10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing in the Past 10 Years


I’ve been writing all my life, but it wasn’t until ten years ago that I got serious about it. And I didn’t want to be a hobby-writer, either. I wanted to be a real-life, full-time professional who spends his time writing, editing, marketing, and well … doing it all – because that’s what writers do these days.

The road was long and winding, but in 2012, I finally got published. Since then, I’ve written several novels on my own as well as with bestselling author, Tamara Thorne.

And Tamara and I didn’t stop there. We also began the radio show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, and, more recently, Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, where we interview authors, paranormal investigators, forensics experts, and anyone else who likes frolicking in the darkness with us. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some amazing people, and in the decade since I plunged myself into the strange world of creative enterprise, I’ve learned some things about writers, readers, the craft, and the business.

Some of these lessons were learned first hand and some of them through the wisdom of others, but all of them have proved profoundly valuable to me. The list that follows comes from my experience in the writing world, and I hope some of it may be useful to other writers … and interesting for readers.

1. Reading is the single most important thing to do if you want to improve your craft. Read everything … and read it with an active eye, taking in plot devices, pacing, theme, voice, dialogue, and character development. Reading trains the unconscious mind to find its own writing rhythm and gives you an “ear” for storytelling. So read. Not a little, but a lot. As Stephen King famously says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

2. There’s no such thing as ‘just a writer’ anymore. Gone are the days (if they ever existed) when publishers spent copious amounts of time and money getting the word out about your new book. You’re not just an author anymore. You’re also a marketer, a public relations specialist, a social media virtuoso, and a business manager, among other things. Make peace with that, keeping in mind that no one will work as hard for you as you will. They never have and they never will. So be accountable for your career.

3. The cream rises to the top. In an age of do-it-yourself digital delirium, everyone’s an author. It’s easy to look at the bottomless pit of other writers and wonder how the hell anyone is going to find your work. But look closer and you’ll see how many of those authors fall off the map, disenchanted when their dreams of instant fame and fortune are promptly torn to pieces. Not to mention the profusion of books out there that simply aren’t any good. Readers are smart people and they know the difference between a good story and a poor one. They don’t come back to authors who write bad books. Keep writing damned good books and, like the proverbial cream, you’ll rise to the top.

4. Have heroes. Learn from the best. Once you’ve established what kind of writer you want to be, keep a close eye on those authors who inspire you. Study their work, learn from them. Stalk them on Twitter. But don’t get too stalkery. No one likes a creepster.

5. Set goals. Whether it’s a page amount, a word amount, or a paragraph amount, set daily goals. Don’t settle for the “when I get around to it” approach to writing. No one ever “gets around to it.”

6. Know the difference between a hobby and a job. If you want writing to be your job, you have to treat it like a job or no one else will. That means you set hours. The phone is off. The door is shut. You’re not readily accessible. If you don’t spend your time wisely, other people will happily spend it for you, so unless writing is a mere pastime for you, don’t let other people spend your time.

7.   Go big or go home. Don’t think you can only write for small markets, or that a high-powered literary agent won’t be interested, or that a big-name author is going to look down his or her nose at you. Know your worth and aim for the stars.

8. Walk through every door that opens. And if you keep at it, people will open doors for you. But getting through the door is the easy part. It’s up to you to earn your place in the room.

9. Never read your reviews. For better or worse, reviews are necessary, but they’re designed with other readers in mind – not the author. If you’re looking for a critique, get it from your agent, your editor, your publisher, another author, or an objective friend … anywhere but from the reviews section of the book retailer. Reading reviews – whether they be glowing or insulting – isn’t really doing you any favors.

10. Trust your characters. Some writers will say that you must keep your characters on a short leash and remain in full command of them at all times lest they sully your painstakingly-plotted story with their whimsical meanderings. But here’s the thing: Those seemingly frivolous departures from your plans are where the characters come to life. And when the characters come to life, that’s when the magic happens. I say let your characters go where they want, let them say what they want … let them tell you their story. Let yourself be as delighted and surprised by them as your readers will be.

The Art of Blaming the Industry


In 2010, I completed my first novel and the rush it gave me was of greater magnitude than anything else I’d ever experienced. After years of trying, I had finally done it: I had written my very first book. I was elated, bubbling with pride, and eager to get it out into the world where everyone could appreciate all my hard work. Everything was going swimmingly. That is, until I started submitting it to agents and publishers. Suffice it to say, this part of the process did not go as I’d planned.

After two years and nearly 200 hundred rejections, I gave up. Not on writing or my dream of being published, but I gave up on my theory that my book was a misunderstood masterpiece. I might have blamed any number of sources for my failure – poor judgment on the parts of the agents and publishers, lack of industry funds, the changing marketplace, etc. – but I was never comfortable putting that much of my fate into someone else’s hands. I admitted to myself that the problem might be me. So I pulled my manuscript out of circulation and gave it a long, hard, honest look. Lo and behold, I found some issues. Issues that, deep down inside, in a place I don’t like looking at, I suspected were there all along.

Taken from an interview in 2018

The characters needed to be amped up and more clearly defined. There were some loose threads that never really went anywhere. The scenery wasn’t clear. Yes, there were issues, but also, there was enough potential that I couldn’t just scrap the novel – even though I tried.

Fast forward to 2015. My collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I had just gotten our haunted hotel novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting, published – and it was time to start the next project. We were all set, but there was something I had to do first. I had to re-work the manuscript I’d completed in 2010. So, I put many things on hold, dug my heels in, and refused to go forward on anything else until I gave my solo novel one more hard, honest rewrite.

What ended up happening was, again, not what I had planned. Rather than reworking the existing novel, I rewrote it entirely, keeping only the plot’s most skeletal basics – a few characters, and about three scenes I felt were strong enough to make the cut. I switched the point-of-view from first to third person, rearranged some plot points, and added new layers of texture to the characters and their relationships with each other. What I ended up with was an entirely different story – a better one that had no trouble seeing publication.

Its title is The Crimson Corset, and it was released in early August of 2015. Finally. Five years is a long time, especially in writer-speak. But in that time, I kept writing and managed to get a few other works published. More importantly, I developed, becoming a stronger writer with a keener eye, a sharper focus, and a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of good storytelling. The Crimson Corset went on to become a bestseller, earning praise from vampire-lit veteran Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Jay Bonansinga, New York Times author of The Walking Dead books …

But it came from humble beginnings and I won’t lie. It burns to realize your novel isn’t good enough. It’s disheartening, it’s aggravating, and because it’s your own hard work, it is personal, regardless of what they tell you. But there is a great mercy in the midst of this misfortune, and that is seeing how much you’ve improved with time. It wasn’t that my story wasn’t good enough – it’s that I simply wasn’t ready to tell it. I needed a little time, a little more experience, and only with those ingredients could I give full justice to the novel I was trying to write.

And I never resented having to rewrite this novel; I loved every minute of it – so much, in fact, that I’ve agreed to make it the first in a series: The Vampires of Crimson Cove (book 2, The Silver Dagger, is out now, and book 3, The Black Wasp, is coming this summer.)

I have never subscribed to the philosophy that creating art is a painful, grueling process. If I believed that, I don’t know that I would continue. If writing was as painful as some claim it is, I would simply do something else, something that didn’t hurt quite so much, something more suitable to my abilities. But the fact is, I love writing. Even rewriting. Sure it’s hard work, but when you write what you love, hard work is fun work. And the industry has nothing to do with it. A writer’s business is to write the kinds of books that readers want to read. Do that, and the rest will take care of itself.

The First Interview About “MOTHER”


Here is the very first interview about our book “MOTHER.” Tamara Thorne dishes a little dirt about this twisted little soon-to-be-released psychological thriller, over at Fiona Mcvie’s Author Interviews.

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And The Show Goes On …


After two weeks of reading, rewriting, and reading again, I’ve completed the first major edit of The Crimson Corset. The manuscript still has to go through the official editors, but after that (and a final read-through) The Crimson Corset will be a real book, ready for consumption. The expected eBook release is mid to late July and shortly thereafter, it will go to paper. It’s been a long ride and I have a few folks to whom I owe great thanks.

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First on that list is my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, who put our joint efforts on hold to read this entire novel aloud so I could hear how it sounded. Then there are the editors, who have already begun reading it and sending great feedback. Finally, there’s our wonderful publicist, who is already setting me up with interviews and reviews for the Crimson Corset’s release. Thank you all.

Tomorrow, I’ll be returning to collaborating full-time. First on the agenda is finishing the 8th (and final) installment of The Ghosts of Ravencrestthe Gothic serialized novel that Tamara Thorne and I began almost one year ago. Though the next installment will wrap up the current story arc, Ravencrest (in true soap opera fashion) is ongoing, so there’s plenty more ghosts, governesses, handsome millionaires, and diabolically delicious housekeepers to come. We’re not sure when Belinda’s misadventures at the mansion will come to end – but it won’t be any time soon. Especially if Mrs. Heller has anything to say about it. She has plans, you see …

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With the completion of Ravencrest’s 8th installment, Tamara and I will return to our next collaborative novel. When considering which project should come next, there are several possibilities. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s fantastic. It feels great to have so many ideas in the wings – to know that as one novel wraps up, several others are just waiting to begin. After discussing it this afternoon, I believe we’ve decided our next move, but I won’t say anything more about that for now, except that I’m stoked. This is one of those stories that’s been hovering in our minds for a long time – tapping our shoulders and whispering in our ears as we work on other things. I think it’s ready now. I’m eager to see what happens …

As I write this, I’m proud to say that the goals I set for 2015 are running right on time. The Cliffhouse Haunting was released in April. The Ghosts of Ravencrest’s first ‘volume’ is wrapping up, and my debut solo novel, The Crimson Corset, is going into production. On top of this, Tamara and I have not only maintained our hour-long, horror-themed, weekly internet/radio show Haunted Nights LIVE!, but we’ve procured interviews with such literary legends as Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead novels, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro of the Saint Germaine vampire series, New York Times bestellers, Christopher Rice and Christopher Moore, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, and Charlaine Harris of the Sookie Stackhouse books and HBO’s True Blood. And there are plenty more. You can see the full guest list at my website.

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The point is that I’m proud of us. Tamara and I have worked diligently, every day. We’ve put in the extra hours, the extra work, and a whole lot of extra effort. We’ve sat in front of our computers, our backs sore, our faces growing pale from lack of sunlight, pounding out page after page as, in many ways, the real world has passed us by. Not that we mind. But we’ve done it. Day after day. Rain or shine. With or without the cooperation of our moods. With or without the luxury of feeling inspired. With or without the “time” to do it. We’ve come a long way, but the road ahead is even longer … and that’s why, tomorrow morning, I know that we’ll start cracking away at the next project. And the next … I’ve never been so tired. Or fulfilled.

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