The writing of FORBIDDEN MOON

This story was a labor of love, with the emphasis on labor! While it’s the third book I’ve published since the start of the pandemic, it affected Forbidden Moon far more than the others. Though I never contracted COVID-19, pandemic fatigue plagued my writing efforts from the beginning. Distracted by work issues, stress, and the disruption of life routines, my poor brain lacked the energy and creative juices needed for the project.

When I began, I fully expected the process to take about four months. Instead, it launched after eight and a half! There were serious plot issues to fix, doubts to overcome, and days where I couldn’t write anything at all. Bone tired and discouraged, I wondered if the manuscript would EVER be completed. When the glorious day finally arrived, the sky-high word count forced me to cut over eleven thousand words—and it was still too long. I came to the conclusion that Forbidden Moon was destined to be both BIG and beautiful!

Despite the challenges, the book contains some terrific ideas that were fun and exciting to write! It also included a number of firsts for the series:

  • first Black character
  • first human/shifter mating
  • first wedding
  • first visit to the Afterworld
  • first bar scene
  • first shifter-human conflict

It may not be apparent to the reader, but this story wasn’t supposed to have two bad guys. Originally, I intended for Dominic to be the heavy and then make sure he was suitably punished. Well, that idea went out the window about twenty-five percent of the way through, as I came to realize I couldn’t do that to him. I liked the character too much to bring down the full weight of wrath upon his head!

Instead, I cooked up a different but related evil character in the person of Russell. Doing so was no easy feat, and for several weeks the manuscript came to a standstill while I figured out how to integrate him into the story. I was terrified that I’d written myself into a corner and would never get out. That left two options: start the book over or abandon it altogether.

 I can’t recall now exactly how the solution came to me, but it finally did and I got busy writing again. In the end, Dominic unintentionally caused a lot of trouble for the pack, but he goes on to find a better life. On the other hand, Russell became the sketchy character I needed to pull off the dangerous and dramatic portions of the story. Of course, he got what was coming to him.

As mentioned above, this book features my first Black character (RJ). He even made the cover! You may wonder why that’s such a big deal, but I was eager to present him realistically without my own cultural baggage and attitudes. So, I searched for information and found an informative blog post written by a lovely Black author. Her guidance gave me the courage to move ahead with the idea, and I wrote to tell her so. Coincidentally, her mother was also going through stage four cancer treatment, the same as RJ’s mother! I still consider this real-life connection to my fictional characters inspirational.

My favorite story threads were those relating to the romance of Jonah and RJ. I grew to love them as they struggled to build an unconventional relationship under difficult and dangerous circumstances. It was a fun challenge to create and implement an entirely new set of rules for the first shifter-human couple. They turned out to be sweet, funny, and smoking hot in the bedroom! While their future family situation remains unresolved for now, I expect to address the issue in a forthcoming book.

Introducing new characters is always enjoyable (even the bad guys), and this book has quite a few. I found Dominic’s story arc particularly satisfying, and my sassy waitress, Darlene, was a hoot to write! Walter’s nephew, Gray Claw, was another intriguing addition, though there wasn’t adequate time to give him the attention he deserved. Something tells me we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.

I must also mention the importance of recurring characters, as they are the backbone of the series. Readers tell me repeatedly how much they love the Gladstone pack and miss them between books! Honestly, I’ve come to think of them as real people and enjoy watching them grow and change with each new story. The tough part is choosing which ones get the limelight since no single volume could ever contain significant updates on all of them. It’s a somewhat arbitrary decision, but I try to give past characters a chance to shine, whether a little or a lot, in each addition to the series.

Lastly, I want to mention the creation of the book’s cover. This one turned out to be a collaborative effort between the author and the graphic designer. I always look for photos that resonate with me and send them to the artist for consideration. So far, none of my suggestions ever made the final cut. This time, she loved the image as much as I did, and it fit perfectly with the overall design of the series. After a few minor tweaks, it became not only my personal favorite but hers as well.

No one is more invested in a book than the author, and while I love each volume of the Gladstone Shifters, Forbidden Moon is a personal triumph over daunting circumstances. Is it perfect? No. Is it the best in the series? You decide. Am I proud of it? Yes!

NEW RELEASE – Forbidden Moon!

Book four of the Gladstone Shifters series is now live and available on Amazon!

Wolf shifters have kept the secret of their existence for centuries, living in harmony with their human neighbors. Now, a secretive blogger threatens to expose them to the world. While efforts are made to find the dangerous human, packs everywhere tighten their security. Meanwhile, Gladstone is plagued by a series of attacks by unknown assailants. Threatened on every side, Ben must find a way to protect his people or risk losing everything.

Amid the danger, Jonah discovers his long-awaited mate. Trouble is, he’s not what anyone expected. What should have been a joyous union is marred by secrets and deception, presenting Ben and the pack with a difficult problem. Will Jonah’s unconventional mating bring happiness, or has Luna made a serious error?

Join your favorite shifter pack for a thrill ride of danger, secrets, drama, and romance in this fourth installment of the Gladstone Shifters – FORBIDDEN MOON! (Book 4 of 4. Contains steamy M/M content.)

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Your favorite wolf shifter pack has returned! It’s been a while since the last book, and this story is packed with all the goodies you’ve come to expect. With love and danger in the air, Gladstone is in for a wild ride. Don’t miss your next great read – pick up a copy today!

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See what my readers are saying:

“Elliott crafts his best and boldest story here with moments of humor, danger, cultural respect, and topical racism all woven together into an endearing love story. Fast-paced, lovable characters and hot sex! Highly Recommended!!” DC

“Another wonderful book with great characters, interesting plot, and fantastic world-building. It was like coming home, and I hope the series continues. Definitely a five-star read!” AS

“Wonderfully written, with well-developed, likable, and interesting characters. The best book yet and my favorite in the series!” BB

“Mr. Elliott has crafted such a rich reading experience and a world so realistic that I can’t wait for each book to be published. I couldn’t put this one down! He has great attention to detail and wraps up all loose ends while leaving many possibilities for future storylines. Best series installment yet!” KC

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As an indie author, I rely on readers to help promote my books through word of mouth, social media, blog posts, and reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, BookBub, or any sites where recommendations may be found. Will you help?

If all else fails, send me an email with your feedback. I love hearing from my readers!

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!”

Me or Thee – For Whom Do I Write?

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Do I write for myself or my readers? There’s only one answer – both, yet it’s a balancing act affected by a number of ever-changing variables. If I only write what my readers want, I run the risk of stifled creativity, boredom, and resentment. Eventually, the personal sacrifices necessary to write in the first place would no longer seem worth it. If I write only what interests me, readers may move on to someone else, and without an audience for my work, what’s the point?

Series are popular, yet I’ve found them both a blessing and a curse. Once the foundation is laid in the first book, I have a clear road ahead for more stories. Readers fall in love with the world and characters I’ve created and they naturally want more. Great! Who doesn’t want happy fans and increased sales? Strangely enough, it may be the author!

I’ve always resisted being trapped into long-term commitments with no exit strategy. I want options, and with a series there don’t seem to be any! Spending years writing about the same world and characters feels like prison, and I have to get away for a while and do something else. There are other ideas to pursue and genre’s to explore. Give me variety or give me death! OK, that’s over the top, but you get my meaning. When I explained this situation to one of my beta readers, this is what she said:

“Most of us hate it when we find a book we love and can’t read a second book for many months or years. If something is popular now, you should keep writing it or they will lose interest and you will never get them back because they won’t remember how much they liked it.

“I understand that when you have more stories you want to write, you would rather go on to something new that has been waiting. But, I think that authors have to write what will sell to some degree, or they won’t make enough to do it for a living. Tough decisions!”

I think she’s right, but even if I did as she suggested, it takes me around nine months to complete and publish a full length novel. So, I’ll still end up disappointing some current readers who don’t want to wait, but satisfying future readers who have the benefit of my backlist! There’s really no way to “fix” this, given my personal limitations and time constraints, but I’m going to see if I can do better.

At the moment, I’m working on a shorter in-between story for my Gladstone Shifters series. Fans have been waiting for over a year since book two came out, but I set the series aside to do something different (insert Rise of the Draman here). At the time, book two wasn’t doing all that well, and along with craving something new, I hated the thought of wasting time on a series no one was buying.

Due to an influx of new readers, and insistent pleas from established fans, I’m back on track with Gladstone Shifters. The plan is to finish book 2.5 and then move directly to book three, which is a concession on my part. After that, who knows? A second volume of dragon stories is possible (creating yet another series!) or I may move on to one of several other ideas bubbling away on the back burner. Tough decisions indeed!

As a writer, do you have a similar struggle trying to balance your needs with those of your readers? As a reader, do you lose interest in an author if the series you like is still in process? Let me know your thoughts!

Tripped up – A pantser’s confession

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Yes, I’m one of those.

Despite the fact that I tend to be very organized, thrive on consistency, and pride myself on never being late, it’s not the way I write. Usually, things move along swimmingly with only minor hiccups and the pantser’s life serves me well. Once in a while I end up being tripped by those pants and have to scramble to fix the mess. One could say I’ve been hoist with my own petard.

As you’ve no doubt surmised, I’m busy unwrapping my ankles so I can get to where I really need to be. After releasing my latest book three weeks ago, it was time to begin the next project – book three of my Gladstone Shifters series. Before I could begin writing something new, I needed to go back and re-read the first two books. I’ve been away from the series for more than a year, so a refresher was essential. No big deal, right?

This is where a plotter or planner has the advantage. Why? Because they would already have the series “bible” close at hand with all the needed information: names, dates, ages, physical descriptions of characters, timeline, etc. It was something I should already have done, but thought a cluttered file folder and my memory were good enough. Who has time for all that when there are more books demanding to be written?

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So I began to read, taking copious notes of all the information I might need for book three and typing them up properly for future reference. It turns out this wasn’t the only problem. It quickly became apparent the manuscripts needed yet MORE editing and minor changes. Things which slipped by unnoticed before were now glaringly obvious and must be fixed. Cringe worthy, embarrassing, unacceptable! There’s no way I could release (or begin writing) a new book without cleaning up the first two.

So, my simple task of re-reading morphed into constructing the series handbook I’d neglected, along with a new round of editing and corrections. I should have seen it coming. Since when does one of my easy-peasy tasks NOT become a time consuming black hole? Jettison the goals! Forget the “done by” dates on the calendar! Lower the sails and deploy the anchor! You get the idea – I’ve fallen behind, mired in a to-do list of my own making.

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For me, there was no choice at all. Once I recognized what needed to be done, I had to go back and fix things before starting new material. I know how my linear brain works by now, so trust me, pulling up my pants was the only option if I wanted to keep walking! Not to worry – I have made progress. It’s just going much slower than I’d like.

At this point the plan is to write a shorter in-between novella to pacify my demanding readers. (It’s not their fault, as I’m a year overdue releasing book three). After that, I’ll get to work on Forbidden Moon. I’m not going to promise anything though – after all, I am a pantser!

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2019 – A Retrospective

A few thoughts on last year, both personally and as a writer.

ME

  • Renewed a twenty year old friendship – what a blessing!
  • Welcomed another grandson (four grandchildren now)
  • Celebrated my younger son’s birthday, in person, for the first time in MANY years
  • Took on a PT job for several months to help with the bills
  • Moved to a different apartment with better amenities

WRITING

  • Celebrated my two-year publishing anniversary in August
  • Experimented with some flash fiction/photo prompts on my blog
  • Published one full length novel and almost finished a second (see below)
  • Incorporated more show and less tell in my writing
  • Got really good at low-cost book promotions (!)
  • Added yet another genre and audience to my portfolio

 

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My writing plans for the year fell apart! I published my second wolf shifter novel, Traitor’s Moon, in February. The idea was to keep going with book three, but I couldn’t do it. I was burned out and needed to write something different for a while. With no desire to commit myself to another long project, I decided to write a fantasy short story. This turned into a series of five novelettes spread out over the last ten months of the year!

With me so far? The initial idea was to publish them individually, thereby increasing my backlist and pull in lots of new readers with all the extra exposure. Not a bad plan – except it was too expensive. (I also tried putting the stories on my blog in serial format, but very few people read them.) There was no way I could afford to publish and promote five different titles, so what to do? The only thing I could do with a basket full of lemons – make lemonade!

RISE OF THE DRAMAN is a collection of all five books and is presently undergoing a final series of edits. I’m adding new material, replacing tell with show, and correcting mistakes. My beta readers are loving it, and I will end up with a much better novel by the time I’m done.

The cover for this one was another challenge. The designer I’ve been using all along just couldn’t come through for me on this title, so I was forced to look elsewhere. Fantasy cover art, particularly with dragons, is harder to come by and can be a lot more expensive. I finally found a few possibilities on a pre-made cover site, and with one slight change (which cost more), settled on one which will do, but just doesn’t POP the way I had hoped. Check it out here and tell me what you think! If things go as planned, I intend to publish RISE OF THE DRAMAN sometime in February or before.

Every book brings new opportunities to learn and improve, and this latest one certainly did! Overall it’s been a great experience. My biggest regret is not being able to publish the thing in 2019, as it puts me behind my goal of at least two novel-length works per year. If I work hard, maybe I can squeeze out three in 2020 to make up for it!

Author Update

The last few weeks have been brutal! Pre-move, move, post-move. It’s all been very moving, but at last I’m settled in my new place and can stop for a breath. Obviously, my writing has taken a back seat and I’m eager to get caught up.

Story five of Rise of the Draman is almost complete. The last of the story threads are being carefully tied, and then it’s off to my beta readers. When that’s done, it will appear on my blog in serialized format, and your anxious wait will be over! Leaving readers dangling from a cliff this long was never my intention, though be prepared for a much longer installment this time.

I received a wonderful note from a reader recently regarding my Gladstone Shifters books. The poor soul is hooked (yeah for me!) and wants to get her hands on the next in series – only it hasn’t been written yet and I have no idea when it will be. I have three new series begging to be written, and am still deciding what to do. Given my crazy work schedule and limited writing time, any novel-length project I choose to tackle means at least a nine month commitment. My tendency is to get bored and antsy to move on to something else long before I’m done!

Winter made a rude and unwelcome early start here and I’m faced with unfamiliar routes for shopping and work. I don’t mind the change of seasons, but driving on snowy/icy roads makes me tense. In 2014, I hit some black ice and found myself upside down in a snow-filled ditch. The car was totaled, and neither my back nor my nerves have fully recovered. Maybe I’ll work that into a book someday…

 

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 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!