Coming Up For Air

As I was putting away my suitcase, I realized I won’t need it again until next spring. I’ve traveled so much this year, I needed a moment to let it sink in that I don’t have any more business trips for the next three months, at least. Whew.

It’s a funny thing, writing a series of books. I knew all along what the last chapter would be, but I was as surprised as anyone else with some of the parts in between. I’ve lived with the story and those characters for so long, I’m not quite sure how to handle not having the urgency behind me to reach the finish line. I’ve worked so hard for so long, and now it’s out there in the world, for better or worse (hopefully, for better). It’s time for me to take a break and write something else for a little while (next year I’ll be working on a stand alone project), but I’m glad I don’t have to say goodbye to my characters for good. I have outlines for much more to come.

Construction is moving steadily on in the office space. Today, they put down subflooring and started work on my roof overhang. Tomorrow, they’ll finish that job and get started on the siding. After that, it’s on to the interior. Wahoo! I can’t wait.

Meanwhile, I’ve been taking care of errands this week, getting a checkup, and generally doing some of the things around the house I haven’t had time to do since my publishing journey began.

On Thursday, I’m at the St. Louis Public Library, and on Saturday, October 27, I’m at the Boonslick Regional Library for a Halloween talk about Dracula and vampires in general. Yay for books!

Next month, I’ll be working on an exciting new book project with my cousin Brianna Carlson and there’s a local author event at the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia.

In December, I’m on vacation all month long (the office move will happen then, I hope), and also the audiobook will begin production with Tiffany Flynn. I’m totally thrilled about that too!

That sounds like a lot, I know, but the pace will actually be MUCH more relaxed through the end of the year. I’m grateful for all the good things this year has brought, but I’m ready to have time to catch my breath before I start my next big thing next year.

It’s been a long road to get to this point, but I know it’s only the first stop in a lifelong journey.

Thank you for coming along with me. And for those of you who are new to the series, welcome aboard.

Trial By Blood Release and Fall Author Events

Book Release!

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One week until Trial By Blood is available for readers everywhere! The book comes out October 13, and if you preorder now, you’ll have it on the release day!

I’m extremely proud of this third book in The Blood Royal Saga.

Trial By Blood is more exhilarating, more edgy, more suspenseful, more thrilling, and I truly think it will give a satisfying sense of closure to this first story arch.

From here, there are lots of other roads I can take for future adventures in this story world, and that’s exciting too.

You can purchase ebooks as well as signed paperbacks direct from Eagle Heights Press. E-newsletter subscribers are eligible for discounts on all purchases. Sign up here.

Paperbacks are also available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and ebooks can be purchased from a variety of online retailers.


Events

Fall is a busy season for me, and I’ll be traveling all around the midwest to meet readers everywhere.

October 13 – St. Paul, Minnesota

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Find me at the 18th Annual Twin Cities Book Festival on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, October 13 (10am-5pm).

Admission and parking is free, and you can even get free metro tickets to the event.

October 18 – St. Louis, Missouri

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I’ll be at the downtown location of the Saint Louis Public Library, Thursday October 18th (6pm-8:30pm), for a Not So Quiet! Event with a free concert by DRACLA. I’ll be signing books in the main lobby. Have your selfie taken with Marie and pick up some treats while you’re there.

October 27 – Boonville, Missouri

boonville-3-720x340-cOn Saturday, October 27 (10am), I’ll be at the Boonslick Regional Library in Boonville to discuss my Search For Dracula as well as the folklore origins of the vampire myth.

Marie will be there, and I’ll have Halloween treats and fangs, as well as copies of all three books in The Blood Royal Saga.

November 17 – Columbia, Missouri

linear-transparentI’m going to be at the Daniel Boone Regional Library’s Local Authors Open HouseSaturday, November 17 (10 am-1 pm). Come by, say hi, and pick up some new books by some amazing local writers.

Scares That Care Charity Weekend

I’ll be at Scares That Care Charity Weekend in Williamsburg, VA August 3-5 !

The proceeds from this Horror Con go to help people in need, and I’m very excited to take part!

Find out more at scaresthatcareweekend.com

Trial By Blood Update

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I had hoped to have Trial By Blood: Book Three of The Blood Royal Saga ready for publication in July, but I’m pushing back the release date to October 1, 2018. I would prefer to give you a book that is written well rather than produced quickly, and in order to do that, I need more time.

I promise to make the book worth the wait, and for those who subscribe to my newsletter, I will provide a discount coupon code to make up for the delay.

If you’re not yet signed up to receive the e-newsletter, you can do so here.

May Book Sale Celebration

Use the coupon code ITBCELEBRATION at EagleHeightsPress.com to save 10% on all ebooks and paperbacks in the Blood Royal Saga! Offer good through May 31!

Meanwhile, back at the office…

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You’d think this is a bit of an exaggeration, but really, it’s kind of tempting. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be finishing Trial By Blood, only popping up sporadically when time permits.

Nearly every weekend between now and the end of June is booked, so it’s even more important for me to focus.

My website has undergone a renovation, but I will still blog from time to time, and you can expect photos from me on social media for all the events I’m attending.

And now, back into the Isolator for me! See you soon! (Send snacks)

And It’s Only Wednesday

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This week, I got some fantastic news, and I’ve been a little giddy about it, to be honest.

First of all, I received an email from the Midwest Independent Publishing Association (MIPA), notifying me that In The Blood is a finalist for the Midwest Book Award in the category of Fantasy/SciFi/Horror/Paranormal! It’s a huge honor, and I’m excited to attend the Gala in Saint Paul, Minnesota on May 12. Thanks to MIPA for considering my novel. I’m humbled and thrilled. Good luck to all the other finalists!

12273637_1610674005846058_1933617787922797193_oSecondly, on the same day, the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival in Transylvania in June announced I’m on the literary program as one of their speakers alongside a fantastic slate of others in the genre! What an exciting adventure this will be! The entire festival is truly exciting, and the trip to Romania is a lifelong dream of mine.

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Stuff I write about on the regular…

I worked on In The Blood and Out For Blood off and on for five years, and along the way I studied my craft and worked on the skills I would need in order to begin my writing career. Now that those books are finally out in the world and the next one is on its way, it’s wonderful to have other people acknowledge my efforts and agree I’m on the right path.

Wherever things go the rest of this year, I’m already starting things off on the right foot, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Reminders:

“How do I get copies of your books,” you ask? All the links for ebooks and paperbacks are conveniently listed right here.

Autographed Paperbacks and Ebooks of both installments in The Blood Royal Saga can be ordered directly from Eagle Heights Press.

If you’ve read either or both of the books, I’d love it if you’d take a moment to post a review on Goodreads or Amazon. Reviews help me learn and improve, and they also help other readers find the series as well.

Also, sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t done so yet. I promise no spam. Just updates on books and events.

Trial By Blood, Book Three of The Blood Royal Saga is set for release in July! I’ll be announcing the exact date and posting presale links soon!

 

 

New Mugs and Stuff!

I am so excited about these new mugs! Check the Eagle Heights Press website for a complete listing of all The Blood Royal Saga merch – shirts, mugs, bags – plus, signed paperbacks and ebooks are now available there as well.

 

“Why Do You Write About Vampires” and Other Questions People Ask About My Writing

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When people find out I’m a writer, I get a wide range of reactions. A lot of their questions are the same ones other people have asked before, so I thought it might be interesting to share some of those frequently asked questions.


Why do you write about vampires?

This is the most common question I get when people first discover The Blood Royal Saga. I’ve always been fascinated with folklore and mythology, and vampires are just one branch of that subject area. Writing about vampires is also partly historical fiction as well as horror, mystery, suspense, and even romance. It also lets me explore aspects of character I think are fascinating. What is it that makes us human? How do we define ourselves? I can also explore issues of ethics, existentialism, and individualism through the characters I write. I like characters who are complex and flawed, and I enjoy making them work through difficult situations that challenge their sense of self and force them to decide on their own code of morals.

Where do you get your ideas?

Usually, my story ideas begin with a “what if”.

  • What if vampires lived in St. Louis?
  • What if Marie Antoinette was a vampire?
  • What if vampirism wasn’t something supernatural but was a disease instead?

Those sorts of questions lead to a series of “If….then…” statements.

  • If vampires lived in St. Louis, then they’d need a place to hunt where they wouldn’t be as likely to be seen.
  • If Marie Antoinette was a vampire, she would have people who want to chop off her head.
  • If vampirism wasn’t something supernatural but was a disease instead, then there must be a potential cure.

From there, I get another cluster of questions, and I keep pursuing them until the story idea is fleshed out in my mind. Question –> Answer –> More Questions –> More Answers

All my ideas stem from curiosity.

How long does it take to write a book?

I know it sounds like a cop-out answer, but the truth is it depends. I was writing the first book for five years. The manuscript underwent massive rewrites, and whole sections were either cut or moved to later books. When I first started writing the book that would become In The Blood, I didn’t know it was going to be a series. I just started with a premise I thought was interesting. But the more I wrote, the more certain I was that this story was much bigger than one book could contain.

Part of the reason that first book took so long was because I was inexperienced, and the learning curve toward publishing it was steep. I was also working full time, so writing was something I couldn’t do every day.

With the sequel, Out For Blood, I had a clearer vision for what I wanted to achieve. I had made a lot of decisions for the plot, including the number of books it would take to finish this first main story arch. I also had already established most of the main characters and the story world, so I didn’t have to spend as much time making those sorts of decisions. As a result, that book went much faster. I wrote the manuscript over about three months, then spent a couple of months doing massive revisions to the text.

This third installment, Trial By Blood, is going much faster, despite having to start over on the first draft in order to accommodate changes I made to Book Two.

My expectation going into the future is that for full length novels, I’ll spend about three months writing, and then two to three months getting it ready to publish. That means I should be able to write a book or two a year. I know there are other writers who work faster and some who work much slower, but that’s a pace I feel I can maintain and still attend book events throughout the year.

But what’s your real job?

You’re looking at it. Writing is a real job for me. I know a lot of other writers hold down part time or full time gigs doing something else, but I don’t. I spent over twenty five years teaching and writing/editing for other people, but my desire to write fiction never left me. I decided after working so long serving others, it was time I started working for myself for a change. I have wanted to write books since I was five years old, and that desire never wavered. I wrote in secret. I wrote as a hobby. I wrote for the sheer joy of it. I couldn’t not write. It’s in my nature to tell stories. Now I do it to share that inner fire with others.

How much research do you do?

I am always looking up new information. I will spend months or even years learning about a place or a person or some historical event. I collect books on the subjects I’m interested in. I have traveled to many of the places I write about. I’m a stickler for detail, and those facts inform every aspect of the stories I tell, even if I don’t include every piece of what I learned in what I write. I may percolate over a story idea for years until I think I’ve learned enough to write it well.

That being said, I’m also not writing biographies or histories. My books are fiction, first and foremost, so the main ways I use that research is in helping me flesh out my characters’ backstories (much of which may not necessarily appear on the page, but which help me understand their motivations and personalities better) or to describe locations in greater detail (though I try not to over describe things to the point that people begin skimming to find the story).

What else are you writing?

I’ve submitted some short stories to a few anthologies which I’m waiting to hear back on, and I’m gathering research for the next big project I want to work on. I have a couple of young adult novels I want to write (both of which fall under paranormal or supernatural realism) as well as an adult fiction that’s sci-fi/fantasy/horror.

Are you going to continue the series after the third book in The Blood Royal Saga is done?

I have outlines written out for at least three more books in the series, though I’ve got ideas for ten or twelve more, if there is sufficient interest to justify continuing.

Who’s your favorite author?

This is the most difficult question to answer. I have so many I love. If I’m forced to choose, however, I’m going to cheat and give two names as inspiration/role models. There are plenty of other writers I love and enjoy, but these two stand out as models for my dream career path.

Anne Rice, of course, is one. I have loved all of her books and have read her work since I was in high school. I also admire her way of managing fan interaction in person and online, and the way she incorporates historical detail in her novels. She clearly does a ton of research for every book, and I appreciate that dedication to her subjects. And her characters are compelling. I admire the fact she’s been writing the Vampire Chronicles for so long and still has the passion to continue with stories that are compelling and exciting to her readers.

Neil Gaiman is a role model for me as well. I love that he hasn’t allowed himself to be pigeon-holed into one genre or medium. He writes for all ages, in a wide variety of venues, telling stories that are weird and yet deeply personal and familiar despite the strangeness of the settings or characters. I love the way he combines sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and even fairy tale to tell stories. He has an unflinching way of describing the darkest of characters. Most of his heroes’ biggest adversary is an internal flaw, and in conquering it, they’re able to overcome the external conflict as a consequence. His dialogue is fresh and snappy, and he’s a master of accents. His description is specific and yet sparse enough to give the reader room for imagination.

What’s your secret to finishing a book?

Stubbornness, I suppose. There’s not really a secret. Just keep going once you’ve started something. Sit down and write it until it’s done.

What kind of music do you listen to when you’re writing?

Anything instrumental. I can’t listen to music with words while I’m writing. I end up writing the song lyrics rather than what I meant to say or getting distracted by the song and losing my train of thought. I use noise canceling headphones to block out other ambient sounds, and then I turn the music down low enough that I barely hear it. It’s just a current in the background rather than something I focus on.

What advice would you give to a young writer who’s just starting out?

Do a lot of research and learn as much as you can from people who are doing what you want to be doing. Go to conferences. Join some professional organizations and get to know some people who are writing things you admire. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t take criticism personally, but approach it as a chance to learn and grow. When we make mistakes, we learn. And don’t get so bogged down in social media that you don’t finish writing your projects. Social media is a great tool, but it can also be a horrible distraction and a sideshow that can keep you from accomplishing your goals. Ignore the trolls and people who want to discourage you.

What are you currently reading?

Right now, I’m reading about Christopher Marlowe, some books on Celtic myths and fairy tales, and I’m reading And I Darken by Kiersten White. I’m also reading some books about writing and publishing, some business books, and I’m working my way through The Big Book of Ghost Stories.


Got other questions for me? Ask in the comments! I’ll be happy to answer.

Want to be interviewed on this blog? Let me know!

 

 

I’m traveling a lot this year. To find out where you can come meetme in person, check out my events schedule.

In The Blood and Out for Blood, the first two books in The Blood Royal Saga, are in stores now. Book Three, Trial By Blood, is due out this summer.

 

Get Bitten Rafflecopter Giveaway!

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Between Monday, March 19 and Monday, April 2, I’m doing a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win:

  • a free tote bag
  • the first two ebooks in my Blood Royal Saga vampire series

A $30 value!

Click on the link below for all the ways to enter:

Get Bitten Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Five ways I use Bullet Journaling

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I have always been a list maker. From the time I could fit a pencil in my hand and scribble down the thoughts in my head, I loved making lists of things. It began with cataloging things. Books on my shelf. My matchbox cars. Names of all my Barbies.

When I got a little older, I learned the joy of task lists. My mother learned quickly that the way to motivate me to do my chores was to give me a list I could check off with glee. I often would do more than had been written on the paper simply so I could mark those things as done too.

That’s why upon seeing my friend’s bullet journal last year, I realized that I needed to make this ritual a regular part of my life. It was the best decision I ever made.

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Big Dream Planning
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Master Schedule

 

My bullet journal is more than just a collection of lists. Though that is what it was originally designed to do, there are so many other ways to use it.

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My bullet journal is my:

  • annual calendar
  • event planner
  • weekly task list
  • day runner schedule
  • grocery and errand list
  • assignment checklist
  • progress chart
  • gratitude journal
  • habit tracker
  • organizational tool for both work and personal goals
  • diary
  • diet success tracker
  • reading list
  • bingewatch record
  • motivational guide
  • idea notebook
  • creative outlet for calligraphy and doodling, as well as an adult coloring book
  • anything else I can imagine it being

Okay, so that’s a lot more than five ways.

I credit my use of the bullet journal for keeping me on task while I published two books last year and participated in a series of writing and book-related events. My bujo is also the way I keep track of my weight loss, manage all my family errands and activities, remember my appointments, know when to expect packages, and maintain a migraine trigger record to share with my doctor.

Though I do a lot of calligraphy and use multicolored markers and washi tape to decorate my pages, that is all embellishment of a truly simple concept. It’s not necessary to do all that in order to use the bullet journal. All you need to start is a good pen and a blank notebook in order to begin. The rest is all up to you.

There are a ton of ideas you can find online by Googling “bullet journal” or by searching Pinterest. Here are a few of my favorite websites that helped me get started:

Off and Running

img_3469-1I often feel like the start of a new year is like the beginning of a race toward a list of accomplishments I hope to complete before the year’s end. Last year is the first year in a long time when I completed everything I set out to accomplish, and now I feel like I need to set the goalposts a little higher to keep challenging myself.

One of my new challenges is to write a new blogpost every week. So here I am, tackling that resolution on time.

Years ago, I was good about blogging on a regular basis. I wrote nearly every day on a wide variety of subjects, garnered a few follower friends along the way, and I still have a few friends I keep in touch with even now as a result (Hi, Kate, if you read this!). For a ton of reasons, I lost the habit, replacing those blogposts with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts instead.

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I’m totally in love with this Marie Antoinette mug my sister gave me for Christmas.

What I’ve found, though, is that even though I’m still posting regularly in those new places, I don’t do as much in depth writing about subjects. I tend to post photos of my dog or links to things someone else posted that I thought were interesting, often without very much writing of my own to accompany them. I do have more conversations in those places, but very little of what I post is truly introspective or planned in any way.

Blog writing tends to make me slow down and really think about what I want to say. That, to me, has value, and I miss it.

Also, however, those other social media places tend to make me slip into the bad habit of looking for instant gratification and distraction. I will sit down, telling myself I’m just going to look for five minutes at the newsfeed and respond to my notifications, and the next thing I know, an hour has gone by with me skimming through people’s posts, and I still haven’t responded to the one thing I went there to do.

Social Media is great, and I love keeping in touch with people there, but if I’m ever going to finish the next book in my vampire series (or anything else, for that matter), I’ve got to be more conscious about my time. I won’t be quitting it entirely, but I need to limit myself there.

Therefore, as of this week, I resolve to spend less time on social media, and dedicate one day a week to writing longer, more well-thought-out and engaging posts. I’ll still have some fun and interesting links at the end of my blogpost. On social media, you’d be getting several of these a day, but here you’ll get the best of them, and hopefully the more narrowed focus will be more interesting.

I’m using an app called Fabulous to help me stay on track with my resolutions this year. Exercise, meditation, drinking more water, scheduling time to read…these are all a few of the things I’m trying to establish as good habits, and so far the app seems to be working. Granted, it’s only January 4th, so the real test will be if I’m still doing all those things in June.

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This cartoon by The Awkward Yeti speaks to me.

What are your resolutions? What tools are you using to hold yourself accountable? I’ve considered a Fitbit. Do I want one? Why?

Last month, I talked about how I came to terms with letting go of my original outline of Trial By Blood (the third book in my vampire series). The characters had led me along a different path in Out For Blood than what I’d originally planned, and the ending of that book meant that I had to rethink everything for the next one. I’ve begun writing now with the new plan, and I’m very excited about how things are going already.

I’m doing a ramped up version of the 90-Day Write (The annual challenge to write 85,000 words in 90 days (January through March) is also the 90-Day Write cycle, the first cycle in the year-long 85K Writing Challenge) but instead of writing the book in 90 days, I plan to complete it by the end of February. It won’t be the finished version by any means, but the first draft of the story will be complete and ready to be revised and edited in March and April. I intend to release the book in the summer, and I’m hoping for July 1st as a publication date (though that isn’t quite set in stone yet). That is very quick turn-around, I know. I also know that I can do it.

TBBMockupCover copyIn setting up the publishing schedule for Trial By Blood, I’ve set myself some very straightforward goals and deadlines. This strategy worked for me last year, enabling me to publish the first two books of the trilogy five months apart, so I am confident I’ll be able to release this third installment on time too.

When I began working from home, I had trouble at first sticking to a regular schedule. There was always something around the house to do – laundry, dishes, etc. – and I had a hard time setting firm boundaries with my family and friends, so I often answered the phone or ran errands during time I had planned to set aside for work. But then I thought about what I would say to an employee of mine who did those things rather than stay on task during work hours, and I knew that had to change if I was ever going to accomplish all of my goals.

No one takes you seriously as a professional if you don’t treat yourself that way.

Once I’d internalized that simple but essential truth, I had a sit down with my family and established clear ground rules. Set office hours. Firm boundaries. No interruptions except for mealtimes, and even then, if I’m on a roll, I can’t always just stop what I’m doing. They text rather than call when they need something unless it’s an emergency, and understand that it may take a little while before I respond. I explained that just as I wouldn’t show up at their place of business and interrupt their work expecting instant attention when they had projects or customers to focus on, they couldn’t walk into my office or call in the middle of my writing time and expect me to drop what I’m doing either. Just because I’m at home, that doesn’t mean I am not working. I have set aside specific days for errands and tasks around the house, and I do a lot of cooking ahead in bulk and then freezing meals that can be easily reheated so I don’t have to spend every weekday at the stove rather than at my desk.

I’m probably the hardest boss I’ve ever had. I work extremely long days, frequently eating lunch at my desk and working until late in the evening (like now, for example). I work holidays and weekends. I almost never take a day off unless I’m sick, and even then I often work from bed. I work even when I’m on “vacation.” But honestly, this is the first time in my life I’ve had total autonomy over every aspect of what I do. That’s both thrilling and kinda scary, really, when you stop and think about it. If everything goes well, I get all the credit. If everything crashes and burns, it’s entirely my fault. That’s why I work so hard. I’m fully invested in every step along the way, and the final product reflects entirely on me. I wake up every day truly excited to get to work. The hardest part of my day is making myself stop, knowing there’s more I wish I had time to do.

In years past, when I finished a big writing goal, I bought myself one big thing I truly wanted. Generally, it was an expensive book, but this year, when I finish writing Trial By Blood, I’m buying myself a Remote Control Millennium Falcon. I have no idea where I’ll fly it, though I’m pretty certain my dogs will go berserk at the Chewbacca sound effects, and those reactions will make it all worth it.

A friend of mine recommended an app called Litsy for authors, and I made an account, but I haven’t really figured out what to do with it yet. It seems like a version of Instagram but with a very narrow focus, although I admit that maybe I am misunderstanding the purpose.

Do any of you use Litsy? How? I haven’t posted there yet because frankly I’m confused, and it feels like an extra thing that could turn into a distraction rather than something I really need. If you use it, tell me about your experience in the comments. I’m really curious.

Finally, here’s some stuff I found interesting this week:

  • I just finished the second season of The Crown on Netflix, and now I am bereft. Claire Foy and Matt Smith are wonderful in their roles as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, and the show deserves all the accolades it’s garnered over these first two seasons. I am glad I’ve finished the last of the episodes, however, since I’ll be working hard to finish writing the next book.
  • The Ancient Roman Cult That Continues to Vex Scholars  – The Mithraic Mysteries worshipped a pagan god from subterranean temples buried throughout the empire.  – once I’ve got a little time, I want to do some deeper research into this. I find this glimpse into the unknown past fascinating.
  • Would You Get Expelled From Hogwarts (Flowchart) – Spoiler Alert: I would.

Got other things I should see? Drop me a line in the comments!

Reminders:

“How do I get copies of your books,” you ask? All the links for ebooks and paperbacks are conveniently listed right here.

Autographed Paperbacks of both installments in The Blood Royal Saga can be ordered directly from Eagle Heights Press.

If you’ve read either or both of the books, I’d love it if you’d take a moment to post a review on Goodreads or Amazon. Reviews help me improve and they also help other readers find the series as well.

Also, sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t done so yet. I promise no spam. Just updates on books and events.