A Double Dose of Awesome: Author Interview & Holiday Giveaway

It’s that time of year again. Trees are dressed like girls going to prom, boxes accumulate like snow, and I disappear for a few weeks. That’s right, it’s Christmas! And because I said it would be an annual occurrence, (and really, I just like giving you stuff) that also means it’s time to announce this year’s Holiday Giveaway. But first, I have an extra bonus. The lovely Cally Ryanne, author of Echoes of Balance, has agreed to stop by and give us some insight on what it’s like to be a new author, what her publication journey was like, and what you should expect from her debut novel.

I featured Echoes of Balance a few weeks ago under my From the Editor’s Desk series, so if you’re curious about the book, hop on over there. Otherwise, I’ll let Cally tell you about it herself. 😉


1. First, thank you for joining us today and congratulations on the release of your debut novel! Tell us a little about it; what kind of experience should readers expect?
Thank YOU for featuring me, editing Echoes (y’all — Kisa is a phenomenal editor), and making this book an awesome first experience. Really. 🙂

(Note from Kisa: Aww, thanks Cally! That means a lot. <3)

Echoes is about Chloe Moraine, the youngest of the Naimei, an ancient line of beings charged with keeping the universe in balance. But she wasn’t always sold on this particular responsibility; following their Ways can be boring, and so, for a long while, she set off to be a vampire hunter, to do something that felt more immediate and important. It’s not until her family receives warning that Pan and Damonos, the original demons and premiere forces of chaos, are set to return that Chloe resumes her Naimei duties, and then she does so with a conflicting view of the world: things can’t all be as black and white as the Ways would have the Naimei believe.

When the Ways, themselves, begin to fail, Chloe is approached by Josef, an unnervingly charming vampire who seems to know more about the Originals than anyone outside the Naimei fold should. It seems as if her best bet to save the world is to trust him, but doing so will lead her to a darker side of the supernatural than she’s ever seen, and may alienate her family in the process.

I think the experience readers should expect is immersive. The book has been a long time coming — there’s a lot to Chloe and her world beyond just this story. Get ready. 🙂

Chloe Moraine, high school superhero by day, universe balancer and occasional vampire hunter by night. — Echoes of Balance, 2013

2. This is the first in a trilogy, isn’t it? Anything you can tell us about the next book?
It totes is the first in a trilogy! Echoes stays pretty focused on Chloe’s life in the immediate right now, and the things she’s (mostly) used to experiencing. It’s her world, as far as Echoes is concerned. Book two — literally, that’s what the document is called right now, I’m so terrible at titles — expands a lot of Chloe’s borders, so to speak. There are new places, and a lot of new characters. Her world starts expanding — quickly — and she sort of has to deal with the fall out of that, along with all the decisions she’s made in book one.

Also, as it stands now, the first word (prologue aside) is Ducante. Man, I just love that guy. Can’t get enough of him.

(Note from Kisa: Awesome! Ducante was one of my favorite characters. Nothing like a snarky, bar-tending demon to complete things, you know? 😉 )

Meeting a vampire at a bar was certainly not the most dangerous thing she could do. But it was far from the least. — Echoes of Balance, 2013

3. This story is clearly one that’s very dear to you. Please tell us a little about your road to publication. What steps did you take? How did you ensure the story you love is the one that readers can now hold?
If we go back to the Way Back, the first step to publication was to totally “murder my darlings”. Chloe & company have been around for some time, and they’ve had lots of starts to their stories. That’s what happens when you think you can write novels in like, middle school. Plot holes, bad writing, plots that didn’t lead anywhere, and none of them fit, really. So eventually, there had to be a time where the pallet was cleansed — all these things I’d been building and thinking about and the what if this happened’s had to get out to make room for something real and solid and logical, but still true to the characters. Because, in the end, they were what mattered most to me.

Then I wrote and wrote and wrote forever, reworked and edited, got sick of editing, edited some more, agonized over a query letter, and then sent that query letter out to ten thousand people. Then got rejected by ten thousand people, put the book on hold for awhile, and repeated that last process again a few more times.

And, FYI, when you actually do get accepted, you have to go back to that write/edit/get sick of looking at your own words process all over again. It’s a blastity blast.

He was handsome . . . with chiseled features that screamed there was an aspiring actor resumé with his name on it somewhere. — Echoes of Balance, 2013

4. You chose to publish with a new, indie publisher instead of following the popular trend of self-publishing. What has that experience been like? Would you recommend working with a smaller press? (And please answer honestly. I promise I won’t hold anything you say against you.)
So, I feel like I should stress that my experience was definitely different than people working with big publishers (because duh) and probably a little different than most people working with indie publishers (because new). I was actually approached by Ashley, one of the REUTS founders, on a writing site and encouraged to submit my then mostly-finished-and-edited manuscript, and I’m the first book (!) to come out of REUTS.

That being said, I had never really seriously considered self publishing. I was sort of the exhausted mom that really needed it to be summer so her kid could go away to camp for awhile. I loved my manuscript, but I just didn’t have it in me to do everything that’s needed to self publish successfully, so that it was actually polished and professional looking and not just something that was stuck up on Amazon at 3 a.m. I figured if no one would accept me now, I would just keep writing and try again in a few years, or something, and if that didn’t work, I’d have to self publish when I actually had time to devote to it. (Which isn’t really an option when you’ve just graduated college, moved to a new city and started a new job.)

If I’m super honest, the first time I emailed Ashley, I was stupid nervous that this was just going to be some prank or grandiose dream of authors-who-wanted-to-publish-other-authors that wasn’t really going to go anywhere. But, a little over a year later, and there are real paperback copies of my fully edited book. And it’s awesome.

I’m a fan of indie and a big fan of smaller presses in general, and working with them is great. There’s a lot of personal attention, everyone involved in the press is queued into what’s happening, they really care about helping you and being new, and small, and indie, they’re totally open to being experimental and adaptive. Some things to consider, though, is that small presses — and new small presses, at that — don’t necessarily have the same experience as bigger names. REUTS is awesome, but I can see how you could easily get other presses who think they know what they’re doing but really don’t (my initial panic when Ashley emailed me). So, I guess, tread with caution if you seek a new operation to publish with. Also, consider what you want out of publishing — I just wanted to be able to share my story, but some people want to be able to walk into Barnes and Noble and see their book on the New and Now table. Different publishers have different resources that can give you different things!

Night was several hours off, and she didn’t have time to play host to a pseudo-corpse. — Echoes of Balance, 2013

5. Could you please describe what actually happens during the publication process? What should authors expect after they sign a contract?
Let’s start with what you should not expect:

That your book magically goes away to some factory-land that puffs out rainbows, and comes out the other side this polished, beautiful thing ready to head to booksellers everywhere.

Don’t expect that.

As soon as you sign the contract, you start in on your book proper. Finding a title that fits (this might be a personal problem — I’m pretty awful at titles), making cover decisions, starting the process of editing. I was lucky enough to be able to edit right in my Google Doc, (instant feedback, whoo!) but that also meant coming home from work and having thirty to fifty comments I needed to address on top of normal life. It can be a lot. And you’re going to keep having to tweak, cut, change, rewrite, and add to this thing you thought was great because, duh, someone wanted to publish it. But just because someone wants to publish you doesn’t mean your book is perfect. Yet.

She knew nothing of high school beyond the basic conventions, structure, & potential for heaping amounts of teenage angst. — Echoes of Balance, 2013

6. What’s been your favorite part?
I actually love getting edits. They’re tiring and sometimes I’m just like, ugh, I can’t look at this, but it’s also awesome to see comments from someone else who is as critical of and as invested in your story as you.
7. And lastly, what advice would you give to other aspiring authors out there?
Gut check your expectations. That being said, keep on keeping on!

Why did vampires always incorporate puns into their conversation? Did they try, or did it just happen? — Echoes of Balance, 2013



Thank you, Cally! 🙂

To find out more about Echoes, The Ways Trilogy, and Cally, be sure to visit her author website, or connect with her on Twitter: @callyryanne.  And, of course, Echoes of Balance is out now! So head to your favorite online retailer or meander over to REUTS Publications to pick up a copy.

Which leaves us with only one more piece of business: the Holiday Giveaway. In honor of Cally’s achievement and the first release from REUTS (which I might have had a small part in), I decided to give away 3 copies of Echoes of Balance. Yep, 3 lucky people can score one of the beautiful paperback editions for free! (Why 3? Who knows. That seems to be my magic number.) Ready to enter? Click here!The drawing will be held on New Year’s Day, and the winners will be announced that following Friday (1/3/14).

Until then, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday and I’ll see you in the new year! 🙂


The Anatomy of a Successful Short Story

Short stories. Some people love them, others can’t stand them. But no one can deny they’re an entirely different creature from novels.

This week, I’ve been judging entries for the ProjectREUTSway competition held during the month of November. Buried amid 144 short stories, I started to think about what exactly makes one “successful”. I think most of you know by now that I, myself, published 3, so this is a topic that hits very close to home. It’s also one I’ve never really stopped to think about. Until now. Because, let’s face it, short stories are strange. Similar to novels and yet completely dissimilar, they require a certain — almost magic — recipe to really shine. I don’t believe in the undefinable though, (at least not when it comes to writing) so let’s see if we can’t identify the exact ingredients that make short stories such a unique form of storytelling.

Short stories are often considered a novelist’s training wheels; the idea being that someone can learn the basics of storytelling through short stories and then graduate into novels. But that’s not exactly what happens. Because, in reality, they require two different skill sets to pull off well. A short story is not a truncated novel, nor is a novel an elongated, rambling short story. Rarely can the concept for one be turned successfully into the other. And yet people still try. Why? Because short stories have been given a bad rap. Novels take all the glory, leaving short stories to rot in creative writing jail like fiction offenders. They’re looked down on as an inferior form of narrative, an eighth grade diploma to the novel’s PHD. After all, the only difference between them is length, right?


There are three things a successful short story must have: brevity, focus, and telling. Yes, you heard me, telling. But before you get your knickers in a bunch, let me explain further.

1. Brevity

Novelists are taught the value of brevity. But even the most refined novels still sprawl, meandering through details and settings and other things short story authors simply can’t afford. Literally every word matters in a short story. No detail is extraneous. If we mention the light blue collar on a random cat, you can bet that collar is important somehow.

The same holds true for the words themselves. Novelists are allowed to write sentences like this:

She paused, grabbing the handle of the stainless steel refrigerator and pulling it open with a subtle flick of her wrist.

(Hey, no comments on the quality. Clearly, I know that sentence is atrocious. I’m proving a point. 😉 )

That’s 21 words to say this:

She opened the refrigerator door.

Yes, that may be a bit exaggerated, but you see what I mean, I hope. When you only have maybe 5000 words of space, every letter has to serve a purpose. Successful short stories know this, and the language/storytelling is as finely honed as a scalpel. If it doesn’t somehow move the plot along, impart valuable information or absolutely have to exist, it doesn’t.

2. Focus

I’m a firm believer that every story should have a message, a reason for existing. But maybe that’s because I started out as a short story author. Whenever I come up with an idea, I identify the core message first, before the setting, characters, or even plot. For example, The Bardach is a story about identity, Spinning is about fate, and Confessions is about losing faith. Even Unmoving has a focal point. At its core, its about compassion. This type of focused narrative is one of the more notable differences between a short story and a novel.

Short stories are single-minded. Like a starving man spotting food, they keep their eyes on the prize. None of this wandering off into detours, flashbacks, subplots or other shenanigans that novels get away with. Nope, they have one message, one plot, one climatic moment that everything points to. And, interestingly enough, short stories are typically driven by an event, rather than a character. The focus is on the action, not the person doing it.

How does this translate into our recipe for success? Well, you’ll be able to feel the underlying drive in a really good short story. You’ll walk away from it remembering the message, not necessarily the characters. So make darn sure you know what you’re saying, both literally and subtextually.

3. Telling

All right. I know this is the one you were waiting for. After all the times “show, don’t tell” has been beaten into your head, you simply can’t believe I’d actually stand here and advocate telling, can you? Well, I’m not really.

See, the thing is, showing is still 100% better than telling. But, telling is allowed in a short story. Due to the limited amount of time you have to impart your narrative, there’s really no way around it. You don’t have the luxury of wasting thousands of words, or even hundreds, showing us the back-story. Nor can you illustrate anything directly outside the timeline of the main event, regardless how important it may be. So that only leaves one option — telling. You should still avoid the dreaded info-dump if you can, but slipping in the occasional line of summary, or a paragraph of back-story, won’t automatically earn you peer derision. Well, most of the time, anyway.

Successful short story authors are masters of knowing when to tell and when to show. (Which, by the way, I am not. Just wanted to clarify that in case anyone thought I was going to be cocky and throw myself on that list.) They give you just enough information — typically in the form of telling — to make their worlds/characters feel as fleshed out as a novel’s, but not so much that you really notice. They cover a lot of ground in a really short amount of time, making this the hardest skill on the list. It actually requires mastery of the other two to pull off, which is why I listed it last.

And there you have it; the anatomy of a successful short story. Learn how to control these three elements and your short fiction will stand out in a pile like little beacons. And let’s all try to stop viewing short stories as the lesser form of fiction. They’re not inferior. Just different.

The 5 Stages of Writing on a Deadline

We’ve done a lot of serious posts lately here on Nightwolf’s Corner. Awesomely helpful, yes, but serious. So this week, I wanted to mix it up and create something humorous. But as I was busy dusting off my sarcasm, gearing up for a good old-fashioned snark-fest, I stumbled on a fortuitously timed post by one of my favorite, soon-to-be-famous authors. See, he’s a snarky son-of-a-gun too, and while I could have put my rusty skills to good use, he beat me to the punch. He even used a similar topic to my as-yet-unwritten post. So either he somehow magically hacked into my brain, or it’s that “great minds” phenomena we always hear about. Either way, his post had me ROFL-ing, LOL-ing and all those other acronyms for laughing we never say in real life. So I thought, why not share it with all of you? You’ve hung around me long enough that I’m sure you’ll appreciate the brilliance of his wit as much as I do.

Next week, I promise, original material is coming your way. I’ll be dissecting the anatomy of a short story in the literary equivalent of science class. But in the meantime, take a break from the serious and enjoy!

I present to you: Drew, master of sarcasm. Take it away, Drew!


Photo of Drew Hayes


The 5 Stages of Writing on a Deadline

By Drew Hayes

Writing, much like grief, moves in phases. The ideal process for artistic creation is the slow, gentle growth of an idea, watching it bloom from mere idle thoughts into a cohesive, beautiful flower. Then, of course, there’s writing on a deadline. This process is more akin to trying to steer a lawnmower while your drunken uncle fights you for the wheel and a swarm of honeybees swoops about, rightfully angry about the beer bottle your aforementioned uncle threw into their hive. (If this analogy made no sense to you, congratulations on not living in the country.) Point being, writing on a deadline is a crazy, often senseless process that feels as though you’re being swarmed by painful distractions. Though, to be fair, in a perfect analogy you’d be the drunk uncle. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Stage 1: Stupidity, a.k.a., I Can Totally Handle This

This is a beautiful stage, a wonderful place that you’ll find yourself at time and again. You’ve found a project that you’re suited for and been accepted into the position. You have zero fear you can handle this, because the magic of repression has given you the power to block out what your last project was like. You do everything right in this phase; you make an outline, schedule time specifically dedicated to work on this project, and even make a step-by-step checklist. You are fearless. You’ve got this shit down cold.

In fact, you’ve got it down so cold, you’re not even stressing about it. Until that window you set up to work on the project gets chomped away by angrier, more demanding tasks that are further along in the process and soon, all too soon, you’ve hit crunch time. Now you really need to write. So you finally enforce that window and sit down to truly punch out stuff on the keyboard.

Stage 2: Holy Shit, a.k.a., What Was I Thinking?

Nothing. Not one idea. Come on, you can do this. You had a billion ideas when you took on the project. There has to be one left in your brain. Just one. You’ll do anything. Come on. Focus. Foooocus. Don’t look at the spot on the wall. It’s not mold. Because you live in a dry climate and mold doesn’t look like finger smudges, that’s how I know. And now you’re cleaning the “mold” even though that’s totally not what it was. Feel better? Oh, hey, idea! No, not about the project, but related to the project. Remember that outline you did? Maybe there are some ideas in that.

Huh . . . this is wordy, detailed, and totally useless. Look at Point #4: draw out deeper meaning of previous subject. They’re all like that. Everything hinges on something else, and there’s no start point. Okay, deep breaths. At least you’ve got a plan if you do ever think of a starting point. Look, there’s an old truth to writing that if you’re stuck, just write anyway. Just put words down and sooner or later something cohesive will form. Type gibberish if you must, just type something.

Stage 3: Desperation, a.k.a., Shit’s ‘Bout To Get Real

Well, it’s the last day before the project is due, and you’ve written 30,000 words of gibberish. I’ll be honest, I’m impressed with the dedication, though I had hoped eventually real words might come out. Still, let’s not give up hope yet. Maybe you can still pull something off. I mean, you’ve done this before. Go look at notes from old projects. Perhaps the secret to breaking through your block lies in there.

Wow . . . these are . . . wow. I’m around ninety percent sure having this combination of words written down is a felony, along with a serious cry for help. Also, a good half of that isn’t English. Scratch that, it isn’t even language, at least nothing a healthy mind could identify as such. No, don’t throw it out, there are children in the world who could stumble across this. Burn it. Cleanse it with fire and hope there can be forgiveness in your next life. Only when that’s done can we continue to scour for the key to unlocking inspiration.

Okay, those pages are gone, though it took them a curiously long time to burn, and the whole house smells like smoke and regret. After a bit more digging, you’ve found different sets of notes from your last project. Let’s take a gander and see what you’ve got.



Teardrop stains.

Enthusiastic cursing.

A cocktail recipe.

Eh, what the hell, seems like as good a time as any to progress to the next step.

Step 4: Booze, a.k.a., Hang On Just A Minute . . . I Know What I’m Talking . . . Here Shush . . . Just Let Me Say One More Thing And I Will — Zzzzzzz

If it was good enough for Hemingway, it’s good enough for you. Furiously hurling vodka down your throat like there’s a gasoline fire in your belly and you have no concept of how putting out a fire works, you take an alcoholic wrecking ball to your sober consciousness. Soon the ideas begin to flow. Unfortunately, they aren’t ideas directly related to the project you’re working on. No, texting your ex is a bad idea; they don’t want to hear from you. I don’t care how unhappy you think they looked in their wedding photo on Facebook, they don’t want to hear from — aaaand you’re texting anyway.

Several drinks later, you’ve worked through nearly all the alcohol stocked in your meager bar, save for the break-in-case-of-emergency last resort: Tequila. You know you shouldn’t do it, but by Faulkner you’ve come this far, and, at this point, you’d rather go down in flames than burn away gently. You guzzle straight from the bottle, downing the well-grade liquor in less time than it took for the under-paid clerk to slap it on the sale shelf. This is going to be bad.

The next few hours pass in a blur. Only snippets and highlights will remain once the alcohol has run its course:

You remember trying to order a pizza on the phone, only for the clerk to consistently reiterate that you have dialed a dry-cleaner. You are not fooled by his lies.

You know you uploaded a clip to YouTube. Unfortunately, you have no memory of what was on it, the name it was under, or even the account you used to post it. You will spend the next six months trying to find it and/or hoping you cannot be identified by the footage. That hope will eventually be dashed.

You fill more pages with the cursed writing, the arcane script that made those previous pages so difficult to burn. This time you hide them so that your sober-self cannot unmake your hard work. There can be no more interruptions, not with the rising so near.

You sit down at your computer, staring at the monitor that mocks your literary impotence with an unsullied white screen. You stick your tongue out at it. This is the last memory of the night.

Stage 5: Completion, a.k.a., Who The What Now?

As you rise slowly from the keyboard, you immediately become aware of three things. Firstly, you have a headache that would send lesser drinkers to their graves. Secondly, you slept with your face on the keyboard and will wear this waffle iron-esque mark of shame for several hours. Lastly, and most importantly, your project is complete. The crisp, neatly edited words stare back at you from the monitor, all mockery quieted. You read through them just to be sure, but everything is germane to the topic, well-worded, and grammatically correct.

You send it off to the client without asking too many questions. Better not to know, you assure yourself. Better not to ask what exactly those pages you wrote signify. Better not to wonder just what it is you might have traded away in a fit of drunken desperation.

Nope, instead you’re off to get a shower and a well-deserved bagel. Maybe you’ll even go see if there are any new projects you might be a good fit for. After all, with this beast done, you’ve got a lot of free time, and you really should try and stay productive.


For more of Drew’s deadpan hilarity, please check out his author page and follow him on Twitter.
Also, keep an eye out for his side-splitting debut novel, The Utterly Uninteresting & Unadventurous Tales of Fred, The Vampire Accountant — available Summer 2014!!!

I’d also like to send a special thanks and shout-out to V of Veronica Park’s Space for letting me syndicate this post from her fantastic When Writers Go Wrong Series. She’s got a bunch more, so if you enjoyed this one, head on over and check out the others. They’ll be running through the end of December. 🙂