We recently opened the readers’ group on facebook to some question and answers, which are below. We’re also going to answer some questions we made up because we feel like it.
Get ready for a wild ride, because here we go!
Tina asks, “Do you use pictures of characters or places to help you write? I’ve seen a few authors that use a picture/mood board collection to help them with their stories and characters.”
We, the Kitties of the Management, say, “We love pictures. They’re pretty!”
Answer: Despite having aphantasia, I don’t actually use many pictures of people or places to write… to a certain extent. Pictures of places do help me make sure I’m writing the local flavor accurately. Google maps is amazing for this, because it captures snapshots of life in motion. You see what the car saw when it drove by. It has expressions of the residents, the state of the highways, and so on.
The thing with aphantasia, or the inability to create mental images of any form, is that I have zero idea how to communicate words in such a way to make pictures appear for you. I can only guess. So, I often do as little as possible description on the page. I want the reader to do what I can’t, which involves creating the little details that make the world come to life.
When I write, I want the reader to create an image founded on what they feel the character would perceive. Take Bailey’s view of Quinn for example.
To her, he is basically the sexiest thing to walk the planet, and she physically reacts to him every time he enters the room. Quinn, sly man that he is, is part of the reason why. But if I tried to overly describe him, that magic would be lost.
I don’t actually care what Quinn looks like. To Bailey, he is tall, dark, handsome, and so far out of her league it physically hurts her.
The magic is letting readers decide for himself what sort of man that is.
Since I can’t picture anyone at all, ever, as a reader, I only care about how other characters feel about each other.
I really like that style of writing because it gives people the freedom to pick and choose someone’s basic appearance. Now, I do want to address something, so here is the first question from myself to myself? But I have been asked this numerous times in the past.
Question: Why aren’t many of my characters described as fat or overweight?
Answer: Being overweight is often a consequence of medication many of us have to take. Some of us need that medication to control heart problems. For some, it’s to control depression. For others, it controls diabetes, combats cancer, or so on. Some struggle with mental illness. Some came from very poor families and developed food dependencies and a fear of going hungry.
Being overweight is not a simple ‘problem.’ I quote problem because frankly, it’s none of my business how anyone wants to live their life. It’s really not. I don’t know why someone may be overweight, and because I’m not an asshole, it’s none of my business. The only time I care is if somebody comes directly to me asking if I know a way to help them accomplish a goal, in which case I can only assume my input is actually welcome.
Otherwise, it’s simply not my problem. Not my body, not my problem. Some random stranger doesn’t need my thoughts or opinions on their body.
If I could change any one thing about the world right now, it would be a lot of these base problems. Those medications? That weight gain side effect is gone. Society being a dick to people who aren’t showing their ribs? Gone. Society telling people they should show their ribs? Gone.
Being overweight doesn’t make somebody unworthy of love, affection, or kindness.
Here is where the weight issue comes in:
Can you imagine Bailey overweight?
I certainly can’t. How about Ginger, who is so self-sacrificing she works hard, eats little, and will starve herself to literal death for the sake of her family? Nope. She can’t be overweight. It wouldn’t work.
A lot of the characters I write are in a situation where they simply can’t be overweight. Jade, in Outfoxed, faces that struggle. She can’t get enough food to be overweight.
In so many cases, weight gain is a privilege in the societies I have written. It’s a symbol of wealth and power.
When you’re not taking the medications that kill your ability to lose weight and pile on the pounds, and when you can’t afford to eat, you get people like Bailey, like Jesse, and like a lot of the characters populating my worlds.
There are plenty of happily chubby people in the worlds I’ve written, but here’s the kicker: they’re living happy lives.
In many of the books I’ve written, being overweight is an expression of happiness, and the characters in my books haven’t gotten that happiness yet–and have a long battle ahead of them.
And so they’re thin, usually unhealthily so, and as they clutch those better lives, they do get to enjoy those few extra pounds.
See Bailey in Burn, Baby, Burn.
So, it has nothing to do with being overweight is bad. If anything… carrying around those few extra pounds is sometimes the goal, right along with the joy of knowing where the next meal will come from.
This is nothing against those who enjoy being lean and being society’s ideal weight and build. More power to you.
But the overweight characters are not being forgotten. In many ways, they’re the goal.
Mostly, the circumstances of the characters’ lives do not allow them to be significantly overweight. Their weights are really a byproduct of their personalities, eating habits, and so on.
Could I do better as an author to get more pleasantly plump main characters? Absolutely. In reality, I just do not think about their weight at all when I’m writing unless there is a reason a character is overweight or starved. It’s just not on my radar.
It’s an aphantasia thing. I just don’t think of my characters by way of their physical attributes. That’s also a part of why my characters are not so physically-oriented in their romance.
I just don’t experience books in that fashion. To me, romance is the budding of a partnership and a respect for each other, not a dance between the sheets. Sure, dancing between the sheets can be nice, but I prefer to pursue the sparks that lead to the dance between the sheets.
Aphantasia makes sex scenes virtually impossible for me to write and less-than-interesting to read, so I don’t even bother to show up for that fight. That’s not why I’m writing the romance.
There are plenty who don’t like my brand of romance because they prefer the physical attraction. That’s fine. As I’m physically incapable of imagining their situations like that, my characters just don’t produce romance in that sort of way.
I do wish people would stop defining romance by whether or not characters have sex.
I write by emotion, because that’s how I read. I don’t picture my books when I’m reading.
I feel them.
Maria asks, “How can we help with book reviews other than saying it was wonderful?”
Answer: Upvote the helpful, 5* reviews on your favorite authors’ books. This helps make sure the good reviews make it to the top of the product page and increase the general chance someone will purchase a book. But, I’ll make an easy list here.
1: Buy the book or check it out from your public library. I mean, you can do both if you really want.
1a: If it’s not at your public library, request an ebook or print copy. If they purchase it, check the book out. The number of times a book is circulated (checked out) influences if the library will purchase more books by that author. Get your local friends to check out and read the books, too!
2: Upvote 5* reviews on Amazon by clicking the “helpful” button. Pick the reviews that showcase why you also loved the book. A lot of people mark the critical reviews as helpful but almost never mark the good 5* reviews as helpful, so the product page becomes overwhelmed with negative reviews.
In particular, the Royal States series (Susan Copperfield) could use a lot of upvote/helpful love. Most of the books have a lot of critical views at the top of the product pages. Obviously, it’s up to a reader if they leave a positive or negative review, but on a ‘help the author make more sales’ level, marking positive reviews as helpful puts those reviews in the spotlight.
3: Share a newly released book on your social media pages, making sure it is set to public so anyone who stumbles by your profile can see it. Hit the like button, leave a comment squealing how excited you are to read it. Release weeks are roller coasters for authors, and a reader going “I’m so excited to read this!” can be a much needed break in the storm clouds.
4: If you are in a group that encourages recommendations, recommend the authors you love most, just please make sure you obey the rules of those groups and try not to spam anybody, please.
Susan asks, “Instant Pot… best kitchen helper or not?”
Answer: I have one, I do not use it much. I loathe the slow cooker function on it. It is unreliable and often results in unsafe food. I have tested it, and have had to throw out slow ‘cooked’ food a few too many times. Always temperature check your Instant Pot food.
For pressure cooking? It’s fantastic. The other features? Not so much…
Emily asks, “Okay, so because I am obsessed with all things Royal States. I know that there are a few books as play projects, both in the main series and the Agents series. At one point, you also mentioned doing a trilogy for the Monster of Montana. Is that still a possibility (obviously down the line)? And do you have any other fun Royal States things you want to share?”
Answer: Oh boy. Yes, the Monster of Montana trilogy will still be a possibility. I’m very slowly working on them. Very. Slowly. So slowly. Truth be told, I’ll probably end the Royal States series with that trilogy, just as a close the curtains to how it all started.
As for other fun Royal States things I want to share, not really. I have a bunch of books in the works, but I have no dates for them. I need to survive 2020 first. I will confirm the next Royal States book to release will be Runaway, followed with The Vampire of Montana. There is a slim possibility the Trickster King might beat Vampire out of the gate, but it’s unlikely.
Ingrid asks, “Any news on Dustin the waterwitch or our lovely Otter and Badger couple?”
Answer: No. I haven’t even started on Dustin’s next feature, and Shane and Marian will not be getting a second book as of this time. I have a short story I want to write with them, which will show up in a Mag Rom Com anthology, but I just don’t have a novel for them. Should I get one, I’ll write it, but for now, it’s just not on my radar. Will I write one if I get an idea for it? Yes. Otherwise, no. And I’m not going to beat my head into a wall to write a sequel when I have a bazillion other books I really want to write. Sorry!
Anonymous asks, “What are the next audible books coming out?”
Answer: Booked for Murder, Water Witch, A Chip on Her Shoulder, and Water Viper. No dates. There will never be dates. ACX (Audible) does as ACX does, and it is a random period of time before books are reviewed by their team. It can be two weeks. It can be three months. Whenever an audiobook hits retail, you will find out. I will tell you. But I can never give you dates for audiobook releases. Sorry.
Currently, Water Viper and Water Witch are pending audio review at ACX. This is the final stage before retail release. Water Viper has been in the queue since September 7, 2020. Water Viper entered the queue on October 7, 2020. It could be another month or two for Water Viper, or it could be tomorrow… I really don’t know. That’s up to ACX.
Gwendolynn asks, “Are there any side characters that are frequently requested as a MC, but you just can’t wrap your creative head around it? Or side characters that roam around your head, and could possibly become a MC? Like, maybe, Dustin Walker?”
Answer: Gorgons. GORGONS. Everybody wants gorgons!! Secondary characters I will never write? Gorgons. They’re wonderfully fun side characters, but I will never write them as a main character. Well, with possibly one exception. See Blending In. I could possibly write a short story or novella about the gorgon in that one. (She’s ‘strangely monogamous for a gorgon.) I have just no interest in writing polyamorous lead characters. I don’t enjoy reading polyamorous main characters, and I don’t want to write them, either. There are a lot of them out there for you to enjoy, but they’re just not going to be main characters in my books.
I’m not even sorry for that. Why? I would do a shit job of writing it, and that’s that. I’m glad people enjoy the gorgon harems, but it’s just not happening. The social structure of the gorgon relationships are hard enough to track for them as side characters, and I would be spending more time trying to figure out the complicated weave of relationships than writing, and that’s another reason I just don’t want to. It’s not my cup of tea, and all it would do is result in a bad book.
Shane and Marian are always requested. I have no ideas for them outside of a singular short story. I have ideas for Tulip and Justin, but while I have the concept and a desire to write it, COVID has utterly destroyed my ability to write that sort of plot line. It’s a little too dark for what I can handle right now.
She’s a serial killer, not a daisy, after all.
I also get asked about Last but not Leashed often. Yes, eventually. I’ll get there. Brain no make words go! Brain no make words go. (Insert helpless crying in the corner.)
But yes, top requested is probably Dustin and Bailey. More Bailey. Always more Bailey. And the SOBBING that the last Bailey book is the last Bailey book.
So much sobbing.
Y’all are lucky I left the concrete cake arc open in Burn, Baby, Burn and had that one character go off doing that one thing, or you wouldn’t be getting a book three, and I would have closed it with the wedding. I almost closed the concrete cake arc just to let Bailey and Quinn ride off into the sunset after the wedding.
But no, I sighed and left the concrete cake (and the rabies, and the one character) arcs open to have enough material to write a third book.
I will say this much: go ahead and complain at me one more time about leaving open plot threads… try me. (Seriously… this is one of MY biggest complaints. I leave some threads open so there CAN be a book. Why does Hoofin’ It not have a sequel? I didn’t leave any substantial enough threads open for there to be a second book. The big points are all happily closed or other characters get to ride the horse of the threads open elsewhere.)
That happens. Often. You just don’t always realize some of the later Mag Rom Com books happened because I left a thread open, that had consequences, and it led to another plot line. One day, I might make a map of how books link to each other. It will look like a very tangled weave.
I DO recommend you play the Six Degrees game with the Mag Rom Com series. Use Quinn for it once. Use Bailey for it another round. Use Satin for one round, and pick Michael or Gabriel for the last round.
You will discover some very interesting connections should you happen to play the Six Degrees game.
Diane asks, “If you had no work constraints, where would you choose to live, and in what kind of house/apartment, and what would you have in your garden(s)?”
Answer: Probably somewhere in Europe. Portugal is near the top of my list. I’d definitely have tomatoes if at all possible. But really, somewhere with weather similar to California but without the fires. The fires are so damned stressful.
Please insert an essay here about twenty plus different varieties of tomatoes I would enjoy growing. I’m sparing you from this. But yes, tomatoes. So many tomatoes.
Anonymous asks, “The pwf group have random authors that promote there books they do give stuff away while plugging there books have u considered asking to hijack someone else’s group for a day for more exposure most of the fab13 write in your genre. Eve langalis Kristen Painter ect”
Answer: No. This is way too stressful for me. I do the book faires if people want to pimp my books for me and thank them with sharing to my blog, but I’d rather be writing.
It’s also way too stressful. So much stress. I have done this before, but it never resulted in sales for me. What does result in sales are when readers talk to other readers and gush about the books. So, I save myself a great deal of time, effort, and stress by keeping to myself. I advertise in other ways.
Michelle asks, “Do you have a favorite type of book you like to read or is it like your writing?”
Answer: I want to read what I write as a general rule. It often works out that I can’t find what I want to read, so I write it since that’s the only way I’m going to be reading it.
Seriously, more than half of my books started out that way…
Mary asks, “Is there a shape-shifting animal you haven’t addressed yet that you really want to use in a future project? If yes, what and why; if not which is your favorite of the ones you have used.”
Answer: Dragons. I’m slated to do some dragons in the somewhat near future, but that’s a big one on my list I haven’t quite gotten to yet. Why? Dragons are fun. I need no other reason why. (And yes, I already have done dinosaurs in the Rift King world, although their shapeshifting is odd at best. But the skreed are heavily based on dinosaurs… and they technically can/do shapeshift. The active shapeshifting has not been witnessed yet in the series.
Dianne asks, “Do you have a full plan for a series before you start (ie. number of books, themes and characters for each)? If so, how frequently does the end product match the plan? If not, how do you keep it all straight in your head so that each successive book is consistent with its previous volumes?”
Answer: Yes and no. Because it can take 1-2 years to get a booking slot with my primary designer, I need to know how many books will be in a series. Once the cover is made, I just make sure the main character matches what’s on the cover as much as possible. As the cover requires a tone and theme, I do the bare minimum to establish that when I book the cover.
The frequency this goes to plan is 100% because it’s really, really expensive to recover a book.
As for keeping it all straight, I write down notes and re-read the books in the series if I am concerned about consistency. And I go back and confirm what I wrote in the book. Ultimately, the previous books are the “master” note file… it doesn’t matter what I write in my notes; the published books are king, and consistency is all about making sure one goes back and checks that it is consistent.
Randi asks, “Are you an outliner or more seat of your pants? Do you do character sketches?”
Answer: I do whatever needs to be done to get the story written. I don’t believe in forcing myself to stick to any one method. Some books need to be outlined because they’re complicated. Others come out better when I write by the seat of my pants. I do whatever is necessary to get the book finished. No, I do not do character sketches. As I have aphantasia, it’s kind of useless for me. There’s no point in doing them because why bother? I never had a picture of the character in my head anyway. I don’t write like that.
Do I do basic character notes? Only in so much as tracking important information, such as if I actually list their eye color or skin tone or nationality.
Arlene asks, “What food could you eat 4 times a week & not get sick of it?”
Avril asks, “I know this is kind of like asking about your favorite child/cat, but I’m very curious. Of your main characters who is your favorite and why? Also, if you had to live in one of the literary worlds that you created, which would it be and why?”
Answer: Probably Charles Desmond from the Witch & Wolf world. He’s fun, he adds spice to the page, and so on. Dustin Walker comes as a close second. I’d probably move into the Witch & Wolf world and go where the wuffs and witchies aren’t. Safer that way! And otherwise… fairly normal.
I would absolutely not move into the Mag Rom Com world. It might be fun to visit but it would drive me batty. I am a fairly logical person, and there is nothing logical about the Mag Rom Com world. (Fun to visit and write, not my cuppa tea for a place to live.)
Michelle asks, “Were the murder rom coms planned to be interwoven or did you retcon when satan adopted? The early ones all seemed disconnected to me but in the last satan started referencing their events.”
Answer: Then you haven’t been paying attention. They were always designed to build off each other. Every book introduces something new to the world that is ultimately used later. Hoofin’ It, for example, makes understanding the problems of Whatever for Hire much simpler; you got to see certain species in action and how they typically live versus how the ‘natural order’ is disturbed in WFH.
No Kitten Around was actually started long before WFH was, it just hadn’t gotten finished.
But, play the six degrees game using Bailey, Quinn, and especially the Devil. That may help you figure out how things fit together better. The deeper you get into the series, the more apparent the connections become as more characters meet each other. It just happens the Devil meddles early and often, so you can often see the connections better when you use him as your six degrees marker.
Hearth, Home, and Havoc is, in some ways, the ‘least’ connected in the series, but it has some little gems hidden in it that support some more integral things that happen later in the series.
But seriously. Play the six degrees game with the series, and you should begin seeing a lot of connections you likely didn’t notice before.
Emily asks, “You have a few books/series that have gotten new covers (Royal States, Blood Bound, Witch & Wolf, some Mag Rom Coms, and Jesse Alexander). What are the driving factors that make you decide to do a cover “refresh”?”
Answer: Sales. That’s it, that’s all. A cover’s job is to sell books. If the books aren’t selling, the cover is probably going to be refreshed. The covers are the gatekeepers of book sales, and if the cover isn’t drawing attention, it’s the first thing to get the ax.
I will be standardizing the Mag Rom Com covers next, so Playing with Fire, Hoofin’ It, and many others will be getting new covers; the one style of cover sells significantly better than the other.
And for the more serious portion of this post, list style:
1: I am investing in an attempt to complete a major bucket list item, which involves hitting USA Today with a full-priced new release. I picked the Flame Game. I’d like to have Bailey & Quinn’s final book go out with a bang! Yes, it really is their final book. Yes, you can read it and follow along without having read Playing with Fire or Burn, Baby, Burn, although you will probably enjoy it more if you read the first two of their trilogy. I need about a hundred more sales at Barnes & Noble and several thousand more sales at Amazon (the US site) to qualify. Yeah. This won’t be easy. Right now, I’m basically at the halfway point. Which is incredible! Sales at Apple US also count for USA today, assuming I get enough sales to qualify (AKA they report to USA Today.) Kobo US can count… but they do not always report, so I am ignoring Kobo in terms of listing.
If you’d like to help, preordering really helps, especially at Amazon and B&N. On Amazon, the more numbers of preorders I receive, the better my book is ranked on the website on its release day, plus I can generally figure out how many more sales I need/advertising I need to do in order to have the bas sales figures required. Outside of preordering, telling your friends about the book, hitting up goodreads and shelving the Flame Game (and dropping 5* all over the series because goodreads is often a harsher site that everywhere else) and otherwise expressing how much you’re looking forward to the story helps. A lot.
Will I make it?
Very probably not.
Am I going to try?
2: I will be in my hole until mid December. I have to finish 3 or 4 novels by then, which means I will be all work and zero play until then, working 12+ hours 7 days a week. As soon as the last book is finished, I am hiding until January 1, where my new and much saner schedule begins. I just have to survive until then.
And no, I can’t move any other preorders. I’ve moved all of the preorders I can.
3: Yes, I moved Client from Hell until late July so I could have room to breathe. I’m sorry if that disappoints you, but I really needed the room to breathe. And the ability to have a sane workday.
4: Yes, 2021+ will (likely) have a reduced publication schedule. I don’t want to die from working myself to death, and I would like to be able to take actual vacations.
Have a great day and happy reading, folks.