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Friday, September 22, 2017

Ghost and Ash

Have some surprise Friday fluff! Spoilers for American Hellhound


“You’re not scrawny.” That’s what Ava always said, rolling her eyes as she did so. Exactly like a sister was supposed to. Then she’d say, “Finish your breakfast, sweetie, or you’ll be late.” Or, “Did you finish your homework?” Or some other totally mom thing to say.

Monday, September 18, 2017


I love to hear from readers, and invite everyone to email me ( or message me on Facebook ( Gilley - Author). But I thought it might be helpful to consolidate some of my frequently asked questions so everyone can benefit from the answers. These are the things I get asked most often, and my answers:

When is the next Dartmoor book coming out?
Sometime next year, most likely. I don't keep to hard deadlines - because I don't have to, yay! and also because farm life and my poor immune system sometime throw a wrench in the works. The next Dartmoor book will be Fox's, titled Prodigal Son, and so far I have about 8k words of it written. White Wolf has been the sort of complex, research-intensive book that requires all of my attention, so we won't see Fox until the spring. 

When does White Wolf release?
I'm shooting for a Halloween release. It's not up for preorder, so be sure to follow my pages, or follow me on Amazon, so you can be notified when it goes live. 

Can I have an ARC?
I'm sorry, but I've elected not to give out digital advance review copies. I've had some bad luck in doing so in the past - The Skeleton King was released on all the pirate sites several weeks ahead of its release. Which. Yikes. Fool me once, and all that. Also, I've realized ARCs are counterproductive for me. The moment a book is polished and ready for release, I like to turn it over to my readers. ARCs would slow that process, and also play favorites and risk spoilers. I am always happy to donate copies to a giveaway, and host release week giveaways on my own, so be sure to email me if you'd like to host a giveaway. 

Will your books be available for audio?
This is the answer that has made some readers, to my puzzlement, spitting mad. And the answer is no, not anytime soon. Why? While I appreciate the fact that some readers benefit greatly from audio books, and want to be as inclusive as possible when it comes to making my work available to all audiences, at the moment, as an indie author, the audio process is both extremely time consuming and extremely expensive, and it doesn't make sense for me as a businesswoman. I'm an artist who loves to share her art, yes, but I'm also a single gal doing it on her own who is a small business owner, and I have to do what makes sense for my business so that I can continue to write books for everyone. 

Can I buy signed books?
Yes, you can! Email me at with your order, and I can invoice you via Paypal. Prices are same as on Amazon, plus shipping. I will ship internationally, but be warned that the shipping will be anywhere between $15 to $60, depending on destination. I ship domestically via media mail to keep costs down, so it can take up to a week to reach you. Priority mail available upon request. I usually have Dartmoor books in stock, but may have to order other books, so please allow an extra week for delivery. 

Be sure to follow me on social media to stay up to date:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Workshop Wenesday: Inspiration and Originality

Workshop Wednesday: Inspiration and Originality 

When writers put pen to paper, it's their hope to pen a story that is vivid, authentic, and - maybe most of all - original. But anyone writing novels today will tell you that pretty much every story has already been told...and been told many, many times. It's a common sticking point: hasn't someone already written a book about this? Aren't I retreading old territory? And, in my personal case, does anyone really want to read another book about outlaw bikers? 

Is there such a thing as a truly new story? Probably not. But you know what hasn't been told? Your story. The trick to writing unique fiction is to find a way to make all the inspiration you love into something that belongs to you and you alone. 

Figure Out What You Love
Looking at what's popular and emulating it, I'm sure, gets some people some buzz in the short run. Realistically speaking, there's something to be said for making a quick buck - I mean, I think there is. I always do things the hard way, so I dunno. In any event, I think those books aren't the kind that have any kind of lasting fanbase; they don't pay off in the long run because you can tell the author wasn't inspired and passionate. To write the best book you can, you have to write about the stories that keep you up at night. Take your obsessions, your fangirl screaming, and write that. Figure out the difference between the kind of books that mildly interest you and the ones that set you on fire. 

Now Figure Out Why You Love It
Inspiration can come from anything. It can find you anywhere - though it usually doesn't germinate into anything useful until you're driving or taking a shower, Murphy's Law. By all means, when inspiration strikes, take it and run with it. But in the interest of originality, it can be helpful to think about why certain things inspire you. Understanding the heart of inspiration can help you carry forward beloved themes and ideas while steering clear of outright copying. 

Here's an example: I love Jane Eyre. Love it. I love Jane and I love Rochester, and they were a major inspiration for Price of Angels. But I didn't want to write a book in which Holly was a governess for Michael's ward, a book in which a wealthy Michael had a first wife locked up in the attic. Instead, I wanted to dig deep into the characters and figure out what I loved about them that I felt I could carry forward. What resulted was a story about an abused woman trying to make it on her own, graced with a spine of steel not immediately visible, and a man who feels deeply, but who comes across as cold and strange. 

When you really love a character, it's probably for reasons deeper than hair color, or height, or profession. Is it because he or she is kind? A deep-thinker? A good parent? Someone resilient doing the best they can with the hand they're dealt? When you break down your love into its basic building blocks, you can pull out those blocks and use them to craft characters, and stories, that are all your own and which really don't resemble the original inspiration at all. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Why Sons of Rome Makes My Creative Heart Happy

Fulk vibe 

There's a quote that I love about owning everything that's happened to you. You own the things you've accomplished, too. As a writer, you own all the stories that you've written, and when you start writing something new, it isn't a case of leaving those stories behind, but, rather, of cramming them all into your toolbox (or, in Mercy's case, tackle box) and toting them along with you. 

I was having a conversation with my alpha reader about White Wolf a few weeks ago that consisted largely of hand-waving and incoherent straw-grasping from me as I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain to her why this project was so exciting and important for me. After an embarrassing amount of time, I finally realized what I'd been trying to convey. "This series," I told her, "is the reason I've written all the books I have before this. Everything I've ever written has been practice for this." 

She said, "But I really liked your other books!" 

And I said, "That's not what I mean." What I mean is that if it weren't for the things I've learned while writing my other books, I wouldn't have a prayer of tackling something as massive and creatively-terrifying as the Sons of Rome series. 

Writing and publishing books has been an amazing learning experience for me. Each book teaches me something entirely new about character development, about plot, pacing, tension. They've all taught me something new about myself as a writer. Each one has been a creative experiment in which I challenged myself to dig deeper, stretch farther outside my comfort zone, and write more beautifully than before. 

If the number of messages and emails I've received in the past few weeks are anything to go by, I think there's a certain sense that Dartmoor is something I've set aside in order to pick something else up. Which isn't true. It's the toolbox analogy. All the things I've learned while writing Dartmoor are carrying through to this new book. Characters who are flawed, but lovable, who screw up, and then do better, who love hard, and who are confused about their feelings...those things are all still there, and they're there because of Dartmoor. 

Writing White Wolf has felt like those fevered days of writing Fearless, neck-deep in world-building, continually surprised by the characters, and the envelopes they're willing to push. Asking myself "do I dare?" and cackling with glee when I realize how twisted it all is. That was always my secret delight with Fearless: it was always a little bit of a Gothic horror story masquerading as something more down-to-earth. 

I'm not naïve enough to think that all my regular readers will like it. Some will probably dislike it. But I think some of you will love it. I love it, and it's a book, and a series, that I'm writing for the people who will love it. That's the secret, you know: write books that some people will love, and never listen to the detractors. 

Here's why I love it, and why I hope some of you will love it too:

- History. I've always enjoyed studying history. The past is what shaped our present, and to understand what happened then helps us to be better informed about what happens now. Also, I just love the exploration there. With characters born as far back as 1267 (Fulk), and even farther back (our sons of Rome), the scope of history in this series is vast. When characters live forever, the possibilities are endless. And since I love writing characters with shared histories, the vastness serves as an amazing catalyst for relationship-building. 

- The Aesthetic. I love the dark vampire aesthetic. The red velvets and dripping candles, yes, but mostly the push/pull of dark and light within each character. Craving versus resistance; civilized versus animalistic; aloof versus impassioned; beautiful versus hideous. When done well, vampires have always served as a visceral, erotic metaphor for an individual's duality, the conflicting nature of humankind. For me, the challenge was to fit that aesthetic into a story in which potentially awesome characters are deeply grounded in reality. To create very real problems for a group of characters who, despite supernatural abilities, are still very much struggling with the identity and morality issues of humans. These are not fairytale vampires and wolves, but People With Problems who also happen to be immortal and strong. 

- A Good Fit. Since my writing style leans more toward the literary side of things, I've found that horror/paranormal fiction is a really good fit. 

- The Characters. This series gives me a chance to explore a whole new crop of characters. Characters who are burdened by time and their own pasts. Clever villains you can't help but love. Truly badass women who don't have to play by anyone else's rules. Even some real life figures from history. These are the kinds of characters who I like to fangirl about in my Real Dorky Life. 

In short, this series is an overlong love letter to all the dark fiction I've ever loved. It'll tick off the Morality Police, and poke at some people's comfort zones, and it isn't apologetic about doing so. 

Writing has gone well; it's felt like an adventure I've had the privilege of witnessing and then taking down on paper, and that's usually a very good sign. This first book has unfolded in a completely unexpected way, and that's been its own kind of joy. Opening the door on a new world is always thrilling and a little scary, but it's what makes writing its own reward.

When I say the old rote "I can't wait to share," know that I really, really mean it. Shooting for a late October release, so stay tuned. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Workshop Wednesday: Reading For Writers Part I

Reading For Writers Part I:
I talk often about the importance of reading for writers. It is important; it’s the most-common advice big-name published writers gives when asked for pointers, and I agree with them.

But maybe you’re wondering why it’s so important.

The short answer is that a well-read writer is going to be more articulate, better-seasoned, and more distinctive. Well-read writers have got the mechanics of the written word down pat, and are able to delve deeper into their characters. Their author voices are more well-developed and they’ve established a certain style all their own. A well-read author writes stories that feel and sound like them, rather than rough-sketch parodies of whatever’s popular on the marketplace.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Characterization Part III

Characterization Part III
Characters in a Romance

This is not a how-to post. It's not even a suggestion post. It's a disjointed list of the things I find personally important when it comes to writing characters who are in romantic relationships. 

I will readily admit that the romantic elements of any story are not my strong suit. Chemistry, sex, relationships...I write better friendships and action sequences. So please take this week's WW post with a grain of salt, or skip it altogether if that's more your speed. 

Alright, on to the list:

- I want every character in my books to have value as individuals, which means I don't ever write anyone solely for the purposes of providing someone with a love interest. I want them all to stand on their own, to have their own hopes and dreams, and problems. I can't force it - that's why, sometimes, when readers request that I write a book for so-and-so character, I can't give them a firm answer because I haven't found "the one" for him or her yet. 

- In that same vein: no cipher characters. No females who are empty shells into which the readers can pour themselves so that they can feel they are personally experiencing the romance that unfolds. Reading is the ultimate vicarious experience, yes, but I prefer love stories in which both parties are fully-fleshed, believable, and in which their love feels real and important. I'm happy for them - not wishing I was one of them, if that makes sense. 

- If I could pick a theme song, it would be "That Don't Impress Me Much" by Shania Twain. "Okay, so what, do you think you're Elvis or something? Whatever." Okay, so the leading man is a biker, a firefighter, a cowboy, an MMA fighter, a Navy SEAL. Why? There's that old "why" question again from Part I. His profession, his name, his tattoos - none of those things by themselves are what make him lovable.  And I want him to be lovable - to the audience, sure, but mostly to the person who's falling in love with him. 

- It's not enough to simply describe both parties as attractive. They have to be attractive to each other, and that's a total package kind of deal. Physical traits play a part in it, sure, but it has to go deeper than that. There has to be compatibility, mutual interests, real caring and emotion. In a really great love story, it doesn't matter what the characters do for a living or how much money they have - we, as the audience, are starry-eyed because their love is so perfect and meant-to-be. 

- Making a "Why" list can be a great way to figure out the characters' romantic journey. Why are they drawn to one another? Why each other specifically and not someone else? Why are they resistant? Or, why are they falling so quickly? The more time you spend asking yourself about the reasons why they work, the stronger the relationship is going to be on paper. 

- Remember that you want the audience to fall in love with the couple as a unit, but, as previously stated, if the romantic elements were removed, the individuals in the couple should still have compelling emotional journeys throughout the novel.

- Names don't make characters sexy; characters elevate names to sexy status. 

- Not every reader wants the same kind of romance. Got an idea that doesn't fit the mold? A hero who isn't alpha? There's someone out there who wants to read that (probably me!).

When I'm writing, it's always characters first, romance second. A little spice and sex won't magically make boring, flat characters more interesting, nor fix a weak plot. In my approach, if the book is a cake, the romance is the sprinkles and candles on top. I like to think of it as people we love falling in love with each other. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Workshop Wednesday: Characterization Part II

Workshop Wednesday: Characterization Part II

Secondary Characters:
Anyone who's read any of my books will tell you that I like to write secondary characters. Usually a lot of them. Part of this is because I prefer to write book series versus standalones, and secondary characters are necessary in that instance; but also because the growth of a primary character is expedited or hampered by his relationships with others - those "others" are your secondary characters.

I generally find secondary characters fascinating, and I think it's because they're on the fringes of a story, and therefore still mysterious. There's the potential for discovery there, and learning more about them. Because I think mystery is a large part of their appeal, when I start a book or series, I leave the secondary characters' backgrounds fairly open-ended. I decide a few things about them, and then allow the rest to reveal itself to me as they interact with the main character(s). 

But that's the thing - there IS a reveal. They DO have histories, fears, wants and dreams of their own, and aren't simply there to prop up the hero or heroine. For me, it's important, as a writer, to see them as individuals and not just supporting players; to think of them as having their own stories down the line, even if I never wind up getting to them (because some secondary characters end up being more interesting than others). It's important for the main character to care about them, truly engage them in conversation, and for the secondary characters to have unique opinions on the issues at hand. 

In real life we walk in our own familiar shoes, but as a writer, we, like actors in a stage play, are changing costumes behind the curtains and throwing ourselves into a dozen different roles. It requires a great deal of empathy -  elsewise you'll write the kind of book in which the characters are all clones, distinguishable only by name and a few superficial details. 

The problem with a big cast of POV characters is that you then have a lot of competing voices in your head. It can get stressful. It's why, unless it comes naturally and easily, I wouldn't recommend a writer tackle a large cast of characters on their first attempt. Fiction writing is an exercise in detaching yourself from the imaginary folks in your head, and learning how to let characters speak through you; the more characters, the more overwhelming the process can seem. 

If you're juggling a cast with multiple narrators, here are some things to keep in mind:

- Make sure each new POV introduced has something unique and valuable to add to the narrative. A different perspective, a view of an event that no one else can see or hear, some insight for the audience that will help put everything else into context. If you shift POV, make sure it's for a reason, and that it's enhancing the plot, rather than rehashing what someone else has already said. 

- Make sure each character has his or her own voice. This doesn't mean the style of your writing needs to change, in fact, it shouldn't; but the thoughts themselves need to fit logically with that character. For example: seven different characters wouldn't use the exact same terms to describe the same instance. 

- In the interest of reality, keep the dialogue simple and person-appropriate. A biker isn't going to wax poetic for long paragraphs, and a titled English gentleman isn't going to say "ain't." 

Next week, I'll talk about my personal approach to writing characters in a romantic relationship, and how to avoid the pitfalls of character clichés.