Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ever Wanted to Appear in a Fictional Novel?

Good morning! How was everyone's weekend!

Happy Belated Mother's Day for those who celebrated it this past weekend, and to those who celebrate it at other times, Happy Mother's Day to you too! Mothers are amazing! 👶

I spent the day getting mannies and petties 💅 with my mom, two of my sisters, and my niece. My brother came to breakfast with us, and he asked if he wanted to join us at the salon, but apparently he has ridiculously ticklish feet. 👣 You gotta understand, my bro is 6'2" and built like a linebacker. I had this hysterical image of him kicking the poor, 90-pound Asian salon lady in the fact while she tried to give him a pedicure. Or better yet, her hanging on to his foot while he kicked, flying through the air like an attached streamer.

Yeah, my imagination went a little wild. I had a super busy week, but not a bad one. Here's a ridiculously adorable picture of my toddlers falling asleep on one another. The baby is in her car seat next to them, but she's facing the other way, so you can't see that she, too, fell asleep. Gotta love that hot, Utah sun! ;D

So, question for you: have you ever wanted to appear in a fictional novel? Lots of writers base personalities or certain traits of characters on people in their lives or acquaintances they've met.

Pretty much all my characters have parts of me in them, especially the female ones. I don't think I've ever based a character's personality completely on someone I've known, but I have drawn specific aspects from various real life sources.

So have you ever thought about this next question: would you ever want to appear in a fictional novel, specifically as a villain? 😈 I'm gonna take a wild guess and say, probably not. That's why you must always mind your manners around an author. 
Otherwise, you might end up immortalized for something that's less than flattering. ;D

For example, this is song rather than fiction, but did you know that Carly Simon wrote the song "You're so Vain" about an ex-boyfriend. It's about Warren Beatty, whom she dated and, apparently, wasn't too impressed with. Ouch. 😉

So tell me, who are your favorite villains?

I don't know that I could choose just one. There are those villains, like serial killers, who are usually the creepiest and most fascinating. But then you gotta love those hilarious villains that are just so happy to be evil. They always make me smile (while rooting for the hero to take them out, of course. 💪👊)

Crime Fic:

Starting today, check out this promotion for mysteries and thrillers through Instafreebie. Lots of fun books up for grabs. It will run through the 24th. Check it out HERE. 

As you can see from this Scrivner screenshot, Book 3 of Street Games is coming along.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks. As I get closer to completing it, I'll ask for help from all of you in choosing a title.


Remember that Bastions of Blood comes out in exactly one week! I'm so excited for you guys to finally get book 2. You can still pre-order the book for $1.99. That's a dollar cheaper than what it will be when it comes out. Just saying. Pre-order HERE

Remember that I'll be having a Facebook launch party where I'll be giving away prizes including free books and Amazon gift cards. It will run from 7-8:30 MST on May 23rd. Go to THIS LINK to join the event.

Based on what you've read so far in book 1, what do you predict will happen?


Specifically, who is your favorite Dystopian villain? I'm just curious. Jeanine Matthews of Divergent? Big Brother of 1984? What do you think of B so far in Interchron?

Remember to check out the Epic Worlds Giveaway, if you haven't. It only runs until the 19th, so be sure to fill up on free books set in epic worlds. The clock is ticking! Check it out HERE.

Well, have a wonderful week. Whatever you're doing this week, be awesome at it. There's really no other way to go through life! ;D

"Writing is a struggle against silence." --Carlos Fuentes
"Literacy is vital to democracy. For if the governed can neither understand their leaders nor distinguish truth from lies, then a democracy descends into oligarchy, a government by and for the elite few." --John Stauffer 
"Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!" --Job 19:23-24

Monday, May 15, 2017

Best Way I've Ever Found to Grow my Email List

Good morning! Yes, I know. I've been neglecting my blog again. Cest la vie. But here's the thing:

I've been super busy these past months, overhauling books, busy getting rights reversions, re-editing old works, and building my email list. All of this is in preparation for my "next phase" which will start when I release my next book in about a week. So... *rubs hands together*

1. Instafreebie.

In February, I attended the LTUE conference in Provo, Utah. There, I was approached by a young woman who worked for a site called INSTAFREEBIE.

Anyone heard of it? I hadn't. So please listen. All you authors out there, if you're not on Instafreebie, YOU NEED TO BE ON INSTAFREEBIE.

It's by far the best way I've ever found to build my email. List. Basically, before Instafreebie (IF) I'd had about 30 people on my email list for the 3 years. I just had a really difficult time building it, as many authors do. I joined IF and started doing their promotions. (It is a paid service, but it's not expensive and the promos are free once you join.) In the past 6 weeks I've gained roughly 1800 subscribers. No lie. Here's proof: (Btw, I have different lists for the different genres I write, since not all people who read one genre will want emails about the others. That number represents my total current subscribers across all lists.)

It's by far the best site I've ever found for connecting authors and readers. Seriously, go join IF. Now.

2. I left one of my publishers. They nearly went out of business, but then were bought at the last minute by another company. The problem was, that company only published YA books. Mine are adult. So they didn't kick me to the curb, but they were very frank about the fact that they wouldn't be promoting my books. They said if I wanted to do a promo, they'd put it on their Facebook page, but that was all. So I had them revert the rights to me so I could self publish. I knew I would do better on my own.

I actually feel quite blessed with how well it went. It took some time, of course, but went very smoothly overall. I was able to obtain full rights on both novels I had with that publisher as well as usage of my covers. (Score!)

But here's the kicker: I decided to re-edit Citadels of Fire, since it was one of the first novels I ever wrote. I have a new (relatively) method of editing my work that includes a specific way of editing for crutch words. I wanted to re-edit that manuscript just to see how bad my crutch word usage was back then. And guess what?

It was TERRIBLE! Obviously I've grown a lot as a writer since then, but the thing that was very eye-opening to me is that it was edited for publication by a professional editor. And they didn't catch any of the crutch words/passive voice. When I re-edited it myself a few weeks ago, I cut almost 5,000 words out of my manuscript without changing a single thing in the plot. It was just tightening things up. That's staggering.

So that inspired me to write a little pamphlet for authors about how to edit your own work and never have to pay a professional editor again. I'm working on that now. It won't be a very long book, and I hope to have it finished in the next few weeks.

Finally, Book 2 of Kremlins, Bastions of Blood, will be out next Tuesday, May 23rd. I'm going to have a Facebook Launch Party. (I'll put details in my post tomorrow.) This book really should have come out a year ago, but there was delay after delay at the publisher, before they finally went under/sold to another company. So I'm very excited to finally be able to publish book 2 of my trilogy.

Like I said, more details tomorrow.

Also, for the time being, I'll be publishing about once per week, just updating with news of all my genres. Normally it will probably be on Mondays, but this week I'll be posting it tomorrow. Wanted to do this post today by way of introduction to my new format.

Okay, I think that's all. See you tomorrow, and have a fantabulous Monday! ;D

Thursday, February 2, 2017

2017 New Releases and Friday Funnies

Welcome to Friday Funnies! Because everyone needs a good laugh on Friday.

Feature and Follow Friday

This week's question: What is your most anticipated book of 2017?
Hm. Lots of good ones slated for release. I think I'll go with Cassandra Clare and Laini Taylor's newest releases. Two of my fave authors, so I'm excited for their new books. ;D

Strange the Dreamer
Lord of Shadows

How does #FF work?
--The goal is to increase blog followers, make friends, and have something to post.
--You create your own post using the weekly question.
--You leave your link and thumbnail in the linky list that links back to your post (visit alisoncanread.blogspot.com)
--Once you have your post up and linked, visit other posts and them them hi. FOLLOW them, don't just comment.
--If you especially like a post or just want to show appreciation, like the blogger name on the linky list.
--The person with the most likes gets chosen as the next Feature.
--You must follow the weekly featured blogger.

What books are you looking forward to this year? ;D

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: Fearlessness in Writing

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.
Details HERE and as always thanks to our wonderful host, Alex J. Cavanaugh

The thing I've been thinking about lately is boldness vs. fear. I've never thought of myself as a fearful or timid writer, but I think sometimes I am and I don't realize it. Some of my earlier stories were accused of being somewhat predictable. I haven't had anyone say that in awhile, but that doesn't mean that I've completely gotten away from it either. 

Part of that is just learning how to craft a great story. Learning to put in twists and turns and do what the reader won't expect. But I also think it partly has to do with simply being bolder. Taking more risks in general. Some of the most successful stories on the market are popular specifically because they don't do what the conventional story does. 

I'm going to be doing a lot of story boarding and planning for upcoming projects this month, so I'm challenging myself to always ask if what I'm doing with my story is something that might be expected or predictable. If the answer even might be yes, I've told myself I HAVE to change it to something more surprising. The most shocking thing I can think of for that scene. It can be harder than you might think to do that and still keep whatever theme, plot, or character you're going for in tact. But that's my challenge for this month. And therefore, the thing I'm most insecure about. ;D Wish me luck!

January Question: How had being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

It's definitely made me more critical. As a writer, we are our own editors, so we tend to edit--whether consciously or unconsciously--every book we read. I'll admit it can make it harder to just sit back and enjoy a great story.

It also makes me always dissect a story as I read it. Where is it going? What's the point of this scene or that detail? When it comes to watching TV or movies, I always have to keep my mouth shut because I can usually predict where the story is going, just by it's structure. A by-product of crafting your own stories, I'm afraid. But I always find that understanding the story structure enriches the experience for me.

What are you insecure about this month?

Monday, January 30, 2017

January is Ending: The Number One Way to Keep Accomplishing Your Goals

So January is coming to a close and I'm taking stock of my month. The first month of 2017. At this point, statistically most people (like 75-90%) who made New Years Resolutions have already dropped them like Charlie Brown's rock.

I actually haven't, and I'm proud of myself for that. But did I accomplish everything I wanted to in January.

Another no. I wanted to finish the draft of my WIP by the end of January, and while I've made good progress, I'm only roughly half way done.

I also wanted to write one short story this month on top of my other writing. Yeah, kinda choked on that one. It took me most of the month to even come up with a viable idea. I think I have one now, but the fact remains I didn't get it written in the 30 day period I was aiming for.

The same is true of some of my other personal goals. I definitely made progress, but not quite as much as I was hoping.

And do I say this to be negative or feel sorry for myself? Of course not. Quite the opposite. The fact of the matter is, I've done more writing this month than I did in the last six months of 2016 combined. Even if I don't manage 12 short stories, if I manage like...3, it'll still be more short stories than I written in the past 3 years. (That's about how long it's been since I wrote my last one.) And while I didn't make as much progress as I would have liked, the fact is, I still made progress.

And I think this is the main problem most people experience who give up so quickly on their resolutions--be they physical, productive, financial, or anything else. They assume that if they can't do 200% of their goals immediately, it means they'll never be able to, and they'll never reach them, so they give up.

But the thing is, you have to train your brain to work toward any goal. I'm still re-training my brain to get used to this amount of writing. As much as I accomplished on each of my goals this month, I'll probably do time and a half or twice that next month. As you train yourself to do more, you'll be able to do your tasks more quickly and efficiently. But as with anything, you have to build up to it.

So what's the number one way to keep accomplishing your goals?

Just keep on keeping on. 

Even if you only did 50%, 10%, 1% of what you would have liked, just keep pressing forward. Decide you'll do that much again this month. No! Decide you'll do more. If you only did 1% this month, do 2% next month. Or 5%. Or more. Then press on from there. The brain is an amazing organ and it adapts more quickly than most people realize. You'll improve at an amazing rate, if you just keep trying. Bottom line?

Just don't give up. If you're still pursing your goals, you're already a head of 3/4 of the population. And you'll be J.K. Rowling before you know it. ;D

Happy Monday!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Blogging Tips, Friday Funnies and Week in Review

Scroll down for both #FFs. ;D

                                     Week in Review

Words Written: 6204. Better than last week. Not as many as I wanted, but meh. I'm happy with it. :D Moving right along. I actually think I've written more words this past month than in the last...I don't even know...3-6 mos combined. *does creepy author dance*

Books Read: Still haven't finished American Gods, but making progress. I have five days to finish! ;D

Short Story: Yeah, didn't even touch the short story. :/

Welcome to Friday Funnies! Because everyone needs a good laugh on Friday.

Feature and Follow Friday

This week's question: What are some tips that help you with blogging? 

I think my number one tip would be to just be yourself and not overthink it. Treat your blog (kind of) like a journal. Not necessarily a personal one, but a journal about whatever your blog focuses on. I've taken to sometimes just posting about rambling thoughts I've had in the past week, strange ideas that I realize I can incorporate into my writing. These posts tend to be short and not at all thought out, but sometimes they get way more hits than the ones I do think and plan out. People are most inspired by genuine, human thoughts, I've found. So just be yourself and don't overthink it. ;D

How does #FF work?
--The goal is to increase blog followers, make friends, and have something to post.
--You create your own post using the weekly question.
--You leave your link and thumbnail in the linky list that links back to your post (visit alisoncanread.blogspot.com)
--Once you have your post up and linked, visit other posts and them them hi. FOLLOW them, don't just comment.
--If you especially like a post or just want to show appreciation, like the blogger name on the linky list.
--The person with the most likes gets chosen as the next Feature.
--You must follow the weekly featured blogger.

How has your writing week been? Do you make these faces when reading/writing? ;D

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

LTUE 2017

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! :D

Just a quick announcement today. LTUE 2017 runs from February 16-18 at the Provo (Utah) Marriott. For those who don't know, LTUE stands for Life, the Universe, and Everything. It's an annual symposium on Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I haven't attended in a couple of years but I love it. So much knowledge and networking with other authors to be had! More details HERE.

Anyway, I'll be there this year, both as a panelist and as an appearing author at the Book Extravaganza. If you're in Utah, come and see me. I'd love to meet you and stay for some panels. I promise you'll learn tons and feel an amazing drive toward your own creativity. Hope to see everyone there! ;D

Have a fantastic Wednesday! Make sure to practice random acts of kindness! ;D

Monday, January 23, 2017

The State of the Publishing Industry in 2017

Good morning and Happy Monday! How was everyone's weekend? Good, I hope. Mine was, well, semi-productive, but I also had some fun family things going on. It's been very snowy in Utah the past week or two. We're getting far and away more snow than we did last year (which is actually a good thing) but it makes going out kind of hard.

Anyway, I actually just want to share an article with you today. I follow Kristine Kathryn Rusch via email and this landed in my inbox this past week. Honestly, I don't often read blog posts that land in my inbox. As wonderful as I'm sure they all are, I just don't often have the time. But something made me open this one and I'm glad I did.

It's a fascinating article about the state of the publishing business. The numbers for the the final quarter of last year are coming in, and they're revealing some interesting trends.

Some teasers: 

1) For next year, if you have the option for your books to be in brick and mortar stores (not all of us do) make sure and get them there BEFORE the holiday season hits.
2) Did you know Amazon is building brick and mortar stores? I totally didn't.

The reason for both of these things is the same, and really fascinating. Based on information that's come in recently about book consumer habits.

This will probably be both relevant and interesting to anyone who plans to sell books in 2017, especially indies, so I'd encourage you to take a gander. I read the article like three times, just trying to absorb all the info. So, here it is:

Happy Monday!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Friday Funnies, Follow Friday & Week in Review

Scroll down for both #FFs. ;D

                                     Week in Review

Words Written: Only about 3,000 this week. Realized I have a lot of things to fix having to do with my website and email list. Just logistical things, but I've been prioritizing them this week. 

Books Read: Finished The Charge, but still working on American Gods. In good shape for my reading goals.

Short Story: Yeah, not much progress there. Unfortunately. ;D


Welcome to Friday Funnies! Because everyone needs a good laugh on Friday.

Cheesy joke, but still made me smile.
Too cute. Source

Feature and Follow Friday

This week's question: What Movie from Book coming out in 2017 are you most excited about? 

I think I'm gonna have to go with Stephen King on this one. A new adaptation of IT will be out this year, as well as a film based on book 1 of The Dark Tower. I genuinely hope they do a good job on both and am excited for both.

IT is an amazing book. Even if King's genre isn't your favorite, he's a masterful story teller and IT is the quintessential example of his work. They did a TV mini series in the '80s. I'm sure it was fine for that era but watching it now is just lame. I hope they do the book justice this year.

I haven't read The Gunslinger in years, but it's a very abstract book. With Matthew McConaughy and Idris Elba set to star...yeah, I'm super excited. Might have to re-read it before seeing the film, tho.

Just to change directions, I'm also excited for the next Chronicles of Narnia film: The Silver Chair. One of my favorite Chronicles. Just sayin'. ;D

How does #FF work?
--The goal is to increase blog followers, make friends, and have something to post.
--You create your own post using the weekly question.
--You leave your link and thumbnail in the linky list that links back to your post (visit alisoncanread.blogspot.com)
--Once you have your post up and linked, visit other posts and them them hi. FOLLOW them, don't just comment.
--If you especially like a post or just want to show appreciation, like the blogger name on the linky list.
--The person with the most likes gets chosen as the next Feature.
--You must follow the weekly featured blogger.

How has your writing week been? Do you make these faces when reading/writing? ;D

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why Authors Should Read Motivational Books

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! How's everyone's week going?

So right now I'm reading Brendon Burchard's The Charge and I'm loving it. It's fantastic. So inspirational! And it's meant to be. It's motivational book, after all. But that's not why I'm advising authors to read books like this. 

Picture Source
Let's talk about THEME for a minute. All stories we write have themes, yeah? Part of our craft is learning to incorporate theme into plot so that it's a natural part of the story. So we aren't telling or sounding to preachy. But sometimes, it can be a challenge to figure out what theme we're going for in a story.

A story that meanders along and needs help probably doesn't have a concrete theme. Once the author figures out the theme, the entire story comes together. And this doesn't always happen by the author having a light bulb moment about "theme." Sometimes by figuring out events in the plot, things fall into place. But chances are those events complete a theme the author didn't even know they were aiming for. It's a beautiful thing when that happens. 

So what's that got to do with motivational books or my current read?

Well, it's been a while since I read a motivational book. Probably about a year. But I've been annotating the crap out of this book. So many of the statements in it have jumped out at me as relevant to my WIPs. I've thought a lot about why that is. Some of the topics covered by author include how to train our brains to be motivated and follow through on our goals and aspirations. He talks about mechanisms in the brain that are keeping us from doing that.

"Emotion, it turns out, is the spark that compels us to care in the first place."--Brendon Burchard, The Charge, pg 100.

Since my Interchron series is all about the brain and how it connects to the soul, obviously this is going to strike a chord with me.

But that's not all that's jumped out at me. Other things have struck me as relevant to other novels, including my crime fiction series and the high fantasy/dragon series that I'm still working on and haven't started publishing yet. So it can't just be a matter of something being specific to me and oh what great luck that I picked this book up. It's more than that. 

Finally, the other day, it hit me: General, true, motivational statements are inherent themes. 
"Our desire to bond and belong outweighs almost every other desire--often even our desire for survival..."--Brendon Burchard, The Charge, pg. 117
Let's take a really vague and obvious example like "You should always put your children first." Now, again, if you have your characters say this a million times, or point it out in the narrative a bunch of times, that will come off as preachy and it's obvious the author is trying to tell their audience something. A great writer will create a story with flawed characters and show this theme. Make the audience really feel it. Maybe even show the negative consequences of when this isn't done. 

But you all know that. It's the definition of great story-telling, right? 

My point is that motivational statements, by definition, are themes. Not every motivation statement you read will be applicable to your WIP by far, but some will. They can help you come up with theme, which can only help you craft your story more effectively. So if this is something you're struggling with, pick up a motivational book. 

"There is a bolder man inside you than the one sitting next to me now."--Brendon Burchard, The Charge, pg. 145.

My personal and of course very objective suggestion would be The Charge. ;D

Do you struggle with theme? How do you push through to define it? What's your favorite motivational book?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Thoughts for Writing Inspiration

Good morning and Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a phenomenal weekend. I was actually very productive this weekend. Quite proud of myself.

So just a quick thought this morning. Last week I was watching a film with my brothers and something came into my mind. And the funny thing is that it really had nothing at all to do with what I watching. It was sparked by the film, but was completely unrelated to the plot and themes of the film. (Ah the magic of inspiration.)

So the thought was just this: 
This is what people do. They find like-minded people, get together and find ways to express themselves. Even if the powers that be say the can't or try to stop them, they'll find some other way, some other place to do it.
Probably sounds very random to most people, but I've had my dystopian saga, Interchron, on the brain lately, and I'm sure what this turn of thought was about. I'm currently working on my crime fiction series, but next month I'll get back to Interchron. I'll probably find a way to incorporate this thought into the story.

It was just my latest random inspiration, so I thought I'd share it. Remember, such things can come from absolutely anywhere.

Where did your latest, most random inspiration come from?

Persistence of Vision, Book 1 of Interchron available on Amazon and most major retailers.

Quantum Entanglement, Book 2 of Interchron available on Amazon and most other retailers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Funnies + Week in Review

Week in Review

Words Written: 7,512. So obviously better than last week, but honestly still a bit under where I'd like to be. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with that word count, but I'd like to average at least 2,000 words per day for at least 5 days a week. So I'd like to be more in the 10-12,000 words per week range. But I'm getting there. Working up to it, I suppose. :D

Books Read: Still reading Neil Gaimon's American Gods and Brandon Burchard's The Charge. Haven't finished either, but moving along nicely in both.

Short Story: Ugh. I brainstormed ideas. That's it. I suppose if I can pick one and build on it I might get an outline done this week. Wish me luck!


Welcome to Friday Funnies! Because everyone needs a good laugh on Friday.


I put this on my Instagram account last week. The faces are just priceless! ;D

How has your writing week been? Do you make these faces when reading/writing? ;D

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Rewards of Strong Characterization

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! How's everyone's week going?

Today I wanted to talk crime fiction, specifically about one of my characters: Kyra Roberts. She's the heroine in my Street Games series. She basically goes undercover in the most dangerous city in the country (one I made up, not a real one) to find her brother, who has disappeared into a high-risk life style.

Add to Goodreads
So when I set out to write this character, I knew she had to be bold. Insanely bold. She has to uphold two different identities and will be facing off with everyone from desperate junkies to homicidal gangsters. (Not exaggerating. This is what she's taken on to find her brother.)

So I wrote her that way. She has her fears, of course, but they're all internal. The persona she projects to the world is utterly confident. No fear at all.

And I've been surprised to see the response I've gotten from readers about Kyra. She's turned out to be very polarizing.

Some people--more often men, which I think is funny in terms of psychology--think she's crazy. Like, totally insane. The choices she makes, the things she takes on... I've gotten a few comments along the lines of "this chick is nuts!"

Others, conversely, really love her. Some of the best reviews I've gotten (HERE) center on Kyra and how brave she is.

Add to Goodreads
The funny thing is, based on the reviews I've gotten so far, there doesn't seem to be much middle ground. Either she's awesome and brave, or she's crazy and gonna get herself killed.

For the record, I didn't write her to be a "crazy" character. Just crazy-brave. But I kind of like that she's polarizing my audience. It makes me smile and I'm endlessly fascinated by people's reaction to her.

I also think it's a good example of what happens when you not only stick to your characterization, but make your character's traits--whatever they may be--VERY strong. Even if that trait is timidity, run with that. Make it dominant. Make your character's personality traits strong and obvious. If you do that, the character takes on a reality all their own, and the audience will develop their own, very strong, opinions about the character, just as they would about real people.

It's awesome to see.

Dark Remnants, Book 1 of Street Games is FREE on Amazon, B&N and most other major retailers.
Desolate Mantle, Book 2 of Street Games is currently available only on Amazon.

Have you ever come across a character that polarizes people? Why do you think that was?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Accuracy in Historical Fiction: The Histfic Writing Process

Good morning, Fiction Lovers! How was your weekend? Good, I hope. Mine was great! Fun, but busy. And VERY snowy here in Utah.

Today I want to talk about the writing process where historical fiction is concerned. Probably the biggest question I've been asked about my historical fiction writing process since Citadels of Fire released is how I go about separating fact from fiction in my historical stories? How do I decide what to keep and what to change?

It's a great question! Unfortunately, there's not a cut and dried answer. There aren't any rules that apply across the board. As I mentioned in my IWSG post last week, any rules are really just guidelines. It's up to the author and what they're trying to accomplish. Let me illustrate:

For most historical eras (and the farther back you go, the more this is true) we don't have many specific records for specific people. There are, of course, the infamous "annals of history" but they often leave things out, and are usually written by the victors of any conflict, which can make them very one-sided. In many cases, we living in this modern era can look at the entire picture and draw more objective conclusions than what the victors of the time would have had us believe. Still, that's not always done and sometimes it's not always even possible.

But certainly before the information age we didn't have websites detailing the reigns kings and queens, or the personal blogs of peasants and knights. (Wouldn't that be cool?!) We're lucky when bits and pieces of journals or other personal effects survive into our age.

So this is where our fiction skills come into play. And I use the word "skills" because a lot of insight must be used here. In my opinion, a good historical fiction writer doesn't just force historical figures or events into their story. Of course character and story need always come first in great fiction, but to change historical events to fit your story strays into the alternate history genre. And that's totally fine if that's what you write, but it's not, in my opinion, exactly the same as historical fiction.

(And yes, I'm being very nit-picky here. These are nuances. Most people--most readers, in fact--would just say, "who cares? History is history is history." But a writer has to take these things into account.)

So that's why I take the angle I do on historical fiction. I do everything in my power not to change any actual historical events to fit my story. I have been known to mess with the timeline a bit, but what year it happened in, in my opinion, isn't nearly as essential as what actually went down. (Of course that's just one writer's opinion. I'm sure there are some who would take the opposite angle and would have valid reasons for it.)

The skills come into play in a big way in historical fiction through analyzing character motivation. You have to be able to look at the events--those we do have record of--and make deductions about why certain people chose to do what they did, what their motivations would have been, and what they would have been feeling. That's far more difficult than simply bending historical events to fit your story. It also brings history into the story in a much more concrete way, and helps your readers connect with the history, as well as the character.

With a few well-documented exceptions, we have little in the way of exact conversations--much less internal thoughts--of historical figures. So this is where things get fun and creative. What was the character's reasoning for their decisions? What thoughts and feelings would have led the to that reasoning? Especially when we're talking the decisions of kings, queens, and generals that often led to war, death, and devastation.

So for my Kremlins trilogy, which is based on the reign of Ivan the Terrible, we have plenty of records of what happened, what Ivan did, and what the results were. But the real fascination for me is exploring his psyche and what made him the way he was. Although more harsh than most of us are, Ivan was a relatively decent man in his young adult years. But he slid into utter madness after his wife's death, and an entire nation suffered for it.

Ah, the stuff of historical legend. Makes for a brutal and compelling story.

That said, I always include a historical note so the reader knows what, if anything, I've changed for the story. I think it's the duty of histfic writers to make sure readers get an accurate view of history. Histfic readers are phenomenally intelligent. They get that histfic will have make some non-historical changes. Most I've talked to tell me that, when enthralled with a historical era they've read about, they immediately jump online and read up on the facts themselves, so it's not a huge problem. But at the same time, I would never want to mislead anyone as to what actually happened in history. So as long as you make clear to the reader what compromises you've made to serve your story, and you're being as true to the history as you know how, I think the reader will go with you and simply enjoy your book.

The second question I'm being asked a lot is when book 2, Bastions of Blood, will be released. Unfortuately, I don't know yet. I'm in a bit of a hurry-up-and-wait situation with book 2. The publisher that was supposed to release it nearly went under a few months ago. They were bought out by another imprint who decided not to publish book 2. So I'm in the process of copyright-reversion for BoB. It's all cued up and ready for release, but not all of the legalities are squared away yet, and obviously those have to be honored.

I'm hoping it will all work itself out in the next month or so. I'll announce the release date as soon as I know what it is. Promise. I can't wait for everyone to read part 2 of Taras and Inga's saga.

(Book 1 available through Amazon, B&N and most other major retailers.)

What are your views on historical accuracy in historical fiction?