Writing Tip: How long does writing a book take?

Writing Tip: 

How long does 
writing a book take?

This question came up on Twitter by a nice guy who had a lot of free time because of the pandemic. He wanted to fulfill his dream of writing a book. He had a poll that asked how long it took to write the first draft of a novel and in it the choices were 1) under a month, 2) 1-3 months, 3) and 3+ months.

Well, most of the #writingcommunity was nice and supportive, but there was a lot of sarcasm and insistence that it must take years for a first draft of a book to be quality. Remember, he only asked about the first draft, not start to finish. One person said nothing good could come out of a novel written in under 1 month. I simply posted (not with that comment because the person might've attacked me) to the main thread that I have written a first daft in a month when I wasn't working (this man admitted he had lots of free time now too), but normally takes me 2-3 months. Taking in the responses, I wasn't alone in being a quick writer, even though answers did vary from 1 month to 15 years.

It ruffles my feathers when authors make ultimatums--and tell a novice--when it comes to advice that realistically hinges on the individual not some set formula. Instead of engaging with this person who inadvertently called people's writing like mine inferior, I decided I would create a blog post in response.

First off, we are talking first draft, and the man's post made that clear. If you are a writer who has a messy first draft (guilty), who is a pantser, meaning no plotting or limited research included (guilty), time on your hands and write every day (I don't work in the summer), and your first draft is usually about 10-20k words shorter than your final draft (obviously describing myself), it is easily possible to write a 60,000 worded manuscript in 1 month (I've slayed NaNoWriMon's 50k in 3 weeks, working full-time and being a mom). Do the math: that's 2000 words a day. I timed myself once in a group writathon and hit 4,005 words in a hour (that's 66 words per minute--when going for a typist job that I didn't get I took their test and clocked 75 which wasn't good enough). I could write 2000 easily a day because theoretically (without interruption, lol), I could write that in about a half hour. I type fast to keep up with my brain which thinks super fast, and I see my story as a movie I must record. All this speeds things up, and I hardly consciously think or pause. Therefore, Twitter person, I can write a book in a month--first draft. And it probably won't be as rubbish as you proclaim it must be.

On the flip side, the person whose first draft took 15 years might have had limited writing time, life obstacles or setbacks, a slower or normal paced of typing, and maybe had writer's block or a lack of inspiration. It happens. Also, some genres need more research than others before a writer can start--historical and sci-fi, for example. Some people plan a lot, take their time. But to insist that someone's work is inferior because they are too quick or too slow is not very understanding of all the different practices and approaches to writing. I think the person who was having a go calling fast writing inferior misunderstands the idea of a first of many drafts. This writer might be one of those authors whose first draft takes a couple years but it looks like my draft 4. They may be an edit-as-you-go type writer.

For me, I simply write, then I have two revision stages of sometimes "killing my darlings," but mostly adding, doing research to fix things, or add detail, like "street in New York" turns into an exact intersection after referring to a map. That takes me about 2-4 months on top of that 1 month it took to write. If that is what this person considers a first draft--everything put in up until line editing, with no additional content or words added--then it takes about 5-6 months for me. But to insinuate my speed of my now published books must be inferior to one's own because they took more time to write than me shows a willful ignorance or a snobbery towards one's way being the only right way.

Taken in Swansea, Wales
This is one of many posts I have made defending my methodology of what I believe are good books. I know a lot of fast writers who are great. I know a lot of slow writers who painstakingly plot every beat and character arc out, who edit as they go who are great. Never could I distinguish merely off the book itself whether it was created quickly or not. That is what editing is for.

So let's stop giving ultimatum advice to newbies. Let's support new aspiring authors who want to fulfill their dream and say exactly what the quite more knowledgeable Twitter folk did tell this man--everyone is different and it takes as long as it takes. In short, don't worry how long, enjoy the process, and even more so others should stop judging authors who don't write the way you do.

To put it all in perspective, my local writing group only allows in authors who plan to publish a book within a year (self-pub or contract in hand), as they deem that the line of a serious writer. "Serious," however, is not a mark of talent, but of ambition and time. "Ambition is critical"--Twin Town

Dark Fantasy Book Review: Soul Dark: Chosen

Dark Fantasy


Dark Soul: Chosen

The story builds just as the power does in Lucas--a slow burn building into an eruption of action, soul searching, and sacrifice.

Lukas is your everyday teen living on a farm with friends and a loving family, but he also can practice druid magic. Not a big deal, until his world is targeted by evil of apocalyptic proportions starting with taking away almost everyone he loves. While his townspeople go missing, he expands his skills under a brutal master preparing for a war for the world. He and his friends, along with his mysteriously ancient master, suit up against a demon army that spews forth from the farm where he had been raised. According to his goddess of light, he is the protector and perhaps the only one who can close the portal and banish the darkness. But can Lukas overcome his confused feelings for Sabine and the weakness she creates in him? Can he conquer the rage he has for everything being taken from him and his goddess asking too much of him? Or can that love and rage, the light and shadow, save the world?

First off, Reedy and Wade have a unique writing style that people who like popular literature--aka page turners with minimal description or depth--might not get into right away. Having read a few quick reads lately, it did take me a moment to get into the storyteller narration--someone is telling the story of what happened in the past to Lukas, and we are privy to teaspoon snippets of the present. As soon as I got used to it, about 10% on my Kindle, I became hooked. There is nothing wrong with page-turning books, but this surpasses that with such lovely detailed world building and characterization. It slowly builds and that was a must because so much emotion is involved, pulling you in as much as they pull on your heartstrings. Despite the concepts of a goddess, druid magic, and demons, this fantasy novel is imbued with real teenage life including a love interest, best friends, and people coming together to fight against evil in that classic theme I absolutely adore of good versus evil. Only Reedy and Wade are clever in making it no so clear cut. Who is this Dr. Teo guy? Is Lukas truly light? Or does his rage lead him towards the shadows?

You can check it out for yourself here.

Writing Tip: How I Pants (part II)

Writing Tip: 

How I Pants 
part II

So, if you missed part one, go here.

I outlined how I pantsed the first draft, letting my imagination form the story and the blocks build as I went without any planning aside from a concept. Now, I will discuss what happens after and show plotters where we most likely reconvene. Here's my revision process:

Step must be done: Marinating
I put the manuscript aside for a month or so working on another book in the meantime. The steps during the drafting process takes me anywhere from one to three months. She marinates for a couple, and then usually I'll get through these next steps below around the sixth month marker. I'm averaging two novels a year.

Fyr marinated for roughly one month. I was eager to get back on it, because my novel Apidae was getting published, and was going to have to switch to that for edits; I was determined to finish Fyr before then.

Step dunno: She's not perfect, revise
I read through my manuscript, looking at it critically. I'm not too bad at this because I grade (and teach) for a living, so I simply slip on that professorial thinking cap and butcher it. Miraculously as always, there's a solid plot if I now try to graph it, my characters arc and change, and there are deeper meanings with rich symbolism. But there are a few hiccups that come with the pantsing territory. I might realize I repeated a similar situation in the beginning and end or my characters got together too fast (they are so impatient). I make these fixes, let's call them patch ups. Character got together too soon? Well, I'll patch that up with a few chapters that builds the conflict better, enhances characters and world, and has smaller stake occurrences to keep readers entertained. This is not as consciously done as it sounds, again, more organic with the only the thought of "stall them." If I repeat something, I delete the less effective part. I go through it twice making notes of any issues that crop up. "The chapter before said she left at night, so why is she getting there in the late afternoon if the journey was only to take a couple hours?" or "the character couldn't see any of this out in the middle if the ocean at night" type of notes. I also add more description in since I'm a minimalist at times--it's hard to get every detail of a scene your mind is playing in real time and you are trying to record it with your fingers. In this stage, I tend to add about 10,000 or more words.

I believe with Fyr, roughly 2,000 was cut and 8,000 added at this stage. Sometimes, like with Apidae (which I had written the first draft in 3 weeks), I had to add a lot more--20,000. This usually happens in round one, then round two is me making more notes of things to fix as I read through and edit.

Step back to organized people land: Edit
So if you are a plotter, we have split paths and rejoin here most likely. I read through my manuscript fixing all my notes while also editing for wording and grammar. I do this twice, the second time looking for my Achilles heel grammar and word choice issues, like those blasted dialogue tags!

I edited Fyr once and entered a pitch party on Twitter, snagged a publisher "like," so I had to race through the second round of editing. I was not confident it was my best, but the publishers thought highly enough of my writing to offer a contract. Before Fyr came out, the publishers and I did find some things in three more rounds of editing. 

And that is how I pants and revise! I might not be perfect, but pantsing works for me; that's why editors or publishers are a necessity. If you are interested in reading a novel (that you would never imagine or recognize as being born of chaos), see Fyr here.

Writing Tip: How I Pants (part I)

Writing Tip

How I Pants 
(part I)

A gauntlet has been thrown (it was a friendly one). I have been tasked with the impossible. This will be an attempt explain the methodology of this pantser's "plotting style" into an--dare I say--organized model for those who aren't sure how it can possibly be done. I'm going to use my novel Fyr as an example. Spoiler: I probably will fail because there is no real organization when you write by the seat of your pants.

Step 1: Learn the fundamentals
Through a vigorous and absurd amount of reading from the age of 3 (early reader), I learned a lot about plot, characterization, world building, etc. I have the fundamentals. I also went to school for them, snagging degrees in English and Dramatic Arts, then went on for graduate English. I teach composition, including grammar. Basically, my brain is like a database of books and writing knowledge. To pants well, I think you have to to have all the basics ingrained in the brain or become a master at making major revisions and edits. Because of this wealth of knowledge, I never consciously think about plot points like crises and climax or rising and falling actions, nor where my character is on a character arc. These things just show up; the same goes for symbolism, theme, etc. Everything appears like magic--or osmosis, you pick.

Step 2: Be inspired
There are many ways I come up with ideas for manuscripts. It really is just an idea, and I sit and write the first scene that comes to me. In the past, stories have been triggered by walking through my first castle, a term I saw in a book once, wanting to reinvent a myth, a dream I had, something in the media, a world problem, etc. ANYTHING can trigger my imagination at any time.

For my novel Fyr, I went in with the concept of "celestial spheres" which is an archaic model of the solar system when they believed there were elemental planets. I decided the setting was the Fyr planet. That was all I had, no rendering of what that planet was like and magic came later. No characters in mind, except I knew--because I write YA romance--I'd have a teen girl and guy. Other than that, I had nothing planned out about them.

Step 3: Start typing 
Exactly that. I just keep that concept in my mind, and if I am able to write at that moment, I form a scene like in a movie and just write down what my imagination creates. If I don't have the time to write, my imagination plays it over and over again, rendering detail until I do have time to write. My characters were faceless, and now they have eyes, noses, body types, styles, personalities, etc. Where do I start? It varies. Sometimes I start with the inciting incident where my hero and heroine cross paths, sometimes my MC's first crises, sometimes setting up the conflict. Usually I have no exposition, as I don't know my world or plot yet. Sometimes, I don't even know my sub genre. I just write and find out who my characters are, who and what I'm dealing with.

If you read my Celestial Spheres: Fyr, the ogling in the dress shop chapters were the first two written. Toury calls Alex out for staring, and I decided on the spot he was a prince so her offense would be bad. The staring had to be a big deal, so the setting would be like our past and propriety important. Not knowing who he was meant Toury had to be new, so previous chapters were later written to make her from Earth reinforcing a fantasy sub genre. Again, this was not conscious, but came out, my imagination filtering it toward reason. I always work this way, allowing the first few chapters determine the sub genre. I now have dystopian, fantasy, and paranormal romance novels out.

Step 4: Assess
After a few scenes/chapters, usually by five, I pause for a few minutes to asses what I have written thus far. I have established my characters by now and their conflicts and motivations. They were hatched somehow by the muse in my brain that shows me prophecies--I mean scenes--that I record down. I ask myself, What sub genre is this? Where is the setting? When? Do I write this down? No. I go back and weave these in by writing the exposition which ends up being anywhere from two to five chapters (depending on how much must be established before my characters meet or the conflict begins). My exposition includes answering one simple question: What does the reader need to know to get to the part I've already written? Magically, my brain pumps out scenes that subtly work in the necessities, world building, character introductions, etc. in very interesting and entertaining ways. When I catch up to what is already written prior, I fully fly into pantser-hood.

In the beginning of Fyr, someone had to connect Alex and Toury and be responsible to force Toury to a new world, so enter his cousin Ruby. Also, to leave Earth and not be homesick for it constantly, I had to make Toury's life not worth going back to. This helped in her character arc too. I had to put a ton of pressure on Alex's shoulder in order for him to make some terrible choices later and not appear to be so bad my readers would hate him. I also had to introduce a villain, so she was born. Again, I'm analyzing my work in hindsight now. These were not conscious decisions: as I typed, they came out.

Step all the time: Go places
Not literally. What I mean by go places is I skip around to wherever I feel the urge to write. Did my mind pick a perfect ending? Write it! Now the first crises came to me? Go there. Climax chapters are building up in the brain? Let them flow. No rhyme, no reason, just untamed imagination flowing onto the page.

I explained I went from inciting incident to exposition. Then I went all sorts a places in Fyr. Of course, my couple got together too soon, so I had to insert some complications and give her some education about the world and time to acclimate, push them apart, and things happen to push them together. These were all written in a random order, so I can't remember exactly the pattern. I do remember the climax and resolution was finished around the halfway point. 

Step now and then: Mental checks
How do I keep track? My brain has the entire book (and other WIPs) in it. I can pull up any scene and review it. I can evaluate the plot without seeing the written words. I amend where I will go by mentally logging into what is already there. I day dream about it. I dream at night about it at times, getting leads to what should happen next.

Step lost: I have no more words.
At some point the words stop. I look down and realize I'm somewhere between 60,000-80,000 words. I look back through quickly and create a few transitional chapters for lack of a better word to gel the whole puppy together. Then I realize there are no more words because the story is all told. This is the end of the pantsing drafting stage, where it creeps into revision.

This became way more detailed than I thought it would be so next week, I'll continue to describe the revision process as I'm curious where plotters and pantsers will meet up in the end. Join me next week when I finish up, and if you want to check out Fyr, click here.

YA Review Time: KORRIGAN

YA Review Time: 

Korrigan is a page-turning blast that brings Irish mythology to life.

Aislinn is a Korrigan--girl by night, monster by day, and forced to steal years from human beings or be forced to never see daylight. Finally turning old enough to steal life and see daylight, she instantly meets falls for the adorable, wholesome Zane. But this love story is far from simple. The rest of the Korrigan are fiercely determined to control her, so "freedom" isn't all it's cracked up to be. Enter the trickster Dar Farrig and his bloodthirsty, creepy leprechauns. This trickster has conflicting and unhealthy plans for Aislinn and plays into her desire for power and autonomy, a way out of the restricting life designed for her. Will the alluring Dar Farrig urge Aislinn to go so far that she loses it all?

I always like to start of with the cons to get them out of the way. Korrigan doesn't have many, but I wasn't a fan of the protagonist, Aislinn. Some readers will love her dual personality as she is a monster yet a teenager, so she's not wholly a good person. I do like that complexity about her. What I didn't like was how she has strong moral fiber about taking life in the beginning, and yet those morals don't transfer. She's willing to hurt others for power with very little regret, refuses to admit responsibility or learn from her mistakes, and then blames the trickster for it. The Dar Farrig is partly to blame, but her lust for power seems limitlessness and unforgivable. Most likely, my main issue is that I've never been a fan of the antihero unless there is some redeemable quality. The hero can be morally gray, but I need to see he/she as superior to the villain and here I did not. However, I have a feeling Aislinn is heading for a positive turn in the later books, so I think this is a don't-judge-until-you-finish-the-series situation.

Not liking the main character might seem like a big hangup, but this book has so many positives it is worth a read. As for the other characters, the trickster's dual personality is fitting. It is great to see a hero-villain combo and still root for him, and yet know Zane is better for her. Zane is wholly good, so I almost feel bad for him falling for a girl who is monstrous in form and personality. I loved Zane's character; it was probably the best developed of the novel and although the Far Darrig is appealing, you're on team Zane because he is so sweet, honest, and accepting.

As for the plot, Korrigan starts off by sucking the reader in with an engrossing moral dilemma, but the main conflict shifts into many others, keeping readers on their toes. The plot is quick and engrossing, leaving you wanting more. The mythology is key. The fantastical is tastefully and uniquely weaved into the real world with a sinister darkness that celtic myths are prone to. A lover of mythology, I was drawn in by the premise and that is what makes the book fantastic. The myths don't quite line up with what I remember about Irish mythology, but I truly love re-imaginings or re-inventions of myths. To master old texts and reinvent them is a great talent. The dual point-of-view with Zane craftily balances normal teen life among monster myths, making the book interesting and relatable to teens.

Overall, this integration of Irish myth to real teenage life was unique, engrossing, and page-turning. I hope to continue the series to see Aislinn grow into a character that I can love.

Come embark on this reading journey with me and let me know what you think: buy here. 

Author Feature: Rachel Homard

Author Feature: 

Rachel Homard

The debut novel:

Opposites attract at LA’s largest soup kitchen when a businesswoman falls in love with one of her patrons.

Savannah Carrington is too busy for romance. She has a soup kitchen to operate which, thankfully, helps her avoid her socialite mother’s attempts to marry her off to some L.A. millionaire. When a patron is attacked, she runs fearlessly down a dark alley to help. Saved by a man who emerges from the shadows, she wants to thank him but he’s disappeared.

Yosef “Joe” MacArthur, a Green Beret, has gone into hiding. Admiring Savannah from afar, he’ll never admit to his growing feelings for her and will stop at nothing to keep her safe. But the White House is making it hard, tearing apart L.A. to award him the highest military honor any soldier could receive. Joe has no time for that with Savannah still in danger. Hunted by the leader of a notorious drug ring Joe is faced with an impossible choice: save a city full of innocent civilians or save Savannah.

A most unlikely pairing, love shows no limits in this emotional, action-packed, heartfelt story.

Romance and danger ensue in Rachel Homard’s debut novel.                    

Buy here

The Author:
Rachel's vivid imagination and creativity made her six years of teaching elementary school even more fun. But when she and her husband had their awesome son, she decided to stay home and save her hugs for him. Between playing trains and being chased by a three-year-old T-Rex and his furry, four-legged sidekick, Rachel picked up a pen and began writing stories like she did when she was younger. Even at four, when she couldn't write by herself, she recruited her mom to transcribe them for her.

Rachel pairs relatable characters to storylines of romance and suspense, and she loves adding in military characters. She had a great appreciation for all the brave men and women fighting for our country and wants to acknowledge them, like her father, a retired US Army Green Beret. Rachel's first book, The Green Triangle, will be published in 2020, and she is already working on a sequel.

A triangle of questions:

What inspired you to write this story?
I wrote this story to honor our men and women in the armed forces, like my dad, a retired Green Beret. I wanted to shine a light on PTSD and the struggles our soldiers can face coming back home, but show that even in hard times, even when danger follows you home, no matter the circumstances, heroes are heroes. They step up. They protect. They sacrifice.

What made you become a writer?
I always loved to tell stories. Even before I could write them myself, I’d have my mom do it. I took a break for a while, but eventually, I had a story I just wanted to tell and had to try even though it was scary to put myself out there.

How has the querying process gone for you? 
Querying was unbelievable this first time around. I finished my book and days later went to a conference to pitch it. There, I hit it off with my agent and signed with her a week or so later. I know meeting her in person made all the difference in getting out of the “slush pile.” My agent just quit the business though, so things are starting back at square one. I’m currently preparing to query new agents. It’s scary!

*update! since this post Rachel has signed on with her new agent Stephanie Hansen with Metamorphosis Literary. Congratulations! 

Bonus question: Are you a plotter or pantser? 
Generally, I’m a pantser. When I try to plot, I just get in my head and can’t seem to get anything on paper. And, honestly, with my three-year-old running around all the time, there is no time to plot anyway!

Where to find Rachel:

Multiple Works in Progress: How?


Works in Progress:

I often get asked how many WIPs I have--for non-writers that stands for "works in progress"--and explain my average is 5. The next follow up question is "HOW?" To explain how, first let me define what WIP means to me, as I think the definition could be different for those whom are monogamous to their manuscripts.

I define a WIP as any book I'm working on actively within a three-month cycle that is not in print yet. This includes ones with the publisher that we're editing, ones I'm working on to submit, and ones I'm drafting. If I haven't worked on a manuscript in more than three months, I consider it no longer a WIP and call it "shelved," even if only temporarily.

How does my system work? Well, first know that I'm a pantser, meaning I plan nothing in the manuscripts themselves and often write out of order. It's not for the faint of heart, but does save me time. Despite my wild writing style, my system for when I write and what I write is very organized. Call it organized chaos. Next, I'll exemplify and break down where I am currently for my 5 WIPs from oldest to newest so you can literally see the "'how."

My organized chaos
WIP 1: in a timeout, copyedits and marketing plan stage fast approaching for July release
WIP 2: in a timeout, publishers and I are soon embarking on round 1 edits for Feb. 2021 release
WIP 3: active, working on revision stage, but also editing as I go, submission deadline June 1st
WIP 4: active, halfway drafted, no deadline
WIP 5: active, first draft has 3 chapters down, submission deadline Dec. 31st

If you look at my list, my active WIPs are only 3, but while I'm writing all 3, it is not uncommon I am sent the email that editing or copyediting has begun on the other 2. I should also explain my 3-month cycle is because given certain times of year--like now--I have a lot of paper grading to do since I'm a college lecturer too. Within a month is is not uncommon that I work on all 5, sometimes 2 different ones on the same day. I go with my mood. Not feeling creative? Edit. Problem-solving mood? Revise content. Imagination won't stop? Drafting.

So how do I keep everything straight and not mix things up? I don't know. I have no amazing software or spreadsheets or note files. All these amazing organizational skills others have take a lot of time to set up, and then I found in the past that I ignored them completely. I'm not knocking on those organized folks out there, but it is time consuming and a skill that personally limits my creativity. What I do do is make 1 little (as in post-it-note sized) to-do list for my 3-month rounds which includes marketing and such--the thing I might forget about most. The rest resides in my brain.

How do I switch from one story to the other and remember where I left off? I dunno, but as a kid I was often frustrated that people couldn't do this and didn't have the memory I had about things; I didn't understand that people's brains didn't work like databases with multiple browsers you could tap into. I must conclude then, that for me, my ADHD--hyperactive type--is a gift in this respect. I know not everyone who can juggle multiple WIPs is neurodiverse, but I know it is the reason why I can juggle ideas, memorize, and hyperfocus when it comes to writing. It works for me for writing, but before you'll accuse me of bragging, outside of writing those brain browsers can make life hell by vying which one holds my attention. Spoiler alert: it's not the one that I need at that time almost ever (right now this blog begged to be written but I should be grading papers). I may have a fantastic mind when it comes to writing, but in life, it can be a bummer. Now if only I could remember to pack a fork for my lunch, where I left my keys, or to buy toilet paper...

Series Thoughts: When to Stop

Series Thoughts: 

When to Stop

I love writing and reading series, but have you ever read one and it just went too far, taking something you loved and destroyed it? I have, but I would never mention names. This seems to happen in romances, particularly young adult literature.

Before any young adult writers go into attack mode, I'm one of you too and love the genre. When I discuss "series" in this post, I'm referring to continuous storylines with the same characters. My question is, is there a magic number of books that is suitable? Or is there a line we shouldn't cross? I don't think there's a clear-cut answer. Although I want to leave it as the old expression, "as many books as the story needs," I've seen authors surpass that. The story is beautiful and could wrap up nicely and then bam! Here's another one ruining the happily ever after, and we'll throw in some love triangles and an arrogant jerk we're supposed to prefer over the man we had just fallen in love with in the prior book. I may sound mocking, and as a reader I am. As an author, I am most likely guilty of these tropes too, but I never want to take a series too far.

For example, I have a YA fantasy romance series that I decided to keep as a trilogy (Celestial Spheres, book 1 Fyr is available here). Why did I choose a trilogy? Because the plot of their world and their conflicts all wrapped up nicely in three books. To add more, I would have to destroy their relationship. I had already thrown so much troubles their way that inventing something huge would be contrived and piss off my readers, so I won't even try to. I have pondered on spinoff series with a family member, other spheres--since this trilogy takes place on a fire planet--but again, I feel like I'm flogging a dying horse instead of inventing new beauteous things. I may come back one day, but for now, it's wonderful as is and will be done.

I have another series, a YA paranormal romance, that looks like it will be five books (The Immortal Transcripts, book 1 Quiver can be purchased here). It has three main characters, lots of side characters, so plenty of plot which will carry me easily through five books. My characters' love lives will take up all five books, because their love ties directly into the more political plot of how they are impacting the world around them. Sometimes it is what happens around them that is important, rather than just the romance aspect, and sometimes my main lovers take a backseat to others' love stories. Sometimes familial relationships and friendships are the more important part. Basically, it is so complex that it warrants five books without repetition or contrived plot tropes.

Last, I have a shelved YA fantasy romance series where I was four books in, thinking it would end up as five. I wondered if there was too much love story, too many tropes and relationships, meaning I put too much into books 1-4 and should spread them out. Does this series warrant seven books so my MCs' relationships appear natural in terms of time span? Do I dare take it that far?

I had always seen the magic number being five, that crossing that line in a young adult romance can cause issues: characters aging out of the category, too many cliched tropes, repetition, contrived plots, reader boredom or lack of funds, etc. As a reader, I usually lose interest after five. I have the annoyed mentality of--"what now?" I've only actually made it through a few YA romance series that were more than five with the same characters, the rest I quit after about book three and reading a sample of the next book, cheated by looking at the blurbs, or asked others if it was worth it. In most cases, I ended up refusing to invest more time and money into the series because I was annoyed it sounded dragged out in contrived ways. I don't think I'm alone in thinking this; with so many good books out there in the world, why waste time with a series that no longer wows you when you can move other ones that do?

So writers and readers, what do you think the magic number of novels is for a YA romance (with the same characters) series? Where do you typically like to cap it off?

If interested in any of these books, you can find them here. You can follow me through this link for notification of future novels too.

Query Example: Quiver

Query Example:


For the first time ever, last fall, I didn't have to query or pitch on Twitter to get published. I now have a publisher to submit directly to. It is a huge milestone of an author's career and I am proud, but I miss creating pitches and queries. You'll call me sick, a masochist even, but I enjoyed writing queries and pitches--the waiting and rejection, I could definitely do without. The actual process of querying sucks, but mastering how to write just the letter has been a skill I learned to love.

As a pantser (non plotting writer), drafting that query during revisions of the manuscript was essential. Summing up the plot of my novel for the query letter forces me to examine my plot. If I struggle too hard to sum it up, then I might have a plot hole or things are unclear. For this novel, this is the query I had used in 2012. It received multiple 50-page requests, 5 full manuscript requests, 2 R&R's (revise and resubmit) that I rejected due to the drastic changes being asked, 1 agent interested in taking it on to sell as a novel and movie rights. This sounds like a dream come true, but the deal fell through.

I digress. The query worked, but I didn't end up using it again, shelved the book, and then submitted it to my publisher last winter. Here is my letter with notes (in red). I have updated certain areas of the letter noted below.

Dear Agent, (This should be specific, but I stripped his details out)

You think your family is large, complicated, and dysfunctional? Archer Ambrose, previously known as Eros, would beg to differ. After over 3000 years of a mostly uneventful existence as the god of love, Archer will finally learn how much harm one’s family can do. (This is your hook, usually near the beginning of a query that sucks the reader in; I asked a question forcing the reader to align with one of my MCs and then explained whom he was.)

Let me introduce you to Quiver, a YA high-concept paranormal romance that is 93,000 words. Told in first-person by four narrators, they spin tale of mythological proportions where a profound love threatens to undermine the immortal way of life. (This is also early on in query letters; the agent/publisher needs to know word count, genre, and I added POV because that was something they felt strongly about in their feedback--they loved it or hated it. Originally, I was querying this as 106,000 words which didn't seem to affect the amount of positive responses.) When Callie Syches moves to Manhattan her senior year, Archer feels passionately drawn to her. His dysfunctional family doesn't like this new attachment including his Grandpa Zeus who wants Callie silenced forever, his overbearing mother who poses as his sister, and his uncle, the truth-seeker, who is puzzled over a prophecy concerning her. Inadvertently, Callie, who “sees” too much, threatens to destroy Archer’s mortal fa├žade. From evidence such as Archer’s eyes that shine when feeling intense emotions to his instant healing abilities, Callie begins to unravel the secrets to a world she can hardly fathom. As the couple’s love blossoms and Callie discovers the truth, Zeus makes a devastating move. Unable to contemplate life without her, Archer must decide what is more important, family or love. (This is the synopsis blurb. I gave them everything but the ending; I avoided all the subplots and other conflicts focusing on the central love story. I have included the themes of family and love, which are essential in the book.)

Blending Greek mythology into a modern love story of epic proportions seems an arduous task, but having BA’s in English, Dramatic Arts, and an MA in English, gives me a vast background of knowledge of character and world building. (Since this had been the first book I queried, my former roster was only the above and one short story--that I now leave out of queries because it's not as impressive as other titles. Not having anything here did seem to make a difference which is why I stopped querying early on and focused on publishing shorter works first. As soon as that one story was on there, I got responses. I think experience helps. I also included my degrees but only because they directly factor into writing.) I’ve published the novella “Dare” in the Kissed anthology (Evernight Teen), a stand alone novel Apidae (Evernight Teen), and book 1 of the Celestial Spheres trilogy titled Fyr (Authors 4 Authors Publishing). I’m also a college Lecturer and strongly believe in the effectiveness of publicity through social media, and use a blog and other digital venues. (This is my updated roster. I mentioned my job only because I teach writing to students who are the age group as my readers. A social media presence is good too. You don't have to mention this if you include all your links like I did below, but this was popular request in 2012 for authors to have a presence , so I added it.)  

I am looking for official representation in the publishing world to champion my full-length manuscripts. It would be a pleasure to work with an agent with extensive experience in editing and publishing, dealing with such companies as Penguin and Harper Collins, and who is eager to explore the YA market. At your request, I would love to send the full-length manuscript of Quiver for your review. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and I humbly thank you for your time. (To wrap it up, you get to the point. We write these to have the agent/publisher read the entire MS and hopefully offer us representation. So ask. Also, it is extremely important to do your research about the company or agent and to show you have. Above, I mention details about the impressive powerhouses this man works with and how he was starting to add YA authors to his client list. Like dating, you want to butter them up a little so they'll ask you out-- but don't flirt! That was just an analogy.)


Lisa Borne Graves

This may be my last query for a while as I'm lined up to release--if all goes well--eight books with my publisher without having to write another. But you never know, since I don't mind doing them.

Interested in the book? Here is where you can purchase the novel: Quiver

Birth Announcement: QUIVER

Birth Announcement: 


Without further ado, I'd like to announce the birth of another book baby. Quiver, book 1 of The Immortal Transcripts, is now available. Here's the info and links. I'm immensely proud of this book--my first novel written that took more than a decade to get into print. Hope you enjoy it!

What would you do if you could live forever? Could you hide it from the one you truly loved, especially if her life depended on it?

Thanks to his dysfunctional Olympian family, Archer Ambrose finds out firsthand how difficult this can be. He never falls in love but bestows it on others—until he meets Callie.

When Callie Syches moves to the Upper East Side to prepare for her father’s impending death, she doesn’t expect to meet the boy of her dreams. She also never believed her father’s harebrained theory about myths, but her uncanny ability to “see” uncovers godly secrets Callie can hardly fathom.

With an immortal family demanding absolute obedience, how far will Archer go to protect his love from the storm the gods will unleash upon them?

In this reinvention of Cupid and Psyche, experience an electrifying series where familial and romantic bonds are at war, and knowledge could mean the end of everything…or a new beginning.

Can’t wait to read more? Order now here. Also available on Amazon, Books.A.Million, Shakespeare and Co, Books, Rediscovered Books, and other retailers.

Cover Reveal and Book Pitch: Quiver

Cover Reveal and
Book Pitch:


When it comes to covers, I always want authenticity. I not a fan of stock photos. I do use them to advertise, and then notice the same image on an author's book cover and cringe. I wouldn't want that to be me. Luck on my side, I'm married to an artist who has a degree in illustration. The combined efforts of his artwork and my wonderful publisher's (Authors 4 Authors Publishing) digital prowess create the unique covers (see my prior book Fyr's cover here). When it came to this new series, The Immortal Transcripts, I wanted a cover that defined the book's mood: sweet, youthful, romantic, yet imposing and dangerous. I wanted the characters represented as well. Here my cover is: heart and arrows for my main character Archer, the god of love, and the lightning for the antagonist, the almighty and foreboding Zeus.

I also had made a faithful promise to the writing  community that I would post queries and pitches to help others who would like to study examples. I'm no novice when it comes to pitches. In fact, pitches on Twitter pitch days are how I became published through two publishers.

Lately, I'm on good terms with my publisher not needing to pitch or query, going straight to submissions, and I kind of miss making pitches--because I'm some sick masochist, I guess. Honestly, I think creating queries and pitches are a great way to wrap your head around your story and to help market. So I created this pitch as a social media friendly blurb about my book. Here it is.

Callie doesn't believe in myths. Archer doesn't fall into love but creates it. When she begins to unravel the very fabric of Archer's godly existence, gleaning deadly knowledge, what lengths will they go to be together?

Some notes about it: I introduce two main characters and the fact I'm talking about mythology where one of my MCs is the god of love. The stakes are her life, "love" and "be together" indicate the romance genre. The question shows that they most likely will go through a lot in the name of love including the possibility of her death. I left out a lot that can be covered in a hashtag such as #YA for young adult, #paranormal to show what type of romance, #greekmythology to show which mythological world I've adopted. What I did not include were the other important characters, the multiple side plots, the villains, etc. When limited in characters, space, or your audience's time, stick to the main plot and be concise.

Hope that helped you in your pitches. If interested in this novel, you can preorder here.

Anthology Review Time: From the Stories of Old

Anthology Review Time: 

From the Stories of Old

I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings, so I bought this anthology hoping for a fresh take on old stories and was not disappointed. It wasn't quite what I expected with a couple gruesome stories and a few bittersweet endings, but these were still enjoyable and balanced well with the happily ever after tales. They are in fact truly the stories of the old, with hints of Grimm's gruesome and harsh realities, bittersweet lessons, and heartwarming tales of friends or lovers overcoming the odds to defeat evil. There were hints of cultural criticism wrapped up in future worlds where mankind's destruction or devolution propels the plot. There was love, loss, friendship, family struggles--all your timeless themes--imbued throughout, creating an enriching experience for the reader.

It has a bit of everything with recognizable tales such as The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Mulan, Snow White, and Rumpelstiltskin--but of the originals or earlier versions--not Disney--to less widely read tales about Silkie or Krampus creatures, clever fables such as The Peasant's Wise Daughter, and other tales that I didn't quickly recognize, adding diversity from non-European cultures. These more obscure ones I found refreshing, but the truth is none of them are straight up retellings but stories that hold strength on their own. They are still told in the style of fairy tales, but the authors manage to slip in more characterization that the old stories could provide. Due to the genre, this appeals to teens and any adult who thoroughly enjoys fairy tales.

I enjoyed them all, but I don't want to explain any of the stories in detail and spoil them. The fun is in figuring out which tale it is based off of, then the enjoyment in seeing how it plays out in comparison to the former versions. Just know that you're getting new spins on old tales that are refreshing, current, and of multiple genres in world like or unlike our own, past, present, or future, and some are culturally inspired. If this sounds like your cup of tea you can purchase the anthology here.

Tales in Publishing: QUIVER

Tales in Publishing: 


To readers, I imagine the publishing world seems very slow. You read a great book to find out it's part of a series and have to wait a year or more for the next novel. Waiting can be brutal. And then you see your favorite author announce their novel was accepted for release a year to eighteen months in the future and you're like...

As an author, that year flies by. It doesn't seem long at all because we are busy perfecting and prepping that book to send it out to the world. That is what my publishers and I have been doing. We have put Quiver through about four rounds of editing, got the marketing and supplement materials together, wrote the back cover blurb--all those little things some take for granted. In short, my book is ready for the world on my end, with the publishers dotting the I's and crossing the T's and such.

In a couple weeks, book I of The Immortal Transcripts, Quiver, will launch. I've had some concern that this will mean The Celestial Spheres will take longer to come out or won't continue, but the truth is I've been writing so long and so much that clearing two books a year is doable. Therefore, Draca, book 2 of Celestial Spheres will be out July 2020. We already had a couple rounds of edits for it.

As for Quiver, it is a young adult paranormal romance novel that follows four first-person points-of-view of three Greek gods and a mortal who inadvertently upends their lives. Apollo, Eros, and Aphrodite are showcased in this book letting us into their world that seems to be on the cusp of great change. I don't want to spoil too much, but I will be posting information on the blog here on out, so stay tuned.


Author Feature: Deidre Huesmann

Author Feature: 

Deidre Huesmann

All about Deidre

When she isn't writing, Deidre works full-time in the local shipyard, decked out in safety gear and getting her hands dirty. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying the changes in seasons year-round. When she isn't working either job, she's catching up on the stack of books on her dresser, kicking it with her children, or playing RPG video game

 Her books

With Jeff Young’s fantastic grades, he should be a great tutor. But he’s terrible with human interaction. “You’re an asshole,” is not a unique phrase to him. Jeff’s all right with that. His past proves most people are assholes.

Even with his reputation, he takes it too far when he uses a textbook to save the track star, Braeden, from a goose attack. Braeden is everything Jeff is not. Tall. Charming. Has 20/20 vision. And would never, ever wipe his mouth after a girl kisses him.

Braeden insists on getting to know Jeff. Jeff vacillates between wanting to know him and wanting to punch him in the mouth. Then he discovers the darkness rippling beneath Braeden’s deceptively easy-going persona. As Braeden confides his secrets, Jeff does the one thing that’s socially suicidal:
He falls in love with the very popular, very straight Braeden Britely.

Find Burning Britely here. And its sequel Yearning Young here.


Azalee wants a home—one that isn’t a cold, dirty prison deep within the earth. Even if she wanted to escape, she can’t walk in sunlight. Her skin will burn and flay, blistered by a god.

Defying the Fates
Joel wants to get her somewhere safe. Both are outcasts, shunned, and forbidden from taking proper Greek names. He breaks her out of an underground prison, and they flee toward Mykonos.

Angering the Gods
The battle-worn Kurios sends Niribelle after them. She’s gorgeous, she’s cunning, and she seems to have a thing for Joel. She arrives armed with Hecate’s magic, and blessed by Aphrodite’s beauty.

Inciting the War
Soon the three teenagers discover one horrifying thing: Mykonos will be no paradise.

Check out the trilogy bundled here.


Devastated by her mother's terminal diagnosis, Rachael struggles with day to day existence as her family's cheerful facade splits stitch by stitch. Amidst her crumbling home life, she manages to make few new friends. One in particular, Holden, makes her question if she can even consider love while her mother's life hangs in the balance.

But Aaron Moreno, a lycan alpha, has a another idea: he wants to introduce Rachael to his and Holden's secret lives. And if what Holden says is true, Aaron will have no regard for what havoc this will wreak upon Rachael.

Check out the trilogy bundled here.


Six years have passed since Rachael Adair last saw her older brother, Jackson. And for good reason—Jackson is now a lycan, and since they age slowly, he has to move frequently lest the humans catch on. When he excitedly calls her and offers a flight for her to visit them in a big city, Rachael jumps at the chance. She's delighted to see her brother, his pack, and of course the alpha she fell in love with: Aaron Moreno.

But when she lands in Las Vegas, Rachael is kidnapped by a new face from the pack of an old "friend;" her first love, Holden Cavanaugh. Holden is now the alpha of a group of poly-amorous betas, and he has every intention of convincing Rachael to join him.

After killing Aaron, of course…

Check out book 1 The Alpha's Hostage here. Book 2 here. Book 3 here.

What made you become a writer?

"I can’t really say. I’ve written stories ever since I got positive feedback on a story about my guinea pig in second grade. But I kept at it, to the point my grades suffered in high school… and for me, it’s more than a passion. It’s a calling. I write stories I wished I saw more of as a teen, and even what I wish I could see more of now. There is a lot I want to say to the world, and story form is the easiest, most productive way for me to express those thoughts, especially through fantastical settings and means."

 How has the querying process gone for you? Any tips?

"I’ve been querying for at least four years now. At first I didn’t get any positive responses, but each year and each new project I get more and more interest from agents. Small presses like Evernight Teen have seen merit in my stories, for which I feel grateful, but I’m always aiming to get an agent and punch my way into the Big 5. For the past year I’ve fallen into this weird pattern where I have no fewer than 5 agents reading one of my works at any given time. So it’s a lot, a lot of rejection, but each full request has been a valuable experience overall.

"As far as tips, if you have a predisposition to taking criticism well, the process will be much easier. I have the grim joke that ever since someone told me to kill myself over my writing in my teens, no agent can possibly reject me in a way worse than that person. It’s important to remember that agents hate rejecting. I follow a lot of them on Twitter, and it’s surprising to see how many of them lament near misses or take abuse for rejecting an author.

"In short, keep querying, keep writing, and always be graceful no matter the answer. Being grateful for feedback as kept many an agent door open to me, and I’m at the point I can query the same agent with a new project and almost be guaranteed a positive response to read. In this industry, it pays to be kind and gracious."

Marketing is vital for authors. What works best for you?

"A mixture of Facebook ads and organic interaction on Twitter. FB nets me the most traction for my money (and it fits my tiny budget quite well), and Twitter has flooded with other positive authors who are happy to cheer you on. Cultivating a positive audience helps. But the other thing is behind the scenes—I keep writing, I never accept my craft as perfect, and each new book I release has done better than the last."

Where you can find Deidre:
Barnes N Noble 


Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...