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.

Finishing Books and Listening to Your Characters


Coming this summer

On March 5th, I finished The Black Wasp, book 3 in the Vampires of Crimson Cove series, and I’m astounded by the direction these books have taken. This is in so small part due to the Black Wasp herself – a character who showed up in the middle of the previous book, The Silver Dagger.

I can still remember the moment she made her first appearance. I was in the midst of writing a scene that had nothing to do with strange, ancient women in old-fashioned mourning clothes, but there she was, all white-faced and creepy-eyed, waiting to be written. I put her off at first because I knew she’d do exactly what she did – which was forever alter the DNA of this series – but eventually, I could ignore her no longer. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Unlike the other supernatural creatures in Crimson Cove, she’s not a vampire – not in the usual sense, anyway – but something much darker, much deadlier. While she does feed on humans, it isn’t blood their that satiates her, but their fear and pain. In that respect, I suppose she’s a kind of “psychic vampire,” though I never refer to her as that in the book. She’s a different species altogether, her own kind of monster – a monster that’s opened new doors of possibility for the story arc and added deeper layers of intrigue (and terror) to my fictional world. Figuring her out has been one of the creative highlights of my writing life, and I still have a lot to learn about her.

I love it when characters feel this alive because early in my writing career, I was advised – by someone who didn’t know what the hell they were talking about – to never let the the characters guide the plot. Not knowing any better (and to my own detriment) I followed that advice, and my writing – when it came at all – suffered badly for it.

I nearly gave the up entirely more than once, but eventually, I heard someone say that writers should listen to their characters, and decided to give that a try … and that’s when my fictional world flourished and my plots gained real ambition.

It undoubtedly sounds crazy to non-writers (and probably to some writers as well, depending on their own processes) to say that the characters know what’s best, that it’s the author’s job is to transcribe more than actually invent the story, but – in my case, at least – it’s the absolute truth. Had I ignored the promptings of the Black Wasp character, the Crimson Cove series wouldn’t be taking the turns it is – and I love where it’s going.

The same thing happened in the first book, The Crimson Corset, with Gretchen VanTreese. It’s pretty hard to believe now that my central antagonist was originally intended to die in her first and only scene, but she was. Somehow, though, by that mysterious process of creation, things changed along the way, taking on an entirely new and unexpected shape. Without Gretchen, this series would be something entirely different. Assuming it existed at all, it certainly wouldn’t be the story I currently know and love.

And this is why I use every opportunity to tell new writers to a) trust their characters, and b) be very selective about what advice they follow. Every writer has their own process which needs to be discovered organically, and the only way to do that is to write. And write and write and write.

So keep writing …

And always, always listen to your characters.

P.S. The Black Wasp is currently with the editors and should be out sometime in early-to-mid summer.

Today is the First Day of a New Book


Today is the day I began a new book. With The Black Wasp (book 3 of the Vampires of Crimson Cove series) in the editor’s hands, and not a lot going on besides some book marketing and the disposal of an old sofa, I figured I might as well do some writing. Since I’m dying to find out what happens next, I’ve decided to dive right into book 4 of the Crimson Cove series which, for now, I am referring to only as TMR.

TMR picks up where The Black Wasp leaves off, and given that it hasn’t even been released yet, I can’t say a whole lot more about it except that things have really changed for my protagonist, Cade Colter. The Black Wasp not only introduced new characters, but new motives as well – and those motives are what will drive TMR and leave poor Cade with some pretty big fish to fry. And by “pretty big” I actually mean huge.

To simplify it, he’s in way over his head, and when The Black Wasp comes out (this summer!) you’ll see why. Even as I was writing today, I realized just how much Cade is underestimating his situation and how little he actually understands. I’m currently feeling very bad for him, but I can’t help it – I’m a sucker for the drama. There’s nothing more fun than a character who’s bitten off way more than they can chew (insert evil laugh here.)

The Black Wasp is coming soon

With so many endings on the horizon, I’m feeling especially excited about the new project (not only was The Black Wasp recently finished, but Tamara and I are creeping up on the climax of our next Thorne & Cross standalone, Spite House, as well as wrapping up the final scenes in Shadowlands, book 4 of The Ravencrest Saga), and no doubt adding to my excitement is the fact that this, the beginning, is my favorite part of the book. It might sound strange to say I prefer the beginnings and (and even the middles) to the endings, but I do – and not just in the books I’m writing, the ones I’m reading, too. Endings just kind of depress me, I guess, but the good news is, you can always start the next one – so, that’s what I did.

I wish I could tell you more about it, but for now, I need to keep its secrets close. When The Black Wasp comes out in the next month or two, maybe I’ll be able to say more …

Until then, happy reading, writing, or whatever it is that makes you shine, and just because, apropos of nothing, here’s me with my familiar, Pawpurrazzi, who oversees all my writing.

Pawpurrazzi and me, sometime last year