nuts & bolts Promotion Writing Life

Book needs blurb. Author needs hug.

Writing cover copy is a particular set of writing skills, but skills can be learned, right?   Practice makes perfect. No pressure. These are just the words that make or break a reader’s first impression of my book. IT’S FINE, REALLY.


Here’s my first stab at a blurb for The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday, the next novel in my Rough Passages supers series. Thoughts, anyone?

Grace Trapani is fighting for her life. The Department of Public Safety wants her behind bars, her estranged husband wants to control her body and soul, and the power in her blood makes her a threat to her own family.

She left behind everything she knows to protect her daughters, but she can’t hide from the destructive forces growing inside her. Only a dedicated group of rebels within the Department can help her escape imprisonment and death.

I know it needs something. Salt? Garlic? A swift, sharp kick? Anyway.

Also, Grace’s last name is currently up for revision. It might end up being Horn or Reed, or maybe Keiffer?  NAMES ARE HARD TOO. Ideas welcome.

To end on a less-whiny note, pretty pictures! The top image is the full-wrap cover painting. Below is a detail on the front cover. It’s coming out pale on my monitor, not sure why. It’s gorgeous, really.


1. Storysculpting Authoring Writing Advice Writing Life

Sweeping Away Distractions

I have a serious inertia problem. Getting started is a bitch. Switching tasks is worse.

Yes, I know, concentration is hard for everyone. All the same, those who know me IRL will attest to my epic difficulties settling AND my amazing ability to barnacle once I’ve landed.

A high inertia score does have its upside. I have been known to forget meals and forego sleep entirely while immersed in a Big Doing. I can be nigh-impossible to pry loose from a task once settled. The trick these days is avoiding the perils of the internet.

I do not blame the internet for my inertia, no. Back in the day, I could channel-surf for hours. I could waste hours reading the newspaper. I would clean things. But unlike those old-school distractions, online bread & circuses ars ubiquitous and inescapable. It’s not only on my computer, it’s on my phone. My reading tablet. It tempts from all sides, at all hours, and willpower is a finite resource.

The nasty reality is that I either lose creative time to social media and my various online obsessions, or I can forfeit creative energy to the effort of ignoring those temptations.

Or I could enlist the aid of artificial intelligence in my fight to focus.  That’s the route I’ve taken. I now have an internet-blocking program to  fight the good fight for me.

I forked over ducats for the Freedom app. (Green butterfly logo.)  It has a simple interface, seamless cross-device compatibility, and it was the most customizable program I found. See, I need certain kinds of internet access for many aspects of my creative work, from use of the online thesaurus to historical fact-checking etc, but I need to be prevented from channel-surfing my way through other sites.

Why that app? There are pro’s and cons to all the internet blockers. Better bloggers than me have written excellent comparisons. I will not attempt to top them. A search on “reviews of apps to cut down on distractions” or “internet blocking app review” will net a fine selection. I did a lot of research. (Yes, I saw the irony in spending time online researching ways to spend less time online…but it had to be done.)

The Freedom app’s best aspect for me is the ability to schedule by day, time and device — I do not even have to will myself to turn on the distraction-remover. It happens automatically. And if I need-need-need to override it, I can do so on the phone or tablet easily.  But mostly I don’t.

I do not regret the hours I spend diving down figurative internet rabbit holes after odd facts & critical resources, and I am infinitely improved by time spent with the generous amazing folk who have befriended me in the virtual world.

But. Oh, BUT.

The online party never ends, and I can’t stay  24/7/365.  I have reading to do, I have plants to water,  I have a cat to brush…

I have stories to write. And now I have more time and more energy for them.

Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers. Handy link:

2. Worldbuilding nuts & bolts Writing Advice

The devil is in the details

I love world-building. I hate being bogged down in lengthy explanations. Those two ideas seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. Constructing a whole reality idea by idea doesn’t have to mean burying the reader in excess information. It’s successful if it’s real. It works if it works.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how that gets done lately, and here’s the stream-of-consciousness result.

I like a sausage-making metaphor: massive quantities of information has to be smooshed into a compact, spicy form that looks, feels, and tastes nothing like the disparate ugly ingredients of its origin. I also like a phrase stolen from role-playing. “When in doubt, roll and shout.”

Research is critically important, but it isn’t narrative-friendly.  If I haven’t considered all the implications of every idea that I dream up, then I will write something idiotic or miss obvious contradictions. But if I don’t provide all that background I made up when I write about things that don’t exist, then the reader will drown in unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts.

It’s a tricky balance. Part of the problem is the difference between real life and narrative life.

None of us notice everything about everything in our daily lives. We take reality for granted. Most of us don’t ponder the intricacies of electrical power generation and distribution when we turn on a lamp. We don’t discuss historical origins and socio-political underpinnings of every news event. In conversation we don’t provide definitions to each other for nouns we use every day.

But stories are condensed life. Dialogue is more than conversation. Writers can make every interaction and description a springboard for adding information to the mix. But does can mean should? (NO)  How much of the sausage-making needs to be shown?

When I come up with some clever new idea, the first thing I must decide is, does it work? Do all the imaginary events, objects, people, histories, actions, and places I want to include in my world make sense together?  Then I have to decide does that idea need to be in this story? The last tricky hurdle: when I describe these ideas, do my descriptions feel plausible?  That isn’t the same as the descriptions being precise.  Far from it. 

There’s an art to achieving realism.  What’s the right amount of information to make a world feel real without boring the reader to tears?  Alas, the answer is it depends. There’s a spectrum of tolerance for raw information. Pleasing every reader is impossible. I wish there was a formula or even a rule of thumb, or an easy middle road, but there isn’t.

There are tricks & tropes to ease data delivery into a story: the newbie; the research montage; the fish out of water, the amazing discovery–there’s a whole kit of craft tools. (A new one I’ve learned: slotting critical facts around cliffhanger action.) But those still only cover the how, not the which or the  how much.

Texts thick with numbers, vocabulary, and dates leave me cold, so they aren’t what I write. I use the technique I like best as a reader: immersion. I describe my worlds the way someone living in them would experience them. Then I add the minimal explanatory material to that framework.

Enough and only enough: that’s my descriptive mantra.  Brevity entices the reader’s imagination and sets it roaming free.  If I’ve done the does it work part of my world-build properly I don’t need to show much at all. My readers don’t nee a treatise on economics with every passing place name reference.  I can even leave details vague in my own mind until I need to write about that place.

A last phrase I keep in mind when dealing with world backgrounds is one attributed to several classic showmen, “Always leave them wanting more.”  If I build my world in broad strokes and use sharp wordcraft on the little I let into my story, readers will know there is more and come back for seconds.

If the devil is in the details, then get thee behind me, details.

1. Storysculpting Authoring Promotion

NOT a 2016 Year-End Post

No, really. It’s only my usual Things I Do lists. This one’s subtitle is “things I made last year,” but that doesn’t make it a year-end summary. It’s about the action, not the annuality. And yes, annuality is a real word.

So what did I do?

A. I published not one, not two, but THREE audiobooks. Both my Restoration novels and my first of my Rough Passages Tale are now in a listenable format. Yes, your library can buy these as well, or they can be downloaded from You can even get it free from Audible without a membership if you email a request to me (dawnrigger at gmail dot com) for a free gift download while supplies last.


B. I published a combined print edition of two novellas I released as ebooks in 2014 & 15. Only $9.99 for a full-length paperback if you want to buy one for someone or to complete
your collection– or you can just put in a purchase request at your local library.

C. I contracted with local graphic artist Nicole Grandinetti for a new Flight Plan cover, I reformatted the interiors, and hired local editor Lynn McAllister to do a final proofing edit. Then I uploaded the results to Kindle Publishing and Createspace. Ta-dah!

D. I made some of my lovely words available to people who only download iBooks or Nook books, or who read through services like Scribd. All my Rough Passages Tales and the Partners Omnibus are now available from a cross-platform distributor called Draft2Digital.

E. I put serious time into a photo manipulation program and designed a new cover for Nightmares so the series would have a more cohesive look. None of my home-designed covers will win any awards, and I loved the original Nightmares graphic, but the new one better represents the storyline.  That’s something, I hope.

But wait, there’s MORE!

F. I bought and registered a block of ISBNs to Dawnrigger Publishing and dove into the long, complicated, tedious process of entering my book information into the Bowker Books In Print database. I’m sure it’s a cakewalk for detail-oriented people, but oy, the details. Yes, it was expensive, but with 9 titles to register in multiple formats — and more to come for certain — it was time.

G. I finished the “final draft” of a novel I’d been fighting for nearly two years. It still needs revision, but it’s complete in more-or-less its final form, and that’s a point I’d nearly despaired of reaching.

H. And then I dug into the challenge of taking a story idea I was heavily invested in keeping short and letting it expand to become the length it wants to be. Heartwood will be at least a novella when it’s complete. I have no idea when I’ll finish it, but it will be finished next, whenever. One major lesson I have accepted this year: I can only aim my energy in one direction at a time.

When I look back, it was a busy year, but I never felt I was moving forward, never noticed the tally growing. Here we are running full tilt into the new year, and still it’s hard to believe. It’s a blind spot, what can I say?

It’s why  I pause to record life every so often to remind myself that I ACCOMPLISHED MORE THAN BREATHING, BY GOLLY. It’s a good feeling.

Postscript: I once did a whole post being clueless about where I’ve been until I look back at what I’ve escaped. 2016 was a year of ugh, yuck, blergh and meh, but it was better in some ways than 2015, which was marginally better than 2014.

Why? Because I started leaking mental sand in early 2014. (No logical explanation. No external causes to analyze. No trauma, no villain. No narrative. Hello, biochemistry. But I digress.)

Everything takes more effort when the brain sand starts spilling out. It’s like running in knee-high water or going up a down escalator. I can keep moving, I’ll make progress, but it’s slow and exhausting. I could think and feel and create when I also clung tight to all those slippery intellectual and emotional grains and pressed them into a functioning mind shape. But whenever I relaxed my guard or got distracted, the crumbling started all over again.

This year was a struggle and full of dire badness, but ideas began sticking together without so much extra daily work. A bright point. I’ll take it.  Hallelujah.


Authoring Writing Advice Writing Life

Don’t Lose That Lovin’ Feeling

If I ever become Queen of the World I shall require the following boxed disclaimer be posted above the “how to publish” advice on every site:

Warning: becoming a published author may suck all the joy out of writing. Proceed with caution. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on. This too shall pass. 

I don’t know if the barrage of cliches would work, but I’m forever glad I was given such a warning so I’m paying it forward. Forewarned is forearmed.

Once the first story hits the wide world, life changes forever. The irrevocable shift in identity from writer to author comes with big responsibilities attached, and learning to juggle all the new balls takes adjustment. The learning curve is especially steep for independent authors. To mix a few more metaphors into this stew, it takes a village to raise a book-baby, but many indies head into the adventure as armies of one.

I knew what to expect as much as anyone can be prepared for a new phase of life, but the experience still staggered me for two years. I clung to the following lifeline: it’s normal to be overwhelmed by major life changes. Know that and take solace in solidarity–you are not the first, you are not alone– but also know that knowing is only half the battle.

The good news is there’s no wrong way get through the adjustment. The bad news is there’s no one right way, and there’s no timetable. There’s more to the process than “giving it time,” but making the mistakes that lead to your right way does take time. Being me, I like to waste time wondering why does this happen?  So for today’s digression here’s my thinking on why publishing causes so much disruptive angst.

Before I published, my words and I were huddled together in a lonely bunker. I spent my time with my words. Alone. Publishing was the creative equivalent of stepping from that isolated defense zone into a constant assault of mental and emotional flack. The attacks never stop. From the dull tedium of promotion scheduling & social media maintenance to the distracting excitement of creative authoring tasks (editing, cover design, formatting etc)  maintenance of published books can take over every waking minute. Feeding the post-publication machine leaves little energy for working on new material, but neglecting published books to concentrate on creating leads to a different kind of guilt.

It’s a no-win situation for the author. The only way to win is to refuse the battle. Crawl back into the bunker as often as possible. Creativity thrives on quiet and focus. My time and my enthusiasm are fragile, defenseless non-combatants. Post-publication I fight to defend my inspiration from floating clouds of distraction shrapnel. (Even this blog can be its enemy. Navel-gazing is easy. Fiction is hard.)

All these authoring battles will leave new authors with little time or energy for creating. In many cases, even the original enthusiasm for the act of writing itself gets destroyed.

I was spared that last part because I had no love of writing to lose. At best I tolerate the process of forcing my thoughts into a linear progression of static letters. (True confession. 3 published novels, 2 more completed but waiting their turn and a bag full of finished novellas on the side, and not a single one is the product of joy.)

(Digression to the digression If you wonder why I spend so many thousands of hours engaged in an activity I loathe, I will answer: the stories in my head can’t be finished or shared without resorting to prose. I love the end result, and I don’t hate the process of making it. just like I don’t hate weeding. I like a tidy garden. I like a finished story.)

To return to the point: the writing gig will NOT be easier once the publishing happens.  Give up the dangerous hope of “when it’s done, it’s done,” and realize that birthing a book-baby means being its parent forever afterwards.

So.  Brace yourself for the worst: once you enter the public arena through the door marked PUBLISHED, your creativity will never be the same. It will become different and probably it will be better, but don’t expect the change to be easy. You’ll have to fight to find a new balance.

Here’s my list of ways to keep my groove as groovy as possible. (Nothing works universally or permanently.) As advice it’s worth exactly as much as you’re paying for it:

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Try out different new productive habits until you find a good fit for the new normal.
  • Fight distraction and forgive yourself lapses.
  • Remember: change is disruptive. Even happy changes.
  • Remember: no storm lasts forever. The newness will pass.
  • If you don’t like your post-pub equilibirum, you can ALWAYS rock the boat again.

And there you have it. Here endeth the pontification.

Plus a reminder that I have a sale coming up.
Would you like to support it without paying a cent? You can!

Join my Thunderclap campaign!

Here are the sale deets: July 25-31 Kindle Exclusive. Get three of my five Restoration e-books for a TOTAL of  99 cents. Such a deal. Tell all your friends.

…and the story behind the post:
A writer asked a Facebook group for advice after publishing a first novel.  They missed the fun they’d once had,  wondered if anyone else ever felt that way and if so, did anyone know how they could recover their joy?  They conveniently identified all the usual suspects from bad reviews and concerns about the sequel living up to book one, to the time-sucks of promotion and social media maintenance. When my comment got all wordy and figurative, I decided it would do better here as a full-blown pretentious lecture.  Or helpful inspiration with a bit of humor and personal perspective. Whichever.