Thursday, April 18, 2024

April Fools?


I woke up at about 6 am this morning because my kids wanted to celebrate April Fool's Day, starting with setting off alarms on all of the phones/alarm clocks they could find. I dismantled a tripwire on the way to the bathroom and stepped over a Lego minefield.

Then I told them a story I've heard at church about two boys who found shoes in a field. One wanted to pull a prank and hide the shoes, but the other instead hid some money in each shoe. Then they hid and watched. Their would-be victim was just as shocked. He looked all around but missed the two boys. Then he dropped to his knees and said a prayer of gratitude for money that his family badly needed, and the boys left feeling better about themselves.

You know what would be even more shocking than being sprayed by the sink sprayer? Finding all of the dishes done.

So, this is a challenge to find a "positive prank" to pull on someone today. 

I suppose I should make this relevant to books, since that's what you've signed up for with this newsletter. In both stories I'm writing right now, I've enjoyed making the children age-appropriate. In The Centaur Chase on kindle vella, a centaur foal (2 and a half in human years), plays clapping games and accidentally knocks people over. In the next Spectra Crowns Tale (on vella and amazon), the 10 and 11-year-old boys are very closely based on my boys. I'll include a sneak peek of those shenanigans below.


A large brown shape hurtled through the air toward them. Simon leapt back. The shape landed in the pond in an explosion of water. Simon yelped as the cold shot through him. He wiped pond water from his eyes and tried to figure out what had just happened. 

An enormous, full grown bosent sat in the middle of the pond, cow-like, but bigger and shaggier. 

A pair of dark-haired boys, perhaps ten years old, pushed through the brush. Their gleaming white grins stood out on their tanned faces. “I had everything under control,” the taller one said.  

“Bosent launcher, success!” the smaller cheered. 

“A bosent launcher?” Simon repeated faintly. 

A third child came out of the woods. She was older than the other two, perhaps fourteen, with long glossy black hair. “Did we make it? I thought my aim was a little...” She caught sight of Simon, squeaked, and ducked behind the nearest tree. 

“You always make it!” one of the boys answered, as though she hadn’t just hidden. “Good shot, Larina!” 

Robin, Simon's escort, grinned. “Meet my siblings, the youngest three Sages. Larina has perfect aim, Bracken fashions things from wood—like bosent launchers, apparently—and Finn controls water.” 

“We’re not twins,” Finn said. Though he stood knee-deep in the pond, his cotton clothing was completely dry. “Everyone thinks we’re twins, but I’m seven seasons older.” 

“Are they always this...” Simon gestured. 

Robin nodded “They are always this.”  

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Kindle vella: What is it and why should I try it out?

News is slowly getting out. A lot of people have heard the name "kindle vella", but not everyone knows what it is or why they should give it a try.

I enjoy kindle vella, amazon's serial reading platform, because I don't always have the time or focus to sit down and read a whole novel, but I do have snatches of time where I can easily squeeze in an episode. If books were like movies, then kindle vella would be like a tv show. Each episode contains a section of the story, similar to a book chapter. Stories are often much longer than a novel and might continue through several seasons. My favorite kindle vella story (The Queen Trials by Penelope Wright) updates every single day, so whenever my day starts to drag, I can check for my daily update and continue the story just a little more. I also love to sample a story, or even an entire genre, to see if it's something that I will enjoy before I invest my time and money into it.

To read on kindle vella, you only need your amazon account. The first ten episodes are free, and trust me, you can get into a lot of story in ten episodes! In my most popular story, The Captain's Dowry, the main character changes from a proper lady to a cabin boy, escapes a debtor, and marries a stranger. After you've read ten episodes, you can buy tokens to unlock more. Currently, each episode costs ten tokens, which are about ten cents each (check those numbers for updates though). You can read directly from the kindle vella website, or check stories on the kindle app. For the moment, kindle vella is only available for the United States, but it's a new program and often changes.  

Another huge advantage to kindle vella is that it allows you to interact with the story and its author in ways that are not possible in a full book. While you can review a story like you would a full book, vella has many other options. After each episode, you can choose to hit the thumbs up button, or leave a comment. Some even have polls where you can vote for answers to story-related questions. And each week, you can pick your favorite story. The top 250 favorite stories get a coveted crown (and bonus money), so let your favorite authors know how much you enjoy their work!

I've seen a lot of different genres on kindle vella. As always, romance is queen, and spice sells. Not all stories are steamy romance, though. I write fantasy with sweet (not spicy) romance subplots. My kids screen each episode for me, so I need to make sure they're interesting as well as clean. I've enjoyed nonfiction, such as Life Lessons from Flipping HousesRosanne E Lortz writes some amazing Regency Romance stories. As mentioned, I've been reading The Queen Trials, a dystopia with a hint of fantasy, every day for years. I've even found stories that I've loved on kindle vella and later purchased as a full book on amazon, such as the middle grade adventure, The Golden Scarab of Balihar. These are the stories that interest me, but you can find stories of all kinds on kindle vella. 

I highly recommend giving it a try!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Introduction to The Sunken Oath

 You might remember that I'm working on a sprawling series of fairytale retellings. Each follows a different royal in their own story. Well, the fourth tale, The Sunken Oath, is now on preorder, with a release date of March 1st!

I'm excited to introduce you to Dylan, the prince of Merlandia. He has no tail and he's not a maid, but he's representing The Little Mermaid in this collection. He's fun and improper, ready to experience the world.

Here's the official blurb:
Dylan never wanted to be king, but he’ll have to accept his title to get his voice back. The rest of the royal family hate humans, who don’t have water abilities like the Mer, but he’s fascinated, especially by an ocean-eyed pirate girl. The rift between humans and Mers grows almost as fast as the one between Dylan and his mother, the ruling queen. How much would he sacrifice to control his own voice?

I had a lot of fun writing Bianca, the pirate girl, who is sweet and quiet in temperament, yet can endure anything without batting an eye and has no qualms about using a pistol. 

Old readers will enjoy the return of Innis and Alvis from the previous book, The Cousin Pact. If you haven't read that one, you might want to finish it before starting The Sunken Oath, since Cousin Pact's mystery will be spoiled in this book.

Try out a sneak peek here.

Sneak peek: The Sunken Oath

Enjoy this sneak peek from The Sunken Oath, book 4 in the Spectra Crown Tales. This series is interconnected but not interdependent, so you can pick up the story in whichever fairytale retelling strikes your fancy. 

SMOKE ROSE IN A BLACK PILLAR, far out to sea. “I’ll check it out," Dylan said. "Any of you want me to send you back to shore first?” He studied the passengers in his canoe.

“That could be our ship,” one of the humans said. “We’ve got to help if we can.” 

Dylan aimed toward the smoke. The smell hit him first, sulfur and burning wood. The air grew hazy. Then a black blur appeared at the base of the smoke. Jagged pieces of wood, blackened and charred, escaped to stab at the smoke. 

A feeble voice called for help. Dylan leapt out of the canoe and shot off toward it. He angled his body into a straight line, not bothering to swim. His magic control of the current did all propelling for him. Bubbles dashed around his nose, bringing air so that he had no need to surface. 

Dylan popped above the water. The waves bobbed him up and down, along with a layer of black ash. He didn’t hear the voice anymore. He didn’t like to think of anyone drowning, but it happened sometimes.  

A huge mass bore down on him. Dylan ducked out of the way. A large chunk of boards, once a deck, floated past. Blackened in places, splintering apart, it was on its way down. Dylan resurfaced and looked around one last time.  


He almost missed the cry, barely more than a whisper.  

“Where are you?” he called. 

No answer. Dylan surged back toward the ship fragment. He summoned the currents to hold the whole thing up. Instantly, fatigue spread through his body. He was approaching his limits. 

There! A small figure clung to one side. Masses of dark hair hid her face from view. Dylan rushed over. Her tiny, pale hands clung to the wood. 

“Let go,” Dylan said. 

She shook her head. Her face appeared, and Dylan gasped. The ocean-eyed girl he'd danced with last night. Her eyes were open but vague, her whole body shivering. He wrapped one arm around her waist. The wood creaked, threatening to break apart.  

Carefully, Dylan reached for her hands and peeled them from the wood. They fastened on his arm instead. He brought her close against him and shot away from the wreckage. He let go of the currents holding up the fragment, and instantly it dropped. Within a minute, it was gone, leaving an unbroken surface. 

The girl still clung to his arm. He couldn’t see her face but felt her breathing. He couldn’t name the emotions rolling through him, holding her so much closer than at the dance, except that he knew he had to keep her safe.

Preorder on amazon for a release March 1st, 2024!

Friday, January 12, 2024

Poem: Selfish?

 "I should be more unselfish, like Grandma,"

I say as I trudge into the snowy night.

"I think about myself far too often,"

I say as I retrieve the baby's snacks from the car.

"I need to do better,"

I say as I return to the house

and the people still warm in their beds

and the baby wailing for a snack.

In the morning, I realize,

I might be a little like Grandma,

after all.

Friday, December 15, 2023

The Centaur Chase sneak peek

 The Centaur Chase is coming to kindle vella at the end of December 2023 and coming in full book format in the spring of 2025.

Sneak peek:

Bree wasn’t really alone. The scouting party had spread out over the hills, and Bree glimpsed several hunters in the distance. The only question was deciding which of them she should allow to escort her back to her father. 

A rustle nearby caught her attention. The hills dropped into a gentle valley, filled with brush. Someone must be riding down there, closer than the other hunters. Se nudged her horse toward the valley. Whether Papa or one of his friends, she’d be more comfortable near someone else.  

As she dropped into the brush, her visibility all but vanished. The wind rustling in the dry branches covered the distant voices. Still, she’d heard someone down here. 

“Hello?” Bree called. 

For a moment, she heard nothing. Then a figure appeared out of the brush ahead—a tall man she didn’t recognize, with huge dark eyes that immediately captured her attention. For several seconds, she could only stare. At last he looked away, scanning their surroundings, and she caught her breath. What about this stranger was so mesmerizing? 

The stranger returned his gaze to her. He inclined his head, but his expression remained impassive. “Are you lost?” he asked. His voice was rich and deep, and so quiet that she had to concentrate to pick out his words. 

“No, I don’t think so.” She glanced behind her, but saw nothing through the brush. “I was separated from the party, but they should be just over the slope.” 

“I see.” He turned his horse straight toward her. Bree suddenly realized that he wore no shirt. She averted her eyes. Could he be injured or needy, perhaps? Or... her maid liked to tell stories of wild men who roamed the wilderness between the estates. She made them sound exciting, but Bree hadn’t believed her. Who would want to live out of doors when they could work at an estate? 

“You’re not from Papa’s scouting party, then?” she asked. 

“No,” he said slowly. “I wasn’t aware that anyone lived here. I was scouting a bit myself.” 

Again he captured her gaze, studied her a moment, and turned away to examine his surroundings. Did he have something to fear? Did she? He didn’t sound dangerous. 

“You have beautiful hair.” His horse’s hooves thumped slowly on the ground as he neared her.  

“Thank you.” Her hair was long and thick, and she brushed it twice a day to make it glossy. And so few people even noticed! 

The stranger didn’t sound like a wild man. Perhaps men at the estate where he lived didn’t wear shirts? He clearly hadn’t expected to come across a young lady in the brush. She glanced up and found herself staring into his eyes, so brown they were almost black, with a mesmerizing depth she couldn’t describe. His black hair was shoulder length, sticking up in all directions and yet somehow never hiding those incredible eyes.  

She knew she was blushing but couldn’t look away.  He’d come nearer than she realized.  

“You shouldn’t be alone out here,” he said. “Why don’t you come home with me? You can meet my family.” 

Definitely not a wild man, if he had a family. “I can’t just leave my party,” she said. “Papa would worry.” 

“That’s very generous of you to consider his feelings.” The stranger edged nearer. “Although, he’s not keeping a very good eye on you, is he? You never know when you might meet a predator.” 

He turned away to study his surroundings. Perhaps he was serious about predators. He never seemed to look at her for more than a few seconds at a time. 

“I’m not afraid.” Maybe she should be. Only a few feet of brush still separated them.  

“Very brave of you.” 

“Do you compliment everyone this often?” 

Smile lines appeared around his eyes. “Only if they deserve it.”  

If Marc’s friend had complimented her instead of snatching at her hand, she might not have minded her brother’s plan. Did he want... She shook her head. She didn’t know the man.  

But she did want to get to know him. 

Bree picked up the reins and nudged her mare forward. Dilly left the bush she was grazing on with a grumpy snort. 

The stranger stared at Dilly. His eyes widened and he backed away. 

He couldn’t be afraid of horses, since he was riding too. “What’s wrong?” Bree asked. 

“Nothing. I must leave.” He eased away from her, into thicker brush. 

“Wait.” Bree scrambled to think of an excuse as she nudged Dilly forward.  

The brush opened up into a clearing. Bree gasped. The stranger was not a man. She was staring at a centaur. 

Bree had heard of such creatures but never seen one. Instead of legs, his torso melded into the body of a horse. His chest was too smooth, with not even a navel and muscle lines in the wrong places. The horse body wasn’t exactly right either. Smaller, for one thing, and the proportions were somehow off.  

The centaur had stopped trying to back away. Now, finally, his gaze fixed on her, his eyes wild. He shifted his weight from one foot to another, just like Dilly did when she was nervous, and his mahogany coat rippled as he shivered. 

 “Are you afraid of me?” she asked. 

She couldn’t read his expression, but he stopped shivering. “I should be,” he said.  

Bree supposed that she should be too, but he didn’t seem dangerous. He held no weapon, and mounted on Dilly, she was slightly taller. This could be an interesting opportunity to learn more about him, if only she could decide which questions to ask first. “My name is Bree,” she said. “What’s yours?” 

She expected hesitation, but he answered immediately. “Dale.” He picked his way closer. “You are brave, aren’t you?” 


Bree jumped at the unexpected voice. Papa crashed through the underbrush, heedless of the thorns ripping at him and his horse. She turned back to the centaur but he’d disappeared as though he’d never been. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Character Personality Systems

I like a lot of structure when I write, so perhaps it's not surprising that I latched onto the idea of using personality systems to develop characters. Like story structure, using personality systems can be a starting point to developing a story, or a place to seek inspiration if you're stuck. Also like story structure, there is danger in getting stuck in a rut, making story elements feel rigid and unoriginal if you stick religiously to the system. However, if used well, personality systems can be a powerful tool in creating dynamic characters.

Personality systems predict patterns of behavior, and how certain people might react in any given scenario. They divide the complexity of people into groups for easier consideration. Whether or not they hold true in real life is beyond the scope of this post. 

I'd like to discuss seven reasons for using personality systems in your writing, and then I'll go into examples of the most popular systems and how they might be useful. Keep in mind that this is a very basic overview of information that can quickly become complex. If you want to study these further, excellent! Go ahead. If you're not looking to invest that time right now, be ware of falling into rabbit holes.

Seven Reasons to Use Personality Systems
1. Create Consistent Characters
Personalities tend to remain constant even when people change. Using a personality system can help you determine if this character is acting consistent or "in character". I find it especially useful when writing about a character at different times and ages.

2. Discover Conflict
Which characters are least likely to get along? How might they clash? Personality systems may help you find an answer.

3. Brainstorming Motivation
Each personality type has a different motivation, which can help you to get ideas for what really drives each character. This is especially useful for villains, in making sure that they are dynamic and relatable.

4. Ease and Speed
Creating a story is hard. There are a lot of facets to discover, in any genre, from characters to setting to plot to theme. Starting with a personality system can free up brainpower for other parts of the process. 

5. Include a variety of characters
Using a system can help you to make sure that not all of your characters are mirrors of you, for instance. If you write a lot of stories, you may need help making sure that you have a wide variety. 

6. Keep Track of A Large Number of Characters
Especially if you're writing a series or a large work, you may struggle to keep track of everyone, and if you struggle, so will your readers. 

7. Comparisons
With personality systems, you can compare your own characters to ones from popular works. I especially like The Personality Database for this.

Now that we have an idea of why and how we might want to use these systems, here are a few of the more popular ones and how they might be useful:


Have you ever heard someone introduce themselves as an INFJ or ESTP? Those letters come from the Myers-Brigg personality system, which deals with how you perceive and interact with the world around you. Myers and Briss were a mother-daughter team who adapted the philosophies of Carl Jung into a more readable form. Interestingly enough, the daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, was a mystery writer.

According to the Myers-Brigg website,“Seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.”

Myers Brigg takes four different traits, and assigns people one of two possible options, as follows:

I vs. E: Introvert v. Extrovert (social interactions)

N vs. S: Introspective vs. Sensing: (information and observation)

F vs. T: Feeling vs. Thinking. (decision-making) 

P vs. J: Perceiving vs. Judging: (structure)

Bonus: A vs T: Assertive vs. Turbulent (handling stress)

An introvert who absorbs information as they receive it, who bases their decisions more on feelings than thoughts, and who is open to change, would use the letters INFP.

From what I've seen from informal surveys on social media, around 75% of writers are Introverted, while maybe 90% are Introspective over Sensing.

When I was developing my character Perrin Andres, the main character of The Seventh Clan, I used the Myers Brigg personality system. I knew that he needed to be introverted, because he would need to be comfortable spending long times alone. He'd be Sensing instead of Introspective, because I wanted the story to have a survival-type feel. He had to be Feeling, because he is motivated by his empathy for others. I also wanted him to be open to change, so that led to Perceiving over Judging. That makes him ISFP. I ran that type through the Personality Database, and found that Perrin shares a personality type with Zuko from Avatar: the Last Airbender, Harry Potter, Eragon, and Tyson the cyclops. It looks like, as a young man protagonist of a YA fantasy novel, Perrin is in good company.


The Myers & Briggs Foundation - MBTI® Basics  

Free personality test, type descriptions, relationship and career advice | 16Personalities 

5 Ways to Use Myers-Briggs for Characters - Helping Writers Become Authors

Myers–Briggs / Useful Notes - TV Tropes


The enneagram system breaks people into nine different types, and establishes how they relate to one another. This is the system that I use most often.

"Unlike Myers-Briggs, which is a “neutral” system focused primarily on the differing ways people take in and use information, the Enneagram is often called an “ego-transcendence tool.” Sounds all lofty and new-agey, but it’s really just code for “this-is-gonna-hit-you-where-it-hurts.”
--KM Weiland, 5 Ways to Use the Enneagram to Write Better Characters - Helping Writers Become Authors

“It is unique amongst personality tests in that it doesn't try to pigeonhole you based on who you happen to be at this very second; it accounts for personal evolution, both in the past and in the future, and gives suggestions for how to improve… Your greatest weakness is your greatest strength pushed too far.  

The Enneagram / Useful Notes - TV Tropes

Here are the nine types, represented by Disney princesses:
Type 1 is the reformer, desiring to be good and afraid of being wrong. Type 1s tend to see the world in black and white and can be perfectionistic. In Frozen 1, Elsa is afraid of being a monster.

Type 2 is the helper, desiring to be loved and afraid of being unwanted. Type 2s tend to put others before themselves, and can be influenced by others' opinions. Anna from Frozen and Snow White are examples.

Type 3 is the Achiever, desiring to be valuable and afraid of being worthless. Type 3s are ambitious and goal-oriented. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog is an excellent example, as she works hard to reach her goal of opening a restaurant.

Type 4 is the Individualist, desiring to be themselves and afraid of being insignificant. They are often artists, eager to define who they are and represent it to others. Moana wins by first understanding who she is, and then teaching her antagonist to do so as well. Belle feels insignificant in her village and needs to find an adventurous life that fits her better.

Type 5 is the Investigator, desiring to be competent and afraid of being helpless. They tend to be intellectual, while they study and research every question. Jane from Tarzan is a Disney example.

Type 6 is the Loyalist, desiring to be secure and afraid of being without guidance. Type 6 can be anxious and is slow to trust, especially themselves. They tend to find something bigger than themselves that they can trust, and then they will hold to it above all. Though Mulan breaks conventions, she believes in honor and her family.

Type 7 is the Enthusiast, desiring to be content and afraid of being deprived. Type 7s love to try everything. They want to experience the world. The term FOMO was pretty much invented for type 7s. Ariel is an example, as she desires to leave the ocean and explore the human world.

Type 8 is the Challenger, desiring to be in control and afraid of being controlled. Type 8s are independent and driven. Merida and Jasmine are examples of Disney princesses with this type.

Type 9 is the Peacemaker, desiring to be at peace (especially at peace with themselves) and afraid of being in conflict. Type 9s are dreamers who see the world in a different way. Pocahontas and Aurora are type 9s.

When I was developing my character Norma Filaura from DreamRovers, I took an enneagram test, answering as though I were her. Her results came back as type 4, which makes sense because she is a teenager with a coming-of-age plot, as she tries to discover who she really is and how she fits into the world around her. The type descriptions from the Enneagram Institue gave me ideas for her desires and fears, healthy and unhealthy behaviors, and how she might relate to other types, including her family members and the antagonists.

DnD Alignments

This system depicts how a character relates to laws and morality. Their alignment with laws ranges from lawful to chaotic, while their morality ranges from good to evil. I particularly liked this chart which uses characters from the Harry Potter series to depict each type:

Love Languages
How do characters show and receive love? This can affect how they get along (or don't) with one another. When I was working on the relationship between Keita and Brian in Keita's Wings, they used every love language at one point so that their relationship would appeal to every reader.

As a side note, I've heard the love languages also referred to as love tanks, with the idea being that everyone needs everything on the list, but they have different "minimum quotas", if you will, that need to be met.

The Love Languages are:
Words of Affirmation
Giving Service
Quality Time (aka receiving attention)
Receiving Gifts (including Presence--any physical representation of an intangible idea)
Physical Touch


Many different systems exist. You can try one, or make your own. Want to sort your characters into their Hogwarts House? Have you chosen a birthday so that you can refer to their zodiac? Possibilities abound!

Do you use any of these systems? Do you have a favorite that I didn't cover? Do you want to compare personality types? (for me: INFP-A, type 9, Capricorn, Chinese year of the tiger, Ravenclaw, neutral good, receiving gifts.) Feel free to leave a comment!

April Fools?

  I woke up at about 6 am this morning because my kids wanted to celebrate April Fool's Day, starting with setting off alarms on all of ...