Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Writing Wednesday: The Rule of Cool

I've been on a bit of a film critic kick lately. This isn't because I'm some kind of huge movie buff, but because I really enjoy listening to intelligent deconstruction of story, and movies are a lot simpler to deconstruct that novels. This is because movies and television--being vastly shorter and more limited in scope than novels, which are hemmed in only by the author's imagination--can't afford to waste story time.

Script writing is famously unforgiving. There is simply no room for anything but the most efficient and deft strokes of plot and character. Scripts are storytelling condensed down to its purest form, which means that when mistakes happen, and they happen a lot, the way the story fails tells us a lot about what is really important in narrative and why.

I just wanted an excuse to use this picture.

If you're interested, I highly recommend Every Frame a Painting for super insightful classic film criticism about why good movies are so good. Movie Bob for a funnier, more topical criticism on current releases, how they came to be, and why they succeed or fail. And finally DigiBro for an incredibly insightful and thoughtful look at the unique storytelling and directorial work that goes on in anime.

All of these channels are really good in their own areas, and while I have zero interest in ever writing a screen play or getting behind a camera, I've learned a lot from all of them. Writers have a bad habit of thinking our art form is unique, but at the end of the day, on screen or on the page, stories are still just stories. They have the same rules, same tricks, and same pitfalls regardless of medium. Tropes that appear in film and TV often appear in books. This is especially true as our modern generations grows up and starts writing stories that draw inspiration not just from our childhood novels, but also from the movies, TV, anime, comics, and video games we grew up with. My own stories are just as inspired by those shows as they are by the books I've read, and as I keep digging for new ways to become a better writer, it only make sense to turn to analysis of these other mediums to find my new tricks.

So now that I've written 200 words about how I got here, I'm going to get to the good stuff and talk about my latest favorite story concept I've gleaned from watching all these critic videos, and that is the Rule of Cool.

Writing Wednesday: The Rule of Cool

Monday, August 22, 2016

Author Career Planning

Hi Folks,

Sorry for the break in business posts, it's been a busy end of summer for me. Day camps stop 1 week short of school starting. Our son Nate also started 1st grade, which has come with a bright and earlier-than-ever schedule. I've just had my hands full parenting and keeping the house functional is all.

We're back on today though and I'd like to talk about career planning. In my opinion, the trad vs self publishing choice is just a microcosm of figuring out a real career path for yourself. There are many more and deeper choices to be made. By the end of this post, I hope to have helped guide you through some of them and that you will have a much better idea of where to go with your publishing future.

Rachel and I do this kind of exercise all the time cause we love looking forward and painting a bright future for ourselves. I hope you will too.

Author Career Planning

It starts with goal
A mentor I once had (Hi Greg!) always said, "start with the end in mind". This isn't just great advice for developing software, it's a good method for writing a book, and it's also the key for developing a career strategy and a plan.

For authors, there's a handy way of quickly finding a big goal for yourself,
Is there an author whose career you want?
This is my way of really asking you about what kind of authorial career you'd like to have should everything you try succeed reasonably well. It's a thought exercise that goes far deeper than the classic money vs fame decision of trad vs pub. I like asking people whose career they want because it's a lot easier to analyse (read: superficially judge) someone else's life than your own. 

Also, I bet that there are a surprising number of successful authors whose career you wouldn't want to have. Maybe you don't like their fans, or maybe you don't like how fast or slow they write, genre aside - maybe you don't like their books, or maybe they just travel too much. Pay attention to who you'd like to be but also who you don't want to be. I bet you'll learn something about yourself in the process.

Take a minute to think about it. Then we'll move on.

Good? Great!

Now, I'd like to ask you some questions then.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Keeping the Ball Rolling

First, the usual stuff! Heartstrikers 3 is still out and the reviews are great!! Thank you so so SO much if you've read and reviewed my book! Reviews, good or bad, are one of the best things you can give to an author. Thank you all for yours!

(And if you've read the book and haven't reviewed it yet, I'd love it if you'd leave your two cents on Amazon. Even a single sentence helps. Thank you a ton!)

Now, blog time!

Writing Wednesday: Keeping the Ball Rolling

I've talked a lot on this blog about what to do when the writing is going badly. I've talked about what to do when you think your writing sucks, how to pump yourself up when you're not writing as much as you think you should, how to shut up your inner editor, how to shut up everyone else and just write. Lots of troubleshooting! 

But what about the other side of the coin? What do you do when the writing is going really well? How do you keep that going?

The writing is never ending.

Good writing days can feel like perfect summer afternoons. They appear seemingly out of nowhere, are fantastically amazing, and then they're gone, and you're right back to normal. I always thought this was just part of the mercurial nature of writing. Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down, and sometimes you're in the middle, but no matter what happens, the writing has to get done.

This was my writing philosophy for years, and just from what I've read on other writing blogs, I'm pretty sure it's a lot of other writers' too. But after I discovered the incredible results that come from being more analytical about my writing, I've been a lot less accepting of the idea that things just "happen" in writing. After all, if bad writing days happen for a reason, like if your plot is broken or you're forcing yourself to write in the wrong direction, then good writing days must happen for a reason as well.

Sometimes it's really obvious. When I'm rolling on the climax of a book and everything that's going to happen is already right there in my head, that's pretty much a guaranteed good writing day streak. Or if I'm finally getting to write a scene I've been waiting to write FOREVER. That's a good day! 

Now, obviously, you can try to generate more of these situations by making sure you're always excited about what you're writing. I do this so much, it's one of the three tricks I used to go from 2,000 words a day to 10,000. But being while excited about what you're writing is pretty much the base for all good writing days, it's not the be-all-end-all one shot solution.

In a perfect world, just being excited about what you're writing would be enough to guarantee great, productive, happy writing days every time. But, no spoiler, this isn't a perfect world. You can be over the moon about what you're going to write today and still have a shitty writing day for a whole host of other reasons that have nothing to do with your story. 

This is grossly unfair. If I do the work of setting up a phenomenal story, I should be rewarded with words pouring from my fingertips, dammit! But, as we all know, that doesn't always happen. Sometimes, that's because the planning wasn't actually as phenomenal as I thought, but just as often, the book itself is fine. I'm the one the one with the problem. Maybe I'm tired, maybe I'm hungry, maybe I'm in a bad mood over stuff that has nothing to do with writing. 

There's a whole world of reasons out there that can stomp on even the best writing days, and part of the challenge of writing professionally--which is to say, writing well every day--is learning to sail over these toughs and peaks with an even keel. We have to figure out how to keep the ball rolling on the good writing days even when we're not having great days ourselves, so (since no Rachel Aaron blog post would be complete without a list) let's talk about how to do that!

How to Get and Keep Good Writing Days

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Writing Wednesday: The Addictive Power of Emotional Investment (Part 2)

Now that Heartstrikers 3 is out in the wild, I can FINALLY get back to real blog posts! Today's is the long promised conclusion to The Addictive Power of Emotional Investment from two weeks ago.

Last time, we focused on creating characters people can't help but fall in love with and then making them climb impossible walls to keep your audience on the edge of their seat. This time we're going to look at the plotting side of how to make readers hopelessly addicted to your work.

But first, I was on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast hosted by the amazing SFF author Lindsay Buroker! We talked Heartstrikers, what kind of marketing/promo we did for the launch, and all sorts of fun writing business stuff. It was an absolute blast and the recording is already up for free on line, so I really hope you guys will give it a listen!

Now, on with the blogging!

Writing Wednesday: The Addictive Power of Emotional Investment (Part 2)

In part one , we talked about how to build reader addiction for your work by giving them characters they have to care about and then making those characters suffer. Why suffering? Because suffering, pain, crisis, and all those other tortures authors inflict on their characters is what creates the tension and conflict that make stories interesting.

This is nothing new. I actually wrote an entire post about how the formula for writing character driven stories is Motivation + Conflict + Setting = Plot. But while creating lovable people and then forcing them to lead lives of intense drama is a guaranteed winning formula for addictive books, forcing your people to climb impossible walls to reach their goals is just the first step.

If you want your books to be truly memorable, stay-up-all-night, force-my-friends-to-read experiences, you have to go a step further. Creating lovable characters and putting them in danger is quite frankly just a basics of good writing, one of those fundamentals you'll find in pretty much every book worth reading.

There's nothing wrong with that! Creating a book worth reading is a giant accomplishment for any writer, new or established. But this post is all about reaching beyond that. It's about finding what's necessary to hit that next level and turn a good book into a favorite book.

First though, a disclaimer.

What I'm about to say is just my opinion. You may very well disagree with, or even flat out hate, what I'm about to say, and that's fine. The best thing about writing books is that there's no one right way. Every author approaches their art differently. This is how I do it. Will it work for you? I certainly hope so, but if it doesn't resonate, that's okay. It doesn't mean one of us is wrong, it just means we're different writers, and that's great! The world takes all kinds.

My aim today isn't to dictate, but to illustrate. I hope that by explaining how I approach these problems, I can help you understand more about your own books. That's always my goal here at Pretentious Title: to shine whatever light I've made for myself into the murky, sometimes blind art we call fiction in the hopes of making the path easier on someone else.

So without further ado, let's dig into the specifics and talk about how, exactly, we can go from good characters in tough situations to great characters in terrifying situations.

Friday, August 5, 2016


The wait is over!

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is finally here!

You can get it for your Kindle, cuddle it IRL as a print edition, or read it free via Kindle Unlimited. Or, if you'd rather have someone really talented read it to you (luxury!), the audio edition comes out September 13! There really is no downside, here.

If you've already preordered, thank you so much! The book should have been automatically added to your Kindle last night. If you don't see it, just click to sync and update your library in your Kindle options and it should pop right in. Again, thank you thank you THANK YOU for your support, and I really hope you enjoy the book!

And as a final bonus, if you didn't see Wednesday's blog post, we commissioned some art from the fantastic Gergana (she of the amazing illustrated Heartstriker book reviews) of my personal favorite chapter of book 3!

Click to see in glorious full resolution!

We commissioned this picture for you guys (well, also for me because OMG AMELIA) as a way of saying thank you for being my fans! Feel free to use it for whatever your heart desires, and thank you again for being my readers. None of this would be possible without you!

Well, that's enough out of me. I hope you all have a lovely weekend of reading, and thank you again for everything!

Yours always,

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Heartstrikers Extravaganza!

So I had a giant Writing Wednesday post typed up for you all, but I decided to save it until next week because 1) it's not quite where I want it to be yet and I've run out of time to make it good, and 2) I've been really busy since my third Heartstriker novel, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, comes out THIS FRIDAY!

Preorder it now and you could be reading at midnight on Thursday!

I know, I know, cop out right? But I promise you'd rather wait and have the good post than see the broken slop I've got now, and I've got good news to cheer you up. Not only are we a mere two days from launch and the first two Heartstriker books both on sale for $1.99 AND the audio edition has been announced for September 13 (preorder it here!), but the print edition is now right here in my hot little hands!


That's right, the print edition of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, which is huge and beautiful and smells divine in person, will be going on sale this Friday same as the ebook!! Alas, Createspace doesn't allow us to do preorders, but barring hideous disaster, the book will be up on the Amazon page on launch day! So if you're someone who likes to cuddle your books, don't miss it. Seriously, y'all, this is a big, slick, good looking pile of book~! (rubs face on cover)

I know what you're thinking. It can't get any better than this! But that's where you wrong, because it can (and now will).

To celebrate the coming together of all things dragon, we asked our favorite fan artist Gergana (she of the amazing illustrated Heartstriker book reviews) to draw us a new illustration of my favorite scene from book three. To my delight, she came through in spades.


Click for full glorious resolution!

That's right! That's Amelia the Planeswalker, Svena the White Witch, and Marci, just Marci, hanging out, drinking, and talking magic together. It's both not what you'd think and exactly what you'd think, and I just KNOW you're going to love it when the book drops on Friday! 

Until then, I hope you enjoy the art. Save it, share it, make a wallpaper, do whatever you like! This is our gift to you guys for being such amazing fans. Thank you all for reading my books!!

As I said, I'll be back next week with a (corrected and not terrible) writing post. Until then, I really really hope you enjoy No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. And for those of you who haven't gotten around to the series yet, now is a great time to give a try on the cheap since both of the first two books are on sale for $1.99 all month!

Again, thank you all so much for reading and being my fans. You guys are what make everything I do possible, and I can't show my gratitude enough. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I really hope you enjoy No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished!

Yours forever,

Monday, August 1, 2016

Kind of a Big Deal (BOOKS ON SALE!)

Travis is doing his civic duty by answering his jury summons, so there's no business post today. But all is not lost! We just got word from Amazon that BOTH Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another are part of the August Kindle Big Deal! 

Amazon be like...
That's right! Both books are on sale for $1.99 all this month

Smile, Julius, you're on sale!!
So if you've been waiting for the right time to try my Heartstrikers series (or force them into someone else's hands on the cheap) now's your chance! You can buy both for the price of one and be entirely caught up in time for No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished, which comes out on ebook THIS FRIDAY!

I've got some awesome stuff planned for y'all to celebrate the release, so be sure to check back on Wednesday for all the goods. We're also this close to having the print edition ready to go and we've got the audio book lined up to launch on September 13! It's a dragon bonanza!

There's a lot of great stuff in the pipe, and we'll be getting to it very soon. For now, though, I hope you buy some books on sale and have an awesome Monday!

Until Wednesday, I remain your friendly neighborhood Spider Man author,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Sick day

Urrrgh. Feeling under the weather and COMPLETELY forgot it was Weds. Sorry guys!

I'm in no shape to put words together, so I'll be back next week with the promised continuation of The Addictive Power of Emotional Investment (or, How to Make Readers Need Your Story Like Addicts Need a Fix).

Until then, check out Trav's amazing business post from Monday if you haven't already, and don't forget that, in addition to preordering the ebook of NO GOOD DRAGON GOES UNPUNISHED (out August 5), you can also now preorder the audio book, which comes out September 13, on Amazon or directly from!


Thanks as always for reading, even if it was lame. See you all next week!

- R

Monday, July 25, 2016

Should You Start a Writing Business (Part 2)

Quick Rachel note before we get started! For those of you asking about the audio edition of NO GOOD DRAGON GOES UNPUNISHED...

That's right, the folks at Audible have come through, and the audio edition of my third Heartstrikers novel will be out on September 13, 2016!

But that's not all! Not only will you have less than a month to wait between the ebook release on August 5 and the audio edition, but the audiobook is available for preorder right now!!

That's right, in a move usually reserved for big publishers, Audible has put my book up for preorder. You can reserve your copy now at Amazon or directly from, whichever suits your fancy!

Also, I've talked with Vikas on the phone (as I always do), and you guys, he is going to be AMAZING in this book. He's even videoing some of his recording for those of you who are interested in seeing how audio books are made. I'll be posting those links as soon as they're up, so be sure to keep an eye here on the blog, Twitter, or Facebook to catch that when it comes up.

Remember, there's only a few days left before the ebook of NO GOOD DRAGON GOES UNPUNISHED comes out in ebook on August 5! If you haven't already, you can preorder your copy now or reserve it to read on Kindle Unlimited. Bob would want you to be prepared!

And with that bit of happy news out of the way, I'll pass the keyboard to Travis and his amazing, jam packed second half of Should You Start a Writing Business?

Take it away, Trav!

( > ^_^ ) >

Hi Folks,

Last week I talked broadly about the benefits of starting a business. This week, I'm going to get into specifics about the types of businesses and what they can do for you, the author. Specifically. There's a lot to talk about here, so let's get to-

Should You Start a Writing Business (Part 2)

But first, the disclaimers!

Disclaimer #1 - Because we live in America, this is intensely USA oriented information. I'm sorry if you're looking for business advice in another country.

Disclaimer #2 - I am not your legal counsel nor your qualified accountant. We do not have a client relationship. I'm telling you what I've found and heard so that you can go look into more and proper details. Don't tell the IRS "but Travis said so!" because they won't care. If you want to do anything I've talked about here, go sort it out with an actual accountant or lawyer or both.

The 6 Main Business Problems that Authors Face (that having a company can help solve...)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Writing Wednesday: The Addictive Power of Emotional Investment

Hello and welcome back to another Writing Wednesday! After the non-stop rhetorical thrills of Prose Summer Camp, I thought we'd ease back into the bigger writing picture with a look at that classic writer pass time: how to break a reader's heart and have them beg you to do it again.

That's right! Today's post is all about how you as an author can build characters and structure plots that will make total strangers stay up all night feeling real feels for made up people. So without further ado, let's dive into...

Writing Wednesday: The Addictive Power of Emotional Investment

I've talked about the importance of building reader investment before on the blog, but that article mostly focused on the mechanical plot tricks behind getting readers on board with your story. Today, we're going to go for the heart and talk about how to create, build, and manipulate your reader's emotions to create a story they'll never forget.