A Whole New World(Building)

If you’re a writer, like me, you probably have your experience with world-building. Even those of us who write realistic fiction have to build our worlds, right? We have to explain to our reader (without droning on about it or info-dumping) how our world works, even if our story is set in present-day on Earth and it’s not alternative history.

For me, unless my story is super straightforward, I consider what I’m working on to be Real-World Fantasy. It gives me the freedom to make rules for how MY Earth works. More often than not, I stick to the rules we’re all familiar with because I’ve mostly written Young Adult and New Adult Romance up until recently.

However, a lot of my stories take place in fictional towns. Or fictional high schools. Those settings need to be built so that my readers will believe they are real when they read the story that is set in these places.

For example – JUST A DUMB SURFER DUDE 1-3 had Dextrus Academy as the backdrop for a lot of the story, and though unnamed, the tiny little Vermont town where all the characters lived was fictional as well.

Even in a realistic, real-world setting, I had to give rules and backstory so that readers could feel immersed in the setting and find the characters believable.

World-building is done by almost every author in almost every fiction book that is written.

It’s the story that determines how much world-building is needed. High Fantasy will require much more world-building than realistic fiction set in a fictional high school, obviously.

Quickly, so as to not lose your interest, but to give you some idea about world-building if you’re new to it, things that need to be figured out are:

  1. Climate/Environment
  2. Geography
  3. Resources (trade, currency, natural resources, farming, etc.)
  4. Has your world changed over time? How much time?
  5. How much of your world do you need to show to tell the story in the book you are writing?
  6. Does the environment/terrain affect your story/characters?
  7. Population size, density, class system, races, ethnicities, species, languages, war/peace, etc.
  8. History of your world
  9. How is your world ruled?
  10. Religion and politics.

I could go on and on…

My next book (coming March 25th, 2022) is POSSIBLY TEXAS and is set in…you guessed it…Possibly, Texas. This is a fictional town, and though set in the real world that we all know, it’s “quirky.” The citizens and the town itself are run by different rules from time to time.

Since it’s set in the real world that we all know, a lot of things were already figured out for me. I didn’t have to worry as much about language, religion, currency, laws, politics, and so forth.

I had to focus on the terrain and geography of the town.

The history and mythology of the town.

Each character’s backstory, how they came to be in Possibly, and what their purpose was in town.

I had to figure out each business in town, who owned and operated it, how it worked, and what service it provided–as well as why.

Who runs the town? Who’s in charge? Do they have a common religion in town? Where do the kids go to school? How do they get utilities and services such as groceries and gas?

In the end, I created a fictional town that worked and ran in a way that would be familiar to readers…but quirky enough to whisk them away on an adventure. To feel that while they have one foot in reality, they’ve stepped through the looking glass. I wanted readers to think:

What have I gotten myself into…and how do I get more?

I would like to invite you on a short walk down Two-Mile Trail.

As we round the wooded bend, we’ll hear a vaguely familiar tune coming from the AMOR speaker set up on the town sign.

Maybe we’ll remember where we’ve heard the song before…maybe we won’t. But we’ll know we know it from somewhere.

Then it’s just a short stroll over Lovelorn Pass Bridge, that someone might be jumping off of and into Susurrus Creek below, and we’ll be in Possibly proper.

If the mystic in the circus tent off of the town square and the giant pirate ship don’t confuse you too much, maybe we’ll explore downtown?

So, come with me on an adventure. Visit Possibly, Texas.

It’s quite possibly the best place to be.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,


Trust the Process

So, you wrote a story. Or a novelette/novella. Or a book.

It took you days, weeks, months, even years. If you’re not a full-time writer, you did this before and/or after work. On your days off. In between taking care of your kids or pets or other loved ones. You snuck in getting some words out while waiting in lines or on your commute (hopefully, on public transport if you were also writing).

You sacrificed time, energy, and other hobbies and interests to bring life to something that meant the world to you.

Congratulations! You should be very proud of yourself!

You’re not even close to done.

As any writer will tell you–though I might be the first–writing is often the easiest part.

The next step (unless you already have an agent) is figuring out how you’re going to publish. Are you going to tighten up your manuscript, edit and proofread, then query agents in pursuit of traditional publishing?

Will you cut out the agent process and query small presses and indie publishers?

Maybe you’ll self-publish?

All of these paths to publishing are valid. Publishing your Word Baby™ is an incredibly personal decision. This first step towards figuring out your path can be difficult. Weighing the pros and cons and how you will feel about your decision down the road can drive a person mad.

Regardless, you have to make a decision. Otherwise, Word Baby™ is never cradled lovingly by another human being. All the time you spent writing it was wasted–unless you’re the type of writer who likes reading their own work over and over. Which is fine.

Whichever path to publishing you choose, there are numerous steps to complete once you’ve made your decision.

Querying, agents, blurb writing, cover design, ISBN assignment (possibly), copyrighting (possibly), developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, proofing, formatting, marketing…begging readers to please, please, please, adopt your Word Baby™.

I’ve seen plenty of writers–who have managed to write a full novel–give up before they are published. Not because they really wanted to get an agent and publish traditionally and it didn’t work out, but because they got burned out.

The process is tedious no matter which option you choose.

Even after the display of stamina, the Herculean effort, shown in writing 50,000+ words, publishing can make a writer crumble.

It’s not just that there are so many steps and the process drags on for what seems like forever.

A writer has to face a lot of critique during the process.

Agents, editors, beta-readers, advanced readers, random family members, friends…writers get feedback from everyone. If the feedback is not glowing, it can be a strike to the ego. Even if the feedback is good, it’s often not consistent from one person to the next.

A writer has to somehow figure out whose advice to take and how to implement it into their fixes and corrections.

Writers find that if they traditionally publish–especially as a first-time author–they often have very little control once they sign a contract.

Self-published writers will find that their options may be limited based on their experience and skills, their budget, and what publishing avenues offer to them.

Even if a writer can keep a stiff upper lip and take critique like a pro, and they are able to figure out how to use that critique, as well as have the skills and experience needed to get through the publishing process…there’s the waiting.

Just signed a contract with an agent? Awesome! Now it’s time to develop the story, edit, proof, and figure out how to market it to sell to a publisher.

Which could take…forever. It may never sell.

You may get dropped by your agent.

Then you start all over.

Just signed with an indie publisher or small press? It’s time to brainstorm with a developmental editor. Then do the developmental edits. Which can take months or longer. Then there are 3 to 100 other editing levels to go through. Then proofing. Cover design. Interior formatting. Marketing strategies. Beta-readers. On and on and on.

In the end, when your Word Baby™ finally sees the light of day, you will have read your own book no less than a dozen times from front to back (if you’re lucky), and you might be sick of it. You may never want to see that book again.

If you manage to get to the end.

I’ve known many writers who got tired of the process and gave up on writing for anything other than pleasure. Which, writing for pleasure is fine, but I hate to see anyone give up on a dream.

I know a writer who didn’t get their book published until nearly 20 years after they wrote it.

I know a writer who spent a year writing a novel, found an agent after 6 months, had their manuscript sold to a publisher after another 6 months…and two years later, the publisher pulled out. The writer got to keep their advance since it was the publisher’s decision based on things the writer had no control over, but the process hit a roadblock.

They had to start over after 4 years.

In September of this year, I am going to finally publish a book I’ve been working on for 8 years.


Am I sick of that book yet? Somehow, I am not. But I’m tired of the process.

However, the point of me writing all of this is to not only warn writers and future authors that The Process can be a massive pain in the ass. It’s also to let them know that The Process can be trusted. It should be trusted.

The Process is in place to make sure that your Word Baby™ is the best Word Baby™ it can be.

Don’t let The Process defeat you.

If you can spend years of your life writing your book, surely you can devote as much patience to making sure it’s the best it can be.

PS If you were not aware yet, my next novel, an LGBTQ+ Magical Realism story, POSSIBLY TEXAS, is now available for pre-order. Click on the graphic below to reserve your ebook copy!

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Stock Photo Models

I can’t speak for all authors.

Some of us are self-pub, indie, or trad. Or a hybrid of two–or all–of these publishing methods.

However, maybe you’re a writer similar to me, and you get to look through stock photos when it comes to designing your book covers? Maybe you get to have some input? Maybe you get to go through stock photos for promo that you or your publisher are designing?

Regardless of how things work for you and your writing career, you’ve probably sorted through some stock photos at one point or another.

It can be a slog.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing I love more than “stock photo day”–that day I have to sort through dozens or hundreds of model photos to give input on what I’d like to see on a book cover or in a piece of promo.

I’m gay because I like men. Skinny, fat, short, tall, light skin, dark skin–all men are gorgeous to me. I’m drawn more to redheads who are older than me, but that’s neither here nor there…

So, it’s with much consternation that I see a lack of diversity in stock model photos. I’m not sure about smaller agencies that license photos, but the big ones have a problem with diversity for certain.

Most of the model photos I see–and my imprint is so good about finding a variety of models for me, though they have to work with what’s available–are white dudes who are extremely fit or at least not out of shape.

My imprint and I struggle to find models who are Black, brown, Asian, Fat, older, etc.

It can be a real pain in the ass and defeating.

The lack of variety of models is not the only problem, unfortunately.

If we find Black models, they are usually fitness photos, bodybuilding photos, very catalog-y, or the models are placed in hoodies and look menacing. Sometimes the photos are outright racist in their positioning and use of Black models.

When it comes to Fat models, they are usually eating, or doing something silly so they can’t be taken seriously.

Middle Eastern/Asian models are usually very catalog-y or they are dressed in costume-y clothes (that are meant to look “traditional” but fail). Or they are put in glasses, a suit, and given a piece of tech to post with in the photo. It’s racist.

Older models (not even that old–maybe as young as 45/50) are placed in odd positions or told to do odd things for the photos. For example: could you sit in this wheelchair and let us drape a blanket over your legs even though you look like you just sent a kid off to college and are in the prime of your life?

Don’t get me wrong (again) – I’m not trying to beat down the white, fit models. They’re all incredibly good-looking. And we all need to work, right? I can’t hate on anyone getting their bag. Especially when they often don’t make the decisions or get asked their opinions about diversity.

White, fit guys are hot, too. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that Black and other POC, different body types, and a range of ages, are not available.

When they are, they are not photographed like white, fit models.

They are asked to do silly or stereotypical things so that their photos could never be used for a book cover or editorial pieces. They aren’t allowed to be sexy, serious, or artistic. They’re asked to play a role.

It’s insulting.

It’s not just insulting to the models–though, I can’t imagine how they feel–it’s insulting to people looking to license photos.

How could you possibly want a photo of a Fat model unless they’re eating or doing something ridiculous?

I can’t lay all the blame on the stock photo sites. They often have to decide what to offer based on what freelance photographers have in their books.

Freelance photographers can’t shoulder all the blame because they’re often told what sells and what doesn’t, so they tend to go with white, fit models.

Honestly, I think the blame has to be shared between the sites and the photographers. If sites demanded more variety and diversity in models, and photographers hired a wider variety of models, the problem would be fixed.

If people who license these photos demanded more diversity and variety, and then actually licensed those photos, things would be fixed.

My intention is not to hate on any particular type of model. Again, I just enjoy looking at the men, regardless of their size, shape, color, or age.

Stock Photo Model Day is always the best day, no matter what.

I just wish that more skin tones, body types, and ages flashed across my screen as I was making my decisions.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,