The Marketing Game

I don’t know how to market my books.

Seems like it should be straightforward – you find websites or blogs, or do it on social media, right? I figured out how to publish to Amazon, read about other publishing avenues and selected for other vendors like Barnes & Noble and GooglePlay, wrote ten books, (am working on number eleven), compiled one series into an anthology, have done research on all sorts of cool stuff like vegetation in Morocco to swords, and you might think that’s the hard work… but it’s not.

Figuring out how to market is. According to their guidelines, Amazon doesn’t want to advertise explicit stuff and has basically restricted advertising on all my books – how other authors with sometimes MUCH more explicit or disturbing stuff get around that I don’t know but I had someone in the indie sphere tell me that exceptions are made for authors who bring in money; I have no idea if it’s true or if there’s something else going on and no way to find out. Keywords are a mysterious thing on Amazon as well, and you can find a lot of opinions on what to do with no real idea as to whether what the person is suggesting culminates in actual results.

Book giveaways used to be something that potentially exposed me to more readers, but Goodreads now charges over $100 for a single giveaway! The sum total of their work is they read over and approve your submission for a giveaway; it should cost no more than $50, yet here we are. As a result I haven’t done a giveaway in a while because I can’t seem to find a good alternative and the number of new readers I got on Goodreads per giveaway wasn’t high enough to make it a good ROI for that cost.

I’ve done advertisements on various larger blog sites (like Uncaged Books), I’ve joined RWA (Romance Writers of America), I’ve done blog tours through several different blog sites, and I am moderately active on Twitter.

I shouldn’t complain – I have had far more success than most authors – the problem is I don’t know WHY. Why did I sell over 150 copies of my first book in one day in Australia only two weeks after it was released? (I ended up selling several hundred books that month.) If I at least had an inkling how that happened I could tailor my efforts.

It’s frustrating and Authorland can be dirty and underhanded. I know about Cockygate (where an author tried to trademark the word cocky and harassed other authors who had previously used it), of authors who DO exchange free stuff for five-star reviews, of writers who have been damaged by fake 1-star reviews, of authors who used sockpuppets to get on a Goodreads Group reading list and made over ten thousand dollars in one month (they were found out before that payment was made); I have read about secretive groups of high-ranking authors who collude in promoting certain genres in order to generate sales for their fellow members, of bookstuffing to get more sales, authors who put hyperlinks in the beginning of their books that send you to the last page, increasing their Kindle Unlimited page count, cliques that pop up, authors that slam readers, readers who slam authors, and on and on…

I just want people to see my book and if they like the summary/details, they can download it. One of my books is even free and I’ll soon make the first book of my fantasy series free too. My goal, at least, seems pretty straightforward.

There is a great deal of ‘noise’ in the system; by that I mean there is so much junk you have to wade through that it takes effort to find an author/book that is really what you are looking for. There is an incredible amount of money in books, so much so that people sometimes lie, cheat or demean ‘competitors’ (why? there are so many books a person can read!) and booksellers will create an opaque system to maximize a perceived advantage; I want to maintain my integrity while navigating a system where you see all sorts of BS around you and wonder how anyone will find you.

Wall-E: Batallón de limpieza - Ecoembes | Amarillo, Verde ...

Lately I’ve been thinking of trying to submit a book for a review from a large(r) and respected organization, like the Portland Book review or IndieReader, to try something different. With a limited ‘marketing budget’, choosing where to put the money is very difficult; this is one advantage that a traditional publisher has over an Indie – they have not only the know how and connexions, but also money they can put into an advertising campaign to make an unknown author practically a household name before their book even hits the shelves. What works, what doesn’t? Indies don’t usually like to share the secrets of their success, so it’s a lonely slog.

One thing that my SO, ‘Mr. Man’ always reminds me is that it never hurts to write another book. So when I’m done with “The Void Wept” I have another book to move on to. 😉

Warm regards,


You Don’t Know

How do other people do things, or think?

I don’t believe it’s something we consider a lot. By the time we’re adults, most of us know a bit about ourselves – how we react to certain situations, what makes us nervous, what our favourite foods are… frankly all sorts of things.

We only know how to be us; we only know how the human being WE are works – and sometimes not all that well. I hate bad drivers, to this day they trigger me and I haven’t developed a good skill for dealing with them, other than to revert to New Jersey behaviour and call them something colourful and get annoyed.

Writing is a good example of what we don’t know. If you read Hemingway, Stout and Joyce, you’ll see they use words differently – they express themselves with a distinct style, and each has a unique approach to language. I’ve read that it is difficult for someone to mimic the feel of another author – there is so much of our personhood, our identity in the way we express ourselves for us to really be able to grasp the core of who someone else is in a way that allows us to parrot them.

People can change styles – I’ve written in first person, third person, present and past tenses – but the way we put together our thoughts, the circumstances we highlight, the words we choose, the cadence to our speech or writing… it is all varied.

I thought of this the other day when I posted the following tweet:

The song is sad; it’s about loss but it’s a great song done in typical Offspring style – not a ballad, but strong with hard guitar and Dexter Holland yelling at you about pain.

It’s the little things in books that you sometimes feel the most and they come from the author’s own experience; sometimes you can extrapolate what may have happened to create the scene, other times it’s so obfuscated you’ll never know the origin point, and whether it is real or a contrast to how the author feels.

Perspective is valuable – it’s interesting. There’s merit in trying to see things from other points of view, but don’t lose sight of your own, the value it has, or how it might have shaped who you are. Turn it all – the pain, the disappointment, the joy and hope – into a strength. In to you.


On Good Friday (April 19) Mr. Man and I found out Remus has central nervous system lymphoma; he has a lesion at the base of his brain that also wraps a little around his spinal cord. It’s one of the worst diagnoses we could have gotten.

At the time he couldn’t walk but he was our determined, bratty, loving boy in every other way. He still licked my forehead; he has always been headstrong, so he would still try to get up, even though his legs weren’t working. The lesion had put so much pressure on the spine that his cerebrospinal fluid was backed up (we saw it on the MRI), and his spinal cord also had some constriction.

It was a long day, and while we were in the consult room with the neurologist, Remus would bite the shirt of whichever one of us was holding him (sometimes getting a little skin!), and tug, as if to say, ‘I’m done! Let’s go HOME!’.

Not only is Remus the most willful creature I’ve ever met, but he’s also the most human in many ways. When people come over, he would hop on the counter (which he’s not supposed to do), and stare at them until they meet his gaze and he will study them, as if he is taking the measure of their soul to see if they are worthy. Then he’d often bump or schmear them, to give approval. He will look directly into your eyes when you chat with him, and sometimes when he’s being particularly feisty, he’ll look you in the eye while he’s doing exactly what you admonished him not to do. Before he got sick he would want to sit on the counter during supper but would finally settle on a chair placed between us, because he wants to be part of things. He’d want to sniff ingredients, and would pester you for a bit of pastry, cracker or cookie (he loves all three).

So we had a choice – euthanize him, despite him acting normal in every other way; continue to treat him with prednisone or prednisole, and wait for the inevitable brain herniation or difficulty breathing as the result of the growth, or try to treat him.

So we chose the latter. There is one radiation oncologist for pets in western Washington, and she’s in Seattle. After some craziness with regard to scheduling, we got in to see her about six days later, Remus has two chemo shots within 24 hours, and one semi-sizeable dose of radiation.

Within six hours of the radiation/first shot, he was having more success trying to propel himself around with his back legs, and kept trying to sniff the other cats; he was more active in subtle ways (thank God his appetite has never left him). Within 24 hours, he started walking; he had stopped being able to about ten days prior. He still stumbles and is a bit wobbly, but he’s playing with toys, trying to harass his brother, and now joins the three other cats at the wet food bowl again at night.

The problem is overall, prognosis for CNS lymphoma sucks. It grows slowly, but because of the blood brain barrier (normally a good thing), a lot of drugs don’t cross it and can’t be used. Average time is 4-5 months after diagnosis, perhaps a year; even if you get it at the primary site, it will often travel and appear elsewhere. He’s had to have radiation 10 weekdays in a row (last week was HELL), and the last treatment is this Wednesday. This is all expensive as you can imagine, and I keep expecting my credit cards to spontaneously combust in my wallet in protest.

What can we do? Remus wants to fight. Every time he falls down he gets back up, sometimes with a little whine of frustration, and even when he couldn’t walk he would try, sometimes succeeding in pushing himself forward a touch, sometimes not and getting grumpy and meowy over it, only for his limbs to twitch as he tried again; and as I said, he’s been the same bratty, sweet, determined baby he has been since we rescued him and his brother Romulus at 4 months old. Remus, or ‘White Paws’ as he was known at the shelter, literally put his paws around Mr. Man’s neck and snuggled into him and Mr. Man said, ‘We need to get these boys!’ Sucker! =)

Every day Mr. Man cradles him like a baby when we drive to Seattle; the minute we get in the truck he is quiet, even though he meows and complains going out the door, but then he sleeps in the sun and is content. Everyone seems to know him too, and several staff mention they visit him when he’s there. It is breaking our hearts because the prognosis usually is not good but we hope for an 11lb miracle so we can continue to enjoy him and spoil him.

Remus and work have taken almost all of my time, and let me tell you work has been nuts; I’m not kidding. People stealing, (I thought this was the case months ago but didn’t know who because of poor practices and people didn’t seem interested), an employee threatening a fellow coworker… it’s a crazy soap opera, I couldn’t make it up; there’s so much dysfunction I often wonder why I am still there because it is very stressful but the huge draw is I am a contractor and can work flex hours that way.

I did manage to get a little gardening in on Sunday, which was a nice break. Tomatoes are in the ground and almost all of the plot that can be planted is, which feels good. Some of the more unusual things there – parsnips, lima beans, edamame, Pellegrini beans and over seventy (!!!) heads of garlic! Will take pictures and post when things are farther along.

Hope your spring is shaping up to be good. I’m currently re-reading book four because I’m getting into some buildup, and want to be certain I have all the details right. As soon as I’m done with this blog, that’s what I’ll be back to.

I also moved from AWS to another hosting service that includes my domain email, etc.; it is a better arrangement and this site should be more stable from now on, and it costs me less! Bonus!

All the best,


Remus after his first radiation treatment
My favourite pic of Remus, from about three years ago
With Spinlock (centre), and Thorium (top) on The Red Bed of Westmarch. Bonus points if you know that reference!


It’s been kind of a rough year so far.
Near the end of last year one of my cats, Remus, started having some issues jumping on chairs, etc. I took him to the vet, he had what seemed like a mild ear infection, I got drops, took him home. During the holidays I gave him the drops (not easy), but he steadily seemed to get worse.

In January I had to put a new engine in my truck – I live on a mountain, and buying a new 4WD vehicle that I need in the bad weather (and for gardening) was more expensive than that. I was snowed in multiple times but finally was able to get Remus to a pet neurologist.

The exam, after meeting for a long time, was inconclusive (she was almost an hour and a half late, too, which didn’t make us happy). Since he’d just had an ear infection, the neurologist thought it was fairly likely the infection migrated to the inner ear and the swelling was pushing on the part of his brain that helped with coordination. (He was now walking like he was drunk, which is called ataxia.) Steroids had helped a little but without him being anaesthetized and having his ears checked with a scope (expensive), or having an MRI to check for lesions/tumors (more expensive), it would be hard to say and even THEN, she said, there was no guarantee they’d have a clear diagnosis.

She put him on antibiotics that she thought might be good and it was a 30 day course – the minimum needed for a severe infection like this one could be – but of course without a culture they wouldn’t know for sure (see the scope above) that the medicine was the correct one to target it.

So the steroids and anti-b’s seemed to help a little – he’s grooming more, drags his toy around some now – but his bathroom habits are, to be kind, a bit unconventional. Now he has plateaued again – much better than getting a lot worse to be sure – and I’m not certain what to do. MRI, new anti-b’s..? Plus she discovered a heart murmur, so he needs to have chest x-rays to look at it before he can undergo either of those tests.

To have more regular income, I started working part time in January as a bookkeeper for a restaurant a neighbour bought. It has turned out to be super chaotic and far more time consuming than promised – and much more stressful, with erratic employees, a CPA who quit and some liquidity issues. I get texted on weekends, called at 8-something AM on all sorts of things… very randomizing.

I am still writing here and there but it is more in drips, so I’m trying to evaluate where I am and considering my options, including things like Patreon and switching jobs, which will REALLY upset my neighbour but what I signed up for initially bears only a slight resemblance to the reality here – and I’m not even getting paid that well! I am finishing Chapter 38 at around 127,000 words. So I am trying to scratch it out.

Tell me about your year so far and your hopes for the rest of it! (Besides me finishing “The Void Wept”!)



Repost from Twitter! For your consideration, two worthy charities that I support and you may not have heard of .

In “Democracy in America”, Alexis deTocqueville called out what he felt was a trait more robust in the US than anywhere else; the passion to help your fellow man, separate from govt assistance.

The desire to build community and aid those in need is strong, and I believe in helping people help themselves. On here are two charities I support. I humbly ask you to consider them.

helps people build & grow small businesses and offers support, technical assistance and access to capital sources to fund these enterprises. I’ve met some of these ppl & they are terrific!

allows you to donate small amts towards loans to help people improve their condition, & like Technoserve, they operate worldwide and you can also pick who to help! Loan is repaid, and you can use the money again. =)

To expound a little here… a used to work full time at a big tech company, and part of the benefits package for full-time employees was credit towards their (hugely) discounted software. They had a giving campaign every year, and that’s where I first heard about Technoserve and I over several years I became a regular donor of software and money to them, got to meet some of the top influencers in the organisation, and hear stories of their successes.

In one case, they helped a bunch of small coffee growers create a co-op which gave them more power, and introduced them to distributors that were interested in being partners. So they took some small businesses, helped them organize, helped train them with accounting and other business practices, then acted as a go-between to find a distributor for their wares, it significantly increased their revenue, and they expanded. The scattered farms became a larger concern, people were hired, and some of the businesses owners gave back to their own local towns by helping to finance clinics, new wells and the like.

Sometimes it’s a matter of going in and adapting to make a product more valuable or viable in a market. In another instance, they helped secure loans from the micro-loan organisation Grameen Bank to purchase equipment to make surplus milk into hard cheeses, which don’t spoil as quickly and as a finished product, is more valuable. Again they helped organize a group of producers, sent in experts to offer assistance on more sustainable husbandry practices, co-ordinated the loans, and shepherded them through the process until they became a sustaining concern. I love that people can take control of their lives this way, learn, and produce for themselves and become independent. I think it is the best and most natural state for people to be self-reliant, and it offers hope, opportunity and the chance to develop new skills and a sense of accomplishment.

Kiva is cool because you can go to their site, read stories about people and what they are trying to do and choose who specifically to help. With my Ukrainian heritage, I tend to look for opportunities in the former Soviet Republics when I can (like Georgia), and help someone with a loan to expand their farm, buy new equipment or the like. It puts a name and a face to your giving and it gives me a sense of reflected pride as they pay back their loans and I can use the money again to help someone else.

If you have a favourite charity, I would love to hear about them in the comments! =)






Why I Try to Avoid Politics, But Will Break That Rule This One Time…

I like writing, and I REALLY enjoy chatting with readers and finding out what they liked, what they didn’t like, what their impressions are. I don’t want to alienate people or use whatever small platform I have to talk about things that people often want to get away from. Sometimes you just want to escape from the stresses of ‘normal life’ and indulge in a diversion; why should I intrude on that? If someone wants to know my opinion, people are welcome to ask.

The truth of the matter is just about everyone has a view about current events, politics and politicians. Personal beliefs are too intimate a discussion to break down into a few sentences on Twitter; they should be chats over good food and wine in a non-confrontational setting so both parties can try to learn and understand, see things from a fresh perspective. I resent it when I follow someone who is an author and they decide to hold forth with a catchy little phrase on Twitter when the topic deserves a much more robust mechanism than that.

I have friends of all political backgrounds; some want to talk politics, some don’t. One fears, ‘I love you now, but I might not after I talk politics too much with you’ which makes me sad but okay; I don’t want to start a discussion that is contentious before it begins. I try to judge people on their character, their values and their actions, and not who they vote for on their ballot. Really great people can have very different opinions on things for completely sensible reasons that are grounded in their upbringing, their experience and their guiding principles, and life experience can change things, too. I have a friend who has been an ardent supporter of NARAL but after she became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby, she confided in me even if she found out her baby had Down’s she wouldn’t have aborted, despite previously thinking she would.

So it is with great reluctance that I write this post, but it is about a current event that touches me on a personal level and I hope to just bring a different voice and perspective.

Everyone has heard about the SCOTUS hearings and the allegations of Dr. Ford and denial by Judge Kavanaugh. I have heard quite a bit of ‘she has to be telling the truth, the allegations are so serious’, and that really frustrates me.

I think allegations should be heard, but our justice is supposed to be blind and there is a presumption of innocence (or should be); it doesn’t matter how emotional or serious the allegations are, judgement should be based on facts and not whether the allegations were true for another person who made them.

The reason I say this is definitely personal; as I said above our experiences shape who we are and what I have experienced has made me very cautious about jumping the gun on something like this, no matter how much I might be able to relate in an empathetic way.

This incident happened when I was working at the small construction software company where I was harassed and threatened (I wrote about that stalker in a previous post).

So I moved here at eighteen with basically no support system; my mom sent me $50 once and my uncle paid for me to take a class one quarter and helped me pay for new valve cover gaskets for my car, but that’s it. No stipend, nothing. I’ve had my power, heat and phone turned off at various times, sometimes two at the same time.

It sounds stupid, but when I moved out here I underestimated how difficult it would be. I had money saved but had trouble finding a good position because I had no local references, so it went quickly. I worked a few jobs (cashier was one), did some contracting and got placed at this company. I started as a receptionist but within a year and a half or so I was also working with the marketing manager and supervising a high school kid who helped us out.

I cannot emphasize how much this job meant to me. It’s the first one where I had a salary so I could budget properly; I had medical insurance for the first time and was paying off bills accumulated during the lean years and even put a tiny bit away in a 401k. This job meant EVERYTHING to me. It was a light, it was consistency, it was moving forward instead of treading water or falling behind. It was proving to people who doubted me that I could survive here.

And I had made some friends; people really seemed to appreciate me. When the company sent out surveys to customers, I was the number one thing they liked about the company and I wasn’t even listed as an option, I was a ‘write in’. One of the owners joked, “They think you’re the best thing since sliced bread” and several of the customers who said this about me were HUGE accounts for the firm, some of the biggest names in construction in the Seattle metro area.

So when our high school helper went on vacation for a few weeks, we needed someone to fill in and collate a bunch of materials about the software and prepare the kits; it was too much for me to do with my other duties, so my boss called a contract agency to have someone come in to help.

To be fair it’s mindless labour – but anyone who has done temp work knows sometimes assignments are boring and I knew this first hand because I’d had my fair share of tedious tasks. When the girl came in and I explained what to do she gave me attitude about it and complained about the work which I would NEVER have done on an assignment because I needed the money. I joked that it was a bit boring but freed your mind to think of other things and it wasn’t that bad after awhile and it was a paycheque right? I checked once before lunch to see if she had questions (she didn’t) and when she left for lunch I told her I’d see her in a bit.

A little while later my boss called me into the conference room and was deadly serious. She said our temp had made a serious accusation against me, my job was on the line.

My first instinct, especially when I heard what she alleged, was to want to throw up. Jesus fucking Christ (sorry), how could someone lie about another person like that? I could see in my boss’ face right away that because of what the accusation was there was this taint that I was possibly guilty. I had been there for over two years at this point and this temp walks in, drops a bomb and I am facing losing my job, my future, my everything. Kate even said something like, “Because of how SERIOUS this is…” like that automatically gives it credence over my word? Someone who has never had a complaint against them? Who came to work one Monday with a broken and unset leg from Saturday? Who walked to work in a snowstorm to open on time because there was no way I could drive? Who started out as a receptionist but proved myself enough that customers love me and I got promoted? Who even worked with the techs in back when they were shorthanded, even once doing it on the weekend? I had proven to be an asset for the company, why would I do this?!

But none of that mattered because of this one accusation by a person Kate never met before, from a temp agency; a person whose bona fides had never been tested – because it was a ‘serious charge’.

At the time I was in survival mode; I unequivocally denied it, didn’t have room for any other emotion. I would never do that, never DID that. She spoke with the bosses, my stomach was in a knot and finally I was told I could keep my job but I should watch and make sure ‘nothing like this came up again’.

So I kept my job, but basically she assumed I must have done something wrong.

(I want to emphasize that I am not a saint – I have had to apologize for making assumptions or saying something that came out harsh or dropping the ball or what have you. We are all flawed – that’s not what I am trying to highlight here.)

Things with Kate were never the same; she was distant from then on – I guess I had a taint on me. I had a client invite me to holidays with her family (she did it the previous year, knowing Christmas is my birthday and I couldn’t afford to fly to see my family), and I had been open about telling everyone it happened the prior year; suddenly Kate tells me I shouldn’t be social at all with any client, ever. To be clear – as a receptionist and in marketing – I was never in a position to DO anything special for them, and other employees were friends with clients, one even DATED a customer. I have been told one of my assets is I am a warm and approachable person, and I felt she was trying to do this because the clients liked me so much.

Another example – I brought in my old computer to loan to someone and they brought it back but it was in the storeroom at the company, labeled, because I was in the midst of getting ready to move. Kate’s son came to clean out the store room one day and threw it away, even though I TOLD Kate it was there; people had used the store room before and she said no problem when I asked about keeping it there. When I got upset – how could someone throw a box away that had something in it, and labeled, and I had told her about it – she blamed me and said, “It’s at the dump now, I guess you’re out of luck”. I still wonder if that computer really got dumped or ended up at someone’s home, if you know what I mean. There are other things too, but I really sensed her attitude about me had changed.

The thing is, once an accusation is made the seal is broken. I was super nervous for months after that – worried some word or action or even glance would be misconstrued. It darkened the remaining time I had there to some extent and it was always in the back of my mind – my boss thinks I did something bad but there’s no proof to fire me. I try to be a decent and honest person – I am human, I have flaws, but I try – and here was this THING I could never shake. There was nothing I could do to prove I was innocent, nothing. It was a helpless feeling and the edge of hostility I had from her contributed to me wanting to leave.

I can only speak from my experience – I know I did nothing wrong – but when I think about it the incident still angers me and these hearings have just brought it back up again. I’ve tried to forget it but I still can’t believe people I worked with for years could even countenance I would do that and then lip-service that things were okay but treat me as if I was guilty; that because the ‘accusation was serious’ the benefit of the doubt was given to the other party, irrespective of my history and their interactions with me. If I hadn’t had so many glowing reviews from customers I wonder if they would have fired me, and I can tell you it would have ruined me. Holy shit, I don’t know how I would have recovered. What do you tell a prospective employer about why you left?

I am still angry about it to be honest, angry as fuck, and I hope Karma taught her a lesson. If you’re wondering why she probably lied… if she had just told the contracting company the job was boring and she didn’t want it they wouldn’t have prioritized placing her any more; this is what I had been told during my temp agency days. If you left a job site it had to be for a good reason, like harassment of some kind or physical danger, that sort of thing. Otherwise if they sent people who then walked away after a day for no good reason ‘because they didn’t like the job’ it made the agency look bad. But our temp make a terrible accusation so she was in the clear and would face no backlash for leaving. On the contrary, she probably got sympathetic placements after that. That she was willing to risk my job because she didn’t like the work she had to do – for a week only! – well… I’ll let you think about that. She is a horrible person for doing that to me, utterly horrible.

I don’t know who is telling the truth in the current circumstances;  it could be both are to some degree. It has been 36 years and a lot has happened in the intervening time that dulls the crispness of memories. But I do know innocent people can be accused and facts should rule, not emotion, to ensure a fair and just result. Don’t we all hope for the same for us or our loved ones should we find ourselves in a shit storm like this?

Sometimes I hear or see things and  want to react but I remember I am just getting a slice of the situation and before I pass judgment I should get a more full picture. In my case (and others) someone’s livelihood, their reputation, their potential employ-ability and even their safety could be at risk. For goodness sakes, yesterday I saw USA Today (it’s since been revised), had an article that Kavanaugh should stay away from basketball courts ‘when kids are around’, implying he has unnatural tendencies in that area, which has NEVER been a topic, ever. What’s the point, destruction of someone perceived as an adversary, never mind the truth or cost? Ford has also been threatened and had to get protection, how does that help anything?

None of us can control what is going on far away in the Capitol but we can control how we react and judge one another, so when accusations fly, tempers flare or emotions take over it’s always good to remember The Golden Rule. And I’ll just leave it at that.

All the best,






Game of Thrones: Narrators

**Some spoilers

At some point I intend to write a longer bit about “Game of Thrones”, but in the midst of writing book four of The Void Chronicles, I sort of feel this need to comment on narrators.

One of the problems I had/have with Game of Thrones is how there isn’t a consistent narrator throughout the series. (I’ve read the first book, watched about three seasons of the series.) I’m not a huge fan, as you can probably glean from the preamble, and there are a few reasons for it – one of those being the way the tale is structured, vis a vis narration.

I’m already not fond of books that jump around from thread to thread, although in a long series with many tales I understand the need for some of that. I put down Peter Hamilton’s Reality Dysfunction series because of an inordinate (and I felt unnecessary) number of threads that seemed so convoluted and complicated that by the time I got back to a story line I almost needed a refresher course before proceeding with the current chapter.

I think GoT drags on in that respect too. The first book (and I suspect the others), focus on one character’s situation before the next one hops to someone else. These little time slices made reading the book a bit disjointed as there are about five or six of them in just one book, and so it seems to lack cohesion and flow. So while the world building is admirable in many respects, I sort of feel as if I’m reading a news bulletin about Bram, and Daenerys and Catelyn, etc, and not really involved in it.

Supposedly Martin was inspired in part by The Wars of the Roses, and I’ve read several books about that time. Although the lineage and allegiances can prove to be a bit confusing, a narrative style helps it all move along without feeling distanced from the events. In a way we are seeing a bit of ‘history’ of Westeros; the narrative style used doesn’t benefit the story in any way as far as I am concerned.

Related to this, I also feel as if in the initial book Ned Stark was set up as a primary narrator if anyone was, someone who was deeply involved in the story as it unfolded, so it was quite a shock when he was beheaded (apparently Martin does this in other series as well, killing off a primary character in a shocking move). It felt like a bait-and-switch because the Stark family was prominent in the book and then their Lord is killed, boom, end of book one.  This despite the fact he was a very interesting character, a foil for the blood-thirsty and cutthroat people that predominantly populate the series.

Rob Stark steps up then, and he has many of the traits of his father and is a good tactician as well, then… boom once more. It’s easy to kill characters in a story – it solves problems, it causes a visceral reaction in readers (especially if they are bound/interested in the character), but it is far more difficult to walk a grey line with them whilst having their core persona stay consistent.

I’ll paraphrase Aristotle – tragedy is when a hero comes face to face with his true identity.  I feel many of the characters set up as potential heroes in GoT are denied that moment. Renly, as much as I disliked his arrogance and self-serving nature, had some interesting qualities that had potential to be developed whilst also remaining clearly flawed. What if he had (briefly) seized the Iron Throne for a moment and proved himself to be as ruthless as the Targaryen kings and stubborn as his brother and was forced to flee and live with that greater understanding of himself?

There is so much blood and death that one becomes almost inured to it so it loses it’s appeal or requires greater and more destructive manifestations in order to shock. Death as a plot twist – used with a heavy hand – becomes a bit tiresome after a while.

That’s not to say there isn’t a time and place for it. Tying this frustration I have with the lack of a consistent narrator is why I am not that interested in READING the GoT books; the novels feel more like a TV show, with cuts to new scenes and little moments before moving on ,which is why I’m slowly making my way through the HBO series and not the books.

Curious what others think.

Themes in Lily and Stuart’s Story

So there are several big themes that I tried to develop with Lily and Stuart’s story, many of them drawn from my experience in life and what I’ve learned, and I wanted to discuss them a bit. May contain some spoilers if you haven’t read all the books.

1. We take a lot of things from our past forward.

As the story progresses, we find out more about Lily’s history. Her parents had a troubled marriage and after her dad died, her mom basically abandoned her and her brother to ‘find herself’. Naturally this resulted in insecurity and self doubt, and later we find that was further fueled by her mom’s criticism of Lily. I’m sure many of us have had – or know someone who has had – a relation or person of authority offer biting criticism that wounded. In Lily’s case it manifested as the inner voice that would chide and remonstrate her, repeating old tapes that diminished her worth.

Of course this affected her; she lacked a good parental connection for years (her aunt and uncle were wonderful and she loved them, but it didn’t eliminate the pain of her mother’s rejection), and she longed for some acceptance, something to heal her. It coloured all her interactions with boyfriends and the pain of those relationships ending was magnified by that nagging voice, reminding her of her imperfections. For introspective and thoughtful Lily, painfully thorough and honest, she could only revisit the mistakes she had made and conclude that indeed, fault lay with her.

As adults we need to be able to fulfill our needs on our own, but what happens when those childhood cups – where you learn you are loved despite your flaws, when you are nurtured and encouraged and develop self esteem – haven’t been satisfied and leave you lacking tools as an adult? It is difficult to recover when an innocent is betrayed by someone who should protect them above all – a parent.

2. Even if you’ve been hurt in the past, sometimes it is okay to put your trust in someone again.

So Lily has been painfully hurt, but wants to believe in love and trust – don’t we all? It’s part of picking yourself up and not surrendering to the bad things that life will invariably throw your way. We all want to love and be loved, accepted for who we are… but when you’ve been hurt so badly, is it worth the risk of being wounded again?

Deep inside Lily is an inveterate optimist, and when she meets Stuart she can sense the potential; here is someone mature enough and adult enough to deliver, and that’s what freaks her out initially. After wanting it, hoping love is in the cards for her, she’s presented with a tantalizing package in Stuart but she doubts herself; the tapes play and she worries she’s not good enough or worthy, or she will mess it up. It is hard to resist something that the heart wants so badly, however, and so she makes little steps forward although being who she is, it is difficult to not just open herself up entirely at the onset. Which brings me to…

3. There are good and bad times to run away.

Fed by her fear of failure, of pain, of more hurt, when Lily gets uncomfortable early on she runs away. This happens in Scotland when she goes off on her own because she is frustrated by Stuart and again at the beginning of “Step Across the Rubicon”, when it could have ended badly… VERY badly.  Rather then wait for an explanation or try to work things through and face them, it is easier for her sometimes to run away so as not to be forced to face the disappointment she fears. It’s a natural, innocent impulse we have as a child – to hide and try to find a place that’s safer so we can feel less vulnerable, and really refers back to point one.

But that’s not always healthy, because things don’t get resolved, the other party doesn’t have an opportunity to make amends, and neither person can grow. All relationships have their ups and downs and running from discussion – however attractive it might be sometimes – doesn’t fix that. She had more of a reason when she accidentally found out about Stuart’s trips to Lina; you could argue that Lily deserved that honesty, although Stuart did make a promise to Lina he didn’t want to break. It all came about though because Lily wanted to know what was going on and followed him; the trust wasn’t complete and Lily’s fear once more of being hurt meant in some ways SHE betrayed a trust. (I’ll cover what happened in book five in another point.)

It is okay to take a bit of air – to think about something, come back to it, put it aside for a spell – but on the whole, it is better to eventually face it than run.

4. BDSM is about trust.

Even though the books aren’t meant to be an instruction in BDSM and there are some heavier bits later in the series, this holds true 100%. Not only is someone who is a Submissive trusting their Dom to understand boundaries, but the Dom is  trusting that the Sub has been honest in her desires, limits, and will express them accurately. You don’t want a Dom pushing through a Sub’s limits, or a Sub lying to do something to please a Dom when she really hates it.

It can be an amazing dynamic, and definitely is part of the path to healing for Julianna. She can push aside the fears and voices of her ‘vanilla’ life, and be a private person with Stuart and explore things she is curious about, free from judgment. As the books progress Julianna learns to trust Stuart more and more and feels as if she can test her boundaries – scary for someone as wounded as her. It becomes cathartic, something she and Stuart own and develop together and that bonding, that sense of a journey together they experience is great. Which means it’s time for…

5. Even the best people can make mistakes and take someone for granted.

I spent the better part of several books showing Lily and you who Stuart REALLY is -patient, loving, thoughtful, supportive – all those things Liliana deserves but didn’t always get. I knew the fall from that pedestal was inevitable (and I detailed in another blog entry here how in retrospect I would have pulled that back a bit), because I knew what Megan did.

The point of it was – no one is perfect, everyone has a limit. Stuart did his best, fought to control the frustration, the disappointment, the anger over what Megan did to him but in the end he is only human and was pushed REALLY far.

What he was to Lily, Lily also became to him – someone he could trust, who was loyal, honourable, dependable and accepting, and at some point his desire to finally resolve things with Megan became a beast that nearly consumed everything in its path.

To be fair, part of that was because of Lily – because he realised what a mistake he had make with Megan and wanted to finish it once and for all so that he was free to marry Lily. But Megan’s deception and her games took such a toll on even our wonderful Stuart that he became consumed with resolving it once at for all, at almost any cost.

So he was thoughtless, and took for granted that Lily would be there, would understand, would accept he had to do what he had to do and the quicker he got it all taken care of the sooner they could really be together. Stuart knew Megan would be a problem otherwise, so he decided to deal with it decisively and since Megan was his ‘problem’ and he was embarrassed by his  mistake in marrying Megan, he shut her out. (It was also a misguided effort to shield Lily from some ugliness.)

This was a huge mistake. He just wanted to end Megan’s schemes quick and dirty, but things got out of control. He underestimated how important feeling part of this resolution was to Lily – no matter how embarrassing or unseemly it was to him. In thinking it would be faster/quicker/easier to not rope Liliana in on everything, he alienated her with his singular resolve. It’s not that she thought what he was doing was wrong, but feeling like she couldn’t help and be part of it, a TRUE partner, damaged that trust in where they were at that moment.

Stuart sensed this on some level and their sessions became more intense, especially as he increasingly used them as a way to vent his pent up energy and emotion about what was happening, (and to try to keep some intimacy with Liliana). It wasn’t fair, but Stuart was pushed very far in my estimation. Here’s a man who tries to be straightforward and live by a code of ethics, and his ex-wife, in a bid to get sympathy and more money in a divorce, basically accuses him of killing his unborn child. Wow.

This is nothing he can ever resolve – Megan being who she is, he will never know 100% for certain if she was lying or not and God, that has to eat at someone like Stuart. It would wound me horribly were I in his shoes.

So he takes Lily for granted because in all of this she is the one thing in a way he CAN take for granted; she is steadfast and true, no matter what, while he battles demons he tried to keep at bay too long. So then Lily feels like she has no choice…

6. It is okay to let someone work their shit out alone./You can’t fix everything that is broken.

Some journeys need to be taken alone. Although Stuart helped Liliana with her mom, in the end it was her courage in seeing her mom and being who she wanted to be that was empowering to her. It was Liliana who put the kibosh on Brett’s renewed interest and she did that of her own volition, even when she walked away from Stuart, because she didn’t NEED that relationship, even though in the past she thought she did.

You can’t control what anyone else does, and this is especially difficult when a person engages in destructive behaviour. Julianna thought more than once that Stuart was more like a man possessed after the stabbing and after more of Megan’s lies; she tries to take on some of the pain, offer support, but when that was brushed aside she realised one of the things she learned in her journey is you have to handle your own shit sometimes.  No one can fix something for you, you have to do the work so you can enjoy the benefit.

That’s a hard lesson. We all want things we don’t have, and if someone just gave them to you would you appreciate it? Would it change you for the better, or worse? Would you continue to make the same mistakes if you didn’t have to work through your resolution of the first time you fucked up? So this demon around Stuart needed to be exorcised and resolution needed to be entirely owned by him.

7. It’s okay to stand up for yourself.

Despite number six, that didn’t mean Lily had to take it lying down. She still deserved a certain amount of respect, being taken into confidence, etc., especially as it could affect her safety (as her proximity to Stuart had been a risk before). Stuart may have had to do his thing and come to resolution his own way, but that didn’t mean Liliana should allow herself to be treated like a door mat.

She pushed, she questioned, she asked – and this was in contrast to her behaviour earlier in the series, where she would just run away. Lily gave Stuart a chance to include her, explain things, open the door just a crack and acknowledge her perspective, and he didn’t. Remember, she snooped and knew about what Megan had claimed, and so there was definitely a lot of room for sharing on Stuart’s part.

But he didn’t. So finally, exhausted at what she perceived as a one sided effort, she walked away. Liliana didn’t want to pretend that she was okay being treated this way, that the relationship was just fine as it was. She knew what they had was special and it deserved to be treated as such, it deserved that respect. When Lily felt Stuart couldn’t meet her on that, she decided that taking a break was better than destroying what they had built.  It was a signal to herself (and Stuart) that she had grown and didn’t think that dregs were good enough any more; that if he was serious about wanting to be with her forever, than she was owed more than he wanted to give. Despite being submissive in the bedroom, Lilianna is strong and definite in this.

Stuart didn’t have to give her everything, just move a bit more in her direction instead of relying on her blind acceptance. It’s called compromise, and rather than decline into self doubt and old tapes again, she worked, she tried, and THEN stepped back.

8. Independence/self-sufficiency is good.

So after a whirlwind period where Liliana was wooed by her soul mate, she finds herself alone. Whereas she had wallowed and mourned after she had received the pictures of Stuart and Megan, this time she became more productive, less destructive.

The universe moves towards entropy, disorder, chaos. We can only control what we can control, but that is something right? And it’s not an inconsequential something. We control how we act and react, how we internalise things, what we learn, what we pass on. People will act on our ‘system’ and disrupt it – like Megan did – causing disarray, but when we understand and relish in the control we DO have, powerful things can happen.

It might be easy and nice sometimes to want others to do things for you, fix things (see above), and it certainly is wonderful to have a good support system; to understand that in your moments of weakness someone has your back, that you can rely on friends or family for honest feedback. But the only person who owns every moment of your life is you – so being independent, knowing your weaknesses and strengths and consciously  choosing your direction is THE most powerful role you can assume.

Lily was confronted by many circumstances where her choices, the person she cultivated inside, played a positive role in the world around her. She saved Stuart’s life – and that, despite her early protestations, was a direct result of the person SHE chose to be up to that point. She chose to be an active participant in life, and on the whole I think that is a positive thing.

I like to say life is a full contact sport, and I would add that it is, whether you want it to be or not. We may not have all made the same choices as Lily, but being deliberate and knowing who you are and what values drive you is incredibly powerful and self-affirming.

When she began to look at the possibility of moving to Portland, it was a productive thing, and channeled what normally would have been negative energy into something potentially positive. It didn’t matter if she decided to go or not, in those moments she was owning her life, irrespective of what eventually would happen with Stuart.

9. Forgiveness.

Once the craziness surrounding Megan wound down and the endorphin rush from the intrigue subsided,  Stuart began to understand how he had alienated Liliana in his rush to be rid of Megan. Despite knowing that there would be a media circus around him and it would be obvious he was trying to win Lily back, he spent time waiting for her at her home, not concerned how it would be spun.

He realised he needed to come clean about everything, no matter how difficult it was to discuss Megan’s accusations and Stuart confessed, unaware that Julianna already knew. Life doesn’t always give us the chance to be able to corroborate someone’s story, but luckily for Lily in this case she was able to, and she saw how much the whole thing pained him.

Sometimes it is easy to forgive someone, other times it is more difficult. Liliana knew that what Stuart did wasn’t because he was TRYING to hurt her, but because he himself was hurt, and it clouded his judgment. She also knew from her months and months of intimate experience with him that what he did around the whole Megan thing wasn’t who he normally was – he was a cornered animal and fighting as a wounded creature for what he perceived was survival.

He also came to her and apologized; he didn’t try to blame her or minimize what she went through as a result of his actions, and so Lily felt the apology was genuine, and it allowed her to forgive Stuart.

I look forward to your feedback and comments, and thanks for reading this rather lengthy tome. 😉

Best always,



Cockygate Update

Cockygate is over!

Recently a notice was posted at Cocky Authors, the website for those who were affected by Faleena Hopkins attempting to trademark the word cocky in a romance title, along with a specific font.

The good news is that the trademarks have been surrendered and the lawsuit has been withdrawn.

This is a HUGE win not just for the Indie romance author but also for every author. One of my fears was that this suit, if given any credibility, would lead the way for people attempting to trademark titles, phrases, words, fonts, designs – something that small time publishers and independent authors couldn’t easily do, but what large publishing houses could do.

It also could have led to ‘squatting’, much as domain squatting happened; that practice was eventually prohibited, but if it started happening to romance authors, especially authors who didn’t have the funds to fight a big house squatting on a book title, who would really have cared?

Kudos to all those involved who decided to fight this and bore the stress of it; the rest of us also got a win out of it!


I love computers. I enjoy playing games and I used to be a software tester, learning new software and then trying to break it, and although technology can be frustrating (and I feel it has made us as a society a bit less polite), the power at our fingertips now is immense. I recall the old days of writing papers for school – sometimes struggling to find the books I needed for a report because someone else had them or they had been mis-shelved, (for example), or struggling to find the information I was looking for to satisfy some random curiosity.

Now the full breadth of the web is at our fingertips. If I can’t find what I want with my first search result, I have pages to browse through – journals, newspapers, videos. I love that; it is incredibly useful to me as a writer, and allows me to look at places I’ve never been to, examine a period in history far in the past, all with incredible ease. I love learning, and far too often I get lost doing research; I spent hours searching for information about the Picts for “Blood and Frost” for example.

So when my computer – my job, my entertainment – started to act up, I limped along as well as I could, not wanting to deal with the expense and stress of changing over to a new machine. The issue finally reached critical mass, and with a bit of a heavy heart I acceded to my SO’s desire to buy me some new gear, and together we brought out an old case and built a new machine, although I feel bad at the cost of it all.

But I love building computers. It’s exciting (and a little scary) to seat a processor, but so satisfying!  When it boots for the first time I get a real thrill; clearly I am a geeky girl.

But all this means I am reinstalling all my old programmes and transferring about five year’s worth of data to another machine. Sorting it (needed or not?), and then copying it over is a bit tedious and I’m doing it in safe mode, because of some disk errors I can’t seem to fix. So regrettably, my work on the Void Chronicles has slowed significantly since mid-last week, and I haven’t hit the 60,000 word mark, as I had hoped to last Friday.

My new machine is nice, however, and the RAM (memory) has LEDs on it! I’m a sucker for cool lights and colours.

I’ve copied a fair bit of my data over, (books, research, personal stuff) and am slowly plodding through the installation of programs and setup. My biggest complaint is Firefox; I have literally thousands of bookmarks, and it’s a pain to get that data over (and a bit complicated to explain why).

But I’m making progress, and will be working on “The Void Wept” tomorrow. I am so excited to get it out to everyone, to see what you think! I think you’ll like the lore in it, as well as understanding how Julianna got to Galea. 😉

All the best,