The what and how of writing — Writing process blog hop!

The wonderful Jen McConnel tagged me in this blog hop; here’s her writing process post. As for me…

1) What am I working on? I’m plotting two projects at the moment: the third and final instalment of the What Kills Me series and a stand-alone psychological thriller set in a high school.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Readers have told me that the What Kills Me series breathes fresh life (so to speak) into the vampire genre. I didn’t try to make it unique. I wanted to write a superhero’s journey, an adventure novel about a normal girl thrown into the most extraordinary circumstances.

3) Why do I write what I do? I was obsessed with supernatural and horror novels when I was a teenager. I used to wait months for new releases of Christopher Pike books, devour them in a few hours and be upset that I had to wait for the next. I figured that when I grew up, I could torture teenagers the same way.

4) How does my writing process work? For What Kills Me, I imagined key scenes throughout the story. A girl crawling out of a well covered in blood. A fight scene in a Taipei alley. A spectacular and shocking conclusion. I see my books very cinematically; I have moments that I see very clearly in my mind.

Plotting allows me to plan for twists. It allows me to see where I can put in red herrings, moments of irony, and foreshadowing. Plus, What Kills Me is the first of a series. Since I’ve plotted parts of Part Three, I know what bread crumbs to leave in Part One to lead up.

I AM FOREVER — the sequel to What Kills Me — coming soon

Title for blog

Naming your baby is hard. For inspiration, you may flip through baby name books and test every moniker, from every origin, with every meaning.

When I was searching for a title for the sequel to What Kills Me, I perused book stores and looked at other titles. I did word association. I made a list, then scratched them all out. What Kills Me, Just Joking Still Here. What Kills Me, Oh That Butthead Paolo.

A month or two ago, artist Liliana Sanches was already working on the book cover for Book Two and I was under pressure to produce a title. I was lying in bed, afflicted by insomnia, and three words popped into my head.


I am proud to announce that I Am Forever continues Zee and Lucas’s adventure with the Monarchy. The fight for survival has new meaning now since everyone’s lives depend on her. Zee has a tenuous relationship with the Empress and the Monarchy; she has ever reason not to trust them — she’s been bit before. Will they lock her up for all eternity?

Can’t wait to hear what you think of the title. I Am Forever will be available later this year. Stay tuned. I’ll keep everyone apprised of the book’s progress.

If you haven’t yet read the best-selling, top-rated book, What Kills Me, here’s where you can find it:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iTunes | Goodreads

A synopsis to catch you up: An ancient prophecy warns of a girl destined to cause the extinction of the vampire race.

So when 17-year-old Axelia falls into a sacred well filled with blood and emerges a vampire, the immortal empire believes she is this legendary destroyer. Hunted by soldiers and mercenaries, Axelia and her reluctant ally, the vampire bladesmith Lucas, must battle to survive.

How will she convince the empire that she is just an innocent teenager-turned bloodsucker and not a creature of destruction? And if she cannot, can a vampire who is afraid of bugs summon the courage to fight a nation of immortals?

How my self-published book became a Canadian best seller in six months


Part Two of my publishing feature in the National Post is out today! In case you missed it, here’s Part One which details my preparation of the manuscript.

A reminder: I’m hosting a live-blog discussion about self-publishing on Monday, December 17 at 10:30 a.m. EST with:

Tina Folsom: Her 16 self-published romance novels have sold more than 500,000 copies and made $1.5 million since 2010.

Mark Lefebvre: Mark is an author and director of self-publishing and author relations at Kobo Inc.

Steve Vernon: His young adult novel, Sinking Deeper: My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster is #16 on Quill & Quire’s top 20 bestselling children’s books in Canada. His e-book serial, Flash Virus, is available on Kobo and Kindle.

Please tune in on Monday and engage in the conversation!

WIthout further ado, my publishing feature:

After I clicked “publish” on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, I sat back and waited for my life to change.

It was as if I thought self-publishing my teen vampire novel, What Kills Me, would be transformative: kind of like when Prince Adam raises his sword and becomes He-Man. Following six months of writing and spending about $2,000 preparing my ebook for publication, by the power of Amazon, I was now an author.

Except that putting your book for sale on Amazon feels like dropping a single grain into a bag of rice — you need to paint it green or point it out, or else how will anyone distinguish it from the rest? So nothing happened. And I felt no different.

“Death by 1,000 paper cuts;” my National Post article about how my vampire novel came to life as an indie book!

Illustration for the National Post by Steve Murray

Illustration for the National Post by Steve Murray

My journey as an indie author began in the National Post newsroom. My friends urged me to self-publish What Kills Me and the task seemed too gargantuan to tackle. Finally, my books editor, Mark Medley, suggested that I do it and write about the experience. Well, I can do that. That’s what I do every day as a reporter. Become an expert in [insert random topic here: flying squirrels, mergers and acquisitions, etc.] on a daily basis. I can learn about this self-publishing thing by doing!

The first installment of the two-part feature is finally published! And on December 17 at 10:30 a.m. EST, I will be hosting a live-chat on the National Post‘s website including Mark Lefebvre, director of self-publishing at Kobo, and Tina Folsom, who has sold hundreds of thousands of her paranormal romance novels. Please tune in to be a part of the discussion and to ask the experts all of your questions!

How and why I self-published, National Post, December 8 2012

It used to bug me when people said, “Oh, when I retire, I’ll become a writer, maybe publish a book or two.”

Really? Because when I retire I’m going to become an engineer —was my imagined reply, and presumably that of many writers before me.

They made it sound as if publishing a book was something easy, something anyone could do with the click of a button.

Now, of course, it is.

To read the rest in the Post, click here!

Everyone starts somewhere: My first novel (E.T. meets Freddy)

Publishing my first novel has made me think of the first novel I wrote. I was about 12-years-old and the story, entitled Sweet Dreams, was about aliens. It was 183 pages.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

The doorbell rang. Darlene Devries ran downstairs. “I’ll get it,” she called. Darlene finished buttoning up her red silk shirt. She straightened out her wrinkled black suede skirt and opened the door. There stood Joey Wellington, the most popular guy in school.

Later, Joey takes Darlene to the MC Hammer concert in his pink convertible. (Joey apparently has borrowed Barbie’s car.) A whole bunch of people die. Joey gets torn between three beautiful girls (well, he IS the most popular guy in school). He rescues them from aliens who attack them in their dreams (like extra-terrestrial Freddy Kruegers, I guess). And then wakes up like Dorothy wondering if it was all some crazy nightmare.

That’s right. Bestseller.

Well, all writers started somewhere… What was your first story about?

When a giant film production company takes apart your novel, what do you do?

I wrote this post for Journey With Books and wanted to share it with you, my author and blogger friends again:
“You should attempt to veil your petty jealousy over not being nearly as kind, talented or beautiful as [actress].”
I got smacked with this message from a movie distributor after I wrote an obviously less than positive critique of his film. As part of my job at a national newspaper in Canada, I write movie reviews. I re-read that message several times, until the sting went away and then I swallowed the note (not literally — though eating paper is probably more pleasant than getting criticism).