This is one of those areas that sounds simple and really isn’t. As Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damned hard writing.” (BTW: How can that quote be Hawthorne? Doesn’t it sound more like Twain? Coulda sworn it was Twain.)

Anyway. Punchy writing. Writing that’s lean. That doesn’t have a bunch of filler. That doesn’t get bogged down. Sounds like it’d be so easy. But it is often so hard to know what to cut. It’s far harder to kill your darlings than you’d think. (That darling bit was Faulkner. Sounds like Faulkner. Still hard to believe that easy reading quote wasn’t Twain.)

A few posts popped up recently about achieving leaner, punchier writing. This one from Jane Friedman’s blog offers tips on cutting the mundane. (Seriously–if you’re not regularly reading Friedman, you’re missing out.) And Lamar Giles stopped by my own MG blog to offer a few tips on writing action. (Hint: cut, cut, cut, short, short, short.)


One area I’ve been hitting in my own writing during the line-edit stage is dialogue. Dialogue tags (he said / she said) can add a ton of unnecessary words. As I draft, I also tend to add lots of completely unneeded direction in dialogue. Characters turn, tilt heads, push hair from faces, light cigarettes, cross legs, frown, etc. Dialogue moves quicker and carries more weight if you get rid of the extraneous description and tags surrounding it.



In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m delighted to announce a hardcover edition of my poetry collection TANGLES officially releases April 2 (but is already available for purchase)!

The book design’s my doing: gray cloth cover with a matte dust jacket. The interior also includes several visual design elements to tie the work together.

But the most important part of a poetry collection is, you know, the collection. The words on the page. TANGLES is not a head-scratcher. These love poems read like song lyrics. They’re accessible and digestible. One of my favorite aspects of the collection is that the poems age as they go along–the speakers in the earliest verses are clearly quite young; by the end of the collection, the speakers are looking at love from a more seasoned, experienced angle.

You can grab a copy of the hardback on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you’re a bookseller yourself, the book is also available from Ingram.


If you’re new to indie (self) publishing–or just new to the world of designing your own books–welcome! I think design’s actually one of the more fun parts of the indie world. And the good news is, you in no way need a design degree or extensive design experience in order to design your own books. You’re a novelist. Nobody knows how to take a big, intimidating job and break it into manageable chunks like you. Approach design the same way you approached writing the book: Don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the job. Just focus on the small task at hand.

Of course, the first thing you need to do when you design the print (paperback or hardback) edition of your book is import the text to InDesign. You in no way have to use InDesign. I know plenty of authors who use Vellum, for example. But for those of you who are going the InDesign route, here’s all it takes:

1. Create a new document in the trim size of your choice.

2. In the File menu, click “Place.”

3. Choose your Word document. At this point, you’ll see your cursor is loaded with your document.

4. *****This is the key****** HOLD SHIFT.

5. While holding the Shift key, click the upper left-hand corner of your document.

Voila! That’s it.

Holding the Shift key allows the text to Autoflow. InDesign doesn’t really work like a word processor. It has a lot of similar functions–spell check, etc.–but its primary function is, of course, design. (The first time you open the program on your computer, you’ll probably think it looks more like Photoshop than a word processor.) So if you don’t hold Shift, it’ll just place your text on one page (and give you a warning in the Preflight panel that you have overset text). But if you hold Shift, it will create enough new pages to accommodate the full length of your text.



HPIM0064I lost my writing buddy at the end of February. My nearly-16-year-old dog, Jake, passed away. Even though he was getting older, it was somewhat unexpected. (Then again, maybe deaths always are–even when we know it’s coming, we always think, Not today. It never seems real until the moment that it happens.)

I’ve been thinking lately about writing through hardships. I’m not sure I’m much of an expert on the issue (I’m still working through it, feeling pretty good one day and utterly awful another). But as I was trying to figure out if I had any advice, I realized that I’ve been writing through hardships all along. I’ve worked through illness (even if it’s just a sore throat or an injured back), the heartache of 1-star reviews, and the gutting that comes with the loss of a relationship (whether it’s a friend or a romantic partner). I’ve had to figure out how to calm down from a fight or push worries away or act as my own doctor so that I can get my head back in the game.

Of course, right now, none of it seems as bad as the loss of my writing buddy. But we do write through hardships. All the time. Every single one of us. Minor and major.

How have I been handling this particular hardship? I’ve been reorganizing my schedule; I took some time away from a copyediting project to clear my head. I’ve been trying to be kind to myself–Jake was always with me, and especially as we head into spring, I’m having to do things without him for the first time in more than 15 years. It’s hard and disorienting at times. I’ve been taking deep breaths and moving forward, one step at a time.

One thing these past few weeks reminded me is that everyone knows what it’s like to lose something important to them. We’ve all done that. I’ve been so surprised (and heartwarmed–is that a word???) at how many people have reached out to me about Jake, letting me know they were around if I needed to talk. I can’t say enough how much that’s helped these past few weeks. Sometimes, just letting people know what’s happened to you means the exact-right person is suddenly on your phone or shooting you an email.

The past few weeks have been awful, but they’ve been also been wonderful.

Life goes on, one step at a time.

This morning, I’ll be uploading my new copyedited book.



I gotta give Carrie Jones a shout-out for her Patreon page. She’s sharing a previously unpublished book (THE LAST GODS) one chapter at a time (audio and / or print).

She’s just at chapter three, but I’m already looking forward to Fridays (the day a new chapter goes live).

It’s really good. Seriously. And I love the effect of doling it out in small increments, a little at a time. The chapters stay with you, and you spend the week wondering where the story’s going, what turn it will take next.

And, like I said, she’s just on chapter three.

Highly recommended.




I’ve been here the entirety of ’19. Actually, I’ve been here since before Christmas.


I’m usually a pretty quick write. Usually. But I’ve actually been working on this particular book since late ’17. In fits and spurts, sure. And by this point, I’m really down to line edits. But still. 2017.

Actually, looking at my publishing plans for ’19, I’m going to be doing a ton of revision. Reworking half-done manuscripts written, similarly, in fits and spurts.

I feel like the past few years have been a real period of growth. I mean, anyone involved in a creative pursuit is constantly growing. You have to. But these past few years have involved more exponential growth, if that makes sense. To a great extent, that’s due to my work in the indie market. I’ll be posting more about the lessons learned throughout ’19.

But for now…

It’s back into that revision cave for me.


  1. I love old movies. Looooove. If Joan Crawford or Bette Davis is in it, I’m watchin’.
  2. A member of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils taught me to play guitar. I still play, though not nearly as much as I’d like.
  3. I’m a news junkie. I write with several newsfeeds open on my computer all day.
  4. I like hats. And glasses. I can’t help it.
  5. The thing I love most about writing is that it’s a task you can NEVER master. I’m constantly learning and growing and changing my mind, finding new ways to draft and techniques for revision.