little people left.

So what if a disease wiped out humanity and all that was left were immune supernatural creatures? And what if one of them didn’t even know what she was?

Daphne doesn’t know what she is, and has to navigate being potentially the last person on earth. This obviously isn’t a new idea, but I thought it would be so interesting to look at it through the lens of what on the surface seems like an everywoman. Imagine having to watch everyone around you die horribly, and somehow come through unscathed? I wanted to explore what that would do to a person, how she would deal with it (or not deal with it), and what she would do with her time.

What would you do if you were the last person on earth?

Emily hails from rural Nova Scotia, curled up on a tree stump with a bubblegum pink notebook and a steaming mug of French roast coffee. She is a thirtysomething mom of a toddler and a fur-baby. Her lumbersexual husband doesn’t actually work in lumber anymore, but he still wears the plaid and the beard.

When she’s not writing and/or momming, she’s sipping espresso, crocheting, and listening to audiobooks. She’s an established freelance writer and editor.

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The Beginning of the End  (Bloodlines Vol. 1) by Emily S. Hurricane ~ Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

Daphne Rhodes would tell anyone: being ‘the one’ sucks.

At least, she would if there was anyone left to tell. She’s the one who’d survived. The one with the magic immune system that saved her.

The only one left on this whole miserable planet.

Daphne spends her days alone and craving answers as to why it had to be her. Why did she have to watch everyone she’d ever known and loved die a horrific death?

On her mother’s deathbed, Daphne learns long-hidden family secrets that send her on a quest across Canada to not only discover where she came from, why she survived, and who she is…but what she is, as well.

Volume 1 of the Bloodlines Series

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What Goes into a Killer First Line? And How to Craft Your Own!

What Goes into a Killer First Line? And How to Craft Your Own!

Guest Post by Desiree Villena

You’ve meticulously outlined a plot, researched the concept, even started thinking about how you might go about publishing your book — now you have to actually put pen to paper and write the first sentence. This should be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, right?

Alas, it’s rarely such. But if this is the moment you’ve found yourself lost for words, you’re definitely not alone!

Great first lines come in many shapes and sizes, depending on variables like genre, aim, and the events of your opening scene. Rather than giving a one-size-fits-all approach, I’d like to analyze the art of the opener with a few examples, so that you can decide upon the most slick and stylish opening line for your story.

Option #1: Establish a simple fact or event

Sometimes, less is more. Rather than conjuring up something dramatic and unforgettable, sometimes your best option is getting something — anything — down on paper! Opening a scene in the clearest way possible establishes narrative directness, rather than appearing convoluted and overwrought. For an example of an opener that’s both attention-grabbing and fact-based, let’s look at Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend:

This morning Rino telephoned. I thought he wanted money again and I was ready to say no.”

Here, Ferrante states an event that has occurred and explains it in simple terms. In the first part of this opener, we learn of the event: a conversation, which we soon find out is between an elderly lady and a young man, about a woman who has suddenly gone missing. In the second part, we get a sense of the interesting dynamic between the two, via the protagonist’s assumption over what the call is about. Simple, yet highly effective.

Option #2: Jump into the action

Forget what you were taught at school — starting with exposition is not a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to kicking off your story. In fact, many story structures advocate for cutting straight to the action to establish pace, intrigue, and excitement early on. It also allows for more sophisticated incorporation of character development and backstory as the plot develops.

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is a great example of establishing the crunch point of a story in the opener:

 “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”

This line is short, sparse, and shocking. The reader immediately understands the crisis upon which the story will likely hinge. It doesn’t waste any time in grabbing the reader’s attention and setting the stage for the mystery that is about to unfold.

Option #3: Set the mood with something literary

That said, a little bit of exposition can be a more appropriate way to begin your story — particularly if it’s a slowburn or a more lighthearted form of fiction, like a romance or a slice-of-life drama. This can be done through the use of a literary device, like a simile or metaphor, or a detailed description of a place or a character.

For example, John Kennedy Tooles’ A Confederacy of Dunces starts with a physical description of Ignatius J. Reilly, Toole’s unpleasant, flatulent, work-shy protagonist:

“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.”

This opening instantly establishes the humorous tone of this cult classic, and shows Reilly to be a character with silly and somewhat foolish dimensions. It also figures as a more subtle illustration of the general tone of the story — comical yet description-heavy.

To use a metaphor of my own, this approach might be considered a dimming of the stage lights, rather than setting up the props! Illustrative, expressive writing with a touch of symbolism effectively establishes the ambience of a scene and allows for a gentle build up to the action.

Option #4: Impart some thoughtful philosophy

Some of the most memorable lines in fiction take a more worldly approach. This will require more expansive thinking than the other three tactics — but, when done well, can imbue your writing with an air of authority and significance that goes beyond the relaying of a series of events. L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between is a classic, oft-cited example of this type of opener:

 “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

In this case, Hartley alludes to the regret-tinged tale of his elderly protagonist, Leo, concerning a fateful visit to the country estate of his childhood friend Marcus. Rather than expressing a point of action, this kind of opening steps back from the plot and expresses a sentiment that resonates with the narrative arc of the story. If done well, this can be a stylish and thoughtful way to foreshadow the morale of your story, affirm a particular tone, and impart some wisdom onto your readers. Creative and classy.

If you’re still stumped, fear not! You can start writing your book or story at whichever point you feel is most clarified in your mind — beginning, middle, or end. As long as you keep plugging away, you’re bound to come up with something sooner or later!


The author of this guest post, Desiree Villena, is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.


What Really Scares Me: Addiction in Horror

What Really Scares Me: Addiction in Horror by Holley Cornetto

I have a confession to make. Most horror doesn’t really scare me.

Horror writers primarily deal in fear, and what frightens one person may fall flat for another. I’ve found this to be true in my reading and writing. Some reviewers may call something terrifying, while others call it boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about ghosts and monsters and deranged killers wielding chainsaws, but those things don’t keep me awake at night.

So then, what does scare me? The death of a loved one. Sickness. Grief. Insanity. Sleep paralysis. Snakes. Addiction.

Most of my fears, snakes aside, have to do with a lack of agency or a loss of control. To date, two of my short stories have dealt with the topic of addiction. It is this particular fear that I wrestle with most often. In part, because addiction is a scary thing, but also because addiction is so often stigmatized in society, that those who suffer because of it often fail to seek out help.

In his article titled “The Compassion of Addiction Horror,” Mark Matthews discusses addiction as possession. In this view, addiction to and withdrawal from substances is akin to “…being spiritually occupied and living through a painful mutation of your physical self” (2020) It is worth noting that the fear here is twofold. It manifests both in addiction and in withdrawal. People who suffer from addiction may feel a loss of control over their bodies and minds. Friends and loved ones may notice a change in the person that they attribute to the substance abuse. Withdrawal has its own set of horrors as addicts suffer a plethora of physical and psychological effects as the drugs leave the system.

Possession stories aren’t the only narratives that include elements of addition. In the article, “How the Horror Genre Helped Me Understand my Addiction,” Tabitha Vidaurri writes that “Vampires are a pretty thinly veiled allegory for substance use disorder if you swap out blood for alcohol/drugs” (2020). But the article doesn’t stop with vampires. Werewolf narratives also allude to substance abuse wherein “people are always waking up the next day, naked, in a field with fuzzy memories of the night before and a bad taste in their mouth” (2020). Whereas possession narratives focus on the changes a person may undergo while under the influence, or during withdrawal, these vampire and werewolf narratives borrow from addition itself. The insatiable need, in the case of the vampire, and in the case of the werewolf, the consequences of our actions when we are not in full control of our faculties.

Addiction in and of itself is a scary thing, not only for the above stated reasons, but also because it is something that society often neglects to discuss openly. In the past, society has stigmatized addiction, often blaming addicts for their own condition. In recent years, thanks to advances in mental healthcare, we’ve learned that there is so much more to drug addiction than bad choices. In many cases, there never was a choice. Many people who suffer from addiction also suffer from a range of other health issues, from mental illness to chronic pain.

So, how does this relate to horror? Horror has always served as a venue in which society can safely discuss and work through the fears that lurk in the shadows and dark corners of our minds. Horror does not shy away from bleak or upsetting subject matter; it specializes in it. It celebrates it. Horror serves as a safe space to work through the scary shit that bombards us each day when we walk out of our doors (figuratively speaking, for those of us in lockdown). It may seem like an oxymoron to refer to horror as a safe space, but when reading horror fiction, or watching a horror movie, you are directly in control of the situation. Unlike real life, when the book or movie becomes too much, you can choose to put it aside or turn it off. You can sample the fear in small doses, at your own level of comfort.

I firmly believe that society needs horror fiction as an outlet. Horror readers and writers are some of the kindest and most well-adjusted people that I know, and I can’t help but think it is in part because we work through our problems in fiction rather than bottling them up inside ourselves. Horror helps us learn and practice empathy, and empathy is something that we could certainly use more of, as far as I’m concerned. 

So, now that you know what scares me, go out there and write a story. One that will terrify me. One that I can (hopefully) read in small doses, and at my own pace.

In Holley Cornetto’s story in The Half That You See, “Raven O’Clock,” a  man seeking shelter from the tragedies of his life finds more than he bargained for in a mysterious cabin.

Holley Cornetto was one of 26 authors that contributed to the horror anthology, The Half That You See!

Finding Writing Inspiration by Karen Randau

Finding Writing Inspiration

Finding inspiration for a book can come from a lot of places. I’ve been inspired by news headlines, dreams, and even offhanded comments by those around me.

The inspiration to write a book set in Wyoming came when I vacationed there several years ago. The beauty of the mountains, the sunsets, and the many ranches captivated me. Growing up with farmer grandparents in Colorado, I knew a smidge about ranching. When I was approached about being one of 19 authors writing novellas for a box set about serial killers, I jumped on the opportunity to write Mystery Bones Murders. That box set is now unpublished, and several of us authors have self-published our contributions as single books.

Mystery Bones Murders is about a woman named Frankie who finds a human bone on her land while searching for a stray calf one stormy night. Thrilled she may have found an ancient Native American village, she takes the bone to a friend who is a forensic anthropologist at the University of Wyoming. The news he delivers chills Frankie to the bone. Not only is the bone not ancient, but it could be the remains of Frankie’s mother, who disappeared in the middle of the night while Frankie was in college.

It turns out a serial killer has been burying his victims on Frankie’s land, and they all are people who were once part of Frankie’s inner circle. And now it’s clear the murderer is watching Frankie.

While this is not a romance, Frankie does find love. The thing is, she doesn’t want to fall for this guy. He’s a pastor, and she holds a secret that no pastor—or anyone else for that matter—would ever forgive her. She doubts God will even forgive her, but that’s irrelevant because she’s really mad at the deity who allowed her entire family to die, including her husband and young son in a car wreck.

I’ve incorporated into my writing what my international travels have taught me about the human spirit. Like all my protagonists, Frankie is a strong, resilient woman who would sacrifice anything for her loved ones. Even though she’s isolated and lonely, she finds joy in simple things, especially time with her animals.

With these characteristics in mind, I wrote Mystery Bones Murders not as a story of great heartbreak (but there is great heartbreak in Frankie’s story). Rather it’s a story of redemption and overcoming the obstacles life tends to throw at people.

I’m currently working on the next book in the Frankie Shep series, a winter survival adventure. Frankie is on her way to Colorado to speak about environmental protection at a rancher’s conference. Her airplane crashes on one of the highest peaks in the Rocky Mountain National Park. When rescuers never arrive, Frankie must get herself, a toddler girl, and a Pomeranian dog through arctic conditions down to civilization.

Karen Randau authors fast-paced stories with intricate plots, lots of action, and a dash of romance told from the point of view of a female amateur sleuth. Mystery Bones Murders is her sixth book and the first book in a new series of novellas. She lives in the mountains of Arizona with her multi-generational family.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

would you like a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card? Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.

I am happy to be one of many Silver Dagger Tour Hosts sharing information about Mystery Bones Murders by Karen Randau.

Guest Post by Cherie Colyer

What inspired you to write this book?

Hi! I’m thrilled to be here with you today celebrating the launch of my newest book, Damned When I Didn’t. This was such a fun story to write, and it is home to some of my favorite characters. The premise for this book blossomed from my desire to write something that hasn’t been done before, which isn’t easy when there are so many authors writing amazing paranormal and supernatural stories. Well, you don’t find many YA succubus books. And then I thought, wouldn’t it be ironic if the succubus in my book is a virgin? How would that work? And how did she end up a succubus? Could she survive? Would she want to? I sure hoped so! So I put pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keyboard) and Avery Williams was born. She’s thrown into a life she didn’t ask for and she’s determined not to lose her morals or her human side.

Cherie Colyer is best known for her young adult, paranormal romance thrillers, including the Embrace series (featuring witchcraft) and Challenging Destiny (a story about outsmarting heaven and hell.) She usually has several book projects in the works. She enjoys helping budding writers improve their craft and learn more about the publishing industry. Cherie lives in Illinois with her family. She happily visits schools and libraries and is a member of SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators).

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Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!


10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published My Book #guestpost

Guest Post by Author @authorKristinP (Kristin Ping)

This one is always fun, and hopefully, new and aspiring authors could take something from my experience.

I started to write in 2009. I was 29 years old and thought I would become the next J.K Rowling. I’m honest as can come, and let’s face it, every new author who gets an idea thinks their book will be the next Harry Potter.

Newsflash, and it is a big wake up call, your book won’t be the next Harry Potter unless you really have something gold in your hands.

So yes, that is my number 1. Your book won’t be the next Harry Potter.

Number 2: Reviews.

If I knew reviews could be that harsh, I probably would never have started to write. The funny part is, it’s like 5% of my reviews are so negative, I wanted to sit in a corner and cry. The other 95% struggle to actually wait for my next book.

Authors quit writing because of their reviews. They can be brutal, and less than a percent of those reviews are actually helpful. You get negative reviews that you learn from, and those readers I treasure as they tell you what they find wrong with your book. The other part likes to tell you what trash your book is, and we call those reviewers, Trolls. They are known as trolls as they do not know how to write a review that helps authors and actually trash their writing dreams. It’s one of the reasons I do not read my reviews anymore as I always concentrate on those 5% negative reviews and forget about the 95% that actually loved it.

Number 3. Marketing.

If I knew that I would spend so much time on marketing, I would probably choose a different career. But I love the first part so much, it’s like breathing that marketing is just something I have to do.

Number 4. Writing the book.

My first book took three years to write, and I thought it was the most challenging part I’d ever done. Writing the book is the easiest part. I wish I knew that before I published.

Number 5. Wattpad.

I wish I knew about Wattpad before I started. Wattpad is a beautiful site if you are starting out, trying to build your fan base. It’s a bit harder if you are an established author using Wattpad and then developing your career.

Number 6. Publishers.

I was with a publisher first before I stepped out on my own. Publishers can really make things sound so sparkling and pretty. Giving you the idea that all you are going to do is write the book. It’s not the truth. If you are not a prominent name author, you will work your tush off for a crazy small amount of the percentage when it comes to royalties. You are lucky if publishers give you half, but most provide you with anything from 12 to 25% of the cut. So be careful when it comes to publishers. They have their strong points in getting your book out there, but you can also step in a ditch and struggle to get out.

Number 7. Editing, editing, editing.

English isn’t my first language, and I can’t tell how important it is to get an editor that can actually edit a book. I had many, many people telling me that they are brilliant at editing. Then I trust them and guess what, when my book gets released, plenty of reviews streamed in about my book being riddled with mistakes. It’s hard to find an editor, and I wished that I actually took an editor’s course before writing.

Number 8. You are going to work your butt off.

If you are not prepared to work your butt off (not meaning literally as you sit on a chair), then don’t do this. I never worked this hard at any of my jobs. So be prepared to work your butt off.

Number 9. Funnel sites.

Ever heard of Book funnel, Prolific, and StoryOrigin. Yip, I wish that I knew about them when I started. They are excellent sites that help you gain newsletter subscribers that love books. You need those to make a success from your writing career.

Number 10: Networking.

You need authors to help you make a success in this career. I started late in life when it comes to this, but glad that I discovered it eventually. This industry is not a competition. The sun is big enough for all of us, and you need author buddies to help with pushing and cross-promoting. It’s like one hand washes the other. Bloggers. Bloggers are gold. Treasure them, and work on your blogger list as you grow.

And that is my ten top list of things I wish I knew before I published my book. If you have anything to add, leave it in the comments. I might not even know about it.

Kristin resides in South Africa, East side of Johannesburg with her husband and two beautiful little girls. Writing has always been a passion of hers and she’s living the dream, being able to write every day. ” I love life, cherish every special second of it and live my dream.” She has recently started her own Publishing company – Fire Quill Publishing in South Africa – http://www.firequillpublishing.com/

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As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.


5 Tools to Offset Self-Publishing Costs

5 Tools to Offset Self-Publishing Costs

By Kassandra Flamouri

1. Kickstarter

This one is huge.  When my publisher went under, I wanted to self-publish—but I didn’t want to invest a bunch of money on a book no one wanted to read (a mistake I’d made once already with a bilingual short story collection). So I ran a pre-order campaign on Kickstarter to make sure I at least had enough people interested to cover my publishing costs. I ended up getting nearly twice the amount I was asking for and was able to cover basic publishing costs like an ISBN number, IngramSpark publishing fee, cover design tools, and a month-long NetGalley listing.

A word of warning, however: When you set a goal for a Kickstarter campaign, make sure you factor in the costs of fulfilling rewards. When I set up my campaign, I assumed that most people would want the digital version of my book and that my shipping costs wouldn’t be that bad. I was wrong—nearly everyone wanted a paperback. So instead of $15.00 for each paperback reward, I was really only getting around $3 after printing and shipping. Luckily, I got way more pledges than I expected and was able to cover the costs and meet my profit goal, but it was by a surprisingly slim margin. The bottom line: You’re going to need more money than you think, so don’t be shy about asking for it.

2. Fiverr

Fiverr is a great resource if used (judiciously) to supplement your own work and skills, but it can’t replace them. You can’t pay someone twenty bucks and expect them to pour their heart and soul and creativity into your project. But if you have a solid creative vision and just need someone with the technical skills to make it happen, Fiverr can be a great place to find that someone. My attempt at hiring someone from Fiverr for a full-service cover design was a disaster, but when I tried coming up with my own idea and hiring someone to clean up my sketch and render it digitally, the results were fantastic.

3. Bookbrush

Bookbrush is kind of like Canva but specifically for books. You can make some pretty cool mockups and ads and download up to fifteen for free. You can also try out the cover design tools, though you’ll have to pay for a subscription in order to download or save covers. I did the subscription version ($99 for the year) and used the artwork I’d commissioned from Fiverr to design a cover I absolutely adore. The only warning I have for this service is that I ended up having to pay someone about $15 (yay Fiverr!) to tweak the formatting to make the print version work for KDP and IngramSpark. To be fair, though, the issues could very well have arisen from my own mistakes. And the e-book cover was a breeze!

4. Reedsy

Formatting a manuscript for print is a NIGHTMARE (I mean, if you’re like me and don’t have professional InDesign skills or the money to pay someone with professional InDesign skills). I have done it successfully using Microsoft Word, but it took forever and the results, though pretty darn good, were still not quite perfect. The only reason I suffered through it was the fact that the book required more customization than Reedsy could offer (poems, stories, two alphabets, oh my). When the time came to publish my novel in all its straightforward formatting glory, I just couldn’t face the thought of wrestling with Word again. What took me weeks (months? It’s all kind of a blur, now) with Word took about three minutes with Reedsy. You just select the trim size and make a few stylistic decisions and voila! It can format your work for digital distribution, too, and delivers both an EPUB and a MOBI version of your e-book. All formats include a note giving credit to Reedsy for the typesetting, of course, but that’s a tiny price to pay, especially when it saves you weeks of work or hundreds of dollars (or both).

5. Books Go Social

To be honest, I do have some reservations and caveats for this recommendation. The service is mostly geared toward marketing books through promotional packages that include four to eight weeks of tweets, with an optional month-long NetGalley listing OR three months of email promotions. I took advantage of a sale and also got a $75 ad budget. Unfortunately, the ads had a minimal impact, but I’m not sure it’s any fault of theirs, necessarily (see Where to Spend Your Advertising Budget by Glenn Miller).  At the end of the day, the $90 I spent to was mostly worth it just for the NetGalley listing, as the cheapest option through NetGalley itself is a whopping $450. Be warned, though, that Books Go Social’s execution can be a bit haphazard. If you do go this route, stay on top of them and make sure you give explicit instructions for the timing and content of whatever promotional materials you choose. I think this can be a great tool, but proceed with caution and, as dear Professor Moody would say, CONSTANT VIGILANCE. In the future I will probably give Xpresso Book Tours’ package a try. It’s a bit cheaper at $65 for a month long NetGalley listing, though it comes with a waiting list and no promotional tweets.

Guest post written by Author Kassandra Flamouri

Check out her books by clicking HERE!

CLICK HERE to sign up for her FREE WORKSHOP: GRAMMAR FOR WRITERS


As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. That means, when you purchase a book using an Amazon link on this site, I earn an affiliate commission. All commission earnings go back into funding my books; editing, cover design, etc.


StarDust by Nicole Wells #giveaway

Nicole Wells had been guiding people spiritually for over 10 years. In UpSpark, she weaves in everything she’s learned in an emotional heartwarming journey, with a psychic paranormal fantasy twist. An observer of people and life, she crafts inspirational romance stories that make you laugh and cry, reflecting our human condition with tenderness and hope. This New Adult contemporary romance is her debut novel.

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StarDust (The Five Elements Book 2) by Nicole Wells ~ Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance

So you’ve got psychic powers, now what?

When superstar Aurora manifests telekinesis, her beliefs about everything are put to the test, even the ones about herself. Can she heal enough to let love in?

Brayden is an easygoing guy, until an Australian beauty steals his heart and turns his world upside down. The stakes get even higher when she threatens to expose a secret that’s been kept by his people for millennia.

Can they recognize their precious love for what it is, and save the world in the process?

Enter the world of the Five Elements with Aurora and Braydens story.

This book contains some topics that may be triggering.

Goodreads * Amazon


UpSpark (The Five Elements Book 1)

Get ready for an award winning story that reached Amazon’s top 500 for all e-books (over 2 million), now fully revised!

Can they find themselves and each other before time runs out?

Enya’s dreams of making a difference in the world are devastated the summer after high school when she finds out she has a fatal disease.

A cross country road trip to Native American reservations helps her find meaning. But Jacob, her best friend and traveling companion, has longed for them to become something more.

Their expedition is just the start of an amazing love and spiritual journey, but a one-in-a-million phenomenon changes everything.

“I get the feeling like I’m reading Fault In Our Stars Part 2.”

Winner of the Readers’ Favorite 5 Star Award

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The Gift of Writing

So there I was with a newborn in my lap, sleep deprived and awake between nursings. Writing. There was a story I was gifted with that suddenly wanted to be told, and whether I cobbled it together during the day on my cell phone or wrote in the wee hours of morning while my little one slept, I managed to get it all down in three weeks.

For almost a year prior, I had seriously dallied with the idea of writing, and since high school I had fancied the idea of one day becoming an author. While I was pregnant, however, the starts and stops on the world I’d honed since I was a sophomore never tugged the full idea out of me. Instead, I found myself with a complete, and completely unexpected, novel. It was a gift, and my welcome to the world of pantsing.

You see, I am a planner. A we-need-to-turn-this-car-around-because-I-forgot-the-kitchen-sink type of planner. I am not accustomed to waiting to see what my characters had planned, or discovering them as they slowly choose to reveal themselves. With UpSpark, I had only the first scene and the last scene, and it was a full tilt ride filling in everything in-between. What an exhilarating experience to let go of control! I had no idea I was capable of indulging this creative muscle, following it down whatever dark alleys it lead me, to come out the other end into euphoric sunshine.

And now the floodgates are open. I have so many ideas. More so, I have an addiction now. There is no comparable meter stick in my life to this whirlwind of simultaneous wonder, creation, and pride when I strap myself into the sofa, fire up my laptop “control panel”, and dive in to explore new stories, no holds barred.

Well, I guess you could say my kids are wondrous creations I’m proud of, and that’s certainly true, but my stories don’t make dirty dishes or laundry, and when they talk back, it only makes me laugh.

Speaking of, don’t tell my kids, okay? This is just between you and me. They have no idea I can let my hair down and go with the flow. And as much as I love and enjoy the community and friends that I’ve found with this endeavor, the stories that I have been so blessed to be able to share, and the opportunity to touch people with my words, it’s this discovery of these new pieces of me, at the ripe old age of forty something, that I truly treasure. What value would you put on loosing the binds that held you back all your life? I didn’t realize what constriction was, but I’ve gotten a glimpse of who I’ve been and who I am. For a little bit longer, just to be between you and me, this is my precious secret gift from writing, a new superpower of possibility: Mommy can do anything.

I am proud to be one of many tour hosts sharing Stardust by Nicole Wells.

The Time Is Write: How Making Time to Write Each Day Helps Keep Me Grounded

The Time Is Write: How Making Time to Write Each Day Helps Keep Me Grounded (Guest post by Desiree Villena)

Lately, time seems to have lost all its usual meaning. When everything is done at home, the divide between work and leisure becomes hazy — one long, delirious blur without our typical routines to divide the days. This can make it hard to maintain momentum in your writing, especially when you feel a million competing voices in your head telling you all the things you should be doing: working harder, spending time with family, reading more, sleeping more…

I, too, often struggle with how to balance my creative projects with personal and professional demands. But though structure may have vanished, there’s still the same number of hours in a day. I’ve found that carving out dedicated writing time, even if it’s just a little bit every day, helps me regain a sense of meaning — I can’t control what goes on in the world outside, but I can control what happens in my stories.

Whether you’re writing a book that you hope to publish soon or crafting tales purely for your own enjoyment, writing for even a small portion of each day can do wonders for your artistic and emotional health. Here, I outline my approach to balancing writing with my other commitments, and delve into how working on my stories keeps me from feeling overwhelmed in the chaos.

Making use of small moments

Maybe you’ve already got a consistent writing schedule that keeps you on track — but for most of us, that’s a hard thing to establish! Building a reliable writing routine has been something that plagues even the most dedicated of authors. Personally, I’ve never quite been able to commit to a strict writing routine. While sometimes I wish I could make myself write at the same time every day or hit concrete targets, life is too unpredictable, and I’ve come to realize different writing tips work for different people!

Especially when you have a full-time job, a family, or other obligations that require your time and mental energy, dedicating hours of each day simply to write can feel like an unrealistic luxury. So my philosophy is to allow myself flexibility to write when I can, taking advantage of small pockets of time. Morning runs can occasionally serve as great brainstorming sessions, and gaps between meetings can be a great time to start outlining my next chapter. I even find myself jotting down ideas while watching TV or doing chores — inspiration can strike at strange times.

Writing does not have to be a 9-to-5 job or a non-stop marathon. Everyone writes at their own pace, and little chunks of time can quickly add up to great progress. Breaking up your day with short bursts of creativity can also help replenish your energy, giving you something to look forward to throughout the day.

Keeping my vision in sight

Dedicating at least small bits of each day to writing also gives me a sense of purpose as an author. Every day, I’m asking myself to treat writing seriously, and reminding myself why I write in the first place: while it can be challenging, especially when I’m struggling with a difficult passage or trying to edit, it is also an immense joy to bring characters to life on the page.

Keeping in mind my larger vision for each project also gives me something concrete to work toward — thinking about what this short story might look like when it’s complete, or where this character arc goes. Imagining my future readers once my work is published also helps give me a sense of purpose as I try to write stories that resonate. I ask myself questions like How would I describe this book? Why does it matter to me? Keeping sight of what I’m trying to write and why I’m writing serves as a potent reminder of why my work matters, even in confusing times.

Turning each day into a non-zero day

My philosophy of writing is dedicated to the idea of the “non-zero day”: doing something each and every day to advance toward my goal, even if it’s a tiny step forward. Progress is progress, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to tackle a challenge like “finish a story” or “edit a draft” — setting small, achievable, goals is a great way to keep myself motivated.

I aim to do a little something every day to stay grounded in my writing habits. Even if I’m not adding a single sentence to my work in progress, I can find other ways to still develop my craft: doing research, sketching out character backstory, or reading other books for inspiration. If you’re stuck on a book you’re writing, you might spend time looking at comparable titles, thinking about how’ll market your finished work to your audience, or developing your author website — granting each day a sense of purpose.

Giving myself freedom to explore

Even with all my strategies for maintaining inspiration, writer’s block inevitably hits sometimes. When this happens, I often find it helpful to allow myself to use “imperfect words” and freewrite without filtering.

The goal of freewriting is to write unhindered by self-consciousness or the expectation that a story has to be immediately polished. I go wherever my mind takes me. That means, if I feel inspired to take a total detour from my current project by starting a story in a new genre or embodying a silly new character, I let myself go for it! Sometimes using a creative writing prompt or taking part in a writing challenge also helps me regain that spark of imagination.

I never want to lose sight of the passion that urges me to write in the first place. That’s why my approach to my writing is to make it a funhabit — like a daily treat, not a job or chore. When I feel overwhelmed by what today might hold or wonder what tomorrow might look like, writing grounds me in the present moment — harnessing the emotion and noise of the world and making today count.

Lately I have been especially grateful for each sentence I put on the page. Even as we lose our sense of time, we do not lose our sense of purpose: words have immense power, and will always make themselves heard.

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best publishing resources. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories — and occasionally giving writerly advice! She looks forward to writing in coffee shops and libraries again soon.


Black Zodiac ~ giveaway

Black Zodiac by Zizi Cole
Genre: Supernatural Horror, Suspense

Bastian Bucco, ghost hunter. Charged with gathering the souls of those chosen to fill the Black Zodiac. A nexus that holds the ultimate power. The souls must be of those who died suddenly. Those whose lives embodied the essence of the Black Zodiac.

The things that motivate people in life, carries over into death. Sex, revenge, power- these are the stories of the chosen ones. The ones to fulfill his duty. But why were they chosen? What, or who has selected these beings?

Find out in the Black Zodiac. Things will never be the same…

Goodreads | Amazon


Zizi Cole, a born and bred native of Missouri, resides in a small town with her two boys and cat.  When she isn’t writing, she likes to spend time with her children and do some reading.

She is a writer of horror, and more recently, has branched out into the realm of fantasy. She’s been an active member in the Indie community- making the best-seller list in her categories, she has also been nominated for several awards including “Best Horror Author”. Zizi’s co-authored fantasy, Afflicted, won second place for “Best Retelling” with Enchanted Anthologies in 2017. Her DAMNED series also took third place for “Best Horror” with Wild Dreams Publishing. She looks forward to meeting her fans at events and connecting with them on social media.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads


Would you like a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card? Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

I’m Zizi Cole. I have been published for almost three years now. My first book Sweet Nightmares came out April 29, 2017. I started writing my first novel because I was bored and laid off from my muggle job. I wrote Sweet Nightmares in a month. Once it was done, I knew I had to publish it. It was a compulsion.

I think realistically I have always been a writer, just haven’t always put pen to paper. I would journal my feelings and thoughts when I was younger and still do when things become too much, but it was something I’ve always done. I would tell stories to my cousins. We would do a round robin type of storytelling.

What is something unique/quirky about you?

I’m shy. People tend to think that I am loud and outgoing, which I am once I get to know you, but I’m innately shy and takes me a while to open up. I was never good at making friends, but the friends I have are ones that I will have for the rest of my life.

Where were you born/grew up at?

I was born and raised in Missouri. I still live in the town I went to high school in. It was only the second town I have ever lived in my entire life. It is a small town, quaint town.

If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?

I’d spend it with my kids.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

I watch the Golden Girls or Gilmore Girls. I like the comedy and repetition. I also read or listen to audiobooks.

How to find time to write as a parent?

I find time to write as a parent after work, usually after the boys go to bed. Now that they are older, they give me time to write after I get off work, but I have a hard time concentrating on my books when I can hear them in the other room.

My best time to write is in the morning before everyone gets up. It is calm and peaceful, giving me time to think and let my imagination go wild.

Do you have a favorite movie?

I am a fan of the Hunger Games movies. I’m not sure what it is about them that pull me to them, but I absolutely love it.

Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?

I would love all of them to become a move, but I would like to see The DAMNED series to be made into a movie trilogy or Black Zodiac to be made into a Netflix original series. I would also love to see The Missing in a movie. Can I go back to my answer of all of them? 😊