I read a great article from Script Shadow about writers dealing with doubt and I wanted to share it with you.

Even though this article is aimed at screenwriters, I think the habits in this article would work for any writers. And even if you don’t write scripts, you could find a ton of useful advice on the Script Shadow blog, and I definitely recommend following it.

Here’s the link below:

Hope it helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .




Experts often agree that the two most important things to leave to the professionals when you’re self-publishing your book is editing and cover design. You want an error and typo-free book and a great cover. We’ve gone over editing in the previous posts and now it’s time to find a cover for your book.

You don’t have to wait until after you’ve finished writing your book to start designing a cover. In fact, it’s easier if you get the cover done before you’re ready to publish your book. One advantage of having your cover done early is that you can do a cover reveal on your blog or social media pages, drumming up interest in your book before it’s available. You can also use the cover in your pre-orders (which we’ll talk about in an upcoming post) while you’re fine-tuning your manuscript.

But how do you find a cover for your book? You could design a cover yourself using software, but I wouldn’t advise this unless you are already a cover designer and/or have a lot of computer design experience. Book cover design, like editing in most cases, should be left to professionals. I know that these two services can be expensive, but they can also help your book(s) take off and keep readers reading your books (assuming you write engaging stories or helpful nonfiction).

So, most likely you’re not designing a book cover yourself. You may want to find a professional book cover designer. Just like when you searched for editors, the first place you may want to start is with recommendations from friends and other authors. You could also ask for recommendations from book/author groups on Facebook and other social media sites. You could also do internet searches for cover designers. Make a list of cover designers that you like; look at their portfolios on their websites and compare their prices with other designers. Prices can range from under a hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars.

Some writers might think they give the synopsis of their story to a cover designer and then the designer does all the work, but often you will need to give the designer an idea of what you want so you two aren’t going back and forth with drafts of your cover. This is a good place to say that you should have some idea of what you want your cover to look like.

There are basically two ways you can go about this. Either you’ve already got a good idea of the image(s) or artwork you want on your cover, perhaps even something resembling a scene in your book, or you’ve researched the genre of your book and you want to make your cover similar to other books in your genre, or your genre niche.

We’ll start with the first one. Having a picture in your mind right away can make things a lot easier when it comes to cover design, but it still may not be a bad idea to research other books in your genre or genre niche. This doesn’t mean that you’re directly copying other covers (don’t do that), but you’re just trying to make your book instantly recognizable as a book in that particular genre. Experts say most readers browsing for a book give the cover and title a second or two of attention before moving on to the next one, so you have a very short time to grab a reader’s attention. If the cover looks amateurish or confusing or doesn’t seem to fit the genre, then they may pass on it and look at the next books – even if this is a subconscious choice on their part.

Back to the idea you have for the cover of your novel or nonfiction book. Does your cover idea speak to the genre you’re writing in? Would a reader know what kind of book yours is if there was no title on it? It’s important, because many readers shop by genre. And if the cover and title are intriguing enough for them to stop and check out your book, they may move on to the description (which we’ll discuss in an upcoming post). It’s great to have an idea you’re in love with, but if it doesn’t fit the genre or if it could be confusing to the reader, then you may want to change the idea or do more research on covers in your genre.

For some of my books (like Ancient Enemy) the image for the cover came to me immediately, and other covers were a struggle. But when you contact a cover designer, they’re going to want a description of what you want on the cover, and this is where researching covers in your genre will really help.

Another option is premade covers. A lot of cover designers have premade covers for sale for a lot less money. And there are websites that sell premade covers for reasonable prices like and, to mention a few. You’ll have to look through a lot of covers to find a few you might be interested in, but I’ve found some really good images for some of my covers on these two sites. About half of my covers were made by cover designers and the other half were from premade covers.

But even if I’m looking through premade covers on those websites, I still have a fairly good idea of what I want on the cover of my book. For instance, when I was writing Devil’s Island, I knew I wanted an image of a small tropical island in the middle of the ocean, but I wanted it to be at night, dark and foreboding. I saw the cover image on a website of premade covers and I purchased it immediately because it was exactly what I wanted. I bought software to do the lettering and fonts, so I did the lettering myself. The cover for Sightings was an impulse buy. I saw the cover and bought it immediately. I purchased just the art, tweaked the lighting to make it brighter and more blue, then I did the lettering myself.

One of the problems with premade covers is that you may take a long time looking for the exact image you want, or you may want something more uncommon. This may be the time to turn to a designer. It may be more expensive to use a professional designer, but I recommend going with a professional designer who has a track record of designing book covers.

How do you come up with an idea for your cover? You could jot down some ideas as you’re writing or re-reading/editing your manuscript. You could have others read your manuscript and give you some suggestions. And of course, you could look at other book covers in your genre to give you some inspiration.

One good thing about professionally designed book covers and premade covers is that you don’t have to buy software to create your covers. Your designer will do all of the design work for you after you two agree on what you want, or when it comes to premade covers, usually the designer will add your title and other metadata to the cover.

In closing, I recommend a professional-looking cover from either a designer or a premade cover from a reputable website. Also, keep in mind that your cover image should be clear when seen at a thumbnail size. Many readers may first see your cover at that size on Amazon or in a promotional email on their phone, so make sure the image and title can be seen clearly at a smaller size.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .




So you’ve had your manuscript edited and/or had a team (or even just one or two) beta readers read your manuscript (you can go back to the prior posts where we discussed all of these things). And now you’re ready to hit the publish button.

But maybe not yet. I would suggest at least one more read-through. Of course you would have already made the changes your editor suggested, and any changes that your beta readers suggested. You would have fixed all of the typos and grammar errors. But even after all of that’s done, I still believe it’s important to give your manuscript at least one last read-through. You may catch that one last typo that others missed, or you may want to change a word here or there, or make a sentence clearer, or catch a lapse in the continuity of the story.

For me, after years as a professional writer, I get a certain feeling when I think my manuscript is finally ready to be published. Do I think it’s perfect or even complete? No. Never. I’m never satisfied with my books. Even to this day I don’t think my books are as good as they could be, and I have to resist the urge to go back and tinker with all of them. It’s like an artist who is finished with a painting, but the artist keeps “touching up” the work, adding a little paint here or there. You could keep doing that forever if you let yourself. At some point you need to just let the work go, set it free and send it out into the world. I believe most writers and artists never think their work is perfect, but often we are too critical of our own work. We may be satisfied that it’s the best we can do, but we may not ever be truly happy with it. I’ve learned through the years that you can drive yourself crazy tinkering with your manuscript over the last few reads. Sometimes you may find yourself changing things just to change things, and it may get to a point where you’re not making the story necessarily better, but just different. And there’s the danger of getting too far away from the original version and passion you had for the story, the passion that made you want to write it in the first place.

So definitely give the manuscript a final read-through, or even two or three read-throughs if you think it needs it. But if you get to a point where you’re just picking at it, or you’re just nervous to publish it, paralyzing yourself with analysis, then just take the plunge and send it in or hit the publish button.

One trick I’ve heard of (I learned this from screenwriting books) is to read your manuscript aloud during one of your final read-throughs. And if you’re not going to read the entire manuscript aloud, maybe you should at least read the dialogue to see if it sounds natural. Sometimes you can spot typos easier if you read aloud because chances are you read slower out loud than you do in your head. Also, you can hear the rhythm of the sentences. Sometimes something that sounds good in your head may not sound as great out loud and could need some changes. And don’t forget, you may want to create an audio book from your novel or book, and reading it aloud could be a preview of what it’s going to sound like.

So give your manuscript that one last read-through to make sure it’s as good as you can get it, then take the plunge and get it out there.

Now that your manuscript is finally ready to be published, we’ll talk about other things you’re going to need to get done in upcoming posts including: selecting a cover for your book, formatting your books, writing the description, etc. I hope you’ll stick around for those posts. And please feel free to comment on any of these posts – I would love to hear from you.

I hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .



What are beta readers? Beta readers are one or more people willing to read your manuscript before publication. If you’re lucky enough to have at least a few beta readers, they can provide a valuable service for you. Usually beta readers provide this service for free, but some may charge a small fee.

In the previous post we talked about editing and finding editors. If you have an editor, is it still important to have beta readers? That’s up to you, but I would say yes. The more eyes on your manuscript the better. One person may find a typo that others, even yourself, have missed. I’ve read some of my manuscripts numerous times and still missed typos that others have caught. Sometimes when you’ve read the same manuscript over and over, you kind of train your brain to overlook some mistakes.

Is that all beta readers do, read your book to find typos? A lot of times, yes. But many may offer their opinion of your story that you’ve sent to them. If you’re lucky, you might find a beta reader who highlights those mistakes that he or she has found, including punctuation mistakes, grammar errors, misspellings, flaws in logic, inconsistencies, etc. You don’t have to take every suggestion a beta reader offers you, but it doesn’t hurt to hear other opinions before you publish your story. Even Hollywood often uses focus groups to comment on an upcoming film, and sometimes producers will go back and alter a movie’s ending if the focus groups didn’t like it. So you could think of your beta readers as your own focus group.

How many beta readers should you have? Any amount is good. Even one or two can be hard to find, and hard to keep. Ideally, I would say it’s good to have five or more so you can get various opinions and more eyes to spot typos and mistakes. With various opinions, you can decide if you want to make any changes to your story. If one out of five beta readers doesn’t like your ending or a certain character, but the other four do, then maybe you could chalk that up to one person’s opinion. But if four out of five don’t like something, then you may want to pay attention to that. But whatever their opinions are, always be gracious and grateful when beta readers take the time to read your book and give you their thoughts on it – they are doing you a great service.

How many beta readers are too many? That’s hard to say. It can be difficult to get even a few beta readers to read your book, but having too many might be a good problem to have. But it could also get tough juggling that many emails and waiting for some of the beta readers to finish reading your book so you can publish it. Also, some beta readers may only stay with you for a book or two, and then move on for one reason or another – so having more can help when some leave.

What kind of reaction are you looking for from beta readers? Usually they kind of proofread your manuscript, and some may give you their thoughts on your story. Some beta readers may go more in depth than others. If you’re looking for specific reactions, you may want to send along a questionnaire for them to fill out, letting them know that the questionnaire is not mandatory and to only fill out what they’re comfortable with. If you do send out a questionnaire, you could ask things like: What did you think of the ending? What did you think of the pace of the story? Was the book too long or too short? Were there any confusing parts of the story, places where you had to re-read to get a better understanding? Did you like the main characters? And on and on.

How long should it take for a beta reader to read your book? A few weeks to a month is usually a pretty reasonable time frame. If the reader goes beyond four weeks, you may want to send them a gentle reminder. Should you impose some kind of time limit? I wouldn’t. And if a beta reader goes beyond a month, and you’ve decided to publish anyway, then you should still be gracious when they send you their opinion of your book – they still took the time to read it.

What stage should your manuscript be in when you send it to your beta readers? It should be as close to the finished product as possible. It’s not fair to send your beta readers a first draft full of typos and work that needs a lot of editing. Always remember that your beta readers are taking time out of their daily life to do you a huge favor by reading your book and giving their opinion of it. It’s rude to send them a first or second draft that is full of typos or is in need of major rewriting. If you want an opinion of your story before you write the first draft, then you could send your beta readers a treatment or synopsis of your story (but I warn you that a synopsis is dry reading and you may get opinions that vary widely from an actual novel or a book).

Where do you find beta readers? First ask your family and friends, especially if you know another writer or an expert in English grammar. You could ask your spouse or partner, your siblings, your parents or children, and any other family members. You could also ask friends and coworkers. You could also post on social media sites that you’re looking for beta readers.

Should beta readers leave reviews for your books? That’s totally up to them, but after they’ve done you a huge favor of reading and commenting about your book, I don’t think it would be too polite to bombard them with pleas for reviews, unless it’s something you worked out with each other up front. Just remember, if you pay a beta reader something, even if it’s just a free copy of your book, some retailers may look unfavorably on that person leaving a review, feeling that you “paid” for a good review. To avoid any trouble, you may want to get all of that worked out upfront.

How do you thank a beta reader? As I said before, always be gracious and grateful. Some beta readers may ask for a small fee upfront or a free book. You could thank them by sending them a signed print copy or gift them (or someone else they know) a free e-copy of your book. You could also thank them in the acknowledgements of your books; just make sure you get their permission first to use their name. Maybe people might only want their first names used.

So, there you have it. I would consider beta readers as important to your team as an editor, cover designer, and formatter (if you use one).

Hope that helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .



Just wanted to let everyone know that the next book in The Exorcist’s Apprentice series is now available on Amazon for preorder, and delivering on Feb. 11th.

You can find it here:


This book picks up three months after the first one ends. Danny is continuing with his training when he and Paul are summoned on an emergency case – a demon possession in North Carolina.

I’m hard at work on the next book in this series, tentatively titled Darkfire: The Exorcist’s Apprentice 3.

I’m also getting close to releasing the first three or four books in my post-apocalyptic series.

Thank you for reading and sharing, and feel free to pass this post on.




Okay, we’ve discussed writing your first draft in last year’s Writing Tips posts. This year we’re going to talk about what happens after you’ve gotten that first draft down on paper or in your writing program. You may have written your first draft quickly, and you may have used some placeholder words and phrases, put off some research until later, and other things that we’ve talked about in previous posts to get your first draft done. And now you may have let your first draft “breathe,” as we also discussed. Now you can return to your first draft with fresh eyes and perhaps a different perspective.

Now it’s time to begin editing and rewriting (or revising as it’s sometimes called) your manuscript. Many experts recommend hiring an editor, and I believe this is very good advice for most writers. But there are some questions we must ask.

When should you start looking for an editor? This can depend on what kind of editor you want and your level of writing experience and confidence. If you’re a beginning writer, you may want to hire a developmental editor, and if you’re a more experienced writer, you may only need a line or copy editor, or even just a proofreader.

First, let’s discuss the four main types of book editors. There may be more than four, but these are the main four, and two of them – line editing and copy editing – are sometimes combined in one package. So we’ll boil things down to three main types of editors to make things simpler: a proofreader, a line editor, and a developmental editor.

We’ll start with the developmental editor because this is the kind of editor you would use earliest in your work. A developmental editor reads your first draft, or sometimes even your treatments and/or synopsis, and then gives you his or her opinions about your overall story, the plot, the characters, the setting, the marketability and the salability. You would probably use an editor like this if you haven’t been writing a long time and you aren’t skilled with storytelling.

A line (or copy) editor will come later in your manuscript, after you’ve re-read and revised until you’re happy with it. A copy editor will look for mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax, typos, etc. And a line editor will look at the style of the sentences and paragraphs, identifying clumsy writing, making suggestions for clearer writing and a tighter story. I put these two editors together because some offer a hybrid of the two as a service, but there are other editors and editing services who break these two up.

A proofreader reads your manuscript, catching any typos, misspellings, etc. But a proofreader doesn’t usually make suggestions about your writing style or your story.

The prices of these editors will vary widely from service to service, and editor to editor.

Where do you find an editor? The first place is recommendations from other authors. It’s good to find a reputable editor who has done a good job for other authors. You could also check writing groups you belong to on Facebook or other social media sites. You could also search the internet for editors or editing services. When you find an editor online or one who has been recommended to you, I would suggest contacting that editor and communicating with them either vial email or phone and making sure you’re comfortable with them. You should ask for a sample of their work. Some editors may have sample pages or chapters they can send you, and others may offer to edit a few pages of your own work.

I know all of this may seem like it will take a lot of time, but good editing will pay off in the long run if being an author is what you really want to do. If you find a great editor, you may work with that editor over the next several books. You could set up a system where you’re working on another project while your editor is working on the manuscript.

Besides requesting a sample edit, make sure you check out an editor’s experience and education. Maybe they have a degree in English or they have worked at a publishing company or they have a long list of books they have edited that you can look up.

Many experts believe that the cover of your book and the editing (already assuming you’ve written a great book in your genre) are the two most important elements to the success of your book.

What about editing your manuscript yourself, or self-editing? Yes, this is definitely possible, but it has a lot to do with your skill as a writer and the experience you have. If you’re going to self-edit, you should be an expert in English grammar. The great thing is that English grammar is something that you can learn. There are many grammar books out there (one of my favorites is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss), and there are many online courses you can take to learn English grammar, writing, and editing. I believe every writer should know the basics of story and grammar to begin with – it’s like wanting to work construction but refusing to learn how to read a tape measurer. Never stop learning. Never stop practicing. Never stop reading. Never stop honing your craft.

What about beta readers? Is that the same thing as having editors? Maybe. If you’re lucky enough to have a team of beta readers, and if you’re lucky enough to have one or two beta readers who are experts in English grammar or storytelling, then I would say, based on your own level of experience and skill, you might be able to get away without hiring an editor.

Even if you do hire an editor (or editors) and/or have a team of beta readers, please keep in mind that they are humans. They will have their own suggestions about your story, but you don’t have to use every one of them – art and literature are subjective. And they may miss a typo here and there. If you like your editor, I wouldn’t recommend blowing up over a missed typo or some story suggestions that you don’t agree with.

Even if you hire a topnotch editor and have a team of beta readers, you may still get that negative review claiming your work “needs editing.” There are trolls out there who are going to leave bad reviews just to be mean, and there are some who just didn’t like your book for whatever reason. If you get enough reviews you may get a few of these “needs an editor” reviews. When those negative reviews are overwhelming or if your overall reviews are mostly negative, then maybe you should look into it. And remember, English grammar and literary style are not set in stone like math is. Sometimes there is more than one correct way to write a sentence. And what was grammatically incorrect fifty or a hundred years ago may be more accepted nowadays.

In conclusion, decide what kind of editor you want and then try to find one through recommendations first. Check out your editor’s experience and education. And it’s still a good idea to learn as much as you can about the craft of storytelling and grammar if you want to do this for a living.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .



Wow, it’s almost 2019!

How was your year? Did it go by quickly for you? Slowly?

For me, 2018 went by both quickly and slowly. Some good things happened to me in 2018: we bought a house, our son got married, and 2018 was my most successful year so far as a fulltime author (all because of you!). But some bad things happened too, like major illnesses and deaths to people we are and were close to.

Last year at this time I posted a blog of my goals for 2018, and I’m afraid I fell way short of those lofty goals I had set for myself. But I did manage to publish four books in 2018, doubling my publishing output for the previous year. Those four books I published this year were: Followed, The Vampire Game, Hope’s End: Ancient Enemy 3, and Evil Spirits: Ancient Enemy 4. It was sad to finally end my Ancient Enemy series, but I’m also excited to move on to other projects that I’ve been wanting to work on.

Even though I only published four books in 2018, I got a lot of writing done. I completed the first four books in my upcoming post-apocalyptic series, and I’m halfway through the fifth book right now. I also completed the second book in The Exorcist’s Apprentice series, and I hope to have that one available in either late January or early February.

And here are my writing goals for 2019:

  • Publish the first five books in my post-apocalyptic series.
  • Complete the sixth and seventh books in that series.
  • Write and publish the third book in The Exorcist’s Apprentice series.
  • Write the sequel to Sightings.
  • Write and publish at least two standalone thrillers.

I also want to begin work on a thriller series I’ve had on my mind for quite a while now. It’s about an FBI consultant – but she’s no ordinary consultant. That’s all I’ll say about that one.

I plan to read more of the horror novels from the list of 100 Greatest Horror Novels that I posted a few years ago. I’m getting close to being halfway through the list.

As far as screenwriting, I’m still taking a break from that. I was contacted by someone in the industry about one of my books, and hopefully something will happen. But in the meantime, I’m going to keep focusing on my books.

I will try to be a little more active on my blog, and I want to add my blog posts to my newsletter. I want to make at least one post a month in each of them (hopefully more). I will continue with the monthly Writing Tips throughout the next year, and I’ll try to share more articles about writing and horror subjects. I will also post my best-of list for my Halloween blog. I’m not sure what this year’s best-of list will be, but I’ll come up with something.

Thank you so much for being here with me. Being an author is a dream come true for me, and it’s all because of you. I’m so grateful, and I just wanted to thank you. I hope you’ll stick with me and my blog in 2019.

Please feel free to comment – I would love to hear from you!

Until next time . . .



In the last few posts we’ve been talking about tackling that first draft and getting it done. Now that you’ve completed your first draft, you can sit back and relax a little. Celebrate a little. You deserve it. You’ve accomplished something – you wrote a book.

Now I recommend that you stuff your completed manuscript into a drawer or leave it alone on your computer for a while (but always have the file backed up). You just put it away for a while and let it “cool down” and let it breathe.

How long? I would suggest at least a week or two. Maybe even three or four weeks. It’s up to you.

Why let your manuscript breathe? Why not just rush right into rewriting? Sometimes if you let the story sit for a few weeks, you can come back to it with fresh eyes, pick up some logical or structural mistakes, or even change a few scenes around. Another reason is that writing that first draft may have drained your energy a bit, and now you might need some time to recuperate. Of course you want to write your book as quickly as you can, but you also want to take a little time and put your best book out there.

What are you supposed to do while your manuscript is cooling down? You could take a few weeks off and let your mind rest, or let it wander. Or you could work on other projects. I’m sure you’ve got some other projects you would like to get started. You could start outlining another book, or jot down some notes for future books. Or you could work on some marketing or social media tasks that may have been piling up.

But be careful. If you’re going to take some time off, don’t stay away from writing too long. Remember, writing is like a muscle that needs to be constantly exercised. Another danger is that you get too involved in your next project and ignore the first draft you’ve just finished (I’ve done this more than a few times). You need to have the discipline to go back to your first draft and start the real work: re-reading, editing, fine-tuning.

One note: This is just a suggestion, and each writer has his or her own process. If you don’t want to let the first draft cool down, go ahead and dive right into the editing of it. But for me, it has always helped to let the story breathe for a little while before jumping right back into it.

So you’ve let your manuscript cool off for a week or two, or even longer. You’ve pulled the manuscript out of the drawer or pulled it up on the computer. Now it’s time to edit your work.

And we’ll talk more about editing in the next post in January, but before that I will have an end-of-the-year post at the end of December.

Hope this helps someone out there, and I would welcome any feedback you have.

Until next time . . .


Just wanted to let everyone know that the fourth (and last) book in the Ancient Enemy series is now available on Amazon for preorder. I loved writing this series, and I’m sad to see it ending, but I’m ready to move on to other projects. But before I started those projects, I wanted to wrap this one up with a final showdown in the Ancient Enemy’s world.

Just click on the link below to preorder, or it will be live on December 21st.

Evil Spirits - Ebook

You can find it here:

Thank you so much for reading my books, and I hope you enjoy this one!




Before I get to December’s Writing Tips post about letting your manuscript breathe or “cool down” after you’ve completed the first draft, I wanted to take a moment to talk about placeholder words and phrases in your first draft. Maybe placeholder words isn’t the correct terminology, but that’s what I call them.

Let’s say you’re writing your first draft and the story is flowing nicely. Your fingers are flying across the keyboard, music is playing in the background (or not), and the story is alive in your mind. Then it all comes to a screeching halt because you can’t think of the exact word or phrase you want to use in that moment. It’s on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t summon it. So you put a placeholder word or phrase in that spot and move on so you don’t lose the momentum that you’ve already built up in your first draft.

For instance, you want to use the word fortuitous, but you can’t think of that word at the moment , so you write in the word lucky. Just write down a placeholder word and move on. Or you want to use a certain model of car or type of pistol, but you don’t know exactly what you want to use or you may need to do some research later, so you can just use a placeholder word or phrase here. You can either insert the placeholder right into the story or use parentheses and leave a note to yourself. I might write something in parentheses like this in a first draft: John escaped out the back door and got away (go into more detail here). Or I might write something like: Carla loved her job (explain how she got this job). I don’t do this a lot because if there are too many placeholders then it’s not really a first draft but a very detailed outline, but if I’m really stuck somewhere on a certain detail, and if it’s a minor enough detail, I don’t want it to slow my first draft down so I’ll go back and add that in during the next draft.

The most important thing about placeholder words or phrases is that they can allow you to power through that first draft. You can always go back and change the placeholder words and phrases when you complete your next draft or edits.

Hope this helps someone out there. I would love to hear any comments you have.

Until next time . . .