Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Story of Purim: A twisted psychological thriller that will keep you guessing

Hello readers. How are you holding up? In the Poconos, it hasn't stopped snowing. A few weeks ago, we recieved 30 inches of powder in three days and then it just kept coming. At this rate, I won't glimpse my lawn until May.

In addition to it being February 87th (shortest month, my ass), we'll be celebrating Purim, my favorite Jewish holiday. Purim, unlike many of our more somber occasions, is sheer fun. People dress up. We make cookies. If you go to temple services, you can boo and hiss and wave noise-makers at the villain. It's a delight.

So I thought it would be a hoot to write the story of Purim in the style of a bestselling crime thriller.

First, let's recap(ish) Purim:

Purim is the story of Queen Esther. After King Ahasuerus executes Queen Vashti for disobeying him, he hosts a contest and selects Esther, known for her great beauty, as the winner, and marries her. Esther is Jewish and her new husband has a wicked advisor named Haman. Haman hates the Jews (boo anti-semitism), particularly Esther's cousin Mordecai, who is a community leader. Haman thinks Mordecai and the Jews should bow to him. But Jews only show deference to God, so that isn't happening. Yada, yada, yada, Mordecai is set to die until Esther pleads with her husband to protect her people. Spoiler alert: Haman is sent to the gallows instead. Mordecai becomes the king's advisor and the Jews are saved (until next time).

So this story has all the trappings of a good suspense novel: a beautiful protagonist who is likely underestimated. Powerful and wicked men. Impending death. Comeuppance. 

So let's pretend for a second, that this is the basis for a crime thriller. How would it sound? (Keep in mind, this is a first draft)


Queen Esther has it all. A gilded throne. A powerful husband. The Kingdom of Persia at her feet. Life seems perfect, but under that facade lies a web of murder and secrets. Her husband is a dangerous man. If Esther crosses him, she is as good as dead. Just ask his first wife.

Esther's only confidant is Moredcai, a father figure, who sees Esther's status as a way to protect the Jewish people. When the king's ruthless advisor Haman convinces the king to hang Mordecai for disobedience, Esther hatches a dangerous con. She'll not only have to play her husband, but Haman too--risking her life and those of everyone she loves. If she can't take Haman down, she'll die trying. 


Ok, so what do you think? It needs some tweaks, but it was a fun exercise. Thus begging the question, what holiday would make for a good book? And what genre would serve it best?

Monday, February 22, 2021

I Forgot to Write For a Year

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
A writer friend of mine posted this article, noting that she'd felt like she was alone in her lack of creativity during COVID: Writer’s Blockdown: After a Year Inside, Novelists Are Struggling to Write. It made me realize I wasn't alone!

So I thought I’d pass this gift along to other writers: you are not alone if you haven’t been able to write well, or to write at all.


Before COVID, I dreamed about long stretches of staying inside, with endless excuses for cancelling plans to spend more time with my keyboard. Then my dream came true, and I just … didn’t. Other folks here on ATB have recently written about the art of doing nothing and tarot for writer's block, so it's not just me. I’ve already posted here about how, even early in the pandemic, I couldn’t find much motivation to write. It’s almost a year later, and I’ve mostly only written when I absolutely had to.

Now that the pandemic has gone on for an extended period of time, the reasons for the creative drought are becoming more clear. In addition to the fact that stress and depression are bad for creativity in general, the article above notes some practical blockers, like the difficulty of writing with kids and spouses around all the time, or the lack of inspiration from being in the outside world. Living life on a screen also makes it harder to spend even more time with a screen—perhaps writing by hand would help, if I remembered how.


Maybe the creativity is only dormant though. All the unusual experiences of the past year are building up in reservoirs in our brains, so when we finally have the motivation to write, we’ll have more empathy for people in a tough spot, more understanding of how a crisis plays out in the real world, more ideas for how things could have been worse—all excellent tools to make a story better. The world will open back up, and so will a fountain of creative juices. They’ll be everywhere. Creative juices spattered on every surface.


Uh, anyway. If you’ve had trouble writing, you’re not alone. That’s all I really wanted to say.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Story Seeds: Unbound Anthology Authors Discuss Inspiration
 This week, a collection of twelve authors, including me, celebrated the release of our new anthology: UNBOUND: STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION, LOVE AND MONSTERS from Five Points Press. On release day, several of us met virtually to cheer about our accomplishment. We also discussed our individual stories and our inspirations.

Those explanations were so interesting, I thought other readers and writers might enjoy them. So, I asked several of the anthology contributors to share their "story seeds" on the blog today. Thanks to Heidi Ayarbe, Angela Sierra, Emily Colin, John Klekamp and Fiona McLauren for letting us peer into their brilliant writer minds. 

Dorothy inspired me!

My husband and I were backpackers. For over ten years, we'd work, save money, go backpacking for three or four months (Europe, Asia, South America etc.). Spend all the money. Then start again. We traveled and lived in over 27 countries around the world.

24 years ago in Guatamala, we met Dorothy. She is a German woman, and every time we asked her about an experience .... anything .... she responded, "It's okay." A full moon hike on a pyramid in Tikal "It's okay." A delicious empanada. "It's okay."

Cesar (my husband) and I tend to be really effusive and emotional about life, and this one-note person just STUCK with us. Just two days with Dorothy, and we have a standing joke when something really has impacted us. “How was the wedding party?” “It’s okay.” “What did you think about our daughter’s recital?” “It’s okay.”

During all those years of backpacking, we met so many great people. There's a real culture of backpackers (one I often think about and miss!) I always wanted to create a story around these people who impacted my life, around what would happen if someone simply “disappeared” while backpacking.  What (and who) does that person leave behind?

So, there’s where THE THINGS LEFT BEHIND comes from.

“And, Dorothy, if you’re out there. I hope you continue to be okay!”

My inspiration for this story began with the name: Jolly.

The last part came from me, from my childhood trauma with weight. What could be worse, I thought, than having your defect be part of your name? Jolly as in not. As in irony. As in my sister, whom we teasingly call chuckles because she rarely does.

So I got the name but it went though many iterations. First it was Phat; then Fat but like Chow Yun-Fat. I combed Asian heritage sites looking for inspiration, but Jolly never quite came into focus.

And then Heidi invited me to be part of this Anthology just when I had begun to explore my roots in fiction, which was in itself an Unbinding.

See, as a Colombian kid raised in the United States, my first language was English. I learned to count, read and write in English; played hide-and-seek, had my first crush, sung lullabies and Christmas Carols all English. English is the language of my childhood, and so, my language for childhood and all things that come with it: humor, imagination. It is Fun.

But we moved back to Colombia and here I graduated from high school, went to collage, fell in love, got married, had a child, payed taxes. I was flirted with in Spanish, got hired, interviewed, paid, pulled over and asked for my driver’s license in Spanish. Spanish is the language of business, traffic insults, conception and birth and hospitals. It is Work.

When I sat down to write columns, articles, reports, presentations, lesson plans and student memos, they all came out in Spanish. When I sat down to write stories, they came out in English.

I thought I had to separate myselves, leave the US and English out of my daily life, Colombia and Spanish out of my stories, for they didn’t belong there. I was afraid I would be called inauthentic. A fraud. A snob.

And then came the call to Unbound, and I did. I wrote until Yolima Fatami sat there in the cross section where I had lived for many years and cried and yelled and played her violin while plotting her demise. And in writing her I released myself and gave myself permission to exist on the page as I do in the flesh, a motley mismatched collection of Spanglish words and customs, a woman with one foot in each world, both worlds in her heart. And a character on the brink of everything.

When Emily Colin approached me about joining the anthology UNBOUND: Stories of Transformation, Love and Monsters, I was beyond excited by the theme of transformation and how that affects us, inside and out. Writing a story alongside the juggernaut authors who’re in this amazing book was a great honor, and I'm blessed ot have been a part of it.

Why I wrote The Brollachan—a story entrenched in Scottish folklore and bound by the tale of two sisters—was as much to do with the emotional transformation the characters go through as the physical. It was a look into how people might not know themselves as well as they think, that we all have parts of ourselves that are darker than we might want them to be. While on the surface it is a story of the monsters around us, at its heart, The Brollachan is a story of the unknown, facing the darkness we find, and the bonds of family and what those mean to us.

I’ve long been fascinated by myths and legends of every country but especially those of my homeland Scotland, where monsters aren’t just separate from us—they are a part of us, they reflect parts of who we are; they show what we fear, what we wish we were, and what we wish we weren’t. And for me, that’s okay. It’s healthy. It’s good. If we didn’t have dark, we wouldn’t have light. And working through the dark parts of who we are helps us shine a light on others walking the same path.

When we decided to make “transformation” the theme for Unbound, all I knew was that I wanted to write a story set in the universe of my YA SevenSins series, a place where citizens live and die by—you guessed it—the rules of the Seven Deadly Sins. The first book in the trilogy came out last summer, and I’ve been having a fantastic time writing short stories set in this world before the launch of the second book this August. It’s been so much fun to explore the Seven Sins universe through the eyes of secondary characters—not to mention, it’s also given me great fodder for the second and soon-to-be third book in the series.

So, I had the setting—but what I couldn’t decide was what story to tell. I thought more deeply about the book’s subtitle—Transformation, Love, and Monsters—and then I knew. I wanted to write a story about the transformative, redemptive power of love…about how, for love, we’ll take unimaginable risks and battle almost any enemy—even the ones within ourselves. This past year has shown all of us what really matters, and how far we’ll go to protect the people we care about. I wanted to explore that more deeply…the way love drives us; how it survives even in places where people strive to stamp it out; and how it leads us to find strength we never imagined we possessed. 

The Seven Sins series has two main characters: Ari Westergaard and Eva Marteinn. I decided to write this story from the perspective of Ari’s mother, who we meet for a single, fraught instant in Sword of the Seven Sins, the first book in the trilogy. We never get to know her…but I wanted to. Without giving too much away, the short story that appears in Unbound tells the tale of how Ari’s parents meet, fall in love, and almost pay the price with their lives.

 The idea for Over Time popped up during an exercise at a writing conference in 2018. We were prompted to roll three of our favorite story elements into one plot. My story would have to include gay romance, time travel, and humor.

With only ten or fifteen minutes two write, I cranked out two mini chapters narrated by my two characters, Adam and Evan—a play on Adam and Eve.

I pictured Adam as a closeted teen in 1959 rural Texas hiding his truth (and a relationship) from his family and friends. Then there was Evan, living out and proud in present-day NYC, a popular social media influencer recovering from a very public dumping. That’s it. Like I said, we only had ten to fifteen minutes.  

But these two characters stayed with me. So, when Emily asked me to submit a story to UNBOUND, I instantly thought of Adam and Evan. I just wasn’t sure their story would fit the criteria of “transformation."

Originally, I had imagined them visiting a funky clock repair shop, finding a portal, meeting and falling in love. But that’s just a time travel love story, and where would they end up in the end? Adam’s world? Evan’s world? Or would they go their separate ways? What if, instead, they never meet? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if they traded places? The “transformation” would come from what Adam and Evan learn from the perspective gained over time.

I still haven’t gotten Adam and Evan out of my head. In fact, they're going to be there for a while. I’m now turning their story into a full novel.

About the Anthology:

A dull AP English assignment interrupted by the resurrection of a 5,000-year-old mummy. A “boy meets boy meets time travel” tale. An ancient evil summoned from the Scottish moors. A sentient garden turned matchmaker. A troubled teen who rehabilitates monsters. A sinister society where love is punishable by death. A medieval pirate queen in love with a ghost. A demon who rebels against her birthright. A mysterious Power that turns people to stone. A girl who guards the secret behind her best friend’s disappearance. A violinist on the brink who learns to listen to her heart.

The stories in this anthology have one common theme: Transformation. They include international ownvoices perspectives; a New York Times-bestselling author; Emmy, SIBA, and ILA award-winning writers; and emerging, independent voices in YA fiction. The collection’s authors, like its stories, are UNBOUND—diverse voices exploring identity, love, betrayal, and becoming. They give us a glimpse into what can be: stories of possibility, love, friendship, the monsters around us and within us.

UNBOUND is available now wherever you buy books online. The e-book version is permanently FREE at all retailers. The paperback and hardback versions are available at cost.

Click Here to Get Your Copy!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Publish Like a Motherfucker Course 8: Fans, Friends, and Fuckers

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey, everybody!

I feel that we are in the middle of something unique right now, sort of the calendar equivalent of an eclipse or star alignment.  I don't recall any time in my lifetime that Valentine's Day, Presidents Day, and Mardi Gras all fell in a row like this.  I know it's a silly thing to be interested in, considering one is religious, one is determined by the federal government, and one is...well, pretty much just made up by greeting card companies.  Nevertheless, I still find it kind of quirky and interesting and wonder how often things like this occur, if ever.  Maybe somebody who knows more about this sort of thing can let me know in the comments.

In the meanwhile, I had an interesting conversation earlier this month.  In fact, I found it fascinating, and I hope you will as well, although I can understand where it might feel a bit academic for those not in a similar position to myself and some of my peers on this blog and elsewhere.

I've always been interested in how a public figure like an author, particularly in 2021, determines how much to let fans in, into their real lives, into their real thoughts, into their real families.  In the latest installment of "Publish Like a Motherfucker (With Stephen Kozeniewski)" I got the chance to pick the brain of my friend and mentor Brian Keene on just this subject.

Below I'm including a syllabus of what we discussed (although it did go much further and, I'm grateful to report, deeper than I initially intended.)  I hope you'll find it as edifying as I did.  Let me know what you thought below!

Course 8:  Fans, Friends, and Fuckers
Date:  Wednesday, February 3
Time:  8:00 pm EST
Syllabus:  Now that you've published you've started hitting social media and the convention trail hard.  With special guest World Horror Grand Master Brian Keene we'll discuss:

- to what extent should you welcome fans into your life?  when do you go from drinks at the hotel bar to inviting them into your home?  how do you tell merely eager fans from truly dangerous ones?

- how do you distinguish between genuine friends and climbers?  what do you do when people ask you to wave your magic wand and make them famous?

- do the lifelong friendships outweigh dealing with jackasses?  is it safer to be more guarded online and in person?

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Art of Doing Nothing

By Cheryl Oreglia

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day,” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I have been living under flagrantly false assumptions my entire life. I do not know how in tarnation this happened? And to make matters worse I discovered this inanity by accident. I know, I’d call my Mother and rant, but that’s not possible. Is it really a revelation if you don’t share it?

I didn’t think so, so I wrote it all down, you’re welcome.

The truth is I’m a natural sloth who has been sipping the Kool~Aid of wonks for far too long. Slothing has a bad wrap and I’m here to repackage this preposterous vilification. People can be so judgmental. If you don’t want to feel guilty every time you put your damn feet up then please read on…

I’ve been running at breakneck speeds for nearly half a century trying to keep up with the Jones whom I barely know? If this pandemic has taught me a thing or two; it’s one, I’m not a shark, and I won’t die if I stop all motion, and two, the Jones, who have never invited me to dinner, have way too much influence on our cultural expectations. During this perpetual lockdown I found time to be a gift, as in the present moment, the one I’m standing in, and by the way, time could care less if I’m mopping the floor or being a sloth.

I’m going to ask you to do something rather uncomfortable, stop with the whining, it’s not like I’m asking for money.

For experiential purposes, you’ll need to reposition yourself before reading any further, it’s pivotal, so don’t skip this part, because you may think God is not watching, but she is, and your collaboration has been noted.

Idleness is not the root of all evil as the Jones would have you think, it is the fertilizer, which is required if one wishes to bloom properly.

It’s imperative that the cognitive part of your person be aligned with your body, so find a lounge chair, a bed, the floor, and maybe a couple of pillows to elevate your feet. If possible your eyes should be below the navel level when standing. Shoes off obviously. A blanket is essential, earplugs, and you can repurpose your face mask to shelter your eyes. Send me a pic because I know your phone is within arm's reach.

Personally, I like a cup of coffee no further than eight inches from my nose, that’s just me, consider that optional.

This is called lounging, it takes a few minutes for you to return to your senses, don’t rush the process. Stay put until your thoughts settle down, your brain chills, and you are no longer cognizant of the chatter going on around you. Remember to breathe, we inhale and exhale the same way we remember and forget.

And please ignore any despairing comments about your comportment, stay the course, those people are under the influence of the Jones (you’ve heard of Jonestown), and not of their right mind.

After a half-hour or so you’ll stop noticing the dusty baseboards, suspicious stains on the carpet, and dead flies under the coffee table. You’ll be tempted to get up and grab a dust rag, resist like a Ginsburg, dust does not expire.

This is harder than it looks, you have to wear down your restlessness, consider this a well-deserved sabbatical. I read that Albert Einstein pondered the riddle of the universe with a cat on his lap. And wasn’t Isaac Newton sitting under a tree when he came up with the law of universal gravitation. I mean with your ass anchored to the ground it seems elementary but it was clever.

We can’t solve problems we haven’t yet identified, and if you find yourself meditating on the nature of textured walls, stay prone, this is critical, God only knows what issues you’ll resolve.

We all know someone who likes nothing better than to check things off their to-do list, tag the finish line, complete a task, or they feel out of sorts, stifled, suppressed. It’s ridiculous and I’m determined to help you with the initial readjustments. Henry David Thoreau says, “disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.”

Let’s talk procrastination because if you think your investments are profitable, procrastination will give you staggering results. For one, procrastination is innate. “It is an invisible force that drives rivers into serpentine patterns, underwater currents into sinuous paths, jet streams into winding courses – and you and me into a rambling mode,” says V. Vienne.

Let your mind meander, it’s like eating the forbidden fruit, I’m talking the biblical kind, but you don’t have to worry about your nakedness. Think about the way rivers meander throughout the land, we don’t know why, but they take us places we never thought we would go. Think Huckleberry Finn, “we said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.”

Another thing, do not schedule your idleness, then it just becomes another obligation. Be spontaneous with your play. We’ve been sheltering in place for the better part of a year, if you haven’t figured out how to be a vagabond at home, then you’re missing out. Seriously.

It is perfectly fine to abandon activities midstream, don’t get all sanguine about it, just walk away. I do this all the time, as I’m organizing the bananas in the fruit bin, I find myself drawn to the window that’s streaked with three years of life, I shrug, throw some dishcloths on the hardwood and skate up and down the hall to music from the ’60s, ten minutes later I’m hunting for lost silverware, when I stumble on a drawer of maps and decide to alphabetize them. Maybe I’ll call my sister, she’s working, and likes to be disrupted.

I have it on good authority that an hour of procrastination is equivalent to an hour at the gym. It’s the resistant training that makes all the difference. Get it?

You can strengthen your resolve to remain idle by looking at something that needs attending to, a sink full of dishes is my lifelong nemesis, feel the tension build as you ignore the impulse to amend the situation, fight it, grab a bowl of pistachios if you need support. After a few weeks, you’ll be amazed at the fortitude of your resistance, not to mention the increased finger dexterity, and fiber consumption. There’s the bloom.

Remember when you were a kid, and the backyard was your universe, sometimes I was a mermaid stranded on a raft, or I’d chase my thoughts up the magnolia tree and pretend I was a cat, maybe give my baby doll a new hair cut. Rest is not idleness, and to lie on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time says John Lubbock.

Eventually, my Mom would come out and ask, “what are you doing?”

I’d respond, “nothing Mom,” and this used to be good news.

Don’t let the feudal establishment deter you, there is more to happiness than rigid schedules, impressive resumes, and a fat paycheck (well maybe that).

For most of us “not doing” is just about the most difficult thing one could ask of you. We’ve been searching for that elusive something that remains just out of reach because the Jones keep moving the damn target.

Maybe we’ve been wrongly informed about the purpose of life?

Most spiritual leaders claim peace of mind is the ultimate goal and apparently it’s always attainable. Jesus described it as prayer, Muhammad preached submission, Buddha suggested detachment, but all encouraged contemplative practices, avoiding secular seductions, and cycles of cravings. They can’t all be wrong?

Consciousness is not a state of doing but a state of being claims V. Vienne. The charade is over, I will never be a perfect being, and counting my mishaps is counterproductive, but while I was relaxing I discovered that unexceptional is extraordinary enough. Maybe it’s high time we recapture our penchant for idleness, stop labeling everything we do and revel in the art of doing nothing.

How are you managing the isolation? Join me in the comments! 

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop in anytime. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Tarot for Writers (Block)

by Katrina Monroe 

There isn’t much I won’t try when it comes to getting rid of writers’ block. Naked maypole dancing, eating pumpkin under the harvest moon, blood sacrifices to the gods of suspense and active voice… surprising it took me this long to turn to my tarot cards.

I’m no expert, but I’ve been reading tarot for a few years, mostly for fun at parties, sometimes to scare the new people my friends bring to those parties. The thing about tarot—it’s about telling a story. If you’re good at it, a really interesting story with unseen twists and high stakes. This is particularly true for three card spreads, which mimic a three-act structure: the beginning, the middle, and the end.

Below are three spreads, three cards each. In each spread the three cards represent three questions, or problems, for the cards (or, for us, the plot) to solve:

-          Where you (the character) stand now

-          What you (the character) aspire to

-          What is standing in your (the character’s) way

I’m using my Tarot del Toro deck, inspired by the movies and artwork of Guillermo del Toro (because why wouldn’t I?) Think of these as paint-by-numbers where the numbers are all a little fuzzy and I haven’t given you the right colors. Let your imagination run wild!


Spread 1:

Where you stand: The Moon

What you aspire to: The Star

What is standing in your way: The Three of Wands

The Moon, on its own, indicates passivity. A person separate from the rest of the world, watching it turn. Next to The Star though, it symbolizes potential. Maybe the character is an outlier at work or with their friends or in their relationship. Their internal world is a barren landscape, while The Star is bright and inviting. This character wants badly what she doesn’t believe she can have – belonging.

Wands symbolize fire, their power drawn from the supernatural, or the seemingly supernatural. The three of wands indicates the thing standing in the character’s way is the third element to the story, essentially, the solution, or what the character believes the solution to be. Perhaps the character meets a person who promises belonging, but the fire the character brings, the danger, may be too much for the character to handle.


Spread 2:

Where you stand: The Knight of Blades

What you aspire to: The Valet of Blades

What stands in your way: The Emperor

The Knight of Blades is represented by the element of air. It is without energy or conscious movement. A character ruled by the Knight of Blades seems to be very busy but without accomplishing anything – a stay at home mom with aspirations outside the family, a character with high-functioning anxiety, a traveler who never stops but has no direction. The Valet of Blades gives air direction. She represents the power of growth and self-development. In The Hero’s Journey, she would be the supernatural aid. The moment at the start of that bad-ass action sequence.

The Emperor represents authority. Not law, exactly, but social order. The Trunchbull in Matilda. Mr. Smith in the Matrix. The Emperor will do everything in his (limited) power to prevent the character from breaking social norms, not because it’s wrong, but because it is different.


Spread 3:

Where you stand: The Six of Disks

What you aspire to: The Seven of Goblets

What stands in your way: The Knight of Goblets

Disks in the Tarot del Toro are similar to Pentacles in the traditional tarot, and ruled by the earth and everything practical, like money. The number six symbolizes frustration, particularly over something that has just started. Perhaps the character has lost his job or received divorce papers. Maybe the Baron has taken back the land that was meant to belong to character. Maybe the house she purchased sight unseen is haunted, and the possibility of selling goes out the window. Goblets, like traditional tarot Cups, represent water, fluidity, and the feminine. Lucky number seven is a symbol of triumph. The character, in this spread, is obsessed with overcoming this new, seemingly practical issue. It shouldn’t be as hard as the character thinks it is.

The Knight of Goblets, in this spread, represents greater, more substantial change. While the character is obsessed with her immediate problem, the world seems to crumble around them. In order to succeed, the character will need to learn to acclimate to their new normal. Even if she sells the house or regains her lost land, if she demands her new world be the same as the old, she won’t hold onto her success for long.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

KDP Select Publishing: Pros and Cons

I am a self-published writer. There was a time that was a dirty word in this industry, but with online markets expanding, so has the opportunity for writers to take control of their own publication. There are many publishing agencies that will charge an arm and a leg to take advantage of their self-publishing options, but KDP Select (formerly known as Create Space), allows writers to publish without tacking on extra fees. They make their money by taking a cut of your profit instead. There are pros and cons to this.


You have total control of your project on KDP Select. You decide what size the novel will be, you format it to your liking, and you choose what markets it will go through. This can be tremendously useful and economical to those who cannot afford to hire an agent or go through a paid self-publishing venue.

They also offer editing and cover art services for those who do not have outside help with this. Though this part isn't free, the fact that all your recourses for this are in one spot is very useful to those exhausted with the process of hiring outside help to edit and design art for their books.


You have total control over your project. I know I counted this an an upside, but it also qualifies as a downside. Having everything be in your hands can be overwhelming if you're just starting out. Mistakes can be made, and your novel pays the price. You also have to consider that self-publishing, though it gives you more control, gives you a buttload of more advertising work to do. A literary agent or standard publisher would be doing this work if you decided to go the more traditional route, so be prepared.

That being said, you also have to find someone to edit your book, and top of the line editors aren't cheap. Sometimes it comes in handy to find a freelancer who will do the work for you at an affordable cost, but you are often going to end up with more missed mistakes this way. The same goes for finding a cover artist. They can be pricy.

Overall, I am glad I've gone the route of self-publishing. It's eliminated the endless query letters, rejections, and re-writes that come with traditional publishing. The trade-off is that you sacrifice your own time and money in order to edit, illustrate, and market it.

Stay weird.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Interview with Urban Fantasy Author Elizabeth Corrigan

Hey everyone! Today, I'd like to welcome to the blog Elizabeth Corrigan, author of numerous books, including the urban fantasy series Earthbound Angels, about angels and demons and an immortal oracle in contemporary times. She's here today to talk about the most recent installment in the ongoing series, Angel in the Details.


Hey! Welcome to Across the Board! We're here today to talk about the latest installment of the Earthbound Angels series, Angel in the Details, which is the fourth book in the ongoing saga. This book puts the spotlight on a character who was cast as something of an antagonist in your earlier books. Can you tell us a bit more about the Archangel Michael, who's at the center of this book, and how his role has evolved over the course of the series?

When I first conceived of Michael, he was a very one-dimensional antagonist. He wasn’t evil, like the demons, but his goals were definitely opposed to the other main characters in the series. But as you are well aware, when you start putting characters to a page, they develop a life of their own. I started to think about Michael more, about how his brothers had abandoned him and how that had affected him. I realized he was a very good vice principal, second-in-command, rule-enforcer type, but when he was thrust into the role of leader, he was ill-equipped for it. And, of course, his former boss was Lucifer, a mind-reading master manipulator, who was not super into the professional development of his underlings and had probably given Michael quite the inferiority complex!

Some readers have mistaken the Earthbound Angels series for a trilogy because the first three books were released as an omnibus. But clearly, it's not! Yet it does feel like Books 1-3 have their own arc of sorts, and I recall you mentioned at one point that the series was originally conceived of as a trilogy. In broad terms, how does Angel in the Details continue the story set up in the first three books?

So my very first envisioning of Oracle of Philadelphia was as a stand-alone novel that quickly evolved into a trilogy that focused on the three main characters of Oracle: Carrie, Bedlam, and Gabriel. As I was developing the story, though, I was also reading a lot of Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Underworld series, and I loved how she hopped around her narrators from book to book. In that series, even when one story seemed done, there were plenty of other characters to focus on, and often we hopped back to the old characters as well. So before I even set fingers to keyboard to write the first book, I thought about who else I could write books about, and of course Michael sprung to mind. So while Archangel Errant closes up a lot of loose ends from the first two books, it’s not really the ending I wanted or planned for my characters.

One of my personal favorite aspects of this series is Michael's relationship with Carrie, the titular Oracle of Philadelphia from the first book in the series. Can you tell us a bit about how you developed that?

Well, at the beginning of the series, Michael and Carrie absolutely loathe each other, and for good reason. When Carrie was made immortal, Michael was the one who cursed her name, because he was convinced she was evil. But, of course, Carrie is not evil, and Michael has more depth than the self-righteous jerk he appears as at first glance. But I actually started thinking about Carrie and Michael as a pair based on the impression of my one friend who is generally not great at picking up ships. Now, I am also terrible at telegraphic ships, especially in this series, but when I asked him who he wanted Carrie to end up with, he said, “I’m going to go long shot and guess Michael.” This at the very least got me thinking about the relationship between the two of them, and I decided they needed to spend some time together to figure each other out.

The first book in the series, Oracle of Philadelphia, is a single POV story centering on said oracle, but really the Earthbound Angels series is an ensemble show. Can you talk a bit about how the series expanded from being about one woman to being about a whole pantheon of angels and demons?

I talked a little bit about this above, but my books have even changed from being what I originally envisioned. Raising Chaos was originally going to be just about Bedlam, but in the end it had Bedlam, Carrie, and the new character of Siren as narrators. Archangel Errant is the same way---and in fact many people have concluded that Michael is actually the star of Archangel, while Siren has the most interesting adventure in Angel in the Details. I think part of this is that I love introducing new characters, and that probably comes through in the writing. Another (admittedly shameful) factor is that I have a hard time coming up with enough content for one character for an entire book, so switching point of view helps me get my word count up!

Where is the Earthbound Angels series going after Angel in the Details? How many books do you have planned?

#spoilers! But this interview is already full of spoilers because it’s about the fourth book in the series, so I suppose I can give you a little bit more. The Earthbound Angels series will definitely have at least three more books, tentatively titled Dangerous Haven, Needle in the Lie, and Last Angel Standing. These three books will have more of an ending than Archangel Errant did, so I’ll probably put the series on hold for a bit after I finish those. But I do have some ideas for books after that, including books about Keziel, Asphodel, Martyr, and some new characters (because I love new characters). So how many books will be in the series total? Somewhere between seven and infinity!


You can find Angel in the Details and the rest of Earthbound Angel series on Amazon. For Elizabeth's full bibliography, visit her website.

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