cats, Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Warriors Update: Power of Three Series

This third sub-series of the Warriors saga was rather different than what I’ve grown used to in The Prophecies Begin and The New Prophecy. Well, in some ways. There are certain things that you’ll always find in every Warriors book — the routine of Clan life, new kits born, apprentices trained, some cats (inevitably or unexpectedly) go to join StarClan. And although I’ve reached the point in the series where new cats are constantly being introduced, and some of my favorites are relegated to supporting roles, at least as a reader I get to visit them, and there’s always the chance to develop new loves.

What’s most, vividly, different about Power of Three is the tone. Secrets are being kept in ThunderClan, and the new narrators really have no clue. Some of that is for their own good (the cats who are keeping the secrets firmly believe that). But the protagonists add many secrets of their own, and this creates an undercurrent of tension that just didn’t exist before.

One of the big reasons for this difference is the change in the location of the Clans. Since they were driven from their home in The New Prophecy, and have to start again in a new territory, their horizons have been broadened. They’ve met new animals and encountered different types of human places or things that they weren’t familiar with. Now they’ve been in their new home long enough that there’s a generation who doesn’t even remember life in the forest, because they weren’t born yet. Despite the Clans trying really hard to keep to the Warrior Code, and carry on the way they did in previous years, some of their old ways are really being tested.

In many ways, I understood why the Clan leaders, deputies, and senior warriors found it important to maintain the traditions and customs from their old home. It kept a sense of stability, of ensuring the future of their society, their families. Although some things had changed beyond their control, this was something that they could decide what happened and how.

There were also many references/throwbacks to the previous series (plural), and it was clear to me that this was considered very important (by the author) to make sure the new cats knew all of their history. A lot happened after they left the forest, yes; but a whole lot happened in the forest. Some cats that we thought had exited the series are back — for example, The Tribe of Rushing Water, the loner Purdy, and most importantly Graystripe.

Now, although I try to stay spoiler-free in these posts, I have to say, in this instance, it’s going to be impossible. One: I really, really feel sorry for Firestar in this series. He’s one of the best leaders any of the Clans have ever known, and he has to worry about his own grandchildren inadverently bringing down the whole Clan structure that he fought so hard to protect and nurture. (Remember what I said about the undercurrent of tension?)

Anyone who’s read through the series to this point understands a couple of very important things: Two:  There are some critical flaws in the warrior code, and it puts a strain on Clan life, and for particular individuals (Yellowfang, anyone? Bluestar, right?). Three:  There is a serious case of history repeating in this series, and it really started to get to me.

Moment of rant: To me, it just seems unnecessary to continue imposing on your society/family rules that appear to be tearing it apart from the inside. Classic example: Four: Firestar receives a lot of flack from the other Clans for taking in loners (in this case, barn cats), and kittypets (cats who used to live with humans). Supposedly, this action will corrupt the “purity” of the Clan bloodlines, and weaken their whole system. While I greatly appreciate that the author creates lots of great discussion points for the reader in this way (allegories for adoption, racism, and prejudice abound), for me, it became a bit frustrating as I read. What about the fact that Firestar is simply compassionate, and in the (not so distant) past, the other Clans know very well they may not have survived the Great Journey to the lake without his compassion?

And, we need to talk about The Tribe of Rushing Water — Five: They faced extinction because of their unwillingness to change the way they’d been doing things “forever.” It shows a powerful lesson that change doesn’t always have to be thought of as a bad thing, and that, unfortunately, sometimes if you don’t change, it results in tragedy.

Okay, end moment of rant.

Six: The Power of Three focuses on a trio of new kits-to-apprentices-to-warriors, Jayfeather, Hollyleaf, and Lionblaze. In their search for answers to some of the aforementioned secrets, they develop a very unhealthy habit of forming more secrets, and keeping them from their Clan leader, their kin, and even each other. It causes them to seek out the aid of a mysterious stranger named Sol, and to try to find more information about “the ancients” (cats who lived in Clans before the term “Clans” was coined).

All of this provides many plot twists, and fills in a lot of gaps in the background (that, as an astute reader, I was wondering about…about 8 books back). But it got rather twitchy for me as I read it, because I realized that the warrior code has become more important to some cats than thinking for themselves, and determining how to figure out what’s right and what’s not based on their experience and conscience.

And it’s also, unfortunately, revealed that there are traitors in our midst — and proof comes to light that keeping secrets not only breeds more secrets, but that sometimes the stakes are raised too high as part of maintaining them.

Overall, this was a rather difficult series for me to read. There were several parts that just made me sad — not in the regular way, because a cat had just died, or because something happened that I didn’t see coming. It made me sad because things happened that didn’t have to — it came about as a result of stubborness, pride, or clinging to ways that probably don’t work anymore, or from not understanding what loyalty really means. It made me ache for cats whose lives had been shattered, when there was no need. And for the first time ever, there were deaths that occurred that I honestly felt the individuals brought it on themselves — and we’re not even talking truly evil cats like Tigerstar. We’re talking cats who should have known better, whose hearts should not have turned that dark, and who deserved to have a happier ending.

As I proceed to Omen of the Stars (the last “regular” series), I know there are some very solemn, and somewhat dark, things brewing — but I’m actually looking forward to it, because I know there’s a serious resolution coming, for old wounds that are still festering in the Clans (remember what I just said about Tigerstar?), and that there will be healing for some of my favorites (Bluestar, Yellowfang, Firestar, just to start with), that desperately needs to come to the Warriors.



art, books, Young Adult fiction

The Order of the Twelve Tribes Cover Design Contest!


Hello all! Starting today, I am opening the contest to design my new covers for the reprint of Volume 1, and then the releases of Volumes 2, 3, and 4!

This contest is open to submissions from graphic artists, painters, photographers — basically any sort of illustrator. I’m afraid I can’t guarantee payment (except in the form of free books), so I’m looking for volunteers interested in supporting my writing and sharing their art.

Here is the present cover (from the first edition). Whoever wins the contest will receive a paperback copy to get the full scope.

As you can tell, fans have been excited about me using my real life muse (his name is Toby), and I would like to maintain his presence in some capacity throughout the series covers.

(If you’d like to request pictures of my cat to work from, you may do so via email.)

Otherwise I am open to suggestions on font, type size, letter arrangement, and such.

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So create some ideas for a redesign, and pass them my way! (My contact info is in the top menu or the sidebar. Just put “cover design contest” in the subject heading.)

Submissions are open until August 15th.

Happy art-ing, moths!


Fantasy fiction, The Invisible Moth, writing, Young Adult fiction

Announcements on Publishing (Updates, Changes, and Generally Informative Nuggets)

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So, after a great deal of looking-into, inward-mental-over-and-around, silent debating and evaluating, I’ve come to the following decisions:

A) Volume 2 will start out its published life as an ebook (available through me, copyright me, basically all me for now), probably by August, but the release date has yet to be determined. (I shall request a small donation for this service, but every order comes with a free copy of my short story collection if you wish!)

B) In the interest of increasing sales and exposure with less work by myself, starting most likely by winter, I will be switching my choice of printing/distribution companies. This will mean a reprint of Volume 1 (more on that in a minute), as well as then eventually Volume 2 will be in print (and probably new editions of ebooks will one day come to fruition, too).

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C) I will be on the search for an artist to design my new covers. (This will extend to Volumes 3 and 4 as well.) I’m after a volunteer (since I can’t guarantee payment), whether it be a graphic artist, paint illustrator, or photographer (who would absolutely receive full credit for their contribution). Starting soon, I’ll be holding an open contest for my cover person! So keep your eyes peeled for that.

One reason for all of these changes is the cost factor; another is time; another is certainly keeping my stress level down. For those of you who have been around here for a while, it probably won’t be much of a surprise to hear me say that I really don’t need anything else in my life to stress me out. Doing the shipping myself is a bit tricky; I can handle it, but if I don’t absolutely have to, I’d like to take that option. Same goes for marketing; while that’s sort of an inevitable part of being an independent author, having greater exposure on the website of an actual store or company would help a lot in this area.

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When I started this whole endeavor, I knew very little about self-publishing, and being able to find a local company that was so patient and calm about helping me through the learning curve was, in my view, invaluable. I am so very grateful for having that opportunity. But also, now that I know a lot more, I feel more equipped to broaden my horizons.

And of course I wouldn’t have gotten very far at all without all of you. I remain so intensely grateful for and humbled by all the winning reviews, the support on social media and blogs, the encouraging word of mouth that has helped build me a solid base from which to increase my empire — ahem, I mean, to share my work.

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So, when I have the digital version of Volume 2 (Mach 1.0) ready to go, I will let everyone know! I’m aware that several people are very excited for this sequel, and I’m excited to see the initial responses!

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family, Parenting, reading, Young Adult fiction

On The Subject of Desensitization

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I’ve mentioned how I feel about this topic before. But lately it’s really been bothering me. And apparently it is not just me, as there are a lot of reviews popping up around the online world regarding extreme violence and inappropriate content in books aimed at younger readers.

In the past year, I’ve come across a long list (we’re talking a whole arm here) of novels marketed as YA that I would completely and utterly not let my 14-year-old son read. (Not until he’s 18, because then he’s allowed to make more of his own decisions about this sort of thing.) And honestly, as a parent, I’m really concerned that so many teenagers are reading them. I know a lot of college students and twenty-something adults do read YA as well, and that bothers me a lot less, because if this sort of content is intended for people over 17, then that’s a different matter.

But, seriously, what kind of society do we live in when we, mothers and fathers wanting to protect our children, see something labeled as “Young Adult” or “Juvenile,” and don’t check it out ourselves? And don’t give me the argument of, “Well, it passed the ratings board, so it must be fine.” IT MIGHT NOT BE. Do your own research, folks.

Anyway, so onto my major discussion issue for today: What sort of lessons are we instilling in our culture, our families, our future, when we act like gratuitous violence and sex in our entertainment is considered perfectly acceptable for 11-year-olds to stumble across?

And then when people bring up the very reasonable idea that this type of thing really isn’t cool, we’re called “too sensitive” or “overly emotional” and told to “get a grip” and “stop being such a wuss.”

Well, then, I’m a self-declared sensitive, emotional wuss — and I DON’T CARE what the naysayers think.

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And I truly feel I am not a prude for suggesting this is a healthy cultural approach.

I am not one for censorship. Seriously, I’m not. But I firmly believe there need to be stricter social guidelines — particularly around children — on many of these issues.

Remember when we were young (I remember when the Berlin Wall came down; use that as your rule of thumb for guessing my age), and on Friday nights we’d be allowed to stay up and watch something like an old James Bond movie, back when the sexual references were mostly discreet, the language was reserved, and the violence was so clearly stunt men overdramatically collapsing onto cardboard boxes? And after we went to bed, moms and dads would watch, say, Lethal Weapon, which would, by today’s standards, be rather tame?

So, this is the crux of my biscuit: I firmly believe we need to re-evaluate our standards.

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I am an adult; I am very aware of the horrors the real world knows. But choosing to be polite is far from the same as being ignorant. Wanting to keep my 3-year-old innocent a little longer is not overprotective parenting.

I support teenagers being informed. I do not support them becoming desensitized.

If we’re supposed to be teaching our kids to love everybody, then why are we also suggesting that the best way to deal with a disagreement is to blow up somebody’s house with fancy special effects (and stream it live)?

What’s the point of encouraging kids to wait until marriage for certain levels of physical intimacy, and then publish novels — sold next to the Nintendo games — that include graphic descriptions of such actions (between unmarried 16-year-olds)?

We are sending extremely mixed messages to the next generation. And we need to knock it off.

Having a YA novel with violence in it for context — and carefully selecting how we describe the violence — is not in itself bad. For example, what if part of the point of the story covers terrorism, war, a car accident, or a super-spy like Jason Bourne? And if I’m watching a medical drama like Grey’s Anatomy, I don’t mind fake human innards on an operating table, because the show is about surgeons. But would I recommend a 3rd grader sit down and watch Grey’s Anatomy with me? Dear God, no.

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We need to be disturbed when we drive past a car accident where somebody may be seriously injured. We need to dive under the covers while trying to watch Pet Semetary. (By the way, I don’t watch horror, anyway.) We should be concerned (and not laugh) when a 5-year-old repeats the f-word.

I am becoming more aware that many people who should be disturbed by these things are not. And that disturbs me. When we read a book or see a movie that has a scene graphically depicting the violent death of a child or animal, we need to be angry, heartbroken, and questioning why the writers/directors found it necessary to include that level of detail.

It’s why we root for the Winchester brothers in Supernatural, who are definitely not saints. It’s why we designate James Bond as the good guy — because, while flawed, he certainly is not an evil villain. Why we support Jason Bourne beating up a bunch of guys on his way to find the truth — because his ultimate goal is not pure, malicious vengeance.

Why, when faced with the ultimate Time Lord question, to go back and kill Hitler as a schoolboy, White Fang and I concretely say no — because what if, just this once, he turns out to be good?

It’s why I will no longer watch R-rated movies, or read R-rated novels. Why I am not letting my children near them. Why I am teaching them to respect and love people who don’t look like them, or make choices we may not agree with.

It’s why I won’t support (financially or otherwise) authors that are promoting messages distinctly opposite from this.

And why I will still keep them in my prayers.

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Fantasy fiction, Young Adult fiction

Why I’m A Fantasy Reader And Writer

Some people just don’t understand the allure of fantasy fiction, either reading it, or watching it in movies, and certainly not writing it. While I could spend quite a bit of time feeling sorry for them  getting them to see how wrong they are  discussing the literary tools of employing a fantasy world for addressing real-life problems, I want to be rather self-centered today and focus purely on what I love about this genre.

There are nasty monsters hiding behind the trees, and we need to know how to fight them. “Remember, if it bleeds, you can kill it.” (Bobby in Supernatural).

  • Yes, I’m aware that actual trolls, ogres, evil sorcerers and the like won’t really jump out at me while I’m getting the mail (probably not). But the real world is (sadly) full of terrible stuff, and while I can’t fight all the bullies, injustices, and wrongdoings on my own, I can take inspiration from those who fight (and win) in fantasy stories.
  • Harry Potter became “the chosen one” not because he was specifically designed or fated to kill Voldemort, but because he took control of his own destiny and made the choice to defend the innocent, be brave, and stand up for what was right in the wizarding world.
  • Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings was destined to be king of all Middle Earth, and this was no small task. He could have run the other way, but he knew he couldn’t abandon his friends and the love of his life to the darkness of Sauron. Basically he stared down the whole army of Mordor with only the faith that he was about to die for the right thing.
  • Almathea in The Last Unicorn chased the Red Bull into the sea, in spite of knowing full well it would probably kill her. She’d been human for a long time, and she could have decided to stay in that form, accept the love of the Prince, and forget that she ever knew about the trapped unicorns. But she didn’t; she returned to her true form, and stuck to her plan to rescue her kind.

Believing in the possibility of an unseen world makes everyday life less boring.

  •  No, I don’t think that the next wardrobe I open will actually lead me to Narnia, or that if I fall down a hole I’ll wake up in Wonderland. In some ways, I wouldn’t want to. But I refuse to cut myself off from all the fantastic possibilities — for example, that there’s an afterlife, Heaven, time travel, angels, other dimensions — by nailing my beliefs down to only what’s tangible on planet Earth.
  • So many of us get bogged down by the humdrum routine of work, school, errands, chores, sleep, and repeat. Maybe it’s because I’m autistic and I think differently from most people, but I just can’t stand the idea of that being all there is to life. I’m not hurting anyone by hoping that the Doctor might really exist or that guardian angels do follow us around (not even myself).

Sometimes, even in a corrupted world, we can have a happy ending.

  • June in Legend fought against a dictatorship that wanted to execute the boy she fell in love with. Even after she decided it was too dangerous for them to be together, she managed to save his life, and although it took a long time, they were able to find happiness, separately and together.
  • Harry Potter lived and married Ginny Weasley (excellent choice).
  • Firestar survived the battle with BloodClan, took Sandstorm as his mate, had two awesome kids, three really great grandkids, and a darn cool son-in-law. He gave each and every one of his nine lives for the Clans’ survival, and went down in Warriors history as one of the best leaders ever.

Constantly looking for magic in the back of your mind makes you appreciate the little things more.

  • When I see a beautiful sunset, a rainbow, or a spectacular natural wonder, I’m in awe. The majesty and complexity of creation is truly astounding and, in a way, magical.
  • I have a different definition than some about what constitutes a miracle. The first time my autistic son spoke a full sentence without prompting, I saw God right there in my kitchen.
  • Animals really like me. Somehow I seem to be the cat whisperer. Maybe that’s one of my superpowers.

What if you actually are a secret chosen one/superhero/the next Merlin?

  • Well, I don’t know about you, but I hope I’ll be ready. If the Doctor shows up and needs my help, or a secretive guardian starts following me to begin my training (think Buffy), I’d be shaking in my fashionable boots, but willing. If I’m chosen, then presumably I can do it.
  • A major part of the story is that we’re never sent into battle unprepared. We’re given the ability to blow up our enemies, or the best Elven sword ever, or at least a Sonic Screwdriver and the heart of TARDIS (which is not to be underestimated).
  • The downside is that you’re facing almost certain death. What’s the option? The whole world burning down? How do you want to be remembered? That you went down fighting for your loved ones, like Professor Lupin and Tonks, Gandalf, Bluestar and Yellowfang and Firestar, like the Doctor?

Go for it. Believe in yourself.


blogging, family, Fantasy fiction, music, writing, Young Adult fiction

Currently I Am…


…thinking that I’ve never done one of these, and it would be a good way to catch up.

busy, which is why you haven’t heard much from me this week.

…wondering when Muffin is going to get over his obsession with watching the same 3 movies over and over and over again.

So, here’s a brief summary of my life at the moment:

Between the holiday and a family illness, my whole schedule was thrown off.

Muffin has been insisting on not napping, and waking up by 6 a.m.

He will be turning 3 tomorrow, and I have no cake mix, no presents, and no plan.

I’m trying to find just the right song lyrics to complete the “moods” of my outlining for the rest of The Order of the Twelve Tribes (yes, through Volume 4), and my brain has decided to make this sound — kersplush.

Oh, and the library called, and they actually need to borrow the DVD I just checked out for an afterschool club today.


More details on writing:

I am working on Volume 2. My goal is to complete the revised draft (because the initial draft was the biggest hot mess) by the end of July’s Camp NaNo. (I was shocked to see a message from NaNo about July, but then I realized, hey, maybe that will give me a better framework for getting these shenigans together.)

I’ve also concretely chosen to make the “canon” — the major story, focusing on Sophie and her family as the protagonists — only Volumes 1-4. Then I will compile short stories, novellas, field guides and the like (of all the other ideas I have for ways to explore this world/the secondary characters/their history) into two sets of “Chronicles” or…eh, yeah, I got nothing else right now. But you get the idea.


I just finished (at White Fang’s insistence) The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles DeLint. I have mixed feelings… If you follow me on Goodreads, you can find my thoughts on it in my “read” shelves or my updates.

I’m struggling through Dawn of the Clans (Warriors). Book 3 nearly killed me, folks. So I’m taking a break and hoping to finish Apprentice Cat by Virginia Ripple.

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As I mentioned above, Muffin will be 3 tomorrow, and I can’t decide between pooling into a puddle of tears or dashing around keeping busy to deal with it. (Someone please give me a better plan?!)

White Fang has about 3 more weeks of school, and once he finishes his exams, he will be headed to film-making camp. Then, much later, in September, he will…be…in…high school.

Tears? Dashing? Caffeine? Chocolate? Coping ideas, please, moths!


Right now, plans for childcare are first and foremost, and Muffin is still in between, since we’re waiting on the official acceptance for his special needs preschool program. He’s on the waiting list, so we won’t get a definite start date for a bit yet. (We’ve worked so hard to get him to this point, so any and all prayers on that front would be greatly appreciated!)

We might actually look at a couple of day trips in the area once we nail down what the kids will be doing and when.

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As previously mentioned, I am on the hunt for the perfect lyrics to complete my chapter outlines for Volumes 2, 3, and 4. For those of you who have read Volume 1, you’ll have noticed that at the beginning of each chapter, I quoted the lyrics of a song that has made an impact on my writing. Either because it was on my playlist during the writing/editing process, or it has stamped itself on my creative consciousness in terms of its poetry/meanings/muses.

Recently I’ve discovered Lord Huron, and stumbled across some totally awesome Minecraft parodies of Top 40 pop tunes. Also, while searching (rather literally) for some more obscure songs, I remembered some really great singles from my slightly checkered past. (Hey, you can still respect the coolness of the music without engaging in the less beneficial behaviors and attitudes.)

Other Things:

Who knows yet? Maybe I’ll be successful in dislodging myself from this bubble of The Cure’s glory days. Is that housework I see just over the horizon? Bah…

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art, Fantasy fiction, writing, Young Adult fiction

What Advice Should We Really Give Writers?

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Since the beginning of time — okay, within the last 75 years — we have been told that are ways “to write” and “not to write.” Lots of editors, publishers, and even some authors, are pushing the idea that there aren’t just guidelines, but actually very strict rules for how to create a novel that “the whole world” will be guaranteed to like.

Personally, I take major issue with this.

Number one — not everybody is going to like your book. Sorry, but it is just the truth. Maybe they won’t like it because you simply write outside of the genres they’re most interested in, or you happened to create a novel a bit too long/short for their taste, or maybe you wrote it in Elvish and they don’t speak the language. Anyway, it is quite important to remember this very wise saying: “You cannot please all of the people all the time.”

And there is no reason to consider yourself a “bad” writer if you don’t fit into the pigeon-holes of the current creative writing industry.

I’m a self-published author. One of the major reasons I chose to go this route is because I received positive feedback from my submissions to traditional publishers, but they weren’t going to pursue my work because it didn’t fit certain pigeon-hole criteria. So, I got fed up with waiting for somebody to break the mold and decide to accept work that was “outside of the box.”

Hence, I paid for my work to be printed. But I also retained the copyright, and complete control over editing, cover selection, marketing, distribution methods, and pricing.

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Is it worth it? I say yes, because now I’m making sales, my novel is being well-received (already with cries for the immediate sequel), and I firmly believe that this is only the beginning.

And I don’t have any issues with my agent/editor not seeing eye to eye with my vision, or feeling that I’m not getting enough money/appreciation/time to write how I want to.

Too many authors have complained that what they felt was their masterpiece was butchered by publishers who were more concerned with the almighty dollar than with the quality of their art. I refuse to be one of them.

So, what advice would I actually give to writers, hoping to get sales and loyal readers?

Here are some things I’ve learned so far on my journey:

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Don’t worry too much about making it perfect. There will always be a few things that may bug you about your finished product. But over-editing and constantly second-guessing yourself is not healthy.

Listen to your beta readers/early reviewers. This is especially important when attempting the final draft, or crafting a sequel (as I presently am). Now, you don’t have to take every piece of feedback into consideration. But do pay attention. If several people recommend something, seriously think about it. Maybe even write a draft of how a chapter would look with that change or direction.

Be true to the voice of your story above all else. Don’t listen to the “creative writing rules.” Some readers honestly like novels that are 400 pages long and heavy on exposition. If you truly feel parts of your story need to be told in song, or with flashbacks, or including illustrations, do it.

Remember what the point of your story is. I don’t mean in terms of themes or messages; I mean in staying true to what has to happen to/for the characters and with the plot. Everybody think of JK Rowling, how she apologized for killing off so many of people’s favorite characters, but how she also stands by those decisions, for the sake of what would happen to her protagonist and the conclusion of his tale.

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Since different people enjoy different sorts of writing styles, feel free to revel in yours. Again, your genre/style won’t be for everybody, and that truly is all right. Do I expect folks who normally gravitate towards historical fiction,biographies, murder mysteries to be interested in The Order of the Twelve Tribes? No. Do I hold it against them? No.

When your loyal reader base becomes established, thank them. Don’t forget that your Goodreads giveaway may be receiving so many entries because of that great review somebody put on their blog. Thank your fans (yes, fans!), not just with a note to that effect, but with occasional prize packages, or putting your work on sale, or promoting their blog/new video/Wattpadproject.

Be aware that if what you’re doing is working, there isn’t much reason to change it. Too many authors (I feel) get into the “must select the most dramatic/shocking/inappropriate ending for this series” syndrome, and it loses them a lot of readers. If you’ve built your fan base on having certain elements continue through your trilogy/quad/whatever it’s becoming, then leave that alone.

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And even though we’re seriously trying to make a living off our art, the fact that it is art should never be forgotten. We write because we want to write, we feel a calling to it, we know we can’t give up on it. Keeping our original intention and purpose in mind is essential.

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