The Teacher Will Appear


I’m an author, and I love writing. Years ago I learned that, whether I self publish my books or they’re traditionally published, I would have to do the majority of my own marketing. That’s a tough fact to integrate, especially after training myself to write good short stories and novels for decades. Suddenly, there was another skill I had to learn, a business skill, and I didn’t know where to start.

Over time I found a few teachers and got better at it, but I saw other self-published authors getting big and I wondered what they were doing differently. Finally, last January, at Pasadena Comic-Con, I met Russell Nohelty. The Theosophical quote says it best. “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” I got to a point where I was ready for a lot more information, to launch my marketing forward, and I met the right teacher.

I bought two of his marketing books and later signed up for his online course, Build a Rabid Fanbase.

Who Is Russell Nohelty







Though Russell Nohelty is a popular and prolific writer of books and graphic novels, he may be best known for building audiences. He has a knack for figuring out how to accomplish difficult things and then teaching others how to do it. This is the case with his Write a Great Novel online course, which I reviewed last week, and is also the case with Build a Rabid Fanbase.













In the case of the former, he teaches authors how to write faster and better. In the case of Build a Rabid Fanbase, he teaches authors and other creatives how to find their tribe and build a community that will purchase their books, art, and so on in perpetuity.

Build a Rabid Fanbase – What’s Covered


In advertising, it used to be enough to show a product and basically say, “buy this!” That’s changed during the Internet age. There are dozens if not hundreds of Facebook groups where people post advertisements for their books. I’ve tried these. I’m not convinced they result in any sales at all.

So, that’s not what you’ll get in this course. Here are some of the things you will learn.


  1. Getting into the right mindset. This is all about setting yourself up for success with strategic planning. Since taking this course, I revisit my strategic goals every month. This will help you set yours.
  2. Finding Your Ideal Customer Avatar. I’ve heard before about coming up with an ideal customer, but didn’t know how, or even exactly why, until I took this course. It’s an important step, and Russell shares some phenomenal tools you can use to accomplish this.
  3. How to Make the Perfect Product. So, you have a product already, and you’ve figured out who your people are. This will help you refine it, and come up with the next product.
  4. What Is a Sales Funnel? The idea here is to turn strangers into people who know who you are, them into people who like you, and them into fans. Russell covers the steps.
  5. The Importance of Your Email List. You’ll learn about Mailchimp and get other mailing list provider options, and you’ll also get a swipe file of an email sequence designed to get your fans more interested in your work.
  6. Scaling Your Funnel. This is all about growing your fanbase as large as you want it using the tools taught in earlier segments.




Build a Rabid Fanbase costs $497 for a one-time fee, 3 payments of $185/month, or 6 payments of $93/month.

For me, this class was absolutely worth it. It has me on the right track and has helped me grow my mailing list. There’s a lot to learn, so if you’re like me, you’ll want to watch the videos again to refresh your knowledge, and you’ll be able to do that. I’m not sure I would have ever figured out everything taught in this class on my own, and I didn’t want to spend another twenty years trying to figure out how to get my marketing right.

This course will challenge you, but what worthwhile endeavor doesn’t? Put in the work, and you’ll get great results. I encourage you to sign up for Build a Rabid Fanbase today, or at least check out the free preview videos which include enough helpful information to get you on the right track.

“Fandom is externally generated branding.” ~ Zoe Fraade-Blanar



Writing a novel, especially for the first time, is a huge endeavor. Many, maybe most, novelists wrote their first books with little instruction, figuring it out as they went. That was me more than thirty years ago. That first novel will probably be mediocre at best, and that’s all right. It takes a lot of work to get good at anything.

A course in novel-writing can help you avoid major pitfalls. In fact, even if you’ve been writing for a long time, a good class can teach you things you missed along the way.


My Favorite Novel Writing Class


The online course I’m about to tell you about is fantastic. Yes, this is a review, and typically I’d put my conclusion closer to the end. I found this class so helpful I think it’s important to say that before moving on.

The course, Write a Great Novel, is taught by prolific author Russell Nohelty and is available on his site, The Complete Creative. One of the best things about the class is that it’s free.


What’s In the Course


Write a Great Novel takes you through all the most important aspects of creating a novel, from beginning to end. It includes:


  1. Culling ideas. This is all about gathering your story ideas in one place and looking at them periodically. Learn to combine and develop your best ideas so you always have something to write about.
  2. Characters. Learn what makes a great main character, villain, and ancillary or supporting character. The course also includes a helpful comparison between video games and novels and distinguishes between non-player characters (NPCS) and bosses.
  3. Setting and worldbuilding. Russell talks about how these fit into a novel and how the setting needs to challenge the main character every step of the way.
  4. Avoiding data dumps. There are some simple ways to avoid massive data dumps by layering in the extra information readers need to know. Master this and you’ll keep your story flowing.
  5. Structure. Russell describes a fractal structure for novels where not only does the overall story builds up to a climax, but so does each scene. He covers pantsing, plotting, and doing something in between. He also shares an excellent beat sheet that can keep your book on track.


He covers getting that first draft done, effective editing, formatting, and acquiring a great cover. Finally, you’ll learn the importance of the right mindset and staying dedicated.



My Experience with Write a Great Novel


I came into this course already an experienced author. However, it generally took me at least a couple of years to write a novel. I’d get stuck, a lot. My story-writing instincts would lead me to the right path, and people have loved my books. Yet I wanted to be able to get my books done more quickly.

The most helpful thing I learned in this course was just that. After meeting Russell at Pasadena Comic-Con in January and subsequently taking this course, I wrote the first draft of my new book, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, in less than six months. Most of that was during the last two months of that period! Now, I have a method that will allow me to write the first draft of the next novel even faster, probably in two to three months.

Editing comes next, and I’ll be able to do that quickly as well, polishing and improving the story until it’s ready for the final edit. I should be able to write two to three books a year going forward, even with my full-time job. My readers won’t have to wait long for sequels and will remain excited about my stories.

And this course is free!


Signing Up


I encourage you, whether you’d like to start your first novel or you’re already experienced, to sign up for Write a Great Novel. You’re bound to learn something that will help you improve your craft.

Russell teaches other courses on the site as well. Most cost a bit, and I’ll review courses I’ve taken in future blog posts. Again, Write a Great Novel is free. It’s about five hours of densely packed information that can make a big difference in your writing, and you have nothing to lose by taking it.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!

Also, if you’d like to know when I put up a new post or have exciting news, sign up for my newsletter. The form is at the top of the right sidebar. You’ll also get my short story, The Obstructed Engine, which is a prequel to my novel series, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed, and after a few days a special offer.

“At the end of Slaughterhouse-Five… I had a shutting-off feeling… that I had done what I was supposed to do and everything was OK.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut





If you’ve read my blog before you may have noticed that I like sharing my methodology for getting things done, with the goal of helping others. So, I’m going to share today the basics of how I got the initial draft of my upcoming novel finished recently. I hope it helps other writers do the same. Writing the first draft of a novel is tough, but you can do it!

Let’s start with this fact. I like using the term “garbage draft.”




This is a term I picked up from author Russell Nohelty. “Garbage draft” is another term for “first draft,” be it of a story, novel, article, school paper, or piece of poetry. The term is meant to remind the author that it’s fine for that initial draft to be terrible. Another term some authors use is “vomit draft.” I don’t care for that visual, but I get what they’re saying. The point of that initial draft is to get your story down. You can, and must, edit it later.

The first, vomit, or garbage draft is an act of discovery.




I mentioned recently that I finished the garbage draft of my upcoming novel, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake. I created a basic outline of the story which include the major plot points and figured out, as I went along, what happened between each.

It took me about six months to get this 76,000 word draft done, and I learned so much that I believe the garbage draft of my next book will take a lot less time, maybe three months.

So, that’s what I did, but what I didn’t do is just as important to understand. When I realized what needed to change, I didn’t go back and edit to implement the changes. I simply kept writing with the changes and took notes about them.

If anyone else were to read this draft, they’d be pretty confused. Characters vanish. Others become completely different people. Events get mentioned later that I didn’t write about before.

Here are a few examples. There’s an organization in the book with seven members. Two of them were unnecessary, so I’m cutting them, and if you were to read the book now they would appear to vanish. Two characters start off as of German descent and then become two Mexican Americans with totally different names. Later in the book, I reference an event that James Creed attended, but I didn’t write about that event earlier on.

These are all things I can, and will, fix later. The point is that by not going back and changing them as I worked on the draft, I was able to get the story finished.




Using my Hero’s Journal has been great. This is one of the things that has helped keep my writing on track. It’s split into three acts, and I used Act 1 to write the garbage draft.

Here’s the final page for Act 1, where I wrapped up what I got done.

I highly recommend The Hero’s Journal for anyone working on a major project.






In the last year, I’ve taken two of Russell Nohelty’s online classes, one on novel writing, and one on book marketing. I plan to review both soon for this blog. Even though I had already written several novels, and learned a fair amount about marketing, these courses helped me tremendously.

Go forth and get those drafts done!

“You can make anything by writing.” ― C. S. Lewis


innovation by Queer Sci-Fi!


For the second year in a row, I’m proud to say that I have a flash-fiction story in the latest Queer Sci-Fi anthology!

Innovation by Queer Sci-Fi came out this month, and it features 120 stories, 300 words or fewer, by many stars and rising talents in science fiction and fantasy. Published by Other Worlds Inc, and edited by J. Scott Coatsworth, each story incorporates LGBTQ+ themes and the idea of innovation.

My own contribution, Lucy Morgan Loves Anna Boyd, involves characters from my series, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed, which includes Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, and my novel-in-progress, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake.





Here are some story excerpts from Innovation by Queer Sci-Fi.


“The fields are overgrown, have been for years with all the Bios underground. The wind kisses the grass in serpentine patterns long forgotten, patterns the Bios couldn’t imagine anymore. My mechanical hand stores the seed envelope in the mechanical pocket in my androgynous torso. In these suits, there is no gender. Gender is, always has been, in the mind. And I am finally, unequivocally, female.” —Seed, by Val Muller



“No one in the village knew what the Change would bring. They never saw it happen. They only knew what they had been promised: the Change would bestow three gifts.” —A New Way, by Rory Ni Coileain



“The girl kissed her, hard. Then backed away, grinning, teasing, drawing her to the end of the hallway and a flight of stairs leading downward. She took two steps and gazed back up at Lilian, one hand outstretched. Her brilliant red lipstick wasn’t even smudged. Her skin glowed in the harsh white torchlight.” —The Thing With the Bats, by Mary Francis


“Interspecies sex is outlawed on the Freespec Interplanetary Space Station. Politicians call it a safety measure. But I’ve been in the Medical Corps for half my lifecycle, and I call it criminally negligent prudery. Leaders would rather let innocents die needlessly—punctured by sperm darts and dissolved in sacks of voltaic pleasure mucus—than give them the knowledge to express their feelings safely.” — Are My Underwater Sperm Darts Normal?, Brenna Harvey


“The bell’s brassy gong echoes through the flat; the walls blush crimson. See, see! He’s at my door. The live feed shows him sniff his armpit; cup his breath. He wants to impress, but I’m impressed already. His lips softly part; he brushes them with stubby fingers, as he waits. Ugly fingers. Ugly hands. Scrawny neck. Milky eyes. But those lips, see, they’re perfect, just perfect. Plump n’ pale, a slither of my future.” —Just perfect, by Redfern Jon Barrett 



“Lekke looked down over the valley, First People’s home for as long as any tales or dreams could tell. Now only Spirit Dreamer Manoot, neither he nor she but both, and Lekke, elder healer, were left. Lifetimes of Long-legs’ raids had driven First People to their deaths—or, some few, to the Way. If there truly was a Way.” —Going Back,” by Sacchi Green


“Savinna limped into her lover’s workshop, her hip still sore from tangling with the marabbecca which had knocked her into its well before she managed to kill it. Such was the life of a monster hunter. Not at all surprised to see Larissa hunched over her bench, hard at work tinkering with something, Savinna ghosted her hand over Larissa’s back.” —Those Who Hunt Monsters, by Jana Denardo



“The baby cried as Freya lowered the bartering bucket into the wishing well. Many had come to the tree-shrouded clearing to make exchanges—a bushel of azure apples for a sword, a woven blanket for a day of rain. The well had been the final creation of a thousand-year-old inventor. But dead wizards often don’t anticipate how their gifts birth consequences.” —The Bartering Bucket, by Diane Callahan




Queer Sci Fi is giving away your choice of a $20 Amazon gift card OR a print copy of four of the other five flash fiction books in the series – Flight, Renewal, Impact, and Migration! (US only unless you are willing to pay the shipping outside the US.)


Enter via Rafflecopter


the authors


Wondering who all the authors are? Here’s the list!


Adrik Kemp, Alex Silver, Alex Stargazer, Allan Dyen-Shapiro, Andi Deacon, Andrea Speed, Andrew Vaillencourt, Ava Kelly, Barbara Johnson-Haddad, Barbara Krasnoff, Beáta Fülöp, Benoit Lafortune, Blaine D. Arden, Bob Milne, Brenna Harvey, Brooke K. Bell, C.L. McCartney, Cassidy Frazee, Chet Gottfried, Chloe Spencer, Chris Bannor, Christine Wright, Christopher Koehler, Clare London, D.J. Clarke, D.M. Rasch, David Gerrold, Devon Widmer, Diane Callahan, E. L. Harrison, E. Romeis, E.D.E. Bell, E.M. Hamill, Edie Montreux, Elaine Burnes, Eloreen Moon, Emilia Agrafojo, Emma Johnson-Rivard, Eric Warren, Evelyn Benvie, Gareth Worthington, Ginger Streusel, Howard V. Hendrix, J. Needham, J. Zachary Pike, J.S. Garner, Jade Black, James Alan Gardner, Jamie Lackey, Jana Denardo, Jasie Gale, Jeff Jacobson, Jennie L. Morris, Jet Lupin, Jon Miller, Jonathan Fesmire, Joshua Ian, Julian Maxwell, K. Kitts, K.L. Townsend, K.S. Marsden, KA Masters, Katelyn Cameron, Kellie Doherty, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Kevin Klehr, Kim Fielding, Kitt Harris, Koji A. Dae, L.S. Reinholt, L.V. Lloyd, LC Treeheart, Lee Jordan, Lee Soeburn, Lou Sylvre, M. X. Kelly, Maria Zoccola, Mary E. Lowd, Mary Francis, Mary Kuna, Matt Doyle, Mere Rain, Milo Owen, Minerva Cerridwen, Naomi Tajedler, Nathan Alling Long, Nathaniel Taff, Nicole Dennis, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Noah K. Sturdevant, Patricia Scott, Paul Uebler, R. E. Carr, R.L. Merrill, Raine Norman, Ray Lidstone, RE Andeen, Redfern Jon Barrett, Rory Eggleston, Rory Ni Coileain, Rosalie Wessel, S S Long, Sara Testarossa, Sean Ian O’Meidhir, Shannon Brady, Shannon Yseult, Skip J. Hanford, Stephen B. Pearl, Stephen J. Wolf, Steve Carr, Stone Franks, Stuart Conover, Susan James, Sydney Blackburn, T. T. Thomas, T.W. Cox, Tom Jolly, Val Muller, Warren Rochelle, William Tate.

“Writers and artists know that ethereal moment, when just one, fleeting something–a chill, an echo, the click of a lamp, a question—-ignites the flame of an entire work that blazes suddenly into consciousness.” ~ Nadine C. Keels

It’s my 51st birthday!


It feels like a good day to share some recent accomplishments. I had an eventful year at age 50. I took a couple of online classes related to being an author. I moved my blog from Wix to a WordPress site. I joined a new writing community.

I also started my novel Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, the sequel to Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western. And you know what? Last week, I finished the first draft. I wrote it in less than six months, and most of that writing took place over the last two months.

Once I finish the first draft of a book, I have to set it aside for about a month before coming back to it. I’m already aware of a lot of things I need to change and fix in this current novel, which makes me eager to get back to it. However, the book and I need a short time apart so that when I get back to it I can look at it with a fresher perspective.

With the book set aside, though, I still have plenty to do.

Currently, I have the basic ideas for my next two books. The very next one I’m going to write, once Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake is almost ready for publication, is the third book in this series. It will be titled Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate.

The novel after that will start a new series but will be set in the same world as the Bodacious Creed novels. I’ve done some major brainstorming for both of these books. By the end of the month, I plan to have a basic outline for each.

This week, I’ve also been filling a Google Sheets file (can you ever fill a Google Sheets file?) with blog post ideas. If you have any writing questions or other things you’d like me to address in a blog, feel free to let me know in the comments.

I also created portraits for three of the main characters in the Creedverse: James Creed, Anna Boyd, and Jonathan Johns, using techniques I’ve covered in previous blog posts.

This technique is a lot like casting actors, and these three were tougher to cast than other characters in the series. I’m pretty happy with the results, though. These are now in my series bible, which you can check out here:


The Creedverse on World Anvil


Note that what readers see is just a small portion of what I have on the site. Most of the information is private. I aim to avoid spoilers! The point of the site is to serve as a repository of information on my fictional world that helps me keep everything straight.

Oh yes, here are those pictures of James Creed, Anna Boyd, and Jonathan Johns.

Have a great week and stay safe. Long days and pleasant nights.

“We accomplish things by directing our desires, not by ignoring them.” ~ Anonymous



Adding Extra Features to Novels


I’m old enough to remember, as an adult, the shift from movies on VHF to movies on DVD. (In fact, I’m old enough to remember the world before VHS, but that’s beside the point.) DVDs were really for movie lovers, because not only did you have the movie itself, often in more than one language and with your choice of subtitles, you got to enjoy special features.

These days, when most of us have migrated from DVDs and Blue ray disks to digital downloads, those hard media are still popular with some. I assume it’s those who really enjoy watching the director’s cuts, commentaries, and deleted scenes.



I’m currently writing the second novel in my series, The Adventures of Bodacious Creed. The first book is Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, and it’s available on Amazon and Audible. The one I’m currently writing is Bodacious Creed and The Jade Lake.

One difference between the books is this. The first one shifts between different viewpoint characters to give readers a more complete view of everything that’s happening. For “Jade Lake,” I decided to stay in the head of James “Bodacious” Creed. Readers will know only what he knows.

However, there have been a few times that I thought it would be fun to show what’s happening behind the scenes, to other important characters. I decided I could write short stories about those incidents, but that I wouldn’t want people who hadn’t read the book reading them. By necessity, they’d be filled with spoilers. Yet the would give readers an expanded view of the novel. What could I do with this idea?

Then, it came to me. I could write a few such stories and add them to the end of the book. Once a reader has finished the tale, if they want to dig a little deeper, get to know some of the characters a little better, they could read these stories. They’re the equivalent of deleted or post-credit scenes.

I’m not sure how well this will work for a novel, and I’m not certain I’m going to do this. I do like the idea, if for no other reason than that it would give me an excuse to write these stories and share them in an appropriate, spoiler-free place.

What do you think? As a reader, is this something you’d like to see? As a writer, is this something you might like to try? Feel free to comment below. If you’d like to get notified when I share something new in this blog, subscribe to my newsletter below that.

“I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.” ~ Toni Morrison

The Year of Getting THings Together

I mentioned a few weeks ago how my friend and fellow author Michelle Lowe calls this The Year of the Suck. COVID-19. Civil unrest. Murder hornets. Economic depression.

I mean, she’s right. There’s a lot of crap to contend with. This year sucks!

However, it also might be a good time for you to follow a dream and take up a quest. Maybe for you that’s creating a series of paintings. It could be changing how your home is organized.

For me, it’s what I was going to be doing on my own anyway, but the changes in how I’ve had to live due to shelter-in-place and having to stay home most of the time have accelerated that. Yeah, for me, it’s writing a novel.

Currently, I’m getting quickly through Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, the sequel to my well-received novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western. And this year, I’ve found yet another helpful tool.

It’s called The Hero’s Journal.



How to Use the Hero’s Journal When Writing a Novel


This isn’t the sort of journal where you write whatever’s on your mind every day. No, it’s more of a planner that turns a major goal into a quest.

I’m using mine to write Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake. I actually have three of them right now, and I’m going to use the next two for, yep, my next two books.

The website for The Hero’s Journal already does an excellent job of explaining how to use it, so I’ll just give you all a taste here.

Let’s start with the fact that the book is filled with cartoon fantasy art that you can color. In between writing scenes of my book, I’ve started coloring pages, which I find meditative. Here’s how I colored the inside flap.



An early page explains the purpose of the journal.



Once you’ve articulated what your quest is (the project you want to undertake) and you’ve accepted it, every day (or nearly) you write down what you plan to accomplish toward your goal. The journal is broken up into three acts with two pages of reflection in the middle of each.

That’s all great, but you want to know how to use The Hero’s Journal when writing a novel. How does that work?

In a word, perfectly. Here’s how I’m doing it.


Act 1: First draft.

Act 2. Story revisions, alpha readers, and first wave of prose revisions.

Act 3: More revisions, beta readers, off to editor, get cover art, final revisions, and publication.


So you can get an idea of what each day looks like, here’s the page I created yesterday, covering the work I got done.



Since it was a Sunday and I didn’t have other work to do, I even had time to color the page.


Perfect for Me, and Maybe for You


There are all sorts of great planners out there, but for my money, this one’s the best for any creative goal.

The Hero’s Journal is available in print on the company website for $40, and in digital format for $25. You can print the digital pages for daily use as well.

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it.” — Malcolm X


What Is a Series Bible?


For years, writers and agents pitching television shows have had to share a book filled with information about their prospective show. These have included the premise, the characters, the setting, and proposed story arcs, all to convince networks to give their show a chance.

While a series bible may include a story synopsis and perhaps even a script, it’s so much more. It’s a sourcebook for everything in that program.

Here’s the thing. Series bibles (or book bibles, if you’re not writing a series) are a fantastic resource for novelists, too. Imagine being able to look up critical information about a character or a place without having to flip back through your book, or a previous book, to find where you wrote down that one detail.

“What was the name of that priestess I introduced at the beginning of the book? Who lost that amulet again? Wait, where’s my map of that fort?” Keep up on your series bible and you go and you can look up information easily.


A Great Example


If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” like I am, you may have a copy of the Dark Tower Concordance, put together by author Robin Furth. This is a fun book to browse through. You can jump from one entry to another, reliving parts of the story and discovering just how rich the worlds of Stephen King are.

That’s my favorite example of what a series bible can be like. If you’re interested in checking out some TV series bibles, some are available on the Screencraft site.


Online Series Bibles


The thing is, these days it’s easy to create an online series bible. Think of it like a personal wiki where you can gather all the information about your book, series, or milieu in one place.

One way to do this is by literally finding a personal wiki site, signing up, and getting to work. However, if you’ve read very many of my blog posts or newsletters, you know that I like to share what I think is the best way to do something.

When I was writing Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, I started my series bible on one of those personal wiki sites, and it worked Okay. But I later learned about WorldAnvil. The owners, power-couple Dimitris R Havlidis and Janet Forbes, run this site designed specifically for worldbuilding. For writers and anyone running an RPG, this site is fantastic.

I moved my series bible there. I’m able to look up details about all my creations in the Creedverse, the world of Bodacious Creed, including characters, locations, technologies, history, maps, and more. Feel free to check out my series bible if you like. Only a limited amount of information is available to the public. Most of it is private, for my own reference. Then, you can browse around the WorldAnvil site and see what others have created.


Your Series Bible


To sum up, if you’re a novelist, graphic novelist, gamemaster, videographer, or otherwise need a way to keep track of your story information and you don’t have a book, film, or series bible, it’s time to create one. I recommend WorldAnvil, but a personal wiki also works, and you may have your own ideas.

If you’re a fan of books, games, or television, then you’ll likely have a lot of fun checking out what’s available in existing series bibles.

Now, back to writing my current novel, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake! Have fun with whatever project you’re working on.

“Nobody believes me when I say that my long book is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real. But it is true.” ― J. R. R. Tolkien



Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!


Now, on to the topic of this post.


A Simple Way to Create Character Portraits


I’ve been working hard on my latest novel, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, the sequel to my popular book, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western.

One thing I have fun with is generating random faces on the website This Person Does Not Exist, which uses an adversarial learning network to create photorealistic images of people who, you guessed it, do not exist.

I’ve written about this site before and how it helps me come up with portraits of my characters, which I then use on my series bible site. (Check it out if you’re curious! Only some of the information is available to the public, but it’s enough to learn a bit about my fictional world.)

The other day, I decided to use FaceApp on some of those fictional faces. This is a lot of fun. It’s especially entertaining to use the gender-swap feature. It gives me more faces to choose from when casting my characters.




Here are a few examples. On some of these, I also changed the background, and on one, I made the gender-swapped version younger. FaceApp has a ton of interesting options.


Writers can have fun visualizing characters with this, and artists can practice drawing or painting portraits of unique faces. Of course, you can also just spend a few hours having fun using these apps together.

I hope you enjoy this simple way to create character portraits that I devised. Have fun with it!

Now, back to writing my novel!

Oh yes! If you’d like to keep up with this blog, please subscribe to my newsletter. I send out approximately one email a week. The sign-up form is at the top of the right sidebar. You’ll also get a free steampunk western story and more!

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”— Peter Handke


My Writing Process Can Help You


I don’t intend for this title to seem egotistical, so let me clarify. I’ve been writing for a long time and I’ve learned a lot of helpful techniques that can help others. I also love learning how other writers work because someone else’s process can help me, too.

Every writer works differently. If you’ve been writing long, and studying your craft, you already know that, but I wanted to preface this post with that fact. The correct way to write is what works for you.

Over time, you’ll refine your methods. You’ll try different techniques, find new tools, and if you do it well, you’ll keep getting better.

It can help to know how other writers work. My own method has been evolving, and I figured I’d outline it here. If this helps you, great!


Idea and Research


It starts with an idea and a basic concept of how the story will go. I’m not going to go into coming up with ideas. That’s always been a mystery to me.

Then, I do a bunch of research. I may look up information online or purchase a book. For my latest novel, Bodacious Creed and the Jade Lake, I read two books about early San Francisco: The Barbary Coast and Rogues of San Francisco. Both gave me excellent ideas, tons of information, and shaped the course of the novel.




Next, and this is new for me, I use a beat sheet to plan the most important events in a book. A beat sheet allows me to plan the most significant events in a book, the turning points.

When coming up with a story, there are always a few scenes that enter my mind. These are major events in a story, big emotional moments that I know will be amazing to write and read. These are some of your beats.




When writing, I then plan how to get from one beat scene to the next. Let’s use Star Wars as an example. A couple of the beats would be Luke discovering Leia’s message to him deciding to go with Obi-Wan to Aleraan. George Lucas’s job was to figure out what happens between those events. This method blends outlining—planning out the story ahead of time—with pantsing—figuring the story out as you go. I can write a book quickly this way and I rarely get stuck.


Moments of Research


Sometimes, I have to do some extra research and planning. For example, I’ll get to the end of an important section of the book, and my main character is about to go on a new leg of his or her adventure.  No problem! I note what I plan to have happen next. I create the characters and settings for that part of the journey and perhaps read an article or two for research, and I get to writing again.

Where do I keep all this information? I have a series bible at World Anvil. I’ve made some of it public, so if you’d like to learn a bit about the Creedverse, you can see that here.

This is great because I can easily look up characters, places, events, technology, and more about my world and keep everything straight within a series.


Beyond the First Draft


That’s how it goes, then, until I finish the first draft! I’ve actually taken to calling mine a “garbage draft,” a term I learned from Russell Nohelty, and that gives me permission to write badly. That initial draft is supposed to be rough.

Then, I give myself time to cool off, as it were, to get some distance from the story. During this period, I create the beat sheet for the sequel.

When I come back to the garbage draft, I can read it and take tons of notes. The next step is to get the story right. Here’s where I fix plot holes and inconsistencies, where I make my characters’ motivations clearer, and so on. This will involve rewriting entire scenes, but at this point, that’s not difficult, since I know the story well.

After a draft or two of fixing those things, I polish the prose a bit. Then, I get a few friends to be alpha readers. Do they see any plot holes? Does everything make sense to them? Do they see scenes that aren’t clear enough, or that don’t belong?

I take their comments, decide if I agree, and make changes accordingly.


Finishing Up


Here’s where I really polish up the prose, which will take a draft or two. I want the writing to sizzle. I want people to feel like the events are real. I want them to empathize with my characters and to keep turning the pages, and I do all I can to make that likely.

Then, it’s off to my copy editor! Yes, I pay for professional editing. I also pay for a professional cover.


Book Launch


I could say a lot about this, but I want to refer you to two books, Your First 1,000 Copies by Tim Grahl, and How to Become a Successful Writer by Russell Nohelty. They cover this topic well.

Basically, I start by getting it to reviewers who will be able to post their reviews the moment the book goes live. I get the word out about the book and that it’s coming out soon. I put the digital version on sale for a week or so. I share it on social media and with my mailing list.

On launch day, I hold a launch party on Facebook. This is a lot of fun. I’ve written about this in the blog previously and encourage you to check it out. I’ll give out certain prizes, including the opportunity to work with me on a character for the next book.

Then, I start working on the sequel!




There are a couple of resources I didn’t include above that I encourage writers to check out. Both are on Russell Nohelty’s site, The Complete Creative. Russell is a guy who did what I had been trying to do for years: figure out the business of writing in the modern age. I’m grateful that I got to meet him at Pasadena Comic-Con this past year. What I’ve learned from him has already transformed the way I work.

Here are two courses on his site. I’ve taken both and recommend them highly.

The first is free. It’s called Write a Great Novel. You’ll recognize some of my current novel-writing methods in there because I adopted them after taking the course. If it takes you a long time to write a novel, or you just don’t know where to start, this class is a must.

The second costs a chunk but is worth it. Build a Rabid Fanbase teaches you how to find new fans and to scale your fan base from brand new to huge. I loved this course. It’s packed with information and techniques and has already helped me grow my mailing list and make more sales.

And hey, if you want to chat about writing or other creative work, drop a message below!

“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page. Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” –Annie Proulx