What Character Made the Cover of Demonslayer 3?

I'd say I can't believe it's been 3 months since my last blog post here, but I'd be lying. Where have I been since April? Making a brand-new website that's user friendly and easy to read. Creating better free goodies for those who sign up for my email newsletter.

Finishing Demonslayer Book 3, Girl with the Strawberry Tattoo, which I'll publish in the next week or two. With a title like that, only one character could go on the cover, and here she is:

You haven't read much about Sheila yet, but if you like Jen's outspoken humor, you'll love Sheila's wacky wisdom.

I'm immensely proud of this book. It finishes out the first Demonslayer trilogy with one big arc and manages to be one-part romantic comedy, one-part street fight. If book 2 was a quiz for Joshua's moral compass, book 3 is the test.


Always Hurt the Ones You Love is Available Now!

For the first time ever, one of my series has a book 2! (That's cause for celebration enough!)

If you're waiting to find out how Harbinger and Talisman throw a monkey wrench into the volatile wonderland of Joshua's and Lana's lives, here it is: Demonslayer Book 2: Always Hurt the Ones You Love.

Violent enemies. Strange news stories mounting by the minute. Joshua’s old wounds. When Harbinger’s true motives change the game, there’s only one question left:

Which side are you on?

Always Hurt the Ones You Love is available on Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk, Smashwords, Kobo, and all other Amazon country sites for only $0.99! It should arrive on Barnes & Noble and Scribd in the next week or so. Treat yourself! (To a free sample, at least!) I appreciate your support!


Cover Reveal for Demonslayer 2: Always Hurt the Ones You Love

The team over at Deranged Doctor Design has been killing it for me the last month and a half.  Because of their speed, dedication, and incredible talent, I don't even have to show you the cover I designed myself.  I can jump straight into the 2nd installment of Joshua's adventures in Ashton:

I'm in love with this cover, and I think the title sets it up perfectly. Lots of characters are going to get hurt in different ways. After how good things got in book 1, remember: the only constant is change.

Stay tuned for book 2 coming out in the next few weeks!


New Cover Reveal for Demonslayer Book 1

As my Facebook and newsletter fans already know, I've started teaming up with Deranged Doctor Design to put professional covers on my books.  I've had 2 redone so far, and I'm ecstatic to reveal the new cover for Demonslayer's first (free!) installment, Every Hero Has Demons!

They're an awesome, talented team to work with.  I look forward to putting out better quality books than ever before.  The cover for the next Demonslayer installment is in the works, and that ebook should be available by the end of April.

Demonslayer's problems start here, but they don't end here!


Inside Demonslayer: Talisman, Real Name Unknown

There are a lot of unknowns about Talisman. The questions start when Joshua and Lana first meet him and Harbinger.

¿Qué quieren ustedes?” Harbinger muttered, her irritation clear in any language.
The young man stepped up to her side. “What do you want?” he asked in a much more easygoing tone.
“What are you, her translator?” Demonslayer asked him.

And nobody really gets a clear answer to that. Are Harbinger and Talisman friends? Distant relatives? Coworkers? Just causing havoc together?

Chris Colfer could play the perfect Talisman. (Photo courtesy of Twitter.)

Which raises another question. Is Talisman even causing any problems, or does he just accompany Harbinger while she creates chaos?

Talisman has literally 2 lines in Demonslayer serial #1, Every Hero Has Demons. He translates for Harbinger, and later, he introduces himself.

But his presence and his passiveness haunt Joshua and Lana as much as Harbinger’s rage does. Why doesn’t he speak up more? Why doesn’t he use his power more?

Talisman’s power seems to hold the most untapped potential out of the four of them. Like a much-needed good-vibes charm, Talisman can spread empathy by transferring one person’s feelings into somebody else. He could use his gift to make an abuser feel what they inflict on their victims, but why isn’t he?

And is he too young to find himself caught in the middle of all this violence and confusion?

Talisman’s a gentle soul for sure. What sides of his personality hide in him is another question only time can answer.

If you still need to check out serial #1, visit the Demonslayer page and grab it for FREE where you most like to download books. Already acquainted with the series? Do you think Talisman will turn out to be a villain or a hero?


Inside Demonslayer: Harbinger, Real Name Unknown

Just as every good story has its heroes, it has its villains.

Harbinger invokes trouble and violence even before Joshua and Lana meet her. For all the concern they show for the people injured and the bystanders nearby, Harbinger holds only disdain.

Lana asks, “What did they do to deserve this?”
Harbinger spares a glance at the chaotic scene. “Most people are assholes. I’m sure they did something.”

Angélica Celaya would play the perfect Harbinger. (Photo courtesy of NBC.)
At the end of Every Hero Has Demons, Harbinger remains shadowed in mystery. She doesn’t give her real name. Joshua and Lana walk away knowing very little about her. She’s a willful woman of Latin-American descent standing tall in black boots and creating more smoke from her cigarette than the fires of Hell.

What Joshua and Lana do know about Harbinger gives them a lot to think - and worry - about.

Harbinger’s power, whatever it actually is, lets her know when someone is committing acts she doesn’t approve of. Unlike Joshua (who would uncover the problem’s source) and Lana (who would protect and comfort the victims), Harbinger doesn’t believe in “touchy-feely bullshit.” She reacts in vengeance, swift and sure.

What this means for Joshua, Lana, and the unsuspecting citizens of Ashton, they can only guess.

As a writer, crafting Harbinger’s character has taken me on some unexpected journeys. In one sense, it’s a dream come true. I’ve wanted to write a bilingual character since I started learning Spanish in 6th grade. (My first such character was soft-spoken, caring Maria, one of a group of young people living on the streets. It was a project I started in my mid-teens, never finished, and will probably never release.)

Harbinger is the exact opposite of Maria, outspoken and commanding, but she still gives me the chance to express my love of the language. Her Spanglish grants Demonslayer a flavor it wouldn’t have otherwise, and it gives her character added depth. It lets me play with the idea of what it means to communicate. Speaking Spanish lets her say what she wants without it always being clear to others.

In a bigger way, I’m grateful for Harbinger’s feisty personality. When I started fleshing her out about 8 years ago, she was only meant to be a villain. She was pretty two-dimensional. But as I worked on her character, dug into her background, and expanded the story beyond issue #1’s borders, Harbinger took on the fullness of life that her attitude always demanded.

My advice with Harbinger? Sit back and enjoy the ride. She’s a rebel with a cool eye and a hot temper. With Joshua already keeping a few secrets from Lana, a woman like Harbinger can only stir the pot.

If you still need to check out serial #1, visit the Demonslayer page and grab it for FREE where you most like to download books. Already acquainted with the series? What do you think Harbinger's next move will be?


Inside Demonslayer: Lana Bendix, AKA Guardian

One moment in Demonslayer serial #1 sums up the way Lana Bendix approaches the world. After joking with her boyfriend about his funky, colorful ties, she turns a little serious.

Lana straightened his tie for him, left crooked by running his hand over it. “It’s refreshing when people are themselves.”
“Really?” Sam asked with a humored breath.
Lana plunged into the depths of his eyes. “You should always be yourself, Sam. It’s important to bring your truest self into the world. Nobody else can do that.”

Lana, AKA Guardian, is many things within Every Hero Has Demons. She’s kind, understanding, and patient. She also shows strength in the face of adversity, sets clear boundaries, and isn’t always shy about grabbing what she wants.

Janel Parrish would make a great Lana. (Image from IMDB.)

Like Joshua, she uses her power to help people. But she’s his opposite in many ways. She retains hope for humanity. She’s shared the truth about her special ability with a few people, so she doesn’t struggle quite as much with having it. She’s usually in a good mood, trying to move beyond her past pains, and lifting others up with her.

Do you remember the movie The Family Man from 2000? In one of the commentaries, someone said his job was to make the wife/love interest (played by the lovely, spirited Tea Leoni) into the romantic ideal. She had to appeal to everybody – beautiful, spontaneous, and loving. I think that describes Lana. Her positive attitude and genuineness attract friends and potential boyfriends alike.

Lana represents the best of what people can be. She’s resilient without being bitter – hopeful without being naïve. Life throws her curveballs, but she chooses not to withdraw. At the same time, she has her ups and downs. She’s a good person, but we can identify with her.

Lana’s ability works on a different level than Joshua’s. Instead of forming a mind-to-mind connection, Lana relaxes into her Guardian persona to protect people. She imagines a white light surrounding and shielding her subject. It soothes and empowers as well as providing physical protection. She can use it on herself, someone else, or several people at once. Every Hero Has Demons even shows how she can use her ability with Joshua’s to make a greater impact.

Protection makes an interesting ability because it’s something we worry about all the time. It’s the reason we lock doors, carry pepper spray, buy insurance, and shy away from risky ventures. We want to protect ourselves, our investments, and the people we love.

Lana’s power taps into the most basic areas of feeling protected: physical and emotional. It’s easy to see why she feels guilty for taking time off from using it. Crimes abound in real life and in the Demonslayer city of Ashton. For someone like Lana who appreciates safety and security, she wants to spread those feelings around as much as she can.

In a broader sense, Lana becomes a symbol of what Joshua used to be. She shows him a future where he can be like her again. And of course, there’s the pesky business of whether or not they like each other, and where that might lead.

If you still need to check out serial #1, visit the Demonslayer page and grab it for FREE where you most like to download books. Already acquainted with the series? How would you use Lana's power if you had it?


Inside Demonslayer: Character Joshua Thompson, AKA Demonslayer

On the baseball diamond behind the high school, a middle schooler wields a knife in front of the older bully who’s tormented him for weeks. He’s no longer alone in his thoughts - a stranger’s voice tries to talk him out of it, picking through the boy’s personal memories. He still won’t drop the knife.

“Are you going to back off or what?” the stranger asks.
“What happens if I don’t?”
“I dig deeper. All the way to birth if I have to. I’m not letting you stab this kid.”

Joshua Thompson, AKA Demonslayer, is one of the most complicated characters I’ve ever created. He has to be a strong, capable hero but also carry a lot of his own heavy past along with him. Even though he’s likeable and sturdy enough to support the Demonslayer series as its main character, he still gives the sense he could become an antihero at any moment.

Sam Witwer would make a great Joshua. (Image by Art Streiber/Syfy)

Joshua has a lot riding on him in serial #1, Every Hero Has Demons. He works as a middle school counselor by day. The students look up to him. His boss depends on him. His coworkers like him - in some cases, a little too much for comfort.

But on nights and weekends, Joshua hardens up a little and dons his calm, confident alter ego, Demonslayer.

I’ve been fascinated with psychic abilities since I was a kid. The library had this incredibly thick, heavy book for kids about all kinds of interesting stuff. It had quizzes to answer like what 2 super powers you’d choose, and what those choices said about you. I read a lot about different kinds of abilities, and for a while, I even wished I had ESP. I thought it’d be cool. (It never happened.)

For the Demonslayer series, though, I didn’t choose conventional psychic powers. I made up new ones particular to each character who has one. Why they have the powers they do will get answered in a future serial coming out later this spring.

Demonslayer’s power connects him with someone else’s mind and lets him talk to them. He can also, as in the case of the middle schooler, search their memories himself if he’s not getting the responses he wants.

It’s this sense of purpose beyond helping people in a wholly gentle, selfless way that makes Joshua such an intriguing character. We’re not meeting him in his prime, at his most patient or forgiving. He’s tired and jaded. But a conflicted character makes a great place to start a series.

If you still need to check out serial #1, visit the Demonslayer page and grab it for FREE where you most like to download books. (To join the effort to make it free on Amazon, click here with my gratitude.) Already acquainted with the series? Tell me what you like or don't like about how Joshua handles life.


Demonslayer Serial 1 Ebook Goes Free for Kindle

Free books come to those who wait!

After 2 months of nudging Amazon to price match Every Hero Has Demons and make it free, we've gotten our wish!

Readers are already snatching up their copies, and Every Hero Has Demons is sitting pretty on the charts right now:

If you've been waiting to download it for your Kindle - or haven't heard of the Demonslayer series yet - grab your free copy here. Links to download it free on other sites like Barnes & Noble and Kobo are available here.

Thanks for your support in making this possible and supporting my work!


How Losing Someone is Like a Book Character Dying

I had other plans for last week. But that's why they say life is what happens when you're making those plans.

My grandmother passed away, and it seems too callous for me to simply jump into my scheduled posts about Demonslayer without acknowledging her. At the same time, because of Demonslayer's nature, I couldn't ignore the project completely.

My work often carries with it a death of some kind - in the past or present, natural or caused.  Demonslayer breaks the mold for me, pushing more into George RR Martin territory.  In its 9 serials (the combined length of 3 full books), I kill off 7 characters.  Not nameless, faceless bad guys or innocent side-standing witnesses.  7 characters we get to know, good and bad, some of them major players whose deaths cause tremendous shock waves for everyone else.

That kept tumbling through my mind as grief took its course. There's a fine line for those of us who usually hold personal matters like this close to our chests. And I thought for a few days I'd rather grieve at home in private than face the rest of my family.

But like in books I've read and Demonslayer itself, I found more comfort and commonality at my grandmother's funeral than I could've imagined. We came together from different cities and states to honor her. We shared memories and the hope that her life would be celebrated, not just her passing mourned. It was a healing experience of community and represented a deeper meaning of family.

My grandma had a special way of supporting my long-standing obsession with writing. If I was staying at her condo, she'd give me a beautiful sunny space by the back patio door and some quiet time to write. If I was visiting, she'd ask me what I was working on and listen with enjoyment to my explanations. Then she'd add, casually and honestly, that she didn't read books. And I'd just smile and say with acceptance, "I know, Grandma." These were the meetings of two people who could connect with each other and still be ourselves. We could share in each other's lives as writer and non-reader with appreciation and respect. Although, I admit when my grandma discovered a love of old, thick novels later in life, it pleased me. It still does that we had one more hobby in common on top of everything else.

So how is grieving in real life like what book characters go through? Before last week, I probably would've argued they're nothing alike. Book characters aren't physically real. They're struck down by words alone while the rest of life goes on.

But when you look at the basics of what's happening, it's all the same. Someone - real or imagined - who used to be here isn't anymore. They're missed, they're longed for, they're remembered, and they're celebrated by those left behind. And just like in books when the surviving characters gather together for strength and to pay tribute to the one they loved, I think real people should remember the importance of being around others. There's a time to grieve in private and a time to realize you're not the only one holding onto memories of the person you lost. Get caught up with work or cooking or watching TV, but allow yourself to be in the moment sometimes, too. Lean on someone. Talk about it. And as my aunt said, be part of their legacy.

One of my favorite pictures of my grandma when she was younger.

My grandmother, Virginia Dunn, was a rare gem of a person. She was the only human being whose whistling made me happy instead of irritating me. She rode horses and took tap dancing lessons as a girl growing up in Pennsylvania. She lived most of her life with one kneecap because she fell on the ice and broke the other one, so it had to be removed. We both loved music and played the violin, although she was much more natural at the piano than I am. She'd watch any show on TV I wanted to watch when I stayed with her, including "Jackass" and "Unsolved Mysteries." She taught me how to shop sales and clearance racks, and I never looked back. When I see my grey hairs now, I picture how beautiful and classy her silver hair was, and I relax about how I'll look when the grey takes over. We both looked fantastic in red, and we both read old, thick books.


Free Demonslayer Comes to Nook!

For the first time ever, one of my ebooks is available on Barnes & Noble for the Nook e-reader.  You can grab it for free here.  (Middle school counselor Joshua Thompson starts out as a good guy, but will he stay one?  Hmmm...)

I never realized B&N also provides you with a handy online reader to read ebooks in.  It's a really easy way to enjoy any Nook book without owning or using the device itself.

The rest of the Demonslayer series will join #1 on B&N as I release the books.  Other places to find Demonslayer are listed on its page here, although Amazon still hasn't turned it free.  If you've got five seconds to help me out with that, click here to learn more.  I'd appreciate it!


Why Should I Leave a Book Review?

The easy answer: it helps everybody from authors to readers to booksellers to the people leaving the reviews.

But how, exactly?

I don't usually share much about the writers' side of publishing or how I get my books all the way from an idea in my head to something readers can get their hands on.  But I believe reviews are too important to the reading and writing communities not to pull the curtain aside.

What does a book review do?

For people who haven't read the book, reviews give them insight into the book's content and quality.  Book browsers want to know if they're going to like a book before they buy it, and reviews are one of the things they look at.

For other people who've read the book, reviews by others provide new perspectives.  Reviews can validate other readers' thoughts or be completely different. This creates connection and discussion.

For authors, book reviews are amazing.  They can open doors to marketing and advertising opportunities we can't use otherwise.  They provide feedback on our work that helps shape what we publish and how we write it.  Some authors decide which series to focus on based on how much reader interest they get, which can be partially measured by reviews.

Booksellers benefit when they sell more books, which reviews can definitely set in motion.

People who leave reviews not only sharpen their skills with each one they write, but they open up opportunities for themselves to get free copies in exchange for honest reviews.  Some authors contact reviewers and bloggers directly for this.  Some websites like Goodreads make it easier for readers who leave reviews to win the book giveaways they enter.

What if I don't want to leave a bad review?

You can use the same question I ask myself when I leave reviews: Is the information I know now something I would've wanted to know before I bought this?  In other words, would your own poor review have saved you from spending time and money on a book you didn't end up liking?  If so, consider reviewing it.  Low ratings won't automatically kill book sales - I know that from experience.  But they can add to the overall picture of how readers react to the book.

What if I don't have time?

Try leaving a short review, especially if you loved or hated the book.  You can always go back and write more later.  Even if you don't, at least the author will know what you thought.  Your review still counts, and it's still appreciated.

What if I don't like reviews and surveys and sharing my opinion?

You don't have to leave a review, but the process is kind of like voting.  Those who participate shape the future.  If you loved a book and chose not to review it, maybe it has no effect at all.  Or maybe the author gives up or doesn't write anything new in that series.  Maybe a book you didn't like and didn't review ends up on a best sellers' list with a high rating you don't think it deserves.  More writers are publishing than ever before, giving readers the unique power to boost books they like over ones they don't through the support of their reviews.

If you need some ideas to get you started, you can check out my post with tips on writing a review.  Thanks for considering adding your voice to the reading and writing community.  As an author and a bookhead, it means a lot.


How To Write A Book Review

The first-ever National Readathon Day (using #timetoread on Twitter) is just around the corner on Saturday, January 24th.  Participants (maybe even you) will read for four hours in the middle of the afternoon in support and solidarity for literacy.

Reading is awesome!  I got hooked as a kid and still love the thrill of finding a new favorite book.

But the truth is a lot of readers don't take the time to review what they read even if they liked it.  Why leaving reviews is important will be a post for another day, and other authors/bloggers have covered it, too.

Leaving a review is easy and can take less than 5 minutes.  You probably already know the 5 W's from speech or English class, so just use those to help you.  Answering questions like these will write your review for you:

Who - Who makes up the story, and how do you feel about them?  Who's your favorite character?  Or your least favorite?  Did you identify with the main character?  Did you fear/hate/fall in love with the villain?  Did each of the characters stand apart, or did they mesh together without individual personalities?

What - What is the story about?  Did you like the plot?  Did it move too slowly, too fast, or just right?  What surprised you?  What made you laugh/cry/feel nauseous?  What made you recommend the book to a friend - or what would keep you from doing so?

Where - Where does the book take place?  Did the details make you feel like you were there?  Did you want to travel there?  If you've already been there, did you like the author's version of that place?  Did the book stay in one location or jump around?  How did you feel about that?

When - When does the book take place?  What interests you about this depiction of the past/present/future?  Did events happen in an order that made sense?  Did they happen out of order and make sense anyway?

Why - Why do events happen as they do?  Why do the characters act the way they do?  Are these reasons explained?  Are they believable?  Did the premise of the story confuse/surprise/hook you?  Would you read more books by this author?  Why or why not?

There's also a bonus opportunity for the single H:

How - How does the writer tell the story?  Do you like what the author chooses to show and chooses to let happen off the page?  Do you like the words the author used?  Was the story told with dynamic, boring, or casual language?

I hope the next time you finish a book, you'll at least consider leaving a review for it.  You already know the questions to ask yourself about it.  You've spent hours, days, weeks, or more reading it. What's another five minutes to tell the Internet and the author how you feel about it?

Click here to learn more about National Readathon Day.