Don’t forget self care during Nanowrimo

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200This will actually be my second year in a row not participating in Nanowrimo–I’ll be busily editing some of the novels I wrote in the 10 Nanos before that–but I know there are close to half a million writers around the world preparing for their own attempts. Many have cleared their schedules, stocked up on snacks and caffeinated beverages, and done extensive writing exercises to prepare for the month ahead. You may even be one of them.

One thing you probably haven’t thought about much is self care. It’s something we tend to forget at the best of times, so why make time for it during what may well be the biggest creative challenge of your life?

Well, let me answer a question with a better question: have you heard of post-Nanowrimo blues? It’s a gloomy, hazy feeling many participants get for one to three weeks after November ends, created partially by the sudden lack of activity on the Nanowrimo boards and partially by creative burnout caused by reaching the end of the marathon.

Different people experience this feeling for different amounts of time and to varying extents, but the experience is so common that there are endless threads about it every year in the Life After Nanowrimo forum.

This foggy, unproductive two or three weeks may be fine for someone who has no intentions of building a full writing career, but if you want to do this writing thing for a living it’s an incredibly long time to be away from your work. You’re already struggling to keep writing time in your daily schedule, you need to do everything in your power to make sure you’re inspired when the time actually comes.

You may not be able to completely prevent creative burnout but you can dramatically reduce the risk of creative burnout by making time for self care. Even an extra twenty minutes of stretching, meditation, reading, or anything else that calms you down can make a huge difference in your mental outlook for the day.

Self care should be scheduled into your daily routine, even in months when you’re taking on a big challenge like Nanowrimo. Cherish it as much as you do your writing time, because when the mental haze settles in you’ll find yourself staring at a blank page for an hour instead of doing your daily writing.

So this Nanowrimo, promise yourself two things: that you will put all of your creative energy into your novel for the month of November, and that you will still make time to relax.

Do you regularly write self care into your schedule? What do you do for self care? Let me know in the comments section below!

Author Spotlight: LJ Cohen

kindle-cover-2015Today’s author has created a wonderfully diverse science fiction series and now she’s here to share her writing journey–and some fantastic advice–with all of you. Please give LJ Cohen a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?

When I started writing DERELICT, I thought of it as Firefly meets Lost in Space. I’ve always been a huge fan of ensemble SF stories – Farscape, all the Star Treks, Firefly (of course) – and wanted to set a group of characters loose in a near-future post-diaspora world. The novels of Halcyone Space are all about unintended consequences – which for an author are the best kind. I describe the series as:
After a reckless young computer programmer resurrects the damaged AI on a long dormant freighter, she and her accidental crew blunder into a galactic conspiracy forty years in the making.

2. Which part of the series came to you first?

Can I admit that I’m not completely sure? I remember rooting around in my plot-bunny files and found an old idea about a space station and a conflict between the children of the station personnel and the children of the ambassadors there to craft a treaty – some kind of ‘town/gown’ story in space. But there were no specific characters or plot attached. I think, from that old idea, I created two individuals – Ro and Micah – and the idea of the derelict ship.

Almost all of my stories start with a version of ‘Clue’, but instead of Miss Scarlet in the drawing room with poison, it’s a character in a place with a problem. So the series started out with both Ro and Micah needing to use the ship for their own purposes. The rest expended from there.
3. At what point did you realize you were writing a trilogy?

When I got about 2/3 of the way through DERELICT, I realized that the deeper I went, the richer the universe became and that it needed to be a series. It’s currently at 3 books. I’m at the halfway mark drafting book 4, and will probably need 5 or 6 books total to complete the story.

4. Coding is a big part of your first novel, Derelict. How much research did you do before starting the first draft?

I really didn’t need to research much. I’ve always been fascinated by computers and programming. I started messing around in the 1970s with an old mainframe that had been donated to our school system. The whole punch cards and do not fold, spindle, or mutilate deal and BASIC and Fortran! I bought my first personal computer in 1984. A Radio Shack TRS-80 (not so affectionately known as the trash 80) for $1000. It had two 5 1/4 floppies, so you could keep a program loaded and save at the same time. In those years, you really needed to know how to command computers to do what you wanted – which was likely why when the first Macs came out, they became so popular. But the dos prompt and I were old friends. I’ve taught myself html and css and used to create custom data bases for fun.

ithaka-rising-kindle-cover5. Did you start out wanting to create a diverse cast of characters or is that just how it ended up?

I wanted to reflect the world that I live in. My community and my family are diverse. We’ve both traveled and opened up our home to international students. And I came of age watching Star Trek. I couldn’t imagine a future less diverse than our present.

6. How did you get into the viewpoints of characters with different backgrounds/genders/sexualities than your own?

Honestly? It’s a matter of experience and empathy. And listening to others. I spent 25 years as a physical therapist where I used to say my main job was listening to patients tell me their stories. And truly listening without preconceived opinions is a rare skill. The most important element of empathy is accepting the lived experience of the person you are interacting with. That’s what I did in clinical practice, it’s what I do in my life, and it’s how I work with my characters.

What’s important to me is that I craft characters that are individuals, and not cardboard representations of any particular background/gender/sexuality. And I hope that if I do get something wrong, readers will tell me so I can improve.
7. What are some of your favourite diverse books?

There are stories with diverse casts and stories by marginalized writers and stories that overlap. I don’t typically pay attention to what grouping a story falls in to when I start to read it, but I have noticed that I often gravitate toward books written by women writers. I have become a huge fan of the South African writer, Masha duToit and her magic realism/fantasy novels,  (CROOKS AND STRAITS and WOLF LOGIC). I love The Vorkosigan Saga books by Lois McMaster Bujold, especially when the conservative mores of Barrayar meet the rest of the universe. The EXPANSE books by James S.A. Corey have a wonderfully diverse world and characters and is SciFi with that ensemble cast I’m such a sucker for. I just discovered  Nnedi Okorafor’s BINTI and loved the characterization and world building, though wanted the story to stretch into a novel instead of being trapped by the constraints of the novella length.

8. How would you like to see representation change in the next five years?

I would like to see the utter dismantling of white as default and see stories that reflect – as a matter of course – the richness of the culture around us. So, for example, stories with black characters that aren’t specifically about race (and don’t get shelved in the African American section of the book store, which is just another kind of marginalization), stories with gay characters that aren’t coming out narratives, or have tragic ends.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep swimming. . . (a la, Dory from Finding Nemo)

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

I’m nearly to the halfway point on PARALLAX, book 4 of Halcyone Space. I have an alternate world fantasy out with beta readers for a final check before it goes to my editor and will be published before the end of the year, and am planning a collaborative cyber-punk thriller with the fabulous writer, Rick Wayne whose MINUS FACTION books are unlike any superhero stories you’ve ever read. So a busy writing year!


LJ Cohen is a Boston-area novelist, poet, blogger, ceramics artist, and relentless optimist. After almost twenty-five years as a physical therapist, she now uses her anatomical knowledge and myriad clinical skills to injure characters in her science fiction and fantasy novels. Her most recent book, Dreadnought and Shuttle, (book 3 of the SF/Space Opera series Halcyone Space) represents her sixth published novel. Derelict, the first novel in the series, was chosen as a Library Journal Self-e Select title and book of the year in 2016. LJ is active in IPNE (The Independent Publishers of New England), SFWA (The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), and Broad Universe and blogs about publishing, general geekery, and other ephemera at Contact LJ and

Buy your copy of Derelict today!

Book Review: The Defender’s Apprentice by Amelia Smith

3DefendersARCA few months ago I interviewed Amelia Smith, a fantasy novelist in the middle of re-releasing her Dragonsfall series. Her world–which includes an entire culture based around dragon worship(because dragons are awesome, even if they’ve been done a million times) and sacred prostitution–intrigued me so much that I immediately agreed to review it.

It took me a while but I’ve finally finished this fantasy novel and managed to sort through all my thoughts. And believe me, there were a lot of thoughts, which is one thing I love about The Defender’s Apprentice. The best books get me thinking not just about their stories but about how their worlds are built and what their characters will do when the story is over(and once in a blue moon they even inspire fanfiction about that last part).

But before I go on, let me fill you in with the blurb: 

The Defenders’ order is dying, but that’s no surprise. After all, they’ve been in hiding for over a hundred years, and apprentices are getting harder to find – hardly anyone can see the dragons any more.

Eppie picked pockets on the streets of Anamat for years before one of the Defenders noticed her. She hid well, but one day she picked the wrong pocket, or was it the right one? She sets out to help try to save the dragon Tiada, but if her mentor and the others fall in the battle, who will defend the dragons next time?

Here are my thoughts:

This is actually the second book I’ve read with a young pickpocket as the main character in the past six months, which makes me wonder what the writerly obsession with pickpockets is and where it came from, but I’m just as much of a sucker for this trope, especially when the character is also female. Eppie is immediately established as a nimble thief with impressive street smarts and a feisty personality, the type of character who makes me wish my 12 year old self had fantasy adventures to go on(because at least theoretically I would have gotten in less trouble at school).

You also get a sense of the world right away, learning about the connection between dragons and the land they live on, seeing the capitol city of Anamat and its strained economy. From the moment you start this book you know the author has put a lot of love and effort into creating this world, and you’re eager to follow her through it.

As a reader, I had a hard time putting this book down and I truly enjoyed the way this book breathed new life into a couple of my favourite tropes(mainly preteen pickpocket and dragons). As a writer I loved this book because it really made me think about certain aspects of my own worlds.

All in all, this is a wonderful fantasy novel that will get a 4/5 stars when I post this review on Amazon tomorrow–and one that’s definitely inspired me to grab a copy of the next book.

Grab your copy of The Defender’s Apprentice today!

Help me make this blog a better place for all of us

I’ve been blogging here a long time and while I love this blog, I also know there’s a lot of room for improvement–and I want your help improving things.

I’ve created a simple survey here asking what you want to see on the blog in coming months and I’d deeply appreciate it if you take the time to answer. After all, how can I make a blog that truly meets YOUR needs without getting YOUR feedback?

It’s our duty to start the conversation: a #HoldOnToTheLight post

holdontothelightFor far too long people with mental illnesses have suffered in silence, and too many still do, and a great many of these people find themselves drawn to speculative fiction communities. #HoldOnToTheLight is a blogging initiative of over 100 science fiction and fantasy authors who are determined to start the conversation about mental illness. Today I’d like to contribute part of my own story to this crucial conversation. I don’t know if it will save any lives or help you write better stories, but I do know that refusing to let ourselves be silenced is the first step to improving mental health care and decreasing the power of stigmatization around the world.

I had my first bout with severe depression when I was eleven years old and I realized my dad’s cancer was terminal. During the first few bouts of depression I filled many notebooks with dark poetry, most of it awful but all of it cathartic.

The first time I contemplated suicide was the night my dad passed away. As an angry middle schooler who already had few friends, little academic success, and no idea what worth I could provide beyond the stories I wrote, I couldn’t see any point to the suffering that was my present life. In the end it wasn’t my own commitment to life which stopped me, it was the knowledge that my family would suffer if I died–and after a fairly significant string of recent deaths in the family mine just might kill some of them too.

So I survived. I made a lot of the familiar dumb decisions you’ve heard in other stories about depressed teenagers: dropped out of high school for two years, picked up smoking, started having sex young, dated awful men with even less purpose and self esteem than I had, and went to a lot of parties. But I also managed to improve my life piece by piece, moving in with my grandmother, switching to an alternative school, and dating progressively nicer guys.

I’ll admit that I didn’t seek professional help for my condition no matter how bad it got. A terribly mishandled visit to a psych ward at the beginning of my illness dissuaded me from trying again, as did the horror stories I heard of other people like me being locked up. You see, I wasn’t only depressed. I also had terrible insomnia and brief periods of rage and excitement I can only describe as miniature manic episodes. And everywhere I turned I found another story about someone with all of these symptoms being mistreated because doctors couldn’t figure out what the overall problem was.

So I skipped professional treatment and instead built an incredibly solid network of supportive friends(and some family) that I still have today. More importantly–at least in my opinion–I continued writing, and not just the poems and journals tracking my misery. I wrote a new book every Nanowrimo, often writing first drafts of several books instead. I started a blog, took writing classes, honed my skills, and eventually landed work as a freelance writer. No matter how much I suffered, I always had my words, my stories.

Many of my stories involve characters who already have mental illnesses or who develop them over the course of a series. Depression and PTSD are almost like my trademarks; there are more characters with one or both than there are without. I get compliments on the realism of my characters’ mental decline from every beta reader. Madness is something I understand, something I’m able to write incredibly well, and something that’s often cathartic to write.

But it isn’t always that way. Sometimes I go in too deep, entrenching myself so thoroughly in my characters’ suffering that it brings back or amplifies my own. Mental breakdown scenes may be my specialty but if I’m not careful they can transform into my own real world mental breakdown. A single scene can take several weeks to complete because I am walking a tightrope between my mental illness and my character’s.

So what do I do? I journal about the problem, and sometimes it’s enough. Other times I have to take time away from the story, sometimes as much as several weeks. Every once in a while I simply skip ahead to a scene I’m more excited about. The important thing is that I prioritize taking care of me. I know the demon of mental illness will never fully leave me, but I know that I can survive–hell, I have a duty to survive. A duty to live well, to show others it can be done no matter how hard the struggle gets.

Most importantly, I have a duty to start the conversation.

I hope you’ll join me.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

Writing Prompt While I’m Away

Right now(and until next Wednesday) I’m having the time of my life at The Grand Canadian Steampunk Expo, picking out the accessories that will become part of an epic Halloween costume(at least, that’s the goal.) I debated posting the usual interview and article anyway, but I won’t be here to respond to comments and I doubt I’ll even have time to respond to Tweets, so I’m just going to leave you with an inspirational image and hope you write something awesome while I’m gone:


This is a memorial, but who is it for and when was it built?

Author Spotlight: Saruuh Kelsey

the-forgottenThis interview is part of a series featuring authors with LGBTQ+ characters. 

Today’s guest is here to share a series involving several of my favourite things: an apocalypse, the plague, crazy inventions, time travel, a strong LGBTQ+ cast, and British English(okay, I’m mostly joking about that last one). But don’t let me tell you about it, let the blurb for Saruuh’s first novel, The Forgottentell you instead:

Forgotten London: The remnant of a solar disaster, London is a dismal place of soldiers, rationing, and a four-family-per-house regulation. Fatal diseases plague the city. Borders have been erected around London for the people’s protection, but fifteen year old Honour thinks differently. He thinks they’re kept inside the fence because someone is planning to kill everyone inside.

Victorian London: The Ravel siblings’ world is turned upside down when their genius father is murdered. His dying words are to hide everything he’s ever created, but when an invention goes missing, his children discover his work is linked to the future destruction of the world. But when they’re transported to a derelict, future place, how will they reclaim the stolen device?

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, The Forgotten?

The Forgotten is a YA science fiction novel that takes place both in a future version of London and the Victorian Era. In the past, a device has been stolen that has the potential to scorch the world to ruins, and the son and daughter of its inventor set out to reclaim it. In the future, in the world destroyed by the device, a teenage boy suspects the world’s leader plans to kill everyone in his town, and he – along with his friends – becomes involved with a rebel organisation. Gradually, the lives in the past and the future come together as both their worlds are threatened.

2. What part of the story came to you first?

There’s a scene in The Forgotten where Honour witnesses officials shoot a man with a Strain – a disease that is rampant in his world – in the middle of the street. That came to me first, and from that glimpse at the state of the world and the Officials who controlled it, I built the world of Forgotten London.

3. The Ravel siblings are from Victorian London. Did you do much research when creating their backstories?

I’ve actually lost count of how many books and articles I read as research for The Forgotten, in order to get the world and setting just right, though I’m currently building on that research for the third book, The Revelation, and so far I’ve put in a collective 53 hours of research. As soon as I answer one question about the Victorian Era, I become curious about another.

4. What was the hardest part of writing The Forgotten and how did you get through it?

Because I have such a large cast of characters, the hardest thing was integrating each character’s arc into the main plot and not letting either one overpower the other. The way I got through it was to plan extensively, and write each character’s arc in a list format that was easy for me to keep referring to.

5. Some of the major characters in The Lux Guardians series are LGBTQ+. Did you deliberately set out to create a diverse cast or did it just happen that way?

The main queer characters, Honour and Branwell, fell naturally into a relationship from friendship, and I didn’t intend them to be LGBT or really know Branwell was gay until I started writing The Wandering. But another main character, Yosiah, is bisexual, and I definitely did write him deliberately bi. Around the time I started writing The Forgotten, I was just getting into the queer community and learning the many varied ways a person can be queer, though I didn’t know my own orientation at that time. Still, I felt I belonged to the LGBT+ community and I wanted to include a part of myself in one of the characters. Yosiah was written as bisexual, and I later identified as pansexual, but I still feel connected to him as a character.

7. How would you like to see representation of LGBTQ+ characters change in the next five years?

I’d love to see more queer girls in YA. It feels like there are several more m/m books for every f/f book I find, and I’d like to see that number equal. I especially want more ownvoices LGBTQ+ books to be published, so readers – particularly young readers like MG and YA – can read authentic queer and trans stories.

8. What are some of your favourite diverse novels?

Some of my recent favourites are Stormsinger by Stephanie A. Cain, Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember, Daybreak Rising by C. K. Oliver (which comes out September 21st), and The Pyramids of London by Andrea K Höst.  All of them feature queer main characters in some form.

9. If you could give any aspiring writer only one piece of advice what would it be?

Write what you love most – and that passion will carry you through the rocky part of drafting any novel.

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

I’m working on the last two Lux Guardians books, which will both be out in 2017!

img_7259-600printbwSARUUH KELSEY lives in Yorkshire, in a house halfway between the countryside and the city with an absurd amount of books and craft supplies. She’s the author of The Legend Mirror and Lux Guardians series. Find her online at or follow her on twitter at @saruuhkelsey. You can purchase The Forgotten here.



Writing diverse characters, step 1: read diverse books

This summer I participated in a lot of conversations about increasing diversity in the publishing world, most of them on Twitter(where you can follow me @DiannaLGunn), and all of them with other writers. I’ve also read dozens of articles about the importance of representation, mostly at The Establishment and sometimes at Terrible MInds.

Many of these articles and conversations revolved around accurately representing a specific group of people. Sometimes an entire chat will be devoted to dismantling a certain trope and offering techniques for getting around it. Other chats discuss a broader subject like the overall treatment of LGBTQ+ chats.

What very few chats talk about is the diverse books that are already out there. The publishing revolution has already begun. Thousands of diverse books already exist, and I’m not talking about books written in completely different parts of the world or in different languages. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of diverse books are published on a daily basis in America, Canada, and the UK, the places where most of the authors you know come from. But you’re going to have a hard time finding most of them on a bookshelf because the diversity exists in small presses and self publishing. 

How do I know these books are out there? Well, I’ve spent the past few months interviewing authors with diverse casts(focusing on books with LGBTQ+ characters) and almost every author who has approached me is self published or works with a small publishing house. A couple have even been published through small presses that only publish LGBTQ+ stories. Most of these authors have also published multiple diverse novels. Others are working on a series featuring a diverse cast. The point is, they’re telling stories the big five publishers aren’t–and they aren’t the only ones.

It’s been said a million times that writers also have to be readers. Successful authors will tell you to read widely both inside and outside your genre. I’m telling you to take it a step further. Seek out diverse books. Find the small presses devoted to sharing the diverse stories big publishers aren’t prepared to take a chance on. Read their books religiously. Look for novels with every type of character. Even better, create a reading list with diverse authors telling stories rooted in their cultures and experiences.

There are many different ways to learn how to write diverse characters–and we must use several if we want to be authentic to each character–but it starts with immersing ourselves in diverse stories. If we continue to read exclusively books about straight white people who live in straight white worlds our minds will automatically create more stories about straight white people.

How do I know this? I live in the most multicultural city in the world and I have at least as many LGBTQ+ friends as I do straight friends, yet almost all of my stories revolve around straight white women who live in white worlds with castles and kings. Diversity only came into my books when I read diverse novels. Part of this was because I didn’t want to accidentally offend anyone, but it was mostly because the stories I thought up always came with well formed white characters who lived in white worlds. If we don’t read diverse novels we internalize assumptions about what fantasy & science fiction should look like. 

Is there an ideal number of diverse novels to read? Probably, but like most things in writing the answer is highly individual. You might want to alternate between highly diverse novels and more traditional stories(I’m doing this right now, and all the books on my current list were chosen to help with different aspects of my novel). You may decide to intersperse them randomly throughout your reading list. The important thing is that you make a list and actually read them.

Not sure where to start? Check out some of the authors I’ve interviewed:

Claudie Arsenault

L. Taylor

Heather Rose Jones

Taylor Brooke

Amelia Smith

Already know some great diverse books? Share them in the comments section below!

Author Spotlight: Cris & Clare Meyers

pwf-cover-04-08-680x1024Today I’m interrupting the series of interviews spotlighting novels with LGBTQ+ characters to introduce a co-writing pair who have done something I think is equally brave: co-written a novel while being married. I’ve worked with my fiance on some creative things but the idea of co-writing a novel with anyone freaks me out. Anyway, enough about me, here’s the blurb for their debut novel, Playing with Fire:

The rules are simple: Get in. Get out. Get paid.

Loner Renee Devereaux is a thief with a lot to hide, and trust is a risk she rarely takes. Stone Anders is a mercenary and hitman, but being a hired killer isn’t fitting like it used to. But while they are criminals, they are anything but common. Renee and Stone are Talents, and their supernatural powers give them an edge in a high stakes business where one wrong move could be their last.

It’s always just one job, and everyone scatters—sometimes in less than favorable circumstances. For Renee and Stone, that’s business as usual. But things change.

A chance at revenge draws Renee and Stone into a job they know they shouldn’t take. The job: Steal a dangerous magical artifact before it can be used. Along with the deadline, they’ll have to deal with a loudmouth hacker with problematic connections, a rookie who still believes in ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ and a professional liar with a cat’s curiosity.

Worse, something just doesn’t feel right.

But this is their job. They have a reputation to maintain, a paycheck to earn, and a score to settle….

And now to learn about how Playing with Fire came to be: 

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Playing with Fire?

Playing with Fire is an urban fantasy novel that features a set of supernatural thieves. This book follows two of them, Renee and Stone, through four different criminal jobs in four different locales and spans over a decade. Playing with Fire also introduces the three other planned point of view characters of the series during the fourth job: Rook, Carlos, and Grace.

2. What part of the story came to you first & whose idea did it start as?

The characters, Renee specifically. At dinner one night, Clare started musing about a magical thief that could turn invisible, and what that might mean in the criminal underworld. It ballooned from there. Stone followed pretty soon after that, and the story started taking shape as the relationship between the two got fleshed out. We had a ‘who’ and a ‘why;’ the rest was just figuring out a lot of ‘whats’ and ‘hows.’

3. How much planning did you do before Playing with Fire?

Before? Next to none. Just a concept and an idea, really. We hit the ground running, but we started planning as we went along—especially once it beecame clear we really had something worth pursuing here. The first fifteen pages (which covers the first of the four jobs in the book) was almost completely drafted (the first draft of it at least) before we started planning much out. But then we started nailing down details. As with most authors, we have a bunch of notes for stuff that doesn’t actually appear in the text. For now.

4. As co-writers, how do you split up the work?

We tend to alternate. First Clare will write a section (usually a few pages) before handing it off to Cris. He’ll then read through and edit/change/add to Clare’s work before writing a section himself. Then Clare will get it back and the cycle continues. Works great for when one of us gets writer’s block because we can see if the other will have ideas. We don’t disagree often, but when we do find ourselves with different ideas, we’ll stop and figure out which one fits better. Sometimes Cris is right. Sometimes Clare is. But there is a definite bonus in having more than one idea to play with.

5. Have either of you written novels on your own before/would you?

We’ve both written some stuff individually, but none of it is published or even to a point where we’re truly happy with it all. Clare has an unfinished historical, and Cris has a completed draft that was an attempt at horror and another epic fantasy that largely started as a joke between friends. But this is the project that’s gotten the farthest and also reached a level where we’re looking forward to sharing it publicly and publishing it.

6. Why did you decide to self publish Playing with Fire?

We did submit the draft to a more traditional publisher at first, but we never heard anything back. We considered submitting to others, but ultimately decided to put it out there ourselves. We didn’t want to let our work sit there—just waiting for the right moment—when we could share it ourselves. Who knows? Maybe we’ll try again for traditional publishing again; maybe not.

7. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned so far during the publishing process?

That Rise Against’s Give It All is remarkably inspiring when combatting a final 25-page stretch writer’s block, and Dr. Pepper and whiskey isn’t as bad a mix as one would think. More seriously, it’s that we work really well together so long as we keep from stepping on each other’s toes. We can think of several reasons why this project shouldn’t have worked. But here we are, and it’s a good feeling. But that’s writing the book, not publishing it. On the publishing side, the most unexpected thing has actually been how hard it is to sum up the 80k+ word book into a good blurb. Who knew that 200 words would be so challenging?

8. Who are some of your favourite self published authors?

Right now, there are more indie authors on our To Be Read list than on our Read one. So naming favourites at this point doesn’t quite feel right. Clare has done a lot of beta reading lately, so there are definitely some WIPs that she’s looking forward to seeing the final result. And Cris has read and reviewed an Advance Reader Copy for indie-turned-traditionally published author, Michael Munz. The ARC was for Munz’s first traditionally published book, Zeus is Dead.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice what would it be?

Don’t stop. We don’t care how bad that reads on paper, how stupid that sounds in your head, or how cliché that looks. Don’t. Stop. It can be fixed. You can do it better. You can revise. You can edit. You can update. But only if you get the words on the page, and Don’t Stop.

10. What are you looking at that readers can look forward to?

Well, Playing with Fire is actually the first in a series of books that feature these characters. We’re editing the second one, Fly by Night, now. And we’ve started working on the story for the third, Shifting Identities. The point of view shifts with each new book, so each one has its own voice and flavor and gives the reader a chance to get to know the characters in a way that can only come from getting inside their head.

Cris and Clare Meyers met in college, but didn’t start writing together until several years later. When they’re not writing, they can often be found reading (little surprise there, writers that also read). They also play a wide variety of games—some tabletop miniature games like Malifaux and Warhammer 40K (though the 40K is all Cris), an eclectic mix of board games, and of course, some video games. They live outside Chicago, but love to travel (though they don’t get to do that as often as they like).

Purchase Playing with Fire today!


What are you going to accomplish in the last four months of the year?

DSC_0615_editSomehow the first eight months of 2016 have already passed us by, and if you’re anything like me you’ve created a list of everything you’ve accomplished this year and you can’t decide if it’s an incredible amount of work or not quite enough(the real answer, I suspect, is a little bit of both). But one thing’s for sure: there are only a precious few months left to reach as many of our goals for the year as possible. Now is the time to start working towards these goals with ferocious determination.

And one of the best ways to motivate yourself is to announce your goals to the world, so please share your goals for the rest of the year in the comments section — but first let me tell you about a couple of my own writing goals:

  • September — Write 30,000+ words of the draft I’m currently working on(it’s a second draft but a complete rewrite), which will bring me almost to the end
  • October — Finish the draft I’m currently working on and write a short story. The second part of this will actually be a way bigger challenge.
  • November — Do final edits on a couple short things I’ve written and start editing the sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian, the fantasy novel I plan to self publish.
  • December — Finish editing the sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian(which will hopefully have a better name by then) and write a related short story.

I’m also working on a really intense series of blog posts about developing a diverse cast of characters to go with the interviews I’ve been doing, which will start next Tuesday. This month I’ll actually be attending multiple workshops on creating diverse characters, which I plan to write about in detail — but enough about me, I want to hear about your goals! Let me know what you’re getting up to this fall in the comments.