Believe in the Pantser!

I’d like to introduce you to my friend, newly published author Branli Caidryn. He’s guest-blogging here today and publicly acknowledging how I, the wise pantser I am, know all!


Finally! Published!

At least that’s what a lot of my friends are saying. I admit, my response is a bit more reserved—okay, I’m lying. It’s a bit more like; OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE I DID THIS!

For well over a year I planned and outlined my approach to going indie. It wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, for the longest time I was set on going traditional. No question. For years I was purchasing the Writer’s Market book and researching publishers and agents. The Query Shark site was practically the home page on my browser for all those years. Then, I changed my mind.

I can’t pinpoint what it was that made me go Indie. It was a combination of things—aside from the profit margins—what I really liked was the creative freedom. Granted, a few small presses now offer more creative freedom to an author than before, but it wasn’t enough. Once the decision was made, I started planning again. I changed course and before I knew it I was setting up a business and signing agreements with distributors and printers. It wasn’t easy. I learned a lot over the course of a year. But in all honesty, I wouldn’t have made it this far if I hadn’t researched and planned all this out. I just about planned out every month and set goals.

Oddly, for all the planning, outlining, and research… when the time finally came, it didn’t make hitting the ‘publish’ button any easier. I think Jeffe saw this. For as much as I teased her once on twitter for being a pantser versus a plotter, I couldn’t take the next bold step. The many passes, rewrites and edits couldn’t prepare me for the giant leap. I’d spend weeks going over every single marketing and publishing strategy, down to the day-to-day activity. In hindsight, my biggest error was that my plan had me trying a different marketing strategy every single day! What’s the problem with this? It doesn’t give time for any one method to work—much less see results. Plus, the contingencies weren’t in place to say what to do if one method didn’t work. I was simply busying myself with just about every known marketing approach!

In talking to Jeffe and trying to explain the reasons why I hadn’t set a release date, or why I wasn’t ready to publish—I mean really I was just floundering in the open trying to come up with a good excuse.

“Do it!” she said. “Hit the button.”

I have to say it was the perfect advice.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have all the basic outlines and marketing strategies. But now that my book is out there, I can think much easier on my feet and take it one day at a time. There’s an overall plan, but it’s mostly a see-and-wait approach; and I think for someone who is just starting off, that’s okay. I’ve read many books on the proper book release strategies and each one was slightly different, though in some cases they contradicted one another.

Don’t pay for blog tours. Not worth it.

Be ready to pay for most blog tours.

Never do paid advertisement.

Never price at $0.99. You devalue your work and everybody else’s.

Price $0.99, but only for your first book, or a promo.

Never pay for book reviews.

Be ready to pay for most book reviews.

The list honestly keeps going. Like I said, I tried wrapping my mind around all this, planning things out for a few months. I’m sure I’d still be busy doing all this had Jeffe not come to my rescue. It comes down to diving right in, sink or swim, and see what works for you. I keep what I’ve learned in the back of my head as a general guide, but not as set rules that can’t be altered on a whim. Dare, I say, I believe in the pantser.

Phoenix Splinter (Book 1 in the Project Horizon trilogy)

Keith Groenewald is an escaped experiment from the top secret military known as Area Fifty-One. Veluz, a powerful secret society, helps keep Keith hidden from the government hands that demand his return. But everything has a price and his purpose goes far beyond what he knew. His creation and his role are other-worldly.

Currently available in ebook, with print becoming available by August 13th. 


Barnes & Noble:


UK Site:

US Site:


Debut promo price for ebook:

US $0.99

UK £0.77

Promo price ends August 12th


The Flip Side of Over-Editing

One of the things I love about this blog is the conversations it starts. Jodie Griffin, one of my Carina Press stable-mates (whinnies) said she thought I should touch on not giving up on editing, too. I invited her to guest post and here she is!


Yesterday, Jeffe posted a great blog about over-editing a book. Today, I want to talk about the other side of that.

Don’t give up too easily.

Let me take this to a personal level.  Forbidden Fantasies, my first Carina Press title and my first published story ever, was rejected by Spice Briefs. Form rejection, no suggestions as to why, nothing. I put it aside and worked on some other projects, but it was never far out of my mind.

I submitted two other stories to different Harlequin lines, both of which were rejected. At this point, I was seriously questioning my writing skills and wondering if the stress of raising a family, working a full-time job, and trying to get published was worth it.  But Forbidden Fantasies wouldn’t let me go, and I started to fiddle with it again.

I deleted a lot. I added new stuff. And then I let it sit. I was considering some other publishers, but just wasn’t sure if I was brave enough to try again, and then Harlequin ran a Carina Press pitch contest.  I submitted my two-paragraph blurb and was chosen as one of five to pitch my story to Angela James.  I was crazy nervous, but Angela was wonderful.  When I finished my pitch, she asked to see the full manuscript. I was elated and terrified at the same time. My fabulous critique partners helped me make sure it was as clean as could be, and I sent it in.

You’d think the story about not giving up would end here, since Forbidden Fantasies was published in March, but you’d be wrong. Because rather than a sale, I got a revise and resubmit request. In a way, a rejection, but the best possible kind of rejection. We like it, but it needs work. If you’re willing to try to fix it, we’re willing to look at it again. 

I felt like I’d won the lottery.  Deborah Nemeth, my editor, had incredible ideas on ways to strengthen and expand the story.  I took my time, played around with it, got advice from my crit partners, and (holding the longest breath I’ve ever held) sent it back in again. 

 And this time, I got an offer.  The editing and revising didn’t end there by any stretch, but now it was being guided by Deb, a wonderful editor who understood what I was trying to say and helped me make sure I was getting that across.

Forbidden Desires will be my second story with Carina Press, and it’s coming out in November. And guess what? It was also rejected by Spice Briefs, same as the first story. Form rejection, no explanation, nothing to tell me why. To submit it to Carina Press, I changed it from first person to third person, and used everything I’d learned from the editing process with Forbidden Fantasies to make it stronger.  It sold without a revise and resubmit, but I would’ve been fine with that, too.

I loved Jeffe’s don’t over-edit advice, and I really agree with it. But there’s definitely a fine line between that and giving up. I’d hate to see someone give up after their first rejection. If you truly believe in your story, you owe it to yourself to try more than once.   It’s a chance I’m glad I took.

About Jodie Griffin:

Jodie writes naughty tales about nice girls & the men who love them.  She loves chocolate, happily-ever-afters, and alliterative titles, and could seriously use more hours in every day. You can find Jodie on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and at

Meankitty Shreds the Vampire

So, I befriended another Carina Press author. (Or now I see – perhaps she lured me in??) I’m a softy, you know. I offered her a guest spot on Ze Olde Blog, coincidentally when I’ll be out of town for the #dayjob. I’m a softy, but I’m not stupid.

But, it turns out, you know that website I’ve been looking at all these years – Mean Kitty? Well, sweet little Jody Wallace turns out to be Mean Kitty’s human servant! And the guest blog? Pah! Jody just let Mean Kitty have at one of my stories and now it’s totally been kittified.

Read on, if you dare.


 Feeding the Van Cat

 Through good luck despite her canine leanings, Misty has survived the earthquakes that have torn the world apart, but has no skills to speak of. Or so she thinks. She does have opposable thumbs, and someone must feed the Turkish Van cat who has offered to let her pet his silky, water-resistant fur, and possibly save civilization as we know it, in exchange for sustenance.

 Feeding Ivan is a priority, and Misty finally serves a purpose. Prior to Ivan, she’d actually imagined herself…a DOG person. But when she awakens in Ivan’s spot in the bed, beside a rodent gift from the townsfolk on her pillow, she discovers he has hungers other than canned Fancy Feast. Hungers he expects her to satisfy, since catching mice is beneath him. Today. Unless he’s in the mood. Which he isn’t, so could she please arrange for that?

 Under Ivan’s red-eyed, sharp-clawed persuasion, Misty discovers she has the power to set “Have-a-Heart” traps in hallways, in the pantry, or even under the fridge, and not squeal like a big, silly dog when she discovers a mouse in the trap, awaiting Ivan’s pleasure.


 Feeding the Van Cat: Corrected & Cattified Excerpt:

 I was compelled to feed him. I had no choice, really. He was so beautiful.

 Earl cleared his throat. “Thank you.” Our town administrator looked around for agreement, but they weren’t meeting his eyes either. Like kids ducking the teacher’s gaze. “Whatever, Misty. We’re all SO happy you get to be.” He trailed off in a sulk.

 A cat servant? Surely no one wanted to be reminded of what they’d be missing. Martyr to the cat?  No, not much better.

 Earl shuffled the papers in his lap. Waiting for me to gloat, I supposed. Well, he had just said that feeding Ivan ought to be the first order of business. We couldn’t very well make plans for our community while the cat in charge of keeping elegance and sophistication alive went hungry, especially since we needed him alert and fat. Me? No one understood why I’d been chosen. I hadn’t brought much to the table so far, what with my love for dogs, and my survival was accidental. Right place at the right time. Turns out stolid New England was just the right place to be for the particular form this apocalypse took. Granite bedrock and all that.

 My boring hometown was a safe haven and everyone wanted in on our resources and cat population. The people turning up every day were let in or turned away depending on whether they liked dogs or cats. I counted my lucky stars I’d been grandfathered in simply because my neighbors didn’t have the heart to kick me out. Excellent keyboarding skills and a dog-friendly personality didn’t count for much in a cat’s opinion. Especially without, um, working keyboards.

I couldn’t afford to brag about being chosen to serve our savior.

Their hearts would harden-they already had. Tonight was pivotal. We’d acquired a Turkish Van cat of our own to preserve civilization here.

Everyone felt better about our future-if we could keep him happy. At least I knew how to open cans. You could say I was a natural.

 And yet, the certainty that had propelled me to my feet seemed to be bleeding away, frightened off by Ivan’s fixed intensity and everyone else’s jealousy. They waited, grumbling, for me to just get on with it. Uncomfortable silence.

 Hi, I’m Misty and I’m a Dog Person. Or I was. I swear, I’m not anymore! I haven’t pet a single dog in twenty-seven days. Kind of a record for me really. Apparently I can learn.

 The Van cat just stared at me.

 I set my yellow pad on the chair and made myself walk across the circle to where he sat in the tacky folding metal chair. My sandals slapped lightly on the tiles, making tinny echoes. Ivan’s roving gaze sent tremors of anticipation in my fingers. His fur looked so silky….

 A few whispered conversations resumed. They probably didn’t like the creepy silence any more than I did. I appreciated their polite attempt not to beg Ivan to pick them instead. I’d never seen a Turkish Van cat swim, as they were reported to love doing-probably none of them had either.

 I stopped in front of Ivan. He rolled over, long, white legs sprawled out in careless indolence. He tilted his head at my hesitation and held out his paw as if to show me his gorgeous claws.

“Perhaps we should step out of the room?” I tried.

 “Meow meow.” His grave eyes watched me with avid intent.

 If I ran, he would definitely find the strength to hunt me down. After all, he’d walked into this room. Heck, he’d arrived at the bridge leading to our sleepy town only last night, offering his sophistication in return for our worship and sustenance. He had to have gotten there somehow.

 He batted my wrist with his paw pads, pricking me with claws of steel.

Exerting steady pressure, he dug in and pulled me closer, parting his lips. White fangs gleamed with fluorescent highlights. My heart thumped in panic, hot fear filling me.

 “Will it hurt?” My voice sounded thready, weak.

 Hunger flared in his eyes at the question. “Mew.”

 Ivan wrapped his paws around my vulnerable, bare arm. The sharp movement splintered any second thoughts. He kicked with his back legs and gnawed. My cheap cotton dress was no protection. The chafe of his claws sent tremors up my body. Terror flashed through me. What if he decided to sneak attack my legs next? From behind…the sofa???

 Then all thought and emotion burst in flame, immolating me through the fierce violence of his teeth sinking into my hand. I’m so sorry! I wanted to scream. I should have opened the can already! The agony of the deep puncture, fear feeding pain, fired through my blood. I struggled like a wild thing, without thought. Animal instinct screamed at me to flee, to escape by any means possible.

 The Van cat held me trapped. There was no escape for me, the mouse flailing under the cat’s paw. [[Meankitty’s note: that last phrase is ORIGINAL! The author totally wanted to go with this version in the first place but was forced to convert it to a romance novel between two-legger types by somebody who likes dogs, no doubt.]]

 My will, never my strong point, snapped. The fight ebbed away with the tide of my blood. The steady drop of pressure left me enervated, without resistance. Darkness filled my brain, prickled with sparking stars. I wilted, becoming a bit of detritus washed upon the floor next to Ivan’s chair. If he chewed off my thumb, my prized opposable thumb, I would be of no use to…anybody.

 Pain filled my veins, pumped through my heart. It replaced my blood, spiraling through my body from the insistent penetration of Ivan’s teeth in my hand. Meow meow meow! Helpless against the crashing waves, I relinquished my last hold on my embarrassing love for dogs and sank into the hot, tarry sea of oblivion.


 Jody Wallace, head staff member of the world-famous Meankitty, published the paranormal romance Pack and Coven with Carina Press in February 2012. Since it is about werewolf shifters and witches instead of cats, Meankitty cattified the book here:

You can see all cattifications done so far collected here:

 You can find Meankitty’s actual site here: You can find Jody Wallace, her servant, here:

Be Careful What You Wish For: Studenstein Edition!

I’m off in Baltimore this week, so today I’m hosting the fabulous Daisy Harris, with the second book in her Sexy Zombie series. Seriously – no decomposition in sight and a fascinating world. Daisy has a fun, snarky sense of humor – both on Twitter and on the page.

I think you all will like her.


Hey Jeffe! Thanks for having me on the blog today. I thought I’d talk a little bit about wish fulfillment, and heroes. I love a flawed hero—the bad boys and gruff lost souls. One of my favorite movies of all time is French Kiss, in which Kevin Kline said the famous line, “When people tell me they are happy, my ass begins to twitch.” That sums up my feeling about “happy” people—they make my ass twitch.

It was with this in mind that I created my flawlessly-perfect and yet deeply flawed Studenstein hero, Mr. Royce Harden. A manufactured human, he’s built to fulfill every woman (and man’s) sexual desires. He’s perfect, and content, and equipped with an array of naughty upgrades.

It’s no surprise then, that Royce is a little too-good-to-be-true. His easygoing nature means that he overlooks the horrors of his situation. He’s a slave, and denigrated every day of his life. And still, Mr. Charming’s attitude is, “It’s all good!”

I loved writing a hero like Royce. Much as I adore romance novels, some of the heroes I read are a little too perfect. They’re everything a woman could ever wish for—and yet I can’t believe in them. Perfect people annoy me. And that’s as true to heroes as it is for heroines.

My Studenstein heroine, Shani is a far, far cry from perfect. A former-sex-slave, she’s got a bad attitude and an abrasive manner. But still, I love her. As far as I’m concerned, the best feature of Shani is that when she meets Royce, she’s completely unimpressed.

All the things that make Royce irresistible to other women just piss Shani off. She sees through his practiced façade, scoffs at his leather pants. Always skeptical, Shani even questions whether the bulge at his front is grafted. This tough-as-nails heroine needs a man who’s more than perfect. She needs him to be a real hero, and that means giving up some of the things that made him too-good-to-be-true.

Want to find out more? Check  out my website ( for excerpts and other fun stuff. Or buy it today at Ellora’s Cave!

The Sparks Fly Upward

Hi all – Please welcome my dear friend, Laura Bickle to today’s blog!

I’m privileged to host the debut of her second book in the Anya Kalinczyk series: SPARKS. Anya is an arson investigator with a most unusual familiar.

Let me tell you, you’ll never think about fire salamanders in the same way.

Please welcome Laura and make her feel at home. I just love the post she wrote for us today. As a special treat, I’m giving my own copy of Sparks to a random commenter who says what being in love means to them.

Welcome Laura!

Writing a book is a lot like being in love – good and bad.

Initially, there’s infatuation. The flush and excitement of a new idea. This is the easy part – words flow effortlessly. I can spend hours researching or daydreaming about how fabulous the idea is. I make notes, sketches, maps, cut clippings from magazines – I’ve met my characters, and am deliriously in love with everything they say. The project is, I believe, invincible.

It brings me flowers. I glow.

Then, somewhere around the 30,000 word mark, the infatuation fades. I begin to see the flaws, the inconsistencies, the cracks in the foundation of plot. I’m rolling over in the morning and staring at a book with bad breath that snores. It chews with its mouth open and forgets to say “excuse me” when it farts. It doesn’t bring me flowers anymore. It’s comfortable. Maybe too comfortable.

I sit in bed, staring at the book, wondering what to do. Should I abandon it for a newer, sexier idea? They’re always dancing around in my periphery, seductively whispering: “Choose me.”

But I know that it would be the same. I can choose another idea, but in a few weeks, I’ll be at the same place, the shiny newness and rose petals replaced by snores and scratching.

At this time, I’ve got to decide to be committed to the project, to see it through — even though my story is showing me its scraggly, unwashed underbelly. The challenge is to fall into a routine of writing that isn’t new or exhilarating — it’s to focus on the entirety of the work, good and bad, and love it enough to finish.

There are moments that test my patience. A character proves utterly useless around 50,000 words and is savagely eliminated. A timeline problem emerges that requires my heroine to be in two places at once. A loose plot thread dangles with no end in sight. But we get through it.

There are moments that are sublime. Keystrokes fly by through the last chapter. Edits clean the story up nicely, and all of a sudden, my story is standing before me. It’s shaved, holding a bouquet of flowers.

I feel the old love for it again. Not the infatuation of the beginning. But deep affection, knowing that we’ve weathered the writing process and have come out the other side of it victorious.

I straighten its tie, kiss it on the cheek, and send it out into the world. I hope that others will love it as much as I do.

-Laura Bickle has worked in the unholy trinity of politics, criminology, and technology for several years. She and her chief muse live in the Midwest, owned by four mostly-reformed feral cats. More information on her urban fantasy novels is available at