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.

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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!

 

Weekly Roundup: Remembering 2018

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

While it’s certainly true I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to in 2018, it was still a good year! Below are some of the highlights, both personally and as an author.

Author Stuff:

  • In April I published my first paranormal, wolf-shifter novel Expectant Moon. Reviews have been very positive! Book two, Traitor’s Moon, is nearly finished.
  • Instead of scrambling to post something new all the time, I began the Weekly Roundup to keep my readers informed.
  • My writing has improved due to some great and timely advice from a number of sources and I continue to grow and learn.
  • Some fabulous story ideas are now waiting for me to find the time to write them!
  • While it was a difficult decision, my books have been enrolled in KDP Select for most of 2018. Along with other marketing changes, I’ve been able to earn a fairly stable (but meager) income from my writing.
  • My most popular post, the Odious Apostrophe appeared on April 16th.

While I have some goals in mind for the new year, I’m not going put pressure on myself by creating a list of resolutions. Aside from publishing Traitor’s Moon, I hope to write at least two novels and perhaps some short stories. If time permits, I may look into joining a local writers group. Much will depend on my work schedule and finances, so we’ll see.

Personal Stuff:

  • I completed a major move across country to live closer to my kids.
  • My oldest son welcomed a third child, my first Grandson, this year!
  • My younger son got married and they are now expecting their first baby in August!
  • I am blessed with a decent job, lovely apartment, good health, some caring friends, and my extended family. God has been very good to me, as always.

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Current Manuscript – Traitor’s Moon hit a couple of bumps at the end of the year, and I’ve missed my goal of finishing by December 31st by just a few days. One problem was the need for an additional chapter, which is now nearly finished. The other issue involved not being able to get a full night’s sleep for many days in a row. The old brain simply shut down, and I needed all my resources just to get through the work day. I think I’m back on track now! Word count stands at almost 117,000.

Even though I’m still writing book 2 in the Gladstone Shifters series, I’ve been busy jotting down more ideas for book 3. Some pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place, which makes it easier for me to finish the current manuscript, since it will include hints for the next book. I don’t want to commit myself to any major plot lines unless I’m certain I’ll use them, hence the need to plan ahead and consider the shape of the story carefully.

I don’t like cliffhangers, but I do enjoy giving readers a few hints about what may be coming in the next book – call them teasers if you will. Building in a little bit of anticipation creates interest and hopefully brings readers back for the next installment.

My posts for the next few weeks will be mostly about the shifter world I’ve created for my current series. In conjunction with the release of Traitor’s Moon, I want to share where it all came from and answer some reader’s questions. So get your wolf on, baby, and let’s get furry together!

Expectant Moon Gets a Makeover

The importance of a great cover cannot be overstated. It’s crucial to grab a potential reader’s attention while also giving them a general idea of what kind of book they are looking at. Great, now you’re halfway there! The second step is to provide an enticing book description, which, if done correctly, peaks their interest and convinces them to purchase. I’m going to save step two for another post and focus on the cover today.

One of the challenges an indie author faces is the overwhelming body of knowledge needed to successfully publish a book. Assuming you have a great story and the manuscript has been written well and edited properly, you’re still left with all the marketing issues – including the items mentioned above. I was arrogant enough to believe I knew better than my graphic artist what a great book cover should look like. Consequently my choices have been underwhelming, affecting sales and my brand. (Yes, my other books need new covers too, but I can’t afford to change them all right now.)

Well, this old dog really CAN learn new tricks! At times it’s difficult for me to admit I was wrong, swallow my pride, and let the “experts” guide me. Perhaps you share the same struggle and know what I mean. Anyway, with Traitor’s Moon nearing completion, I was determined to find an AWESOME cover for it. The original plan was to model it after Expectant Moon’s with slight changes. Now, I’m very fond of the present artwork and wouldn’t normally spend the money to replace it so soon, but I’d made too many mistakes and it had to go.

After eating a generous portion of humble pie, I contacted my graphic artist with a request to start from scratch and design the whole series, which will include at least three books. This time, I gave her the freedom to do it properly and ignore my input if it got in her way. The difference between the old and new is quite striking and early feedback is convinced I’ve got a winner. Tell me what you think!

New Cover:

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Old Cover:

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Reader Roundup 6-6-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I have an ongoing list of quotes I like, mostly so I don’t forget them but also to use in my writing. Some are funny, other serious, but all worth keeping. Today I want to share some of the humorous ones with you. Most of the citations are missing because I neglected to write down the source!

I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it left.  (Yep, that’s me!)

I’m as happy as a tornado in a trailer park.  (Been there – almost did that.)

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.  (A good description of social media today.)

If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.  (Gotta keep my reputation intact.)

“Excuse me, excuse me for being so rude. It was not me, it was my food. Instead of staying way down below – it just popped up to say hello.”  (This little gem came from a co-worker years ago after I accidentally let one rip.)

I don’t mind coming to work…but this eight hour wait to go home is just bullshit! (I  don’t really think this way, but too many of my co-workers do!)

Perfect health: the slowest possible rate at which one can die.   John L. Hart  (Not exactly a great motivator for healthy living!)

Handle every stressful situation like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, pee on it and walk away!  (This would be great if I could do it without getting arrested.)

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.   Albert Einstein  (He must have been referring to my job…)

Now it’s your turn. Send me your gems and I’ll see how many I can use in future books!

Questions/comments? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

 

Galactic Neighborhood series review

The Galactic neighborhood series has been out since last August, but I’m sure many of you haven’t yet read it. See what RSBProds, a Top 1000 Amazon reviewer had to say:

 

THE STARSHIP “EXPEDITION” ENCOUNTERS A DANGEROUS PREDICAMENT  by RSBProds on October 20, 2017

Four PERPLEXING Stars. Expedition is a fast-paced novel by talented author Alexander Elliott. It is Book 1 of the “Galactic Neighborhood Trilogy” and concerns the familiar passengers-like setup as the colony starship Expedition searches for a home for its 300 souls in stasis with an AI. They encounter trials and tribulations as Elliott creates a real page-turner, and wastes no time moving the plot through several twists and turns to a satisfying conclusion which leads into the second novel of the trilogy, Odyssey, which I immediately bought; followed by Book 3, Exploration, which really looks like it’s an action packed story. Very Definitely Recommended. Four DETERMINED Stars.

 

THE SPACE OPERA CONTINUES WITH DANGER, INTRIGUE, & DISCOVERY ON PLANET “SAHARA”  by RSBProds on October 23, 2017

Four and a half REVEALING Stars. Odyssey, by talented author Alexander Elliott, is the second novel in the “Galactic Neighborhood” trilogy where the reader is taken to the planet Sahara, whose existence was suddenly revealed at the end of Book 1, Expedition. The author begins slightly before the climactic event of the previous novel giving the reader a feel for specifically how ‘Sahara’ and ‘Pacifica’ learned of each other’s existence. From there, this becomes an exciting tale of technical wonders, space diplomacy, political intrigue, conspiracies, and unique discoveries with some romance included, set against an overall air of impending danger. Just as President Morales on the planet ‘Sahara’ feels the colony is truly alone and vulnerable in the universe, things begin to rapidly change and not all for the best. The reader will benefit by reading the first Galactic Neighborhood novel which began in deep space aboard the colony starship Expedition, which had a wild story line of its own. But here attractive new characters and very unusual and interesting scenarios are introduced that keep the fast pace going in this mostly planet-bound story line. Odyssey is a very imaginative expansion of the Galactic Neighborhood space opera. I immediately bought Book 3, Exploration, to see where it all goes. Highly Recommended. Four and a half DANGEROUS Stars.

 

THE CLIMAX OF THE “GALACTIC NEIGHBORHOOD TRILOGY”: PAYING A HIGH PRICE  by RSBProds on October 27, 2017

Five FASCINATING Stars. Exploration is the 3rd book by talented author Alexander Elliott in his “Galactic Neighborhood” series of novels that began with Expedition and then Book 2, Odyssey. Elliott spins a wide-ranging, entertaining tale that involves multiple locations and story lines and ties up all of the loose threads of all three novels very well. Intended to be a standalone novel, more enjoyment is obtained by reading all three books in this space opera. True to the author’s format for the series, cliff-hanger events impacting Book 3 actually begin with the dramatic attack on the starship Explorer in the Epilogue of Book 2, Odyssey. Yet another odd alien race makes a striking appearance in the opening pages and is the key to a mystery. Proceeding on multiple fronts and overlapping story lines, the author skillfully weaves a fascinating, torturous tale of war, treachery, ingenuity, and xenophobia. My Highest Recommendation. Five CLIMACTIC Stars.

Pick up your copies today on Amazon!   EXPEDITION   ODYSSEY   EXPLORATION

PS – Expedition will be FREE May 27-28!

 

Reader Roundup 5-23-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Two things have kept me busy this week: promoting Expectant Moon and thinking deep thoughts about BEAR, DRAGON, and CAT shifters.

As to the first, Expectant Moon has been well received so far and garnered ten five-star reviews. This makes me happy! A recent FREE promotion on FreeBooksy resulted in over 2800 downloads. This also makes me happy! Overall sales are not what I was hoping for. This does NOT make me happy! Until I figure out what I’m still doing wrong, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with whatever I can get. There’s a magic formula of “behind the scenes” tricks for selling on Amazon, and I don’t have it figured out yet. I honestly don’t think it’s the books themselves – it’s the cursed marketing which is giving me fits! Like many authors, managing the business side of writing is a time consuming, confusing, and often frustrating endeavor. I didn’t really sign up for this part, but I’m stuck with it now!

On to more pleasant things…

Now, who doesn’t want to think about shifters?? They are so COOL, and lend themselves to really interesting stories! Some of you are wondering why I am spending time on anything other than book 2 in my Gladstone Shifters series. I have been working on the outline and background material, but have not yet started writing the story because other ideas have been popping up in my brain and I cannot ignore them!

I have found it beneficial to stop and record new ideas whenever they reveal themselves. I always carry a small notebook and pen at work for furious scribbling when no one is looking. Often, I get great ideas while in the shower or on my way somewhere in the car. Even dreams have presented new ideas or helped me solve problems with a current manuscript. Sometimes it’s simply an interesting book title or a general idea I might want to use in the future. Other times, I get the entire story line in a flood and have to hurry up and record it  down before I forget.

The bears are on my mind because I am toying with a bear shifter story for either Christmas or Valentines day (you’re going to love it!). I have dragons on the brain right now because of a series of books I have been reading lately. They too will get their own story in the future – probably a series. Recent articles in the news regarding cougars and lynx got me all excited about cat shifters – particularly because they reside right here in the states.

For those readers who are waiting for more Science Fiction books, never fear! I have some great stories on the back burner, and have been adding new ideas all the time. Imagine vast ocean creatures waiting to get their tentacles on the humans who have invaded their planet. Hey – they just want to talk!

 

Reader Roundup 5-9-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I have learned much since launching my first books last August. Many revisions have already taken place as I update/correct/improve the manuscripts, but there is always more to be done. Time is, as always, in short supply, so do I spend it writing new material or improving existing books? Some authors advise focusing only on new material, rather than wasting time on older work. I want to do both and hate having to make a choice!

This week, I put off starting on the second book in the Gladstone Shifters series to do some work on Green’s Thumb, which has already received significant revision. You see, a recent review caught my eye, and I took the reviewers words to heart (yes, I pay attention!). Later today I should have the manuscript in better shape and it will replace the version currently for sale. Now I have another problem – I want to expand the book!

A number of earlier reviews for Green’s Thumb made note of its brevity and “hurried” whirlwind romance, reducing its real-world credibility. I may or may not agree with that assessment, but I acknowledge the story could be improved by fleshing it out with more back story and additional interaction between the characters. Now that I recognize it needs to be done, where will I ever find the time to actually write it?

I already have readers demanding the next Gladstone Shifters book, so how can I justify delaying new material by going back and improving an older book? Not an easy decision, but I think I need to file my notes for Green’s Thumb for sometime in the future. The old adage “strike while the iron is hot” applies in this case, and I don’t want to lose the feel of the series or characters by allowing too much time to pass between books.

The quality of my writing increases with each book I write, so at some point I will be able to bring my earlier works up to speed while producing new novels which won’t need major post-published corrections. Until then, I have to figure out how to balance it all and keep everybody, including me, happy.

 

 

 

NEW RELEASE! Expectant Moon

My latest book, Expectant Moon, is now available for purchase! Order from Amazon

 

Take a look at what others are saying:

“Expectant Moon is everything a great shifter romance novel should be. Steamy scenes, fantastic drama and some very surprising new ideas. I loved this book and look forward to the second installment. This is a series I already know I will be rereading multiple times.”

“Wonderful! Elliott introduces new ideas to the shifter genre and does it quite successfully, and I would love to meet some of the characters in person. It was a joy to read and I am anxious to get my hands on the next one!”

“Love, love, love it!!! Hurry up and write the next one!”

“Once again Alexander Elliott has created a world full of people I want to know, and a story I don’t ever want to end. The premise is completely plausible, the characters are robust and real, and the story line will grab you from the start.”

 

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Tolerated. Ignored. Threatened. Modern gay shifters struggle for equality, but history paints a different picture. When Alpha Ben Blair challenges the status quo, he unintentionally ignites a controversy which divides the community.

While Gladstone soon becomes the focus of competing forces, Ben gains new allies who change everything: Evan Reid, a misunderstood Arctic wolf possessing unique gifts, and Jack Eby, an ancient shifter holding the key to their future.

Join the Gladstone shifters as they find love, acceptance and purpose in a time of monumental change. Expect the unexpected. Expectant Moon.

Notice: Contains male/male romance and sexuality. Recommended for readers 18+.

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The Writing of Exploration

In the Epilogue of Odyssey, the unfortunate capture and destruction of Exploration is mentioned. In truth, I really had no clear idea how that was going to play out! It took some time for the ideas to coalesce and give me the direction needed.

From the start, I intended this book to be a bit more gritty and visceral than the first two in the series. I also wanted the bad guys to be particularly bad to reinforce the idea that if humanity ever were to traverse the galaxy in the future, they would not necessarily be welcomed with open arms, tentacles, claws – whatever!

One of my greatest  challenges was to juggle all the different people groups and sub-plots involved,  making sure I didn’t drop any story threads along the way. I had to rely on lots of paper notes alongside my keyboard to keep names and events straight in my mind. It was very complicated, and there were times I wished I had picked an easier way to tell the story.

My favorite character was not a human, but Birmew –  the hapless Silestri who was nearly killed and then abandoned, simply for trying to protect his human charges. I was determined to repay him for his kindness as the story unfolded, and I think things turned out well for him in the end.

The conclusion of the book was something of a somber mix, but this was by design. With all the damage done during their captivity, some of the prisoners were unable to walk away unscathed. I believe this will be just as true in the future as it is today, no matter what kinds of medical treatments or therapies come along.

The future, as written in this series, is overwhelmingly positive, yet I made it clear not everything will be sweetness and spice. The book ends on a uplifting note, leaving our now-safe descendants ready to face an interesting future.

 

NOTE: Some readers have hinted (or demanded) I write more books in the series. While I  deeply appreciate their enthusiasm, I have no concrete plans for sequels at the present time. The overall story seems complete to me as is, but if I get some great ideas in the future, you will be the first to know!

The Writing of Odyssey

In some ways Odyssey was easier to write than Expedition, but I discovered unexpected challenges as things progressed. The first, and most obvious, was the location of the action, which was almost totally on the planet’s surface. I didn’t have all the cool space-based technologies, ship movements, interesting discoveries, and other goodies to play with as I did in Expedition. Somehow, I had to make this planet-bound story interesting to the reader while explaining what happened to them on their quest for a new home.

The last presidential election cycle was in full swing as I wrote the book, so inevitably politics found a prominent spot in the story. Creating a nasty politician was not difficult (sorry to say), and I wanted the readers to realize that if human colonies ever do make it into space, they will be bringing some of the same problems with them. Time and distance will not necessarily change human nature, though imagining so may cause us to feel better about future generations.

Another really fun element in the book involved the scary looking aliens, who turned out to be intelligent, gentle telepaths. The Rxyl are based on an actual critter called the Australian Thorny Devil (click HERE to find out more). In real life they measure about 4-5 inches, but in my story are 5-6 feet. I found it more interesting to make something so formidable looking be the good guys for a change. That they ended up turning everything in the colony on its head was simply sauce for the goose. Throwing telepathy into the mix was interesting in itself, but I had to carefully consider how such a thing would affect humanity. Let’s just say I’m glad our thoughts are not being broadcast for all to hear!

The book was a joy to write, and some of the characters you met in Expedition make an appearance in this tale. Each book in the Galactic Neighborhood series stands alone, but reading them in sequence provides a richer backstory. Happy reading!