MY 2021 PUBLISHING ANNIVERSARY!

It seems like more than four years have gone by since the release of my first book. Having re-visited the last three anniversary posts, I discovered that while the tune has changed, the dance remains the same. Progress? Undoubtedly. Frustration? By the bushel. Pleasure? Enough to keep me addicted. Desire to continue? Yes! Before looking ahead, allow me to share some snippets from the last three anniversary posts.

2018

“l wish I had some fellow authors I could talk to when I need to vent or ask advice.” Unfortunately, this wish is yet to be fulfilled. I’ve always had difficulty making friends and am not very good at putting myself out there. I haven’t the foggiest idea how this will ever happen, short of a writer’s conference or something similar, and I lack the funds and confidence to ever attend one!

“Other than sales, I find motivation in two things: I love to write, and readers enjoy my work.” Thankfully, this is still true! While sales are encouraging and provide the resources to continue publishing, I continue writing because I have stories to tell, and people want to read them. It’s encouraging to note that my skills improve with each new book, confirmed by increased sales and reader feedback.

2019

“I intend to focus on shorter works rather than novels and will probably set aside romances for more sci-fi and fantasy.” The grand experiment of shorter works kept me going during a financially lean year. I posted a series of five stories on my blog in serial fashion, which took most of the year, and finally published them as Rise of the Draman in 2020. While the book garnered wonderful reviews, it’s a tough one to market. Sadly, I can’t afford to write only what I want (yet) if it doesn’t bring in enough income to pay for itself. So, for now, I remain busy with romance and plan on other genres in the future.

Incidentally, readers have been asking when I will write more Sci-Fi. Truthfully, I don’t know. It’s not for lack of interest, and I have some creative and exciting ideas to explore. Aside from no time, one issue is that many sci-fi readers are difficult to please, insisting that only hard science fiction is TRUE science fiction and anything else is garbage. I vigorously disagree, but those same readers have no qualms about bashing authors with scathing reviews if they happen to pick up a story that doesn’t meet their expectations. While I have no desire to paint a target on my back, I refuse to let them win.

2020

“Despite personal setbacks, financial concerns, and the pandemic, the last twelve months have been fruitful ones.” Oddly, the pandemic helped me focus and brought new readers who were locked in at home with nothing to do! I enjoyed seeing increased output and a significant upswing in sales, giving me a much-needed boost during trying times.

“Last year’s goals never materialized for various reasons.” I’m afraid this trend continues, as only one and a half of my five goals were reached! I did manage (sort of) to set up one of my titles for print-on-demand. I started the process last December, and it’s still ongoing due to the pandemic’s impact on the printing industry. My other books will have to wait until the world returns to some kind of normal.

The one goal I achieved—to focus on writing new material—resulted in publishing two books last year and writing a significant portion of another. In June of this year, I released my tenth novel!

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Moving Forward

Currently, I am working on a new romance series based on major holidays featuring bear shifters and their human mates. Meanwhile, if time allows and my creative juices provide good plot ideas, I intend to write one or two more Gladstone Shifters stories. My hope is to move on to other projects in the next couple of years.

At present, I have one simple goal – WRITE. Write to the exclusion of almost everything else and publish as many books per year as possible. Each new release creates a sixty-day frenzy of excitement and sales before dropping off. If I can increase from two book releases per year to three or four, it gives my brand that much more exposure and boosts income. Meanwhile, I learn more about the craft and incrementally improve my skills. Everybody wins this way, and I don’t stress out over all the things I’m supposed to be doing.

Even with this stripped-down focus, it’s very difficult to address some of the goals on my wish-list, which include wider distribution beyond Amazon, a newsletter, an updated website, membership in writer’s groups, print-on-demand for my backlist, and the introduction of audiobooks. Unfortunately, all of those things require either time, money, or skills I don’t possess—so they have to wait while I focus on what I can do.

As I said back in 2019, “Perhaps I’ll get a lucky break and win an award or be offered a movie deal.” While that would be wonderful, I’m not counting on it! I believe realistic goals and persistence will eventually get me where I want to be, and I’m looking forward to another great year!

When to Murder Your Darlings

My current manuscript is almost finished, yet I have a most onerous task before me—one which must be completed before anyone sees it. Some of my darlings must die, sliced from the story in a ruthless culling of extraneous words. In and of themselves, the passages convey interesting and useful information, or so I thought at the time. Looking back, I now realize they do nothing but distract from the plot and slow the action. And so, my precious, imaginative darlings, you must be sacrificed for the greater good.

While I have done this with other books, I did not know there was a term assigned to the difficult process. You may know it by the phrase “Kill Your Darlings”, but where did it originate and what did it mean?

“The phrase ‘kill your darlings’ has been attributed to many writers over the years, but the earliest known example comes from Arthur Quiller-Couch, who spread it in his widely reprinted 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing.” While railing against “extraneous ornament”, he said:

“If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

“He went on to describe extraneous ornament as inauthentic, like a man who hires someone else to write an exquisite love letter for him. His point was that beautiful and expansive writing was not necessarily good writing.”

Over time, the phrase has taken on additional meaning to encompass more than Quiller-Couch intended.

“To kill your darlings is a common piece of advice given by experienced writers. You do so when you decide to get rid of an unnecessary storyline, character, or sentences in a piece of creative writing—elements you may have worked hard to create but that must be removed for the sake of your overall story.”

Darlings may include any of the following:

  • Redundancy or over-explanation
  • Overly cute or witty turns of phrase (purple prose)
  • Unnecessary or distracting plots or sub-plots
  • Characters without a clear purpose or point of view

So, once the manuscript has been pruned, what happens to your darlings? Are they lost and buried forever? Not so fast! You may yet find a use for them in sequels, other books, or stand-alone works. If necessary, cannibalize the verbiage for pithy turns of phrase, quirky character traits, or sentences that fit better elsewhere. It’s your work—do what you want with it! Just remember this before you hit the delete key:

“The beauty of creative writing is that one project can often inspire the next.”

So unless your darlings are utterly wretched, save and repurpose them. It makes the unpleasant task of killing them easier!

Thanksgiving Musings 2020

Uncomfortable. Challenging. Scary. Uncertain.

These aren’t normally the words used to describe Thanksgiving, but the pandemic has turned the world on its head and it seems nothing will ever be “normal” again. Personally, things are not going as well as I might like! I am in the midst of an extended search for work (long story) which has caused a considerable amount of stress and financial worry. My youngest son and family have all been exposed to COVID-19 and are awaiting test results. Some dear friends have lost relatives or are waiting for their loved ones to recover. Writing, my one true joy, has been spotty and difficult during all this turmoil.

Still, I am thankful for so very much! I have what I need, most of my large family is doing well, I’m still healthy, and slowly but surely, the book I’m working on is coming together. As always, God has been good to me, prompting a heightened awareness of my many blessings. I do not know your circumstances, but I hope you will take a moment to look for the good and give thanks. And please, take the recommended precautions to keep your self and others safe!

The Post-Pandemic Future of Fiction

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We don’t know what the real future looks like yet, but it’s almost certain the world will not return to the way it was. What effect is this going to have on writers of fiction? I suppose works considered “contemporary” would almost have to reflect what’s really going on in our world, but should they? Must they? How do authors in the middle of a series handle this crisis? Do they incorporate current events or continue the series as originally planned?

I assume some readers will actually prefer stories that make no mention of the pandemic and it’s wrenching and unwanted effects on our lives. Most people read to escape reality for a while, and with the pandemic literally everywhere, there’s little stomach for more of it in their reading material!

Admittedly, I would be hard-pressed to craft a compelling story where everyone is trapped at home, can’t meet face to face, or really do much of anything without fear of dropping dead! (Well, Stephen King could probably come up with something even more frightening, but I would have no interest in reading it.) On the other hand, how can I get away without at least mentioning the life altering affects of the virus in my work?

Some claim this will be over soon enough and relegated to the dustbin of history. If so, it might be unwise to focus on the pandemic in our current and near-future books. Instead, we could offer a mix of fleeting references alongside the familiar setting of  a world in which life as we knew it still (mostly) applies.

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It’s right for us to ask questions, yet I don’t claim to have the answers. Only time will tell what readers want and expect, and of course, the new normal is evolving as we speak. Going forward, perhaps book descriptions should include a content label such as “Pre-Pandemic” or “Post-Pandemic”  to help readers make an informed decision before they purchase. Realistically, what works today may not fit the world of tomorrow at all. By  “dating” our books amidst a very fluid and quickly changing situation, we risk publishing stories with what could be a very short shelf life.

As a writer, what changes will you be making, if any, to your stories or the way they are marketed? What about a series already in progress? Will the pandemic and it’s effects show up in your writing – a little, a lot, not at all?

As a reader, what do you expect your favorite authors to do in response to recent events? Do you vote for escapism, realism, or something in between? How might this affect your decision to purchase?

This is an issue we cannot ignore. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

PS – until things have settled down, I don’t plan to incorporate the pandemic into my writing, including existing series. 

Weekly Roundup – MY SCHOOL BUILDING (Another Blast From the Past)

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

In my dusty old school folder I found a poem I had turned in for an assignment. It’s written in longhand cursive (does anybody even remember what that is?), and even though it received a grade of B+, was torn in half. For some reason I changed my mind about throwing it away and kept the awful thing. Though undated, the text itself tells me it must have been written in the 8th grade. Considering the subject matter, and the humorless nuns who filled the place, it was awful ballsy of me to turn it in!

 

MY SCHOOL BUILDING

Your rugged features are frightening,

You’re ugly as can be,

I hate your personality,

I think you’ve got it out for me.

I really think you’re ignorant,

And stony-faced and cold,

You always make me say “I can’t!”,

You’re impersonal and bold.

I’ve been with you for eight long years,

And hated you all the while,

Your sickening lunches psyche me out,

They look like garbage piles.

Yeah, yeah – I know it’s wretched poetry, but the sentiment still stands! I have very few good memories from my Catholic school days – which ended up being grades 1-12. My parents thought they were doing the right thing, and who knows? Perhaps attending a public school would have been even worse than my experience at St. Albert!

By the way, I got even with the blue-haired lunch ladies in my senior year. I did a spot-on impersonation of Roseanne Roseannadanna, who reported on the awful state of things in the cafeteria. It brought down the house. HA! My best comedy performance ever! I still believe the blue hair came from the toxic food fumes and not as a result of their rinse.

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Rise of the Draman, my fantasy dragon series, is coming along nicely. Both books one and two are now available on my blog, and book three DRAGON BONDS will be featured soon! I’m already working on the next story, which will be in two parts as books four and five. If I have the funds, I will then publish all five books in one volume. Depending on sales and interest, I may write another five stories with the MC as a teen.

The next project will be a new mixed-genre series of shorts under the working title of “Curiosity Shoppe”, and I am eager to get started! I have a boatload of cool story ideas to use and it will be difficult to choose which ones make the cut.

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To celebrate my birthday (WOO HOO!), I am taking time off to enjoy a three-day weekend. Most likely, I will use it for writing and other author-related tasks. I might even get some extra sleep! My older son is sending me a gift, my younger son took me to a cool animal park last weekend, and my best friend is taking me out to dinner on July 4th. If you want to help me celebrate, gifts of cash or chocolate are always welcome!

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.

Weekly Roundup 12-19-18 Becoming a Full Time Author

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

Some months ago I saved a post entitled “What It Takes To Go Full-Time As An Indie Author”. Unfortunately, the post is now “marked private by the owner” so I can’t tell you who wrote it. The writer claims to be making four figures per month through hard work (not luck), and following this must-do list:

  • Study your market. No that isn’t selling out, it’s making sure you understand what your readers want.
  • Get top quality, genre-appropriate covers. They should look like the bestsellers in your genre.
  • Learn how to write a really hooky blurb. Copy writing is a completely different beast to fiction writing.
  • Write books that people want to read. Yes you can write for yourself, but that’s going to make going full-time, far, far, more difficult.
  • Learn how to market. I don’t mean that stuff about getting a big Twitter following, I mean CPC ads and newsletter marketing. There are plenty of books and resources out there to teach you the ropes for both of those.
  • Target your readers and only your readers. Some people go for the spaghetti approach, but that has been shown to drastically screw things up. You need tight also-boughts that are relevant to your book. Don’t waste money marketing your dark UF to humorous UF readers.
  • Publish regularly. You don’t have to publish every month, but 4 books a year is the ideal minimum. You’ll need to run ads between launches to keep eyes on your books though.

Wow! While this formula apparently worked for the author, I will never be able to afford the time or expense to make it happen. Even if I could quit my job today and do nothing but write, I would need professional help with all the aspects of marketing, which involves four of the seven suggestions in the list above. I would guess most indie authors share this same struggle and despair of ever reaching full-time author status.

One additional objection is the whole “write what people want to read” mantra. While I understand the concept, and agree in principle, I dare say most authors want to write what appeals to them, not simply what will sell. Cranking out garbage simply because people will buy it gives all authors a bad name. On the other hand, churning out book after book with no personal appeal seems like a soul-sucking waste of time. Much of my joy and satisfaction as an author comes from writing about what speaks to me, interests me, or what stirs my passion. All of that is very personal and cannot be reduced to “write what people want to read”.

So, am I ever going to go full-time as an author? I’m sure you’ve already guessed the answer. Unless lightning strikes or I can retire with lots of extra cash, I don’t see it happening. Discouraging? Yes. Will it stop me? No. I write because I enjoy it! I have things to say and stories to tell, and readers like my stuff. In the meantime, if anything changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.

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Update on Traitor’s Moon – I’m about two-thirds of the way through the last chapter! Next comes the Epilogue where I tie up loose threads and drop some hints for the next book in the series, but the end is near (in a good way)! I’m still on target for finishing by the end of the year, with a tentative launch in late January. Word count stands at 104,000+.

The final chapter deals mostly with the primary antagonist receiving his comeuppance, and I’ve been editing and re-editing the manuscript to get it just right. This person has been a thorn in everyone’s side since the middle of the first book, and now the time has come to give him what he deserves. I must say, it’s been most satisfying, and I hope my readers will be pleased!

Weekly Roundup 12-12-18 Jump-starting Your Creative Flow

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

Sometimes the well of creativity and imagination runs dry and it’s up to you to find a fresh source. There are many ways to get the juices flowing again, but it may not be from the comfort of your favorite chair. Great material is all around us if we are paying attention, so try these the next time you need new ideas or inspiration:

  • Conversations – go ahead and eavesdrop at work, home, or the grocery store. The breadth of topics is astonishing.
  • The news – always full of colorful characters and interesting story ideas.
  • Dreams – sounds crazy I know, but as your brain cleans house every night you may pick up an idea or two. Keep pen and paper on the nightstand to record them before they disappear!
  • Books – you aren’t the only one with good ideas, so feel free to borrow from other writers (not in a plagiaristic sense of course!)
  • Entertainment – movies, concerts, TV, even your 5 year old’s school play.
  • People watching – go to the Mall or search your favorite magazines to find your next hero, romantic character, or bad guy.
  • Advertising – there are signs everywhere and many are clever or amusing. Churches, businesses, yard signs, billboards, and posters abound.
  • Change of Venue – get out of the house on a regular basis. Try visiting a library, cafe, park, museum, Botanical gardens, aquarium, pet store, or even a subway ride.

Sometimes the greatest story ideas come from a single word, a new face, or a familiar smell, jump-starting your imagination. So get to it! We’re all waiting to see what that creative mind of yours can come up with.

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Traitor’s Moon – Chapter twelve is finished! Word count stands at 100,498. (I love crossing the 100,000 milestone!) I have at least one more chapter, plus the Epilogue and then the book is done. I’m still hoping to have the writing finished by December 31st.

I had a blast working with Everet in this latest chapter, one of my sub-plot characters who is about a hundred years out of date. As it turns out, I probably could have written an entire novel about him alone, but this wasn’t the time. The Gladstone Shifters is primarily a romance series, with a healthy dose of intrigue and drama thrown in to keep things interesting, and Everet’s journey hasn’t reached the romance stage (yet).

 

Weekly Roundup 12-5-18 Reference Material for Romance Writers

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

I prefer to get my news online and like to save articles which might help my writing, be it general information or new story ideas. Back in June I was intrigued by this one: “Sixteen Hot Spots on a Man’s Body You Should Know About” by Carina Hsieh. Naturally, as an M/M romance writer, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. It never hurts to introduce some new ideas into a hot bedroom scene, and I certainly can’t claim to know it all.

While the list contained the usual suspects (lips, penis, nipples, perineum), there were a few odd places mentioned:

  • Adam’s Apple
  • Lower back
  • The dip under the ankle

I am uncertain how much serious research is represented, but the author claims the advice comes from “experts”. I can think of at least two hot spots which were left off the list, though most gay men are not shy about taking advantage of them. You’ll have to read the article for yourself and decide if the information is helpful!

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Traitor’s Moon – I’ve made some great progress this week and am deep into chapter twelve! Word count stands at 96,300+. This part of the book is both winding down towards the end and building up to the final conflict. During a short break in the action, I’m having fun with one of the sub-plots, fleshing out a newer character. Too many new people tend to distract from the primary pair in each story, so I have to be careful. It remains to be seen if he will be featured, or only mentioned, in future books.

Since I’m near the end, I occasionally have trouble remembering details from the early chapters. Research is often required to make certain I am being consistent with important details (thank goodness for the “search” feature in MS Word!). I suppose it could be said that many readers would not notice minor errors, since they have most probably forgotten the details by the end of the book anyway. Perhaps, but I simply can’t let things like that slide. As an author, I feel obligated to give readers my very best, and I hope it shows.

My goal is to complete Traitor’s Moon by the end of the calendar year and publish it early next year. Stay tuned for the cover reveal!

Weekly Roundup 11-21-18 Thanksgiving – More Than a Holiday

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

George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God”.

Growing up, I loved Thanksgiving because it meant a big family dinner and time off school. I didn’t care why it existed or when it started or what it might mean for me personally. Introspection and history were for grown ups, and I couldn’t have cared less.

I’m happy to report my attitude of gratitude has changed over the years, but Thanksgiving provides a crucial reminder to get me back on track. Many have forgotten or ignore the spiritual side of the holiday, which is more than regrettable considering how blessed we are as a people in this country. God has been so very good to me, and I am eternally grateful for His love and provision.

I must confess, however, it’s entirely too easy for me to focus on the negative and gripe about what I don’t have. If you’re like me, then I challenge you spend some time tomorrow making a list of blessings and place it where it can be seen every day. As more things come to mind, add to your list and review it when your attitude starts to sour. While we often can’t change our circumstances, we DO have the power to change our attitude, and a thankful heart will go a long way to lifting your spirits and encouraging friends and loved ones.

My best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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I’ve made some progress on Expectant Moon this week and am more than halfway through chapter 11! Have you ever planned a memorial service for shifters? Well, neither had I! This was another difficult and emotional portion of the manuscript, and I found my self choked up and crying as I wrote. Good thing the tissues were close at hand! Hopefully I managed to create something unique to the wolf shifter community, yet still recognizable to my human readers.

This event marks the end of the dramatic attack sequence and leads into the final wrap-up portion of the story. I still have a bad guy to deal with and a number of dangling threads to tie off, but the end of the book is now in sight. With the holiday tomorrow, I have a long weekend ahead and plan to spend most of it writing. No promises, but if all goes well, I may actually get the book finished before the end of the year after all!