A New Scary Story to Tell in the Dark

Growing up, I got to know my brother’s bedroom floor pretty well. I knew all the scratches on his black-painted wooden bedposts, the rectangular shapes made by the interconnected wires holding up his mattress, the worn-out softness of his bedraggled carpet. And no, this isn’t because he pinned me to the floor and made me beg for mercy (that was reserved for when he tied me to the swingset).

I knew my brother’s bedroom floor because I slept there every time he told me a scary story. That was the rule: you scare your sister, you get to deal with her nightmares. Truth be told, I didn’t usually have nightmares after one of his stories (probably because I was too terrified to close my eyes in the first place).

Don’t get me wrong – I was a very willing audience. I BEGGED him to scare me. I especially loved it when he read to me from a particular series of books, the first of which was entitled Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz.

These books were FANTASTIC. (They actually just came out with a documentary about this series, as well as a feature film based on the first book!)

Back in the day, though, the books were just, well, books. But they were also SO much more. My elementary school friends and I passed around the Scary Stories trilogy like candy. The books terrified us, delighted us, and – most importantly – made us want to read. We had no idea at the time that parents all over the country were complaining about the series, or that the Scary Stories books were actually banned in some places!

Each book featured a collection of short stories that consisted primarily of urban legends from around the world. Some of them you would recognize as classic campfire tales: “The hook,” “High beams,” “The wendigo,” etc. (Basically the first season of Supernatural in the form of a children’s book, LOL.) Some were more obscure. Some weren’t even stories, just creepy vignettes with no real plot (“The thing” comes to mind here). Some were just about leaving a disturbing image imprinted on the reader’s brain…and boy, did they ever!

The entire series had these wonderfully gruesome, dripping-with-gore illustrations by Stephen Gammell that were as much a part of the appeal as the stories themselves. In one recent reprint, Gammell’s illustrations were actually removed and replaced, presumably for being “too intense” for young audiences. The trilogy has since been re-released with the original illustrations (thankfully) restored.

I can’t imagine a Scary Stories book without them!

Nor can I imagine my childhood without those terrifying tales. But as much as I loved reading them (or, even better, having someone else read them to me in full dramatic fashion), I often regretted the decision later, when the house was dark and quiet and all the little floorboard creaks and weirdly-shaped shadows that weren’t noticeable in the daytime suddenly came to life.

Thus, my childhood was a marvelous, ever-repeating cycle of hunger for scary stories followed by intense buyer’s remorse at having read them.

You wish you hadn’t read about me now, don’t you, dear little Gretchen? Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

For better or worse though, those dark, eerie, disturbing tales I shared with my friends as a kid shaped the person I grew up to be. To this day, I still have a special place in my heart for all things spooky and creepy…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Supernatural, The X-Files, and Grimm are long-time favorite shows of mine. On my calendar, Halloween is circled because it’s one of the most exciting days of the year. And my first-ever published story, a flash fic entitled “Grisly,” is – you guessed it – a horror story.

And now, as the leaves begin to change, and the nights grow longer, I have a new horror story coming out – one that takes me right back to my childhood, and my love-hate-love relationship with those deliciously evil scary stories.

“The Haunted Fleshies” is available now in the September 2019 Issue of The Society of Misfit Stories Presents… and I could not be more thrilled:



The story follows Grace, a little girl much like the one I used to be (and sometimes still am), who can’t get enough of her older brother’s favorite books (even though they scare the pants off her). After a terrifying nighttime encounter in her own backyard, Grace is convinced that the monsters in the books are real, and they’re coming for her. Whether or not she’s right, one thing is for certain: someone – or something – in the neighborhood has a taste for blood.

My hope is that this story will take you back to when you were a kid, sitting around a crackling campfire, swapping tales of hook men and golden arms, and laughing at how silly they are. But then, every so often, you’ll hear a branch snap or some leaves rustle and you’ll glance into the dark woods beyond your fire’s little circle of light, and wonder if maybe, just maybe, something could really be lurking out there.

Happy reading! 😉


Coming up on ATHF: Book reviews for Knight’s Honor and Plain Dane: Dawn of Power, plus a review of Lucifer Season 4 on Netflix!


Avengers, Supernatural, and the Elusive Happy Ending

Endings are hard.

No matter what the circumstances – happy, heartbreaking, or anywhere in between – it is always difficult to say goodbye to something that’s been a part of your life for years, possibly even decades.

There are a lot of endings happening in my life right now. Just last month, I watched with a pang as James Holzhauer, who’d become a comforting Jeopardy! staple, finally lost to a fellow competitor. Less than a week later, I sat in a crowd of over a thousand people, a huge smile stretching my face as my oldest nephew graduated high school with honors. (A happy ending for sure!)

Sometimes we choose for things to end – like when we quit a horrible, soul-sucking job that was putting us on the fast track to Ulcer-ville. Other times, life makes the choice for us, like when fate snatches away a family member, or a beloved pet leaves us for good.

As I was walking out of Avengers: Endgame, I was thinking about the kind of endings we experience as fans of TV series, books, and movies. More specifically, I was thinking about what obligations the writers of a popular, well-loved franchise have to their fans.

As I left the dark theatre, cool air conditioning, and popcorn-scented air behind me following Endgame, my chest felt hollow – empty. Certainly not the way I wanted to feel after being a loyal Iron Man and Avengers fan for years.

I began to wonder: If I had been writing the story, what would I have done differently? If I’m ever lucky enough to have a series even half as well-loved as Avengers or Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, how do I want my fans to feel at the very end of it all?

In a word: happy.

I want people to close that last book with huge grins on their faces. I want fans to not walk but skip through that parking lot outside the theatre with their hearts full of hope. I want readers and viewers alike to feel satisfied, like the journey we took together led up to something wonderful. Something that tied up all the loose ends. Something that was every bit worth the wait.

With the 15th and final season of Supernatural looming, I’m trying not to think too much about the end and how hard it’s going to be. Avengers: Endgame may have broken my poor, Iron Man-loving heart, but Supernatural has the power to do even worse. The Supernatural writers could crush our souls as easily as Thanos could snap his fingers.

Let’s be honest: losing Supernatural is going to be devastating no matter what happens on our screens in the final moments. There’s no changing that. For me, it will mean saying goodbye to characters who were with me when my mom was in the hospital, seriously ill, and the doctors didn’t even know what was wrong with her.

These are characters I would quote to myself when I was scared or lonely or just plain sad. Characters who’ve made me burst out laughing and ugly cry (sometimes in the same episode!). Sam, Dean, Cass, Jack, Mary, John, Bobby – these people are real to me. They are family.

So, in this time of endings, I implore the Supernatural writers: be gentle. Most fans will be hanging by the thinnest of emotional threads as it is, so please don’t make it worse than it has to be. Don’t pull an Avengers: Endgame. Instead of dropping your fans’ hearts into an industrial-sized meat grinder, reward us for staying with you ’til the very end.

The finale doesn’t have to be some sappy, Log Cabin syrup-fest – that type of ending wouldn’t fit the show, anyway. But it should give some sense of hope…because that does fit the show.

No matter how bleak things got, as long as Sam and Dean still had each other, then there was always a chance. Leave us with that feeling. Leave Sam and Dean alive, and let us imagine that their next adventure is right around the corner, even if we won’t get to see it.

Please, please don’t break our hearts.

There’s enough of that in the real world.

Author Interview: Elaine Bassier, YA Fantasy

Hey all! Recently I was lucky enough to do an interview with my cousin Elaine Bassier, who happens to be a crazy-talented YA Fantasy author. We talked about everything from resources for self-published authors to unicorn mating habits! For loads of writing tips, helpful websites, answers to burning fan questions, and some very tantalizing hints about the two remaining books in her trilogy, please keep reading!


ATHF: Hi, Elaine! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview! Before we get started, please tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your books!

Elaine Bassier: I’m the youngest of five siblings. I was born and raised in Elko, Nevada, and I’m going to go ahead and answer the two most frequent follow-up questions I get when people hear that. 1) No, it’s not near Las Vegas (Elko is in the northeastern part of the state) and 2) Yes, it does snow there. I now live in Spokane, Washington. 1) No, it’s not near Seattle (it’s in the eastern part of the state) and 2) No, it’s not always rainy here.

I’m left-handed (and, fun fact, so is Arianna!). I’m an introvert. I love animals. I have a Golden Retriever named Ruby. I’ve never owned a horse, but I took riding lessons on and off growing up and it’s a dream of mine to one day have a few.

I like to write Young Adult fantasy. My debut novel, Knight’s Duty, is the first book in the Unicorn Knight trilogy. It tells the story of a young woman named Arianna, who longs to be a Unicorn Knight. When she comes across a unicorn who lost her knight and learns she has strange magical powers, Arianna and the unicorn agree to partner together. Under the tutelage of her knight-master Flynn, Arianna’s training as a warrior and magic user begin.

ATHF: I read on Goodreads that you started writing The Unicorn Knight trilogy when you were just 12 years old! That’s so amazing, that the story has been with you since childhood. Are there any details that have remained the same from first concept all the way through to the finished product?

EB: This is a great question! I sadly lost the very first draft of the story when our family computer crashed, so I don’t remember a lot of details about it. I so wish I could look at it again! It’s changed quite a bit since I first started.

The one thing that has remained more or less constant since the beginning, though, is the characters. Arianna has always been the protagonist and she’s always looked the same. She’s always been partnered with a unicorn (though initially it was a male unicorn that became Ronan in later drafts instead of the female Serissa). Most of the other characters have kept their names and personalities, too.

ATHF: Is there anything that totally changed from the way you originally imagined it?

EB: The biggest change I remember from the first draft to the published edition is that Arianna was originally a princess trying to reclaim her throne. Obviously, the plot has changed a ton since that initial idea.

The magic system changed pretty drastically from draft to draft as well. It started with humans having the “traditional” fantasy magic. Then it slowly evolved into the concept of the Magickers, where only magical creatures and a few humans have special powers.

ATHF: I really love how you handled the world-building in Knight’s Duty. You wove the details of setting and culture seamlessly throughout the story, rather than telling it all in a big info dump. Do you have any world-building advice for aspiring fantasy authors?

EB: Thank you so much! That’s so kind of you to say. World-building can be a challenge, especially in fantasy books, because most of the time you are literally creating the entire universe your characters inhabit.

I’m lucky because I love learning about mythology and studying other religions, especially ones with a pantheon of gods. One thing I’d recommend to other writers is to really think about the organization of the world. What form of government does the country have? What is the most popular religion?

My world and the country of Failyn really came together once I developed the idea of the Magickers. Each country has more of one [type of] Magicker than the rest, which then influences a lot of the culture of the area.

Figuring out all of this stuff means you’ll know a lot of details that may or may not end up in your books, but that’s okay. The more you know about your world, the more realistic it becomes in your own mind. That familiarity will come across in your writing, even if you’re not sharing specific details.

ATHF: That is great advice! Do you have any tips for writers in general, regardless of what genre they’re working in?

EB: There’s the obvious one (and one I need to follow myself at the moment!): Write! Whatever you’re writing, just keep going!

I also really like the advice from an author I’ll paraphrase here: Write what YOU want to write. For a very long time, you’re going to be the only one reading your work, so make sure you love it. And don’t think your story is too niche – someone out there, probably several someones, is waiting to discover a book just like yours.

ATHF: In the acknowledgements of Knight’s Duty, you mentioned your friends on Wattpad. For those who don’t know, can you tell us about Wattpad? What exactly is it, and how did it impact your journey to publication?

EB: Wattpad is a website where people can post any kind of writing for other people to view for free. Fanfiction is very popular there, but there is also original fiction and even non-fiction and poetry. The quality of the writing and the grammar can vary wildly, but everyone can find something they like.

With that being said, Wattpad is very popular among teens, which is why I chose to first post Knight’s Duty on it. I wanted to build an audience with people in my target demographic.

One particularly awesome feature on Wattpad is the ability to interact with your readers. People can comment on a single line from the text and you can reply. I loved reading people’s reactions to exciting moments in the book and having discussions with them about where they think the story is going.

I will admit that I think Wattpad works better for people who write fanfiction, or post earlier drafts and even things they don’t ever plan on publishing. However, I’ve made a few good friends there who were the first fans of my work outside of my family and that means a lot to me.

ATHF: I think your book cover is beautiful! The silver and blue tones make me think of the unicorns’ coats. Please tell us a little bit about your cover. Who is the artist and how did you find her/him? Did you already have an image in mind for your cover before approaching the artist? What did it feel like, seeing your finished cover for the first time?

EB: Thank you so much! I love all three of the covers I have for the Unicorn Knight trilogy, but the first is my favorite. My cover artist is R.L. Sather, and I found her on an awesome website called SelfPubBookCovers.com. It has hundreds of covers, each one is unique, and once you buy one, the website won’t sell it to anyone else. It also lets you customize the font and title.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted the cover to look like when I first started trying to find one. I looked at similar book covers to get an idea of what’s popular in the genre. I highly recommend other authors do the same, by the way: we might say not to judge a book by its cover, but the biggest deciding factor in whether someone will consider reading your book or not is the cover. You want to make sure you’re attracting the right readers.

Looking through the options on SelfPubBookCovers.com, I found what would eventually become the covers for Book 2 and Book 3. However, I couldn’t find a third cover that fit with the other two. I wanted all three to have a similar look so people would know they were part of the same series. So, I contacted the artist who did the other two covers and commissioned a custom piece, which ended up becoming Book 1’s cover. The entire process was a whole lot of fun, and it ended up being the push I needed to actually start the publishing process.

Seeing my cover at every stage – when I first bought it and looked at the finished product, when it was posted online on various websites, and especially seeing the paperback version – was incredible. It made the whole process feel real to me and it was so cool to see something that I had created that looked like an actual book.

ATHF: Sounds like an amazing ending to an incredible journey! Going back to the beginning of that journey, do you have a favorite author, and/or someone who really influenced your writing?

EB: One of my favorite authors is Tamora Pierce. I think anyone who has read her earlier work and my own book will see how she has influenced me. She’s also a Young Adult fantasy author and she’s known for creating strong female characters. If you haven’t read any of her books, I recommend starting with Alanna: The First Adventure.

ATHF: Are there any books, websites, or other resources you’d recommend for authors thinking of self-publishing?

EB: Other than SelfPubBookCovers.com, which I mentioned above, I also encourage aspiring self-publishers to check out Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP. You’re most likely going to publish on Amazon (and maybe other places) once you do publish, and that website has a bunch of resources, including a community where you can talk with other authors.

ATHF: Now that you’ve survived the process of publishing your first book, what is the most important thing you learned from the experience? Is there anything you’ll do differently the second time around?

EB: I wish I had decided to publish sooner! Seriously, I held off on putting my work out in the world for a long time because I was so afraid of what people might think of it and of me. It was a huge hurdle to get over, but once I did, I was astounded by the support I received from everyone, including people I hadn’t had contact with in years. It’s been a dream come true!

ATHF: I’m so glad to hear that :)! Getting back to Knight’s Duty, I will admit to being a hopeless romantic, so of course I noticed a spark of something brewing between Arianna and Flynn. I’m not asking for a definite answer to “will they or won’t they?”, but is there at least a chance of romance between these two in the next installment? Or maybe Book 3?

EB: I’ll keep this one brief because I don’t want to give anything away, but I think readers will be pleased with what happens between Arianna and Flynn in the future. 😉

ATHF: Any possibility for *unicorn* romance on the horizon? Are they romantic creatures, or are they more practical about that sort of thing?

EB: This is a really interesting question and I’m not sure anyone has ever asked me about it before. I don’t want to go into detail for fear of having written myself into a corner later on, but I will say that unicorns don’t magically appear fully formed. They are mammals and have young in the same way normal mammals would. I don’t have any plans to include a romance between unicorns in the trilogy, but I could definitely see myself writing a short story or something in the future about it to explain everything now that you’ve brought it up!

ATHF: LOL! Speaking of creatures, the alphyns were my favorite ones in Knight’s Duty. Were these an original creation of yours, or did they come from somewhere in mythology? Will they appear in Book 2?

EB: Thanks so much! I loved coming up with the magical creatures and what kind of powers they have. It was one of my favorite parts of writing this story.

The alphyns are not an original creation, although my interpretation of them adds some uniqueness. For example, the alphyns in lore are not associated with concealing or tracking magic like the ones in my book are.

I knew early on that I wanted a wolf-like magical creature because I love wolves/dogs. I stumbled across the alphyn while looking up mythical creatures online (I can’t seem to find the website where I first read about them now), and decided I liked the name. It’s actually a Germanic word that means “wolf.”

I think there are fewer mentions of alphyns in book two than there were in the first book, unfortunately, but you will get more of them in the third one!

ATHF: Awesome! When can we expect Book 2, btw? Is there a release date scheduled?

EB: Yes! I’m planning on publishing Knight’s Honor on May 1, 2019! I’m hoping to do something a little different this time and have both the ebook and the paperback available on the same day. (With Knight’s Duty, I published the ebook first and then the paperback about a month later.)

For those of you who just can’t wait or who might like a preview, the first several (unpolished) chapters are on Wattpad. There will be some changes to the Wattpad version compared to the one that’s actually published, but the overall plot will remain the same.

ATHF: Any tantalizing Book 2 tidbits you can tease us with (don’t give TOO much away!)?

EB: Knight’s Honor has always been my favorite book in the trilogy for several reasons. The action amps up and the characters and their relationships deepen. Plus, you finally get to meet the main villain of the trilogy, and he is both frightening and fascinating. I can’t wait to hear what readers will think of the second book!

ATHF: It sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it! But since I can’t get the book just yet, and since we’re still doing an interview, is there a question I didn’t ask that you wish I had? If so, what is it and how would you answer?

EB: This might fit in the question about websites you asked above, but I’d like to talk about naming characters, since it’s a fun thing to work on especially with fantasy writing. Many authors say they use baby name books to come up with names for their characters, and I’m no exception. I actually use a website called babynames.com to find names. It even has a handy “tips for writers” section that has my personal favorite advice when it comes to naming fantasy characters.

You probably want something that sounds unique and otherworldly for character names (not many fantasy stories have protagonists named Bob, after all), but I also encourage you to make sure your names are easy to pronounce. If a reader is stumbling over how to say a character’s name every time they come across it, it can create a frustrating experience.

ATHF: ROFL! That’s fantastic advice. (Also, I now have the urge to write an epic fantasy about someone named Bob Smith! ;)) On a slightly more serious note, I just want to say thank you again, Elaine, for taking the time to do this interview, and for sharing your writing gift with the world! We will all be looking forward to reading Knight’s Honor in just a few short days!

EB: Thank you so much!

Two Free Writing Contests

Hey all 🙂

I came across these nifty “Your Story” writing contests on WritersDigest.com and thought some of my fellow authors might be interested! The competitions are free to enter and seem to pop up every couple of months.

The ones linked here both have photo prompts, and the images are VERY interesting (to say the least, LOL!). The picture for #97 is especially striking and inspired me to start writing immediately.

One of the things I love about contests with prompts is seeing the amazing variety of ideas people come up with. A hundred authors can look at the exact same picture and each person will imagine a completely different story. Also, prompts are pretty awesome for anyone who’s currently in a writing slump. So, if you haven’t written for a while and need something to get the juices flowing, or even just need a break from your current project, these contests may be the thing to help.

Anyhow, go check them out! Who knows? Maybe you’ll get inspired like I did :).

Your Story #97

Directions: Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt.

Deadline: April 8

Your Story #98

Directions: Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt.

Deadline: May 27

Best of luck, and have fun! 🙂



My First Lucific – Plus Some Recs!

So, by now anyone who reads this blog probably knows that my heart currently belongs to the TV show Lucifer. And when my heart belongs to a show, I get inspired. And when I get REALLY inspired…dun, dun, dun…I write fanfic! 🙂

I am super-excited to be in the process of posting my very first Lucifer fanfic (Chapter Five went up on Wednesday). I’d forgotten just how daunting it is to put my words out there in the open for anyone and everyone to judge. I’d also forgotten how wonderful it is to interact with readers as the chapters unfold! It’s like we get to go on a journey together, and so far – thanks to the support and encouragement of some fantastic reviewers – the ride has been a complete joy. I am incredibly grateful to all of the people who’ve taken the time to read and review my work – you guys make it worth the effort of staying up extra late to post a new chapter.

I wrote this story as a “Thank You” to all of the fans who fought to save the show (#luciferonnetflix, baby!), and as a way to hopefully give back to the authors and artists whose works have brought me so much joy over the past year (see the recs below for some examples).

Here’s the summary of my first-ever Lucific, entitled The Innocence Project:

Trapped in a warehouse and cut off from celestial help, Chloe must care for a seriously ill Lucifer while the two of them fight to exonerate a death row inmate before the inmate’s time – and Lucifer’s – runs out. Post Season Three. Established Deckerstar.

If you love Lucifer fanfic, please go check it out:

FFN:  https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13183278/1/The-Innocence-Project

AO3:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/17478380/chapters/41163341

While you’re at it, don’t forget to read these incredible stories, too:

Summary: “That star just died.” When Lucifer tells her this, Chloe feels like they’re talking about something way more important than a mere astronomical event. Everything is the same except for the way that Lucifer looks at Trixie, just like he looked the night he talked about stars. Things happen, Lucifer visits Linda, nothing changes, but then again, everything’s different now.

Cass says: Utterly gorgeous and 100% gut-wrenching.

Summary: Once upon a time, there was a fallen angel who hated his wings and loved a human detective. After that, things got complicated. Fairy tales never get it right. (For the “Who the hell is Cupid?” Valentine’s Fic Exchange)

Cass says: One of the most wonderfully-written, romantic, and creative Lucifer fics I’ve ever read!

Summary: Recently resurrected, Lucifer stumbles back to Chloe’s hospital room with the antidote formula. Amenadiel stands his ground. Trixie somehow sees matters more clearly than the grown-ups-even the celestial ones. A missing moment from the winter finale, “A Good Day to Die.”

Cass says: Best tag/missing scene for this episode I have read to date!

Summary: Maybe Lucifer had always planned to tell her, but she doubted it was like this. Part of the “They’re Back; Aren’t They” fic exchange. I still manage to beat up Lucifer. Post 3×24.

Cass says: Awesome follow-up to the finale by one of my favorite authors. 🙂

  • And watch this excellent video, “Unsteady” by knightvision1228:

Summary: An emotional music video featuring some of the most powerful moments in the series with heavy emphasis on the people most important in Lucifer’s life.

Cass says: The Lucifer fanvid I’ve watched more than any other (read: a LOT). Great match-up between the music and the images, and it really tugs on the heartstrings, too!

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to leave some comments for the creators if you enjoy their work! Can’t wait for Season Four! 🙂


Perfectionism, Writing, and You

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, but you’re not waiting for the ball to drop. You’ve already made your resolution: 2019 is the year you’re finally going to write that novel. Yay!

Of course, in all honesty, you’ve made this resolution before, haven’t you? (Come on, just admit it already.) But this time, it’s going to be different, right? No more excuses. No doubt about it. That bad boy is getting written!

Well, good for you! That’s a great goal and I wish you much success in your endeavor. However, before you go prancing into 2019 with big plans and high hopes, perhaps you should take a minute to consider why you haven’t written that future bestseller yet.

Maybe your idea for your novel is so blindingly spectacular that you’re afraid whatever you actually put down on the page will never measure up. Maybe you did start writing, but after three migraine-inducing hours of staring at a blank screen, you only managed to produce two sentences. And they both sucked. Maybe you even sweated and cried and bled your way through an entire chapter…only to chuck the whole thing out later because it wasn’t “good enough.”

If this sounds like you, then you may be a perfectionist…and it just might be crippling your writing.

First things first: if this is you, don’t despair! You can overcome the obstacles perfectionism presents and even learn to use it to your advantage.

The hardest – and most important – thing any perfectionist must do when writing the first draft is to let go. Your first draft will not be perfect. It can’t be. It shouldn’t be. Rage at the heavens, sob uncontrollably, binge-eat chocolate-covered pretzels – do whatever you have to do to help you come to terms with this painful truth.

Give yourself permission to be messy, to color outside the lines, to melt six different crayons together and make a new color. Letting go is terrifying, but it can also be incredibly freeing. Just ask the blond lady on this water bottle:

In case you can’t see it in the picture, the water inside this bottle actually IS frozen. Cute, huh? 🙂

The first draft is the time to lock perfectionism in a cage. I mean, definitely give him some food, a bowl of water, a chew toy, a blankie, etc. – you don’t want to kill him. You just want him to take a nap for a while. He’ll probably whine a bit, but don’t worry – he’ll settle down eventually.

Here are a few practical tips for combating perfectionism in the first draft:

1.) Throw it all out there.

In the photo at the top, the author is having difficulty deciding which verb to use. She’s trying to choose the “perfect” word for the way Miguel moved down the hallway, and she’s stuck on that sentence because she can’t make up her mind.

Wanna know something cool? She doesn’t have to make up her mind! The author can simply write out several options, leave them all in the sentence, and move on to the next one. Then, during a later phase (usually the first round of editing), she can choose which word feels the best…or maybe come up with something else even better!

I do this all the time when I write. Indecision is a progress-killer, so if I can’t decide, I just throw it all out there. You can do it with single words, or with whole sentences and paragraphs. It looks like this:

Miguel walked/strolled/moseyed down the hall, unconcerned about the envious stares following him.

When I go back through to edit, the perfect word will usually jump out from the pack.

2.) Just skip it.

Remember back in high school, when you were taking a math test and didn’t know the answer to problem number five? What did you do? You didn’t spend your entire hour agonizing over that pesky fifth question, leaving the other thirty-five unanswered (at least, I hope you didn’t). No, because if you did that, you’d fail the test. So, you just skipped it, moved on to number six, and then came back to five later, if you had time.

That same strategy can work for writing. If you’ve been working on the same passage for days or even weeks, and just can’t get happy with it, my best advice would be to skip that passage and move on, knowing you can come back and fill it in later (thankfully, writing a book is not a timed test).

I did this with one scene in Scars – the part where Jack tells Lily about the werewolf attack. I just could not get through that scene. Everything I wrote seemed like crap. It was holding up the whole rest of the story. Finally, I just skipped over it and came back at the end. And guess what? It was totally fine. 🙂

The skipped scene DID get written and the story got published in this lovely book. It all worked out! 🙂

Of course, in order to do this, you must have a general idea of what’s going to happen in the scene, because it impacts the rest of the story. E.g. if you’re skipping the chapter where Rosario tells Kevin she has heat vision, then don’t write him as completely shocked/flabbergasted in the next chapter when she melts the tires on the bad guys’ getaway car.

3.) Free Writing

Think about this like a mini NaNoWriMo. Set a timer for five, ten, twenty minutes – whatever fits your schedule – and just write the whole time. Don’t go back and make corrections. Don’t stare at the page thinking about the perfect phrase. Your keyboard should be clacking the entire time. Or, if you’re old school, your pen should be scratching the page continuously. If it’s totally quiet in the room, then you’re not writing.

It may not be pretty, but for extreme cases of perfectionism, this will at least get words on the page. Words that can be rearranged and molded into something beautiful later. If the blank page is your worst enemy, this exercise can help.

Once that brutal first draft is done, you can finally let perfectionism out of his cage for a little while. Let him run amok all over your book, gobbling up those nasty typos, poor word choices, pointless paragraphs that don’t move the story forward, etc. He’ll be thrilled! Just don’t leave him out too long. If he can keep you from writing your book in the first place, he can just as surely keep you from ever submitting or publishing it.

Learn to know the difference between editing something and editing it to death. (If you’re re-reading for the fiftieth time and obsessing over the tiniest phrases which sounded good ten readings ago, you’re probably in “death editing” mode.) Remember how hard it was, in the beginning, to accept that the first draft wouldn’t be flawless?

This part is even harder, because now you have to face the fact that your novel will never, no matter how many times you and your editors go over it, be 100% perfect. Because you’re not perfect. And those tiny little imperfections you’ll never completely erase? They might just be what your readers relate to and fall in love with.

So, when the book is finally the best you (and your crit partners and betas) can make it, it’s time to do that scary-wonderful thing again: let it go.

The year 2019 is coming. You’ve already made the resolution. Now, you have to decide: Do you want to be the person who had a fantastic idea for a novel in 2019? Or do you want to be the person who actually wrote one?

Best wishes in the New Year!




Book Review: Knight’s Duty by Elaine Bassier

As promised, here’s a review of my cousin’s book, Knight’s Duty! Hopefully, this will be the first of many book reviews here on ATHF:

Knight’s Duty is a fast-paced adventure about a young woman named Arianna whose greatest dream is to become a Unicorn Knight. The Knights are an order of elite soldiers pledged to defend and serve the realm of Failyn. On her way to the capital city to test her mettle as a Knight, Arianna discovers that she seems to have magical powers – something no human is supposed to possess – and meets a lone unicorn who has just survived the death of her Knight – something no unicorn should be able to do.

As the pair teams up to unravel these mysteries, they begin to understand that something much bigger – and darker – is at play. A threat that endangers the lives of everyone in their realm.

This book has lots of action, highly polished writing, cool magic, some twists I definitely didn’t see coming (one small one near the beginning and one HUGE one near the end), and characters I could relate to and respect (it’s not every day you read about teenagers aspiring to serve their country as both humanitarians and warriors). The author also does a nice job of exploring emotional topics such as guilt, forbidden crushes, jealousy, and grief.

I knew this book had me hooked when I started reading in the early afternoon and before I even realized it, the house was pitch black aside from the glow of my Kindle screen. At that point I got up to turn some lights on…then went right back to reading! 😀

Knight’s Duty is a complete story but it also sets the reader up perfectly for the next installment. I am SO looking forward to Book 2. Good thing there’s a little teaser – and a really cool cover reveal – on the author’s Facebook page to help make the wait more bearable. Go check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorElaineB/ . And don’t forget to check out the book, too! The Kindle version only costs $0.99 and it’s also available in print form (for those who haven’t yet been bitten by the eBook bug).

I’m so proud of my cousin for writing this book, and so very happy she decided to share it with the world. The world is lucky to have it. 🙂

So go forth, enjoy, and support an indie author in the process!

Oh, and don’t forget to review! 🙂


P.S. The unicorns in this book are intelligent, fiercely loyal, incredible fighters, and have personalities as unique and memorable as any human character. Unicorns rock!