Weekly Roundup – The Long Road to a Short Story

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Next week I intend to introduce the first installment of the short story I have been working on, entitled DRAGON CHILD. It’s a fantasy tale set in the quasi-middle ages about a young orphan boy, a kingdom at risk, and nest full of dragons. I’m going to release it here FREE, in serial fashion, with a couple chapters each week. Depending on reader response, the story may serve as a prequel to a full length novel later on, so be sure to share your thoughts with me!

There were a few things I wanted to accomplish with this project. The first, as I mentioned last week, was to prove to myself that I was capable of writing a short story in the first place. I have numerous future projects riding on successfully reaching that goal, so it was critical for me to learn how. In addition, I wanted to have something to use as a give-away for promotional purposes or as a thank-you to my beta readers.

The idea for Dragon Child presented itself all at once and I was hooked! There are several first’s with this one:

  • First foray into the fantasy genre
  • First dragon story
  • First child as the main character
  • First time using the middle ages as a setting

With a plethora of dragon books out there, there probably aren’t too many new ideas to introduce. I wasn’t about to let that stop me! One recurring theme is a dragon’s love for treasure – especially gold, but few authors want to explain the reason for this strange obsession/hoarding behavior. I decided to use the premise but add a twist of my own by introducing a perfectly logical explanation for their love of gold. All dragon stories include a little bit of magic to make them work and mine is no exception. I think you’ll like it.

I don’t want to give away all the goodies, so you’ll have to read it for yourself. Join me next week for DRAGON CHILD!

###

Today is not only the first day of spring, but my sister’s birthday! With ten siblings, it’s almost always somebody’s birthday and I enjoy sending cards and chatting on the phone. In person would be better, but she’s 600 miles away and I don’t get back home very often. Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIS – your little brother loves you!

PS – be nice to me, or you’ll end up as a character in my next book…

Weekly Roundup – Novel vs. Short Story: What’s the Difference?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

For a reader, the most obvious difference between a novel and short story is the number of words. For a writer, it’s so much more!

Since I started writing seriously in 2015, the desire and opportunity to craft a short story have been curiously absent. My novels have kept me inordinately busy and it took me a while to recognize the need for short story material. Mix in my fear of failure and you have a wonderful recipe for procrastination.

What’s so scary about writing a short story?

  • I’d never intentionally tried before and couldn’t face the music of failure.
  • Which idea out of a hundred would I start with?
  • Where would I find the time?
  • What if it morphed into a novel?
  • What would I DO with it if successful?

Perhaps my fears seem silly, but they were/are quite real and prevented me from trying – until now. Yes, you heard me correctly. I am smack dab in the middle of writing a terrific short story and am cautiously confident of success! Why the change?

During the interim between my recent release and starting the next book in the series, a great story idea presented itself. As usual, I wrote it all down, intending to pursue it some day when I had the time. Trouble is, I couldn’t let it go and decided to take a short detour to test drive a short story project. If it turned out to be a miserable failure, no one would ever know and I would continue on with my novels as before.

After three false starts I almost gave up! Book three in my series was clamoring to be written, leaving me little time to waste for this experiment. Finally, things fell into place and I began to figure out the other things (besides word count) which made a short story different from a novel. The process is something like writing a three hundred word jacket blurb for a hundred thousand word book. It ain’t easy folks! Gone is the leisurely description of back story, character history, and general background material.

With a short story every word and sentence counts. The extraneous must be whittled down to the essential, leaving little descriptive elbow room – not quite bare bones but awfully close! It’s all about finding the balance between what the reader MUST know and what I really want to tell them (which is so much more). At the forefront of my thinking is the goal of telling the entire story in 7500 words or less without the reader feeling they’ve been cheated.

As of today, I’m about half done with a fantasy tale involving a kingdom at risk, very cool dragons, and a curious child. Once it’s finished and edited, I will be sending the story to some select beta readers for feedback. The plan is to release it as a mini-serial here on my blog, so you will be the first to see it! Depending on reader response, it may become the prequel for a future novel. More important, success with this project assures me I really can write short stories and move ahead with some exciting plans later this year.

###

Last week I ran a FREE promotion for Traitor’s Moon and had over 3300 downloads. On Sunday, the book reached the #1 spot in three categories and #49 in the top one hundred free eBooks! Now, if I could just make a little money and get a good number of those folks to write a review…

Weekly Roundup – Blast From The Past 2: A VALENTINE

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I just rediscovered this one mixed in with my early work. It’s a Valentines Day poem I wrote for my mother in 1976 – cheesy, sappy, and poorly executed. I still love to write rhyming verses but clearly poetry is not my strong point! In the next to last line you will see my mom referred to as “Moo”, and, no, it’s not a backhanded insult. While the exact origin remains buried in the mists of yesteryear, it was a term of endearment we all used for my mother. Unfortunately, Moo did leave me back in 2000. I’m still blue.

 

A Valentine

On this Valentine’s Day of ’76,

When hearts and thoughts and lovers mix,

I thought of you, ma, and what you’ve been,

Not just to me but all our kin.

 

We’ve been through a lot over all these years,

Many a problem and a bundle of tears,

But through it all we’ve learned so much,

By your lovely smile and caring touch.

 

I picture you a gentle dove,

My thoughts of you are all of love,

And if you ever leave me, Moo,

You better believe that I’ll be blue.

###

I completed at least one very important task last week by gathering and combining all of my notes and ideas for Forbidden Moon. The next step is to assemble them into rough chapter divisions and then start writing – something I wanted to have begun on the 1st but was sidetracked by dragons. Yes, I said dragons. I have a short story (and beyond) idea I can’t shake, so I’ve taken a short detour to see where the concept leads. If anything comes of it, you’ll be the first to know!

Sales of Traitor’s Moon have been steady but slow and I must admit to being disappointed. This book deserves so much more! If you are a fan of Freebooksy, you will see it listed this Sunday. I expect it to do well and hope it generates interest in Expectant Moon at the same time. If you happen to pick up a copy, please be kind enough to leave a review. Many thanks!

Weekly Roundup – Routine Housekeeping

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Some weeks simply don’t have a lot going on and this was one of them. I have managed to keep myself busy, mostly with small projects which were shunted to the side while I was finishing my last manuscript. As has happened every time during the transition from one book to another, I feel guilty for not having started on the next one! Seriously – I just spent the last ten months of my life creating Traitor’s Moon, so you would think I deserve a small break, but my author-self isn’t happy with the lull in action.

One of the projects was to create an author page on Goodreads. My books have enjoyed many reviews since 2016 and I felt it was time to make myself more available to my readers. There were, and are, reasons I didn’t want the exposure. Let’s just say it’s all wrapped up in my desire to remain anonymous and leave it at that. Yes, it’s true, Alexander Elliott is a pseudonym (gasp!) and I intend to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

I’m also looking into making my books available in print! The main reason I haven’t up to now is the cost, but I believe I’ve found the solution in The Book Patch; a print on demand service. Many people prefer an actual paper book, including me, and believe it or not, some refuse to read eBooks at all. Print versions would provide broader exposure and give me something to autograph! Besides, my bookcase is crying out for physical copies I can admire and show off.

Now that the decks are mostly cleared I can focus on getting the next manuscript started. First, I need to combine and organize all my notes and ideas, gathered over the last several months. Some are on the computer while the rest are hand-written, residing in a manila folder. (What can I say? I am a curious mix of old/new school, but since it works I’m not prepared to change the process.) After that, I will create a rough outline to make sure I have the major plot points accounted for, followed by the actual writing. There are some exciting goodies in store for the Gladstone Shifters, and I’m eager to let my ideas loose on the page!

Weekly Roundup NEW RELEASE! Traitor’s Moon

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Traitor’s Moon, book 2 in the Gladstone Shifters series, went live on Amazon as of Monday! If you’ve been following my blog, you know how long I struggled to finish the manuscript. With the help of some wonderful beta readers, the book is in great shape and I am very proud of it. It’s a shame I will be unable to market it effectively.

It’s probably safe to assume most indie authors do not enjoy the business side of writing, and marketing is a large part of the angst. It requires computer savvy, money, time, and comes with no guarantee it will work. Will readers buy the book? Will they like it? Will I recoup my expenses? Will I get some great reviews? The only way to find out is put it out there and see what happens. Scary. Risky. Discouraging. Exciting. Uplifting. Rewarding. it’s really a mixed bag.

The hard part for me is not wondering if my book is any good – I truly believe it’s a wonderful story and it represents my best work to date. The difficulty is knowing my marketing efforts will be largely ineffective in reaching my potential readers. Why? Because I lack the know-how, money, and time to do it “right” if I go by all the articles I’ve read. I’m left with doing the best I can with what I have and hope it sort of works out in the end.

So do I continue or throw in the towel? I could give up, but I’m not going to yet! I truly enjoy my writing, and over time I hope to build up enough titles to start bringing in sufficient income so I can hire a marketing professional. What if it never happens? Then I will still have a hobby I love and the pleasure of creating great stories. My dream is not to become rich or famous, simply to earn enough to quit my day job.

###

As soon as the promotions for Traitor’s Moon are in place, I can get busy writing again. I wish I could crank out a book every four months, but if the pattern holds true, it will be the fall before the next manuscript is ready. Meanwhile, I have lots of great ideas simmering on the back burner.

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker this week, after finding out he was an avid reader. I don’t know him very well yet, and I had him pegged as the kind of guy who loves nothing better than to park himself in front of the television and watch sports – preferably with a can of beer handy. It was a pleasure to find out I was wrong, and he thought my assumptions were amusing. I told him he was like an onion and I was just now learning things as the layers are peeled away. I enjoy the instant connection with people who love to read – even virtual strangers!

Just a reminder – both books in the Gladstone Shifters series will be on/off sale over the next several weeks, so check my website or book listing on Amazon if you want a good deal.

Weekly Roundup – Plot vs. Characters

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I had an interesting discussion with a co-worker recently concerning the merits of certain Sci-Fi films. For me, the only ones which matter are Star Trek and the three original Star Wars films. Many will disagree with me and that’s OK. The point of our discussion was what made them great movies, and I believe it’s the development and interaction of the characters which made them fun to watch and created loyal fans. The plot was important and the action exciting, but they only really mattered because of the way they affected or involved the characters.

What does this have to do with my writing? A great deal! I must confess, at the beginning I was convinced that the plot and action were key, while the characters were only so much window-dressing. Frankly, I was wrong – guilty of both ignorance and arrogance. As I became more comfortable as an author, a curious thing happened. Each book I wrote became progressively more character driven and I was then forced to reevaluate my basic assumptions on what constituted a great story.

It’s now obvious that the plot and action points become the vehicle for character development, interaction, and growth. It isn’t either/or, but both, and in the process they merge together to create a memorable reading experience. When readers finish a book, it’s the characters they remember and what they experienced along the way. Of course, writers cannot neglect a plausible and interesting plot or neglect to include sufficient drama and action. The story will fall flat without them, but it’s the characters which bring it all to life and are remembered long after the book is finished.

###

Traitor’s Moon is almost ready to publish! I have made some terrific improvements and cleaned up the manuscript in a dozen different ways, thanks to some terrific beta readers. One of the sticking points was the need to streamline the final chapters and improve the end matter. After three or four configurations, I finally got it right. It was necessary to write some additional material, relocate portions relating to book three (teasers), create an additional chapter, and simplify the Epilogue. Whew! I’m glad that work is done, and I’m very pleased with the results. Unless I hit a major snag, the release date should be sometime before the end of February.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I am also re-editing Expectant Moon. I want the first book to benefit from everything I have learned since it was released, so I am reading through it and making changes. Most of it is correcting small spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors which were missed somehow. I also changed a character’s last name (he appears briefly here but has a much larger role in Traitor’s Moon), made minor phrasing changes, and provided more detail between breaks in the action. In addition, the Prologue was tweaked to make it easier to understand.

All in all, the book will be in much better shape for new readers to the series. Obviously, I’m hoping those who purchase Traitor’s Moon will also purchase Expectant Moon, and I want them to have the best version I can produce. The terrific new cover design should also attract attention. I wish I already had book three written and ready to go, as I have a feeling readers will be demanding MORE. Not a bad problem to have…

Weekly Roundup – Surviving the Polar Vortex and Mediocre Movies

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Well, that was fun.

Much of the U.S. was slammed by the polar vortex last week, and I can’t say I’m sorry to see it gone! I suspect this “winter on steroids” is going to be our new normal, if ANY weather patterns can still be regarded as such. Personally, I missed two full days of work and was almost clobbered, twice, by other cars. Even at home I was bundled up trying to stay warm while the gas company asked everyone to turn their thermostats down. Still, I was most grateful to get through it with my health and automobile intact!

This week, we are supposed to get three days of ice, but without the bone-chilling temps and wind. I don’t mind winter, I simply hate having to drive in it. I suppose it’s the price I pay for living in such a beautiful part of the country, enjoying all four seasons. Fortunately, there is little threat of fires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, or extreme heat waves – yet.

Enough about the weather! A few weeks back I went to see Mary Poppins Returns, and wanted to share my thoughts about the film. It was fun to return to her world, and the sets, costumes, and acting were all top-notch. Even so, Lin Manuel Miranda smiled too much and seemed to have nothing to do except show up whenever the script called for another song and dance. Emily Blunt was a wonderful Mary Poppins, though she was a bit too grouchy for my taste and over-played the character’s vanity.

My biggest disappointment was in the totally forgettable songs and musical numbers, some of which should have been cut altogether. There wasn’t a single tune such “Spoon Full of Sugar” to keep me humming after the film was over, or even immediately after the scene was finished! Overall, it was a pleasant film and not a bad sequel considering how long it’s been since the original.

As a writer with a vivid imagination, I still want to know what Mary really is: witch, paranormal being, umbrella goddess?? Where did she come from? Why doesn’t she age? Who else is getting her attention? Is she single? Where does she live when not floating through the sky? Most important of all – why does she wear those ugly shoes?

###

My beta reader feedback for Traitor’s Moon is still trickling in, so I’m really not much closer to finishing the book. Rats! I really wanted to release it by next weekend, but it doesn’t seem realistic now. A problem with the concluding chapter and Epilogue was pointed out, and I am busy adding and deleting material to strengthen the ending and create a better bridge to book three. The work needs to be done, and I’m thankful a beta reader pointed it out, but it seems every time I turn around there is one more thing I need to tweak. I’m at the point where I simply want to be FINISHED with this book, get it out there, and move on!

By the way, last week’s bad weather and time off work allowed me to get my taxes done. I eagerly await my refund…

PS – Happy Birthday Sue!

Weekly Roundup: FICTION – It’s Good for Your Brain

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Neuroscience has some good news for both readers and writers of fiction – really. “Your Brain on Fiction” by Annie Murphy appeared in 2012, but I wasn’t aware of the article until recently.

“Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.”

Why is this significant? In the age of gaming and constant visual stimulation and entertainment, it seems the old standby of reading has more value than we thought (yes, even eBooks!). Did you ever wonder why you enjoy reading? This article goes on to explain what it is about fiction which activates the brain and brings pleasure. Authors take note – this research has direct bearing on story creation and character development!

To be honest, I am still trying to fully integrate the use of all five senses in my writing and have made some progress. On the surface, it is understood that doing so makes a better story and promotes the “show vs. tell” concept writers are continuously reminded to use. Now, research lends credence to what the writing gurus have been saying.

  • Science provides concrete evidence that the use of descriptive terms with strong odor associations, for example, such as cinnamon, lavender, and coffee, light up the olfactory cortex.
  • A similar brain response was noted in the sensory cortex in phrases involving texture, such as “The singer had a velvety voice” or “He had leathery hands”.
  • Sentences which describe motion like “John grasped the object” or “Pablo kicked the ball”, activated regions of the motor cortex.

Apparently, the brain makes little distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life, since in each case the same neurological regions are stimulated. Fiction actually goes above and beyond, providing a replica of reality by allowing readers to experience their characters thoughts and feelings. Even more intriguing, the brain tends to treat the interactions among fictional characters something like real-life social encounters, improving empathy and social skills.

“Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.”

For fiction writers, this research provides powerful encouragement and motivation. We must craft our stories with care, paying special attention to word choices and descriptions which engage all the senses, thereby transporting readers directly into the narrative. They crave it, demand it even, and we have the ability to give it to them. Our work then becomes more than mere entertainment but an exercise in brain stimulation and improved social interactions.

In the process, we create loyal fans who will not only enjoy our work but who will spread the word to others looking for a great piece of fiction. Think about that the next time you prepare to write!

###

As I stated last week, Traitor’s Moon is currently being dissected by my beta readers. I have some feedback in hand, and so far they love the story! I have been busy correcting small errors, tweaking phrases, adding additional text where more information was needed, and debating the best location for the cast of characters list (it’s going in the back).

Let me give you an example of something one of my beta readers caught that no one else, including me, noticed. One of my mid-level characters is named Caleb, but in seven places I somehow changed his name to Jacob! Don’t ask me, because I still haven’t figured out why or how. The scary part is that my beta reader only noticed the switcheroo one time and almost didn’t mention it to me. I shudder to think how many bad reviews would have resulted from this single snafu. (It would be most helpful if scientific research could reveal why writers often don’t see their own mistakes.)

The quest for an attention-grabbing book blurb is ongoing, though after multiple re-writes I finally have an acceptable version. If you have never tried to condense a novel-length work into two hundred words or less, I challenge you to give it a go! It does no good to grab a potential reader’s attention with a wonderful cover, only to lose them with a ho-hum description of the book. This is one of those learn-by-doing skills which should come easier over time and, apparently, I need more time.

Along with all of this, I have yet to go back and make some minor editorial improvements to Expectant Moon. I’m hoping to attract new readers to the first book during the promotion phase of book two, so now is the time to do some housekeeping and make it really shine.

If that weren’t enough, it’s now tax time! Since I REALLY need my refund, this is going to get my full attention until it’s done. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “Oh bother”. Fortunately, he doesn’t know any swear words…

Meanwhile, I am not only gearing up for book three, Forbidden Moon, but am collecting information and ideas for the project which follows it (probably in the fall). WHAT? Yes, you heard me. Right now it’s a disjointed mess, but when thoughts come, I write them down! I’ve been known to run from the bathroom, dripping wet, to jot down an idea before I forget. Same goes for the middle of the night when I get up to use the restroom and end up scribbling notes for twenty minutes until my brain quiets down again. Hey – I can’t control when genius strikes, so give me a break!

Weekly Roundup: Gladstone Shifters Part 3 – The Writing of TRAITOR’S MOON

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Traitor’s Moon, scheduled for release next month, is the second book in the Gladstone Shifters series. In some ways, this story was easier to write, since the foundation and main characters were already established. The plot was a natural progression of what took place in the first book, so ultimately I knew where I wanted things to go. Getting there turned out to be far more difficult than I anticipated!

Nolan, the primary love interest in this book, finally meets his mate but they are forced to remain apart for much of the story. Figuring out how to create this tense situation and integrate it with the rest of the action was something of a nightmare, and I had to replace the original plot points with something quite different. It all worked out in the end, and though readers will never know about the cool twists and turns I had cooked up, letting go of my original ideas was disappointing.

With an upcoming battle and lots of babies on the way, I decided to add a pack doctor to the Gladstone family. She was supposed to be just another minor character, but her importance grew as the story unfolded and I chose to expand her presence in the book significantly. Not only did I name her after my mother, but she finds her mate – another minor character who will have a greater role in book three of the series. Anyway, her expanded presence was one of the reasons my plans for Nolan and his mate went off the rails. It took a while to figure out how to keep all the good stuff without a major re-write.

Adding new characters, or expanding the role of established ones, is a delicate balance. Gladstone is a growing pack, so a mix of new and familiar faces is expected. While it’s crucial to remain engaged with the MC’s, new blood can make for lots of interesting action and sub-plots, and this is one of the things I really enjoy as an author. As the characters come alive and interact, I get to shape their experiences and bring in unique personalities, including all their baggage.

One of the most difficult and emotionally challenging things I had to do with this book was kill off some of my characters. Reality demanded the good guys take a hit this time, and I had to decide who and how they were going to die. Getting rid of some of the villains was kind of fun but planning the death of the others was neither pleasant nor easy. There’s a good reason I have a box of tissues by my computer, as the action brought me to tears more than once. It’s true, I did NOT kill off any of the MC’s, but the battle scene and it’s aftermath was heart wrenching.

On the lighter side, I had a tremendous amount of fun reuniting Jack with his mentor’s journals and introducing a newly discovered True Elder in Alaska. Both of these sub-plots became significant additions to the story, and the research required was both interesting and enjoyable. While these sections lengthened the book considerably, they brought needed scope and breathing space from the drama going on everywhere else.

The repartee between Nolan and his mate was something I really hadn’t planned to include. Once the two of them were finally brought together, it was Nolan’s smart-ass personality which made the dynamic between them come alive. The zingers, name calling, and pranks set them apart from their packmates and injected a bit of harmless fun. Since I’m always looking for ways to insert humor in my stories, this was a welcome addition and hoot to write.

There were a number of issues at play which made completing Traitor’s Moon difficult. It took almost eight months before the manuscript was finished, and while that’s far too long between books, it couldn’t be helped. I was under a great deal of stress at work which left me burned out and lacking the time or energy to write. I also completed a major move last fall, putting me further behind and exacerbating my lack of progress.

Amid the plot changes, work drama, and move, I was blessed with a constant source of encouragement – one of my beta readers. She was not only willing to read the manuscript one chapter at a time, but freely shared ideas (many of which I ended up using) and kept my spirits up when I wanted to quit. I’m not sure the book would have happened without her, so I just want to say how grateful I am for all she did. (I love you TMC!)

###

The manuscript for Traitor’s Moon is now in the hands of my beta readers. Hopefully, I will have their input soon and can make all the necessary changes by the end of January. This is wishful thinking, since it took twice the time I allocated for the last book and this one is even longer. I’m just in a hurry to get it published and want the world to cooperate with me.

Meanwhile, I am working on the book blurb, jotting down ideas for book three, and making a few editorial changes to the first book, Expectant Moon. I’m really glad to have the new covers in place and hope they will help drive sales of both books. I wish I could do more in the way of a book launch, but my finances are really tight right now. The gurus would all say I’m doing it wrong, and while they may be right, it’s the best I can manage with the knowledge and resources available. Some day, I’m going to pay someone to do this stuff for me.

While I am gearing up to publish and promote Traitor’s Moon, my mind is busy with book three. It will probably be a few weeks before I get started in earnest, but it’s coming together now that my mental energy has been freed up to think about something else. I’ll let you know as the book starts to take shape.

Weekly Roundup: Gladstone Shifters Part 2 – The Writing of EXPECTANT MOON

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Before I actually started writing the first Gladstone Shifters book, Expectant Moon, there were certain things I wanted the story to do. Shifter history needed to be explained – where did they come from, how do they live, what are their relationships like? In addition, I wanted a reasonable explanation of their ability to exist in modern times without being discovered. Lastly, I had to create the major dramatic elements which would keep the reader engaged from start to finish.

Sound like a lot? It was, and I didn’t realize at first how grand and extensive my goals were for the story, especially when it was supposed to be crammed into a single book! I seem to have a penchant for biting off more than I can chew, but I dove into the project, blissfully ignorant of what I was supposed to do, and did it anyway. In the end, my readers loved it, even if it was bit long, (at 110,000+ words, it’s at the upper limit of a full length novel). The few who mentioned it didn’t care because they couldn’t stop reading – a wonderful problem for any author!

It took a lot of research, but by using the actual history of gray wolves in the U.S., I was able to weave it into the experiences of the shifter community. Logically, the only way for wolf shifters to hide from humans was to do so in plain sight among the natural wolf population. This grew more difficult as the U.S. population grew, and especially after the great purge of wolves which began in the 1800’s. This tension and tragedy provided the background for nearly everything in the world I created, imbuing the story with drama, structure, and continuity.

Natural wolves are confined to a few of the northernmost states, Alaska, and Canada, narrowing my choices for a primary location. Since I was already familiar with Michigan, I decided to place most of the action at Gladstone, in the upper peninsula. Instead of creating imaginary places and names, I used the real thing, and in the process, lent the story a measure of believability. When I mention cities, parks, roads, lakes, rives etc., and even the distances between them, it’s virtually all from real life. This, too, took a lot of research, but it actually saved me time and influenced some story elements.

From the start, I intended to focus on the two main characters – Ben (Gladstone’s Alpha) and his future mate, Evan. After introducing Jack as the long-lost True Elder, (and eventually his mate), it became apparent I would have to widen my vision a bit! As the story progressed, I simply had to provide more background and interaction of the MC’s. As a result, the book was longer and far richer than I ever intended – all to the good.

Though it began as a romance, Expectant Moon grew into a story about acceptance and taking a stand in a hostile environment. Gay shifters, like their human counterparts, were experiencing the same issues, and I wanted to show how it affected them and what could be done to correct the situation. This dramatic element formed the story’s foundation, driving the action, discoveries, and love interests through the book. It was my desire to give the shifters a victory, though hard won; unlike the real world where people are still being rejected, bullied and killed because of their sexual orientation.

One of the fun elements I introduced was the shifter way of allowing same-sex couples to have children. Many of the stories I’d read included male Omega’s who could somehow get pregnant and pop out babies (mostly unexplained), but I found their approach lacking credibility. Important questions remained unaddressed: Other than same sex couples, why would a male wolf-shifter need such an ability? Where was his birth orifice? How could you keep a pregnant man hidden from prying human eyes? I was able to answer those questions, and more, leaving the reader with an imaginative and plausible explanation.

As mentioned earlier, an important part of the series is the romance, including the sex, and this author makes no apology for the explicit M/M content. Wolf shifters are famous for their libido, stamina, and overall enjoyment of sex, and my characters were no exception. For the most part, I place the sexual scenes within the context of a loving, committed relationship; something many humans, quite honestly, are incapable of doing. A healthy, vibrant relationship will normally include sex, so I saw no reason to be squeamish about it here. (For readers who may object, I provided a very clear warning in the book blurb.)

While more could be said, the best way to experience Expectant Moon is to read it for yourself. If you do, please leave a review or drop me a line at aelliottbooks@gmail.com to let me know what you thought!

Next week, without revealing too much, I want to discuss the writing of Book 2, Traitor’s Moon.

###

Traitor’s Moon is FINISHED!! Wahoooooooooo!!!

I’m now in the process of rereading the entire manuscript, followed by submission to my beta readers. If I’ve done my job properly, there shouldn’t be many corrections to make and then it’s time to publish it. I anticipate a February release, but stay tuned for a more exact date! Meanwhile, I need to create the book blurb, which is a difficult process all its own, and figure out the launch promotions. Also – check out the cover art for Traitor’s Moon on the main page of my website!

Even as I finish up the process for Traitor’s Moon, ideas are flowing for the third book, entitled Forbidden Moon. Despite the extended length of time it took to get Book 2 finished, I’m eager to get started on the next. Yes, I would dearly love a break, but I need to keep going lest I lose my momentum. I swear – writers are nuts!