The Writing of Abundant Moon

I never intended to write this story. Book three of the series was supposed to be Forbidden Moon, written right after publishing book two in February of 2019. I hadn’t counted on the mental fatigue resulting from an arduous writing journey of nine long months. In short, I was sick of the series and desperately needed to do something else for a while.

I’d been toying with the idea of trying my hand at short stories and had a really cool idea regarding a little orphan boy and a dragon. Just what I needed – something quick and different to focus on before diving back into the series, right? Nope. The sneaky little kid and his dragon friends got into my blood and I couldn’t stop writing! The result? A five-story collection published as Rise of the Draman in April of 2020!

Meanwhile, 15 months had gone by and I’d been receiving polite demands from readers, pleading for book three – the one I should have published already. What to do? If Forbidden Moon also took nine months to write and publish, my readers would have skinned me alive! I decided on a shorter, interim story to plug the gap, and then start working on the full length novel I’d promised so long ago.

After rereading books one and two, I decided to write about the birth of all the babies conceived towards the end of Traitor’s Moon. Perfect! Throw in a romance with a new character and you have Moon Pups – Book 2.5. However, once I got working on the manuscript, the story developed into a novel of its own! So, I changed the name to Abundant Moon, designated it as the new book three, and buckled down to write the thing as fast as I could. Three months from beginning to end is warp speed for me, and required many changes and personal sacrifices to get it done.

Part way through the manuscript, I hit a bump in the road which slowed me down. It also scared me! At first, I wasn’t sure I could fix it without starting over completely. You see, Robert’s character, who is involved in the major romance of the story, simply wouldn’t work the way I’d planned. He needed drastic changes to his personality, career, attitude, and integration into the pack. A ripple effect caused adjustments to other story threads, requiring a lot of rewriting. I’ll admit, the end result is much more pleasing and fits the overarching idea of the book better.

This story was intended to be less heavy and emotionally charged than the first two books, allowing Gladstone a bit of a breather. My characters and their experiences needed to match the happier themes of family, pups, and new mates. Fortunately, balancing this with essential drama and action wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be, and the book contains all the elements my readers have come to expect. The wild journey between books two and three is one I wouldn’t enjoy repeating, though I’m happy with Abundant Moon and believe my readers will be too.

Postscript: The book is off to a good start, and with some Amazon reviews in hand, I can start promoting. Early feedback is very encouraging and I’m no longer on tenterhooks. It feels good to make my readers happy with a new story, as well as attract new fans to the series. Exciting!

New Release! ABUNDANT MOON

Fans have been waiting a long time for this one, and the book is now live on Amazon! It’s been a strange journey for this third installment of the series. In fact, book three was supposed to be something entirely different. I’m pleased as punch with the story and early feedback tells me I have a winner! Take a look at the book blurb and ARC/Beta reader comments.

Get your copy HERE.

Gladstone is preparing for an invasion – of pups! With five little ones on the way, Ben and Evan have their hands full with first-time parents, a daring winter rescue, and disturbing information from Hezekiah’s journals. If that weren’t enough, a visitor arrives with a troubled past and a bond gone awry. Their only hope lies with a risky True Elder intervention that’s never been tried and could end in tragedy.

Join your furry friends for all the fun, drama, and romance you’ve come to expect in this celebration of love and family. Nobody does life like your favorite wolf pack, in book three of the Gladstone Shifters – ABUNDANT MOON! Notice: contains steamy M/M content.

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“Gladstone deserved some happiness after being under attack for so long, and the book flowed nicely as a third installment. The story has enough drama, fun, and romance to satisfy everyone. Readers are going to love it!”

“I’m loving Abundant Moon. You’ve made me laugh and cry – one time in the same chapter! You have a gift, my friend.”

“I am absolutely in love with the characters, story line, and the culture/society you have created. The characters have great depth and many dimensions. Relationships are well-defined and clear. Dialog seems natural and appropriate. The threads to the first two books have continued and are logical. Alex, this is your best book yet!”

Go ahead – brighten my day!

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I ran across an older post by Susan M. Toy entitled “How YOU can invest in authors and books… without spending any money!” In it, she lists ten ways to help, including borrow and read their books, tell your friends, talk about them in your own blog, and my favorite – contact them personally.

“Contact the Author privately (usually their websites will offer a way of connecting) and tell them how much you enjoyed their writing and books. It’s one thing to receive a positive public comment from a reader, but if you make the effort to tell that author, one-on-one, what you really think about their writing and their books… it is so, so much better than in a public review. Because again – it’s honest and heartfelt!”

I couldn’t agree more! In a more recent post, Susan shares a quote from Graeme McGaw’s newsletter which sums up the idea nicely:

“Take a minute to write to your favorite authors and thank them. Thank them for the books they have written, the adventures they have taken you on, and the worlds they have allowed you to escape into… thank them for pouring months and months of their life into their stories. Authors have it rough. Not only is it a lot of work, but they’re also putting themselves out there. Think of all those negative reviews an author receives on a book. That sort of thing can be crushing… So yeah, take the time to write to your authors. It will make their day.” 

I’ve received several personal contacts from readers lately, and each one put a long-lasting smile on my face, chased away the doubts, made me feel good, and strengthened my determination to keep going. It only cost a few moments of their time, but meant so much.  

“First of all please allow me to congratulate you for your writing. You just acquired another fan!!! I have immensely enjoyed the first two books Expectant Moon and Traitor’s Moon and I loved the way you made me feel reading them. I started the first two days ago and I just finished the second and I was so sad that the third is not out yet. In these difficult times, reading about Ben and Evan and their friends and family is giving me a glimpse of hope, and I thank you for that. I hope you will get the necessary inspiration to allow me to dream a little longer.” John from Belgium

“I loved Rise of the Draman. Clean language, wonderful nonstop adventure. Interesting take on dragons and their bonded. It was nice to read about good dragons and kindness throughout. It’s how we should be with each other. I really hated for it to come to an end. Thank you for sharing.” Romae

“I thoroughly enjoyed the book (Rise of the Draman). You are a talented writer and hope I get to read many more of your works.” John

 Aren’t these great? Interaction with my readers is one the big perks of being a writer. When I get notes like this, I doubt the people sending them realize the positive and powerful impact they have. The cool thing is – YOU can be part of it! 

Authors – make sure to provide an email or snail mail address where readers can reach you. When they do, be sure to respond and thank them.

Readers – never underestimate the power of a personal contact! Even if you can’t leave an official review (also really great), make a habit of letting your favorite authors know how much you appreciate their work.

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What to do before starting your next WIP

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Your latest book is hot off the press. Now what? Suddenly finding yourself with unstructured free time can be downright scary. After all, you’ve become accustomed to that persistent little writer voice in your head demanding that you write, Write, WRITE for months on end. Of course you have another book, story, or project to work on, but what about the time in between the last one and the next?

Now’s the perfect time to C.R.O.P. – Celebrate, Rest & Reconnect, Organize, Promote

 

Celebrate

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Go ahead! You’ve worked hard and deserve a treat. Binge watch your favorite shows, order takeout, soak in a bubble bath, go shopping, plant flowers, eat chocolate – whatever floats your boat. Preferably, it’s something you wouldn’t normally have the time or energy for. You have permission to spoil yourself, and if anybody gives you grief, I’ll take care of it.

Rest & Reconnect

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This is your chance to catch up on sleep, read a book, take a walk, eat regular meals, and give your mind and body the opportunity to re-charge. You’ve run yourself ragged for too long, and you’re best (future) work depends on being in good shape.

Don’t forget your supportive friends and family who have been patiently waiting (or not) for you to re-join the land of the living. Make some phone calls, respond to emails, write a letter, and say hello to your neighbors. They deserve your attention, so reach out and find out what’s going on in their world. They’re more likely to tolerate your weird habits and continue to be supportive if you give them a little TLC.

Organize

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If you’ve ever watched a new house being built, you know it goes through many stages. Even when the structure is finished, there’s more work to do. The site has to be cleaned up, fill dirt brought in, concrete poured, and landscaping done before the job is complete. The contractor can’t move on until everything on the list has been checked off. Only then is he free to move ahead and focus on the next one.

Your work space is probably a shambles, and maybe the house, too! Use the downtime to clean and organize your notes, research, files, story ideas, or any other data you may need in the future. Do it now while the information is still relatively fresh in your mind. This will be especially helpful if you’re writing a series, or think the book you just finished might become a series. Names, dates, story threads, web sites, helpful articles – they all become a blur over time if you rely on memory alone, and doing a bit of housekeeping now will save you grief later on.

There’s another benefit, too. Wrapping up your last project provides closure so you can focus on the next one without distraction. Even if you continue in the same genre, the next book will be hampered if you haven’t put the last one to bed properly and set yourself up for a fresh start.

Promote

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The dreaded promotion phase kicks into high gear once the book is done and available for purchase. Get all your ducks in a row before starting something new, or you risk  constant interruptions and frustration. Done properly, marketing won’t require huge blocks of time, enabling you to ease into your next project.

There’s a wonderful feeling of satisfaction when you send your latest creation out into the world! The early days are filled with waiting for those elusive reviews to appear and watching the sales figures. Unfortunately, the “New Release” excitement quickly fades amid all the other things you have going on, so enjoy it while you can.

All right – now you’re ready to start listening to your writer voice and allow the persistent little taskmaster to bully you back to work. It may have been anywhere from a few days to weeks, but your C.R.O.P. time set you up for success. Go on! Your fans are waiting…

 

 

The writing of RISE OF THE DRAMAN

The book launched two days ago on April 6, 2020. Here’s how it came to be.

Over a year ago, tired of the series I’d been working on, I decided to take a break and try my hand at a short story. Up to this point, my smallest work came to just under 34,000 words – in the mid-novella range. Could I actually write a short story? I had no idea. Would it be the same as writing a novel? Turns out the answer is a resounding NO!

So, how in the world did my foray into shorts end up as a 109,000 word five-story collection, spread out over 400 days? I’m glad you asked, and as it happens, I have a perfectly reasonable explanation. Hang on – this gets a bit convoluted.

I’d been toying with the idea of a fantasy story involving dragons, which meant a new topic AND genre. The “Grand Experiment” began with Dragon Child, a medieval tale about an orphan boy who accidentally becomes part dragon. I finished it in just under three weeks and quickly realized I had a problem. The manuscript was way too long to qualify as a short story (at nearly 12,000 words!), and there was so much more to say! This wasn’t too surprising, but it left me in a quandary.

My theory has always been to write until the tale has finished telling itself, no matter the word count. Obviously, I was not cut out for short story writing, so I decided to forge ahead anyway with a series of “shorter works”. At the time, I loathed the idea of writing another novel length book, and thought the novelette idea was much more manageable. And so it began, and continued…

By the time books two and three (out of five) were finished, I needed to make a decision about how to market them. The original idea was to publish each one separately, releasing them one at a time over a six month period. All the self-publishing gurus said it would result in greater sales and more recognition for my brand. Exactly what I needed! What I hadn’t figured on was the enormous expense of publishing five titles in quick succession.

With a very small writing/publishing budget, it soon became clear I would never be able to afford the original plan. Instead, I decided to finish the five stories bouncing around in my head and then sell them as a collection. As the months flew by, a number of things (work, health issues, a major move, the holidays) got in the way and slowed my progress considerably. To remain motivated, I decided to serialize the stories and feature them on my blog.

In the end, very few people actually read them, but it gave me the impetus to continue and finish the project. Somewhere in the middle of book four It dawned on me I no longer needed to worry about word count restrictions. This resulted in story number five being three times longer than the others! It also became clear I would have to go back and fix the first four, fleshing them out with all the detail I’d withheld earlier in my quest to keep them short.

It took over two months, but I ended up adding over 28,000 words of new content. In addition, the book now has four beautiful hand-drawn maps to guide my readers! My biggest disappointment is probably the book’s cover, as it is not what I imagined it should be. My go-to cover artist could not even come close to what I wanted, so I went with a pre-made cover site and found one that was workable but not very exciting. Someday, I hope to switch it out for something better.

As I look back now, I recognize how many things I learned in the writing of Rise of the Draman.

  • Creating short stories is talent unto itself, and one I do not have.
  • Fantasy (and dragons) are fun to write!
  • The medieval period is fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed the research.
  • I consistently underestimate the time requirements for my WIP.
  • Book descriptions are hard to write, especially for a collection.
  • Though I love my books, I’m sick of them by the time they’re done!
  • Characters really do take on a life of their own, and I come to love them.

I don’t know what the future may bring, but I have a sneaky suspicion I’ll be returning to Croft’s world before long. After all, there are a lot more story ideas waiting in my files!

 

 

 

Am I An Author Yet?

There is an overabundance of blog posts describing in detail what it means to be an author. I’m sure you’ve seen at least a few of them and perhaps checked out of curiosity. Unfortunately, many of them claim to have the answer, and explain in great detail what a real author is. Supposedly there are fake ones lurking about somewhere ready to fool the unsuspecting public with their fake writing.

Anyway, these helpful guru’s have some interesting, (if misguided), clues by which we may discern who qualifies:

  • Real authors have been published by industry recognized houses.
  • Real authors earn ____% of their income from writing.
  • Real authors allow only professionals to handle their editing, proofreading, marketing, etc.
  • Real authors make personal appearances and do book signings.
  • Real authors publish only real paper and ink books.
  • Real authors never look at reviews or pay any attention to what readers are saying.
  • Real authors attend workshops and conferences to hobnob with the above-mentioned guru’s.
  • Real authors charge exorbitant amounts because no one will value their work otherwise.
  • Real authors willingly sacrifice all for the sake of their craft.
  • Real authors have found and embraced their “voice”.

OK – had enough? How many of you authors have been disqualified because someone decided you weren’t real? Let’s face it – everyone and their mother has advice to dish out, whether it’s worth anything or not. I’ve grown weary of listening to the nonsense, and in fact, recently stumbled upon a helpful post for a change. In it, an author is defined by three basic traits, plus one more thing that keeps you in the game over time.

  1. Talent – the ability to come up with original stories time and time again.
  2. Craft – you’ve learned the nuts and bolts on your own or by taking classes.
  3. Passion – you LOVE to write and don’t consider it a chore.

And, the most important strategy to keep you in the game – be versatile. Markets change, tastes change, fads come and go. You don’t have to write what you hate, but be ready and willing to try new things.

I found this information most affirming, especially when (in my humble opinion) I discovered I had all three traits to my credit. Well – I’ll admit I still have a great deal to learn, so #2 is an ongoing trait! As for being versatile, I’ve already published in three genre’s and will shortly be adding a fourth. My biggest challenge is not writing, but marketing and the other business-related tasks of publishing. Not surprising for an indie author, but my passion (#3) keeps me pressing on!

Every Author Needs A Sounding Board

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A great story begins with a fertile imagination, but developing that terrific idea into an equally terrific book involves a whole lot more. Perhaps your story lacks a whiz-bang ending or there’s an embarrassing hole in the plot. Maybe you’ve plotted yourself into a corner and can’t see a way out. Possibly, you wonder if anyone else will find the basic idea as interesting as you do.

The solution is easy – get yourself a sounding board. Several, if you can. Something magical happens when discussing ideas with another person. They see it with fresh eyes and their own unique mix of personality and experience. I’m not talking about a “professional”, simply someone who is well-read, trusted, and has a good imagination.

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Just the other day I presented a seed idea to one of my sounding boards (who happens to be a co-worker). Not only did she improve on the basic idea, she helped me nail down the major plot points, improve the ending, and gave me a lead-in to a follow up story in the series! I literally could not have done it without her help, and the story went from “cool” to “WOW” in three short conversations.

Everything I have published or am currently writing has been improved by my sounding boards. I don’t always take their advice or run with their ideas, but the simple act of discussing it opens up new paths to wander and concepts to explore. We communicate in person, on the phone, or via email and I love the way our interaction jump starts my creative juices! Since these are people I respect and trust, I feel safe sharing my struggles and new ideas. At the same time, they are happy to support my quest to improve and grow as a writer. Double win!

Don’t have any sounding boards? Ideally, you will want readers (not fellow writers) who are well-read in multiple genre’s, are supportive rather than pushy, and can be trusted to keep your wonderful ideas to themselves. They’ll save you time, improve your work, and stimulate your own creativity – so start looking!

Saying Goodbye to an Underperforming Book

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.” Octavia E. Butler

This week, I made the difficult decision to pull the plug on one of my books – Second Chance Earth. For months I wavered back and forth, wondering if I should keep it, change it, or take it off the market. As my very first novel, it holds a special place in my heart and yet deep down I knew there were serious issues I could no longer ignore.

So what really happened? Since the book was written, I have experienced a steep learning curve as an author and came to realize Second Chance Earth was fundamentally flawed. I still love the basic story line and characters, but the POV is skewed, there’s more tell than show, and it needs significant editing. To put it simply – it’s not my best work and has become a liability. To protect my brand, it had to go.

Honestly, I do not know if the story will ever reappear. If it does, it will most likely be unrecognizable! It needs a complete makeover, including a new cover and title, and I don’t have the time or money to invest in it right now. There are so many other books I want to write, and with limited time and resources, I have to be really picky about which projects get the green light.

I want to express my thanks to those who loved the book despite its many faults. You were able to understand and appreciate the story, and I am grateful for your kind words and support. Perhaps someday, Second Chance Earth will get a second chance!

 

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!)

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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.

Reader Roundup 11-28 18 November Birthdays

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

Apparently March is a popular baby-making month, since my November calendar is filled with birthdays! In fact, today is my youngest son’s special day, and he insists on getting older every year, dragging me along with him. November also included birthdays for my sister, niece, and granddaughter. Break out the cake, ice cream and balloons – and don’t forget the presents.

Most of my extended family are several states away, so I make an effort to send a card and call them on their day. It feels nice to be remembered on your birthday, even if you hate the idea of getting older. Hey – you’re going to age no  matter what, so you might as well get some attention and gifts out of the deal!

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Had our first winter storm here a few days ago. It wasn’t too bad, but all snow and ice make me nervous if I have to drive in it. My recent move brought me 800 miles northeast, and the winters in my previous home were nothing in comparison. I went from six inches of annual snowfall to sixty-eight! Since I used to live here for many years, it shouldn’t take long to become accustomed to it again. No one here seems to pay much attention to the weather.

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Traitor’s Moon – I’m finally making some significant progress! Chapter eleven was completed over the holiday weekend and I got a great start on chapter twelve. Following that, I should be able to wrap things up with one more chapter and the Epilogue. There is still a lot of story to tell, both major plot elements and minor story threads. It’s all important! I love seeing my characters grow and change, new ideas introduced, and conflict resolved.

I don’t plan out everything in advance with my books. I prefer to work with a rough outline of ideas and then allow the story to tell itself as I write. I’m sure a lot of authors would cringe at the idea, but it works for me. Some of the best elements in my stories are ones literally added as I’m writing, and they often surprise me. For instance, in my current manuscript two of the main characters have a unique and humorous way of interacting which I hadn’t even thought of previously. Initial feedback from beta readers confirms their verbal fencing fits the characters well and made the story more enjoyable. Cool!

You might think my mind is totally consumed with finishing Traitor’s Moon, but you would be wrong. While my new job requires more concentration and less time for my mind to wander and create, I’ve still been churning out story ideas! As always, it’s been a mixed bag; dragons, fairies and elves, various romances, sci-fi, and of course the next book in the Gladstone Shifters series. If I could start writing full time today, and lived to be a hundred, I would still have file folders full of ideas. That’s OK, it keeps me out of trouble.