Whodunnit And How: Self-Publishing a Romance Novel

Around 10 years ago, I almost gave up writing. Whenever I’m celebrating a publishing milestone, my good friend M. likes to remind me of the snowy Montreal winter’s night when, walking back to her apartment, I moaned to her that I had no new ideas, no talent, no drive to break into the publishing industry. How I was seriously considering giving it all up. I had been writing fan fiction for years upon years, and I had given it everything I had. My particular fandom, LoTR, was winding down, and I felt hollowed out. Being the awesome friend that she is, M. encouraged me to work through it and try again.


And I did.

(Imagine me doing the Rocky thing at the top of that staircase in Philadelphia.)

Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo, my second M/M historical mystery romance and my first self-published novel, has been out for a month now. My first book–a trial by fire if ever there was–was with a publisher. Before that, I had a short story published in a Canadian sci-fi YA anthology. But I first waded back into the writing world by joining and taking workshops at the Quebec Writer’s Federation. The first, back when I flirted with writing YA, was where I met my writing group, and some of us still get together to this day. (The others dropped away through a series of And Then There Were None-esque disagreements and life changes, a reminder that writing groups go through their own sorts of growing pains. If one’s not working for you, bow out graciously.)

To recap: eight years of fanfic, umpteen workshops, four years later a short story, three years later a novel, two-point-five years later a self-published novel, one eight-years-strong writing group… as you can see, I was an overnight success.

Moral of the story: You can do it. And it does take a village. More important than who to publish with or what platform to use, you’ll need friends, online or otherwise, to believe in you. Hone your craft by taking workshops, writing fanfic, joining a crit group, becoming part of the reader community in the genre you want to write in.

Once you’ve written, re-written, and revised a story or a novel or a something that you feel is ready for public consumption (and that you’re ready to be publicly consumed, because it will feel that way sometimes), explore your options. Self-pub is intimidating as hell. It can be expensive. It can be overwhelming. Learn as much as you can about it before you commit. Make sure it’s the right thing for you. Read every word of this incredible post by Heidi Cullinan before you make a final decision.

Mrs. Cullinan explains everything in minute detail and gives you lots of options. I’m just going to talk about the choices I made and why (a novella to her novel, you might say). So here’s how I did it:

-Hire an editor. Yes, you need one. Yes, even if you, like me, have over a decade of professional editing experience. If you need a lot of help, a developmental edit in the early stages is a great idea. If not, at minimum you need a content edit and a line edit, and that’s in addition to any betas. I used the incomparable Nancy-Anne Davies, who has over 10 years experience freelance editing for one of the most renowned romance publishers. And I forward every review that compliments the editing/grammar–of which there have been more than a few–to her.

-Hire a great cover artist. Do your research beforehand. I made a list of covers I loved and who designed them, and then had a think about whose style would work best with what I envisioned for my book. Not to mention what elements readers expect from a book in my genre. It’s no secret I’m not a big fan of models on covers. I also wrote a character who I knew would be next to impossible to find a model for. But in the romance genre, you’re dead in the water if you don’t have at least one character’s face or silhouette on the cover.

Enter the mad sorceress skills of the Lady Tiferet. Not only did she find a culturally appropriate model for my Hiero, she bibbity-bobbity-booed him into the proper period dress and facial stylings. *I* didn’t even really understand what she’d done until I saw this photo:

Hiero Magic Small

That is what an exceptional cover artist can do for you and your book. Because no matter what they say, some people still judge a book by its cover.

-Select an ebook publishing platform. After a recommendation from KJ Charles and exploring my options, I chose to use Pronoun. Not only do they offer the best rates and author agreement, but they have tools that do the formatting for you for free. They distribute the book to Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Google, Barnes & Noble, and to library services Bibliotheca and Overdrive. And they compile all your sales data, make recommendations about categories, let you list any published books you have, and give you a free author page. Their system is super easy to use. They answer any questions you have promptly and thoroughly. And they have a blog, The Verbs, that gives you writing and publishing tips. I can’t recommend them enough.

-To print or not to print? That is the next big question you need to ask yourself. I did a print release simultaneously. Some authors only self-pub in print format a couple of months later. Some don’t do it at all. This first self-pub experience was an experiment for me, so I decided to go for it. I personally didn’t find it a lot to take both on at once, but then I gave myself a good two months to get everything sorted (and I have a full-time job).

For print, you have two options: Create Space and Ingram Spark. This article and others like it are why I decided to use both CS and Ingram. As of right now, I don’t know if I would do both again, but I’m also reconsidering doing print at all because, as a new-to-so-many author, the sales just aren’t there they way they are for ebook. This could also be because I’m in the romance genre, or my publicity efforts so far. So do research into your genre to see if print is the right option for you.

If you do go the print route, you may need help formatting your book, like I did. Paul at BB Books is a wizard, and his web site has all sorts of information you’ll need to understand not only formatting, but the next steps in the process. His rates are competitive, and I found him an absolute pleasure to work with.

-Once your book is ready to go, go, go… you need to kick yourself for not doing any research about how to market it. I wouldn’t let this interfere with the writing process, but once you’re editing, start looking at what other authors are doing and reading up on trends in your genre. This is where joining author/genre Facebook groups and Twitter feeds is invaluable. If you have a community, interacting with people in it will help you learn what strategies might be right for you.

Also, all genres have their own go-to review web sites. Familiarise yourself with these: which are most popular? Which have the most traffic? Which do you see most referenced in your social media feeds? All of them likely accept submissions, so prepare a friendly cover letter and follow their instructions while submitting.

A media pack is a must when marketing a book. What should this include? Your blurb, an excerpt, your author bio, some kind of document with relevant social media and buy links, and your cover image. Make the process of setting up a blog post as easy as possible for the kind people willing to give you some free publicity by preparing this in advance. It will also save you time when responding to their emails.

Review sites have different kinds of posts that can help generate heat even a couple of months in advance: cover reveal, guest post, blog tour, review. If you want them to review your book, you need to give them at least a month’s notice–and if you’re new, possibly more. Read their submissions guidelines carefully.

You might also consider using a promotion company to do a lot of the legwork for you. They have long-established contacts and can get you access to blogs who might not otherwise answer your emails. The one I used is Signal Boost Promotions. Rachel, who runs it, is exceptional: organised, connected, gives amazing advice… a real champion for your book.

There are tons of other marketing tools/strategies out there–too many to mention. Remember that this is an essential part of self-publishing. I know authors are introverts by nature, but it’s the old “if a tree falls in the forest…”

As you can see by this blog post, if you put in the work and invest in your talent, self-publishing is not that complicated. We in the village have cleaned and readied a lovely little cottage, just waiting for you to move in.

So what are you waiting for?




Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo Out Now!

Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo, the first book in a planned Victorian M/M mystery romance series, is out now in print and ebook format. Here’s the blurb:

At Scotland Yard, DI Timothy Stoker is no better than a ghost. A master of arcane documents and niggling details who, unlike his celebrity-chasing colleagues, prefers hard work to headlines. But an invisible man is needed to unmask the city’s newest amateur detective, Hieronymus Bash. A bon vivant long on flash and style but short on personal history, Bash just may be a Cheapside rogue in Savile Row finery.

When the four fangs of the Demon Cats of Scavo—trophies that protect the hunters who killed the two vicious beasts—disappear one by one, Stoker’s forced to team with the very man he was sent to investigate to maintain his cover. He finds himself thrust into a world of wailing mediums, spiritualist societies, man-eating lions, and a consulting detective with more ambition than sense. Will this case be the end of his career, or the start of an unexpected liaison? Or will the mysterious forces at play be the death of them both?

And just who is Hieronymus Bash?

Buy links:

Amazon eBook and print edition



Barnes & Noble

The book is also available on Tolino and Overdrive. Please note it is no longer available through Google Play.


And for any retailers or libraries interested in ordering the book, it is available through Ingram and Create Space.


Spotlight on… Female Directors!!

Otherwise known as “directors”. 😉

I’m interrupting my month-long Stoker & Bash promo extravaganza to speak about something very near and dear to my heart: gender equality in the film industry. Specifically, in the directing field.

Today, it was announced that for only the second time in its 70-year history, the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival was awarded to a woman, Sofia Coppola, for a film I’m dying to see, The Beguiled. Lynn Ramsay, another fantastic female director, won Best Screenplay for You Were Never Really Here, which is now also on my must-see list. Later this week, the first female director to helm a studio superhero franchise film, and only the third female director *ever* to earn herself a budget of $100 million or more, Patty Jenkins, will release the long-awaited (at least by me) Wonder Woman.

The achievements of these women are inspiring; the statistics related to them sobering. As Nicole Kidman said in her speech at the Cannes awards ceremony, only 4% of major motion pictures are made by women. And festivals like Cannes can only react to the standards set by those who control the purse strings in the industry. Until the studios get the message that we want more diverse voices writing screenplays and directing films, nothing is going to change. The only way to get their attention is by putting our money and our voices where our mouths are as consumers. (That is my not-so-subtle plea for you to go see Wonder Woman this weekend, and to take the men in your life along with you. Studios want to see results in every demographic.)

Another staggering stat: women account for half of all graduates of film school, but only 5% end up getting jobs in the entertainment industry.

Recently, I was listening to a podcast that made this same argument, but then the commentators could not list any female directors other than Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay (who directed Selma, is the creator of the series Queen Sugar, and the first woman of color to helm a $100 million plus film). One of those commentators has been an entertainment reporter for over a decade, and the other is a professional screenwriter and former entertainment news magazine producer! And they couldn’t even name-check Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), the only woman to ever win a Best Director Oscar.

So I am here, fellow pop culture feminists, to empower you with information. There are some brilliant female directors working today, doing expert, entertaining work across all genres. Here are some of my personal favorites (FYI, I don’t do horror films, but there have been some interesting female directors doing very good work lately).

Please seek out and squee about their work! Give them your money! Send the studio bosses the message that there should be gender parity in Hollywood! Let them hear you roar!

Andrea Arnold has mostly transitioned into directing television for Transparent and I Love Dick, but before that made the breath-stealingly claustrophobic Red Road and the engrossing Fish Tank, featuring one of Michael Fassbender’s best-ever performances. She also made an interracial Wuthering Heights.

Amma Assante made one of my favorite comfort watches, Belle, as well as the inspirational A United Kingdom. I’m very excited for her latest, Where Hands Touch. 

Not only is Mary Harron a badass director, she’s also Canadian! Her two classics are American Psycho (legit one of my favorite comedies of all time, which tells you everything about my sense of humor) and I Shot Andy Warhol. She now also directs mostly for television, where there are so many more opportunities for female directors, ahem, Hollywood studios.

I adored, adored, adored Marielle Heller’s debut, Diary of a Teenage Girl, and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Lone Sherfig’s An Education is a classic coming of age story. I haven’t loved everything she’s done, but I’ll always give her films a watch.

Mira Nair made the magnificent Monsoon Wedding and so many other brilliant, heartfelt films.

I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without mentioning Jane Campion, who did The Piano, Holy Smoke, Bright Star, and now writes and directs one of the best series on TV, Top of the Lake.

Also from Australia is Jocelyn Moorhouse, whose recent The Dressmaker was more than a little insane–in the best way–and who made Russell Crowe a star in Proof.

I don’t even know where to start with my love for Suzanne Bier, who has made heartbreaking films in both Scandinavia and the US. My faves are A Second Chance and In a Better World.

Sally Potter is responsible for Orlando and unleashing Tilda Swinton on the world, and for that I will forever be grateful.

Lisa Cholodenko has had success with The Kids are All Right and High Art, but my fave of hers is Laurel Canyon. 

Gillian Armstrong introduced us to Cate Blanchett in Oscar and Lucinda, made the best version of Little Women, and started it all with My Brilliant Career.

Karyn Kusama made the awesome Girlfight and the terrifying The Invitation, both not to be missed.

This list just scratches the surface, but it’s still not enough. There aren’t enough women of color directing (as you can see from this list). And so few of these fabulous women are being invited to direct the kinds of blockbusters that white men get after having just one independent film that gets a wee bit of critical acclaim. Or, you know, their umpteenth chance to redeem themselves after a series of flops. Men are allowed to fail in ways women cannot, in every industry.

So take the time, maybe this weekend, maybe on your next holiday, to see a film directed or written by any of the crazy talented women above. If none of those intrigue, here’s an even more exhaustive list: https://gowatchit.com/lists/52-films-by-women-284752



Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo Available for Pre-Order!!


Once upon a time when I was but an innocent college student, I asked my younger sister why she’d decided to wear a zip-up hoodie out to party with her friends. Her reply? “Easy access.”

I couldn’t fault her logic then, and I can’t fault it now. Here’s your easy access to pre-order ebook copies of my new Victorian M/M mystery romance, Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo! The print edition will be available on the release date, June 7th.



Google Play Books

Barnes & Noble

Apple iBooks UPDATE: Apparently the iBooks store is undergoing some renovations until June 2nd, so perhaps consider pre-ordering on another platform. Sorry for the inconvenience, we are all at the mercy of Apple!)

Stay tuned for info on the Release Blitz, Blog Tour and giveaway!!

Happy reading,


Stoker & Bash #1: The Fangs of Scavo is almost here!!


Friends, I’m so proud to finally share with you some a project that has dominated my life over the past two years. My new Victorian M/M mystery romance, Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo is, as the sign above says, going to be published on June 7th, 2017, in both ebook and print format. This is the first book in a planned series–and I have serious plans for my main couple, Hiero and Tim, having outlined plots for four more books, minimum. Here’s the blurb:

At Scotland Yard, DI Timothy Stoker is no better than a ghost. A master of arcane documents and niggling details who, unlike his celebrity-chasing colleagues, prefers hard work to headlines. But an invisible man is needed to unmask the city’s newest amateur detective, Hieronymus Bash. A bon vivant long on flash and style but short on personal history, Bash just may be a Cheapside rogue in Savile Row finery.

When the four fangs of the Demon Cats of Scavo—trophies that protect the hunters who killed the two vicious beasts—disappear one by one, Stoker’s forced to team with the very man he was sent to investigate to maintain his cover. He finds himself thrust into a world of wailing mediums, spiritualist societies, man-eating lions, and a consulting detective with more ambition than sense. Will this case be the end of his career, or the start of an unexpected liaison? Or will the mysterious forces at play be the death of them both?

And just who is Hieronymus Bash?

Spoiler alert: not who he says he is. 😉

To celebrate the release, there will be a bunch of upcoming events. I hope you’ll join me every step of the way! Here are some details:

May 20th — Exclusive cover reveal at Joyfully Jay. That all-powerful sorceress herself, the Lady Tiferet, has designed the cover and it is, in her words, “panty-melting.”

May 21st — Ebooks are available for pre-order.

June 7th —  Release week & review tour blitz begins! More details on this to come… Print books should also go on sale that week.

I invite you to sign up for my brand-spanking-new newsletter, which you can see if you refresh the page. The first newsletter will go out this week, with fun bonuses and exclusive excerpts to come!

Hope you’ll all join me in giving Hiero and Tim a warm welcome to the romance world!


A Letter to Polly Jean


Dearest Polly,

Tomorrow night will be the first time I see an entire concert of yours live after 20+ years of being a fan. There was that time in Shepherd’s Bush, but my friend Gill and I had to leave early to catch the last train back to uni. And you opened for U2 that one time, but opening sets aren’t full sets and, as always, I was left wanting more. As I no doubt will be even after the last strum of your guitar tomorrow night because, where I’m concerned, there’s never enough of you, Polly.

You are one of the artists who showed me what kind of woman I wanted to be. Sitting in my teenage bedroom, blasting To Bring You My Love, your heartbroken, vengeful wail screamed of the things my introverted self could not. I wanted to purr at my lover down by the water, ravish him with my long snake moan. Rail at him until he wanted to be rid of me, call the betraying snake every name in the book. You taught me that feminism and melodrama were not mutually exclusive. That a romantic sensibility was nothing to be ashamed of. That there was strength in traditionally “female” emotions like longing, despair, and ecstasy. That a woman armed with her own words and a guitar is its own form of resistance.

You spoke for us: the shy girls, the insecure girls, the voiceless and the abused girls. You gave us an anthem; you made us bold. You helped us own our sexuality and our desire. Your ferocious, aching caterwaul echoed through our minds long after your songs ended, spurring us to action in our own lives. The images and ideas your lyrics conjured sank in deep, encouraging us to be vulnerable in love, to find shelter in ourselves, to create, to emote, to risk, to contemplate.

Your music achieves moments of sublimity that rival the greatest poets of our time. The swagger and growl of “Man-Size”. The operatic finale of “The Dancer”. The erotic tease of “Hardly Wait”. The sensual susurration of “Slow Drug”. The mellow opulence of “Beautiful Feeling”. The spare and devastating final words of “White Chalk”, “Scratch my palms / There’s blood on my hands”. The giddy rush of “Cat on the Wall”. The indelible lilt to your voice when you sing “The scent of thyme carried on the wind” in “On Battleship Hill”. The lyric that woke me up to my own power as a teen, “Lick my legs / I’m on fire / Lick my legs / Of desire”–the first time I had ever heard a woman demand pleasure from her partner.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that ours has been a love affair. One-sided. Epistolary. Unrequited. Tempestuous. Full of yearning from afar, ecstatic highs, prolonged absences, promises kept and broken. But always the words, the music, the voice, the guitar.

“You breathing into my mouth / I’ll take it / I’ll take it for you / You wanna sing / Then sing it through me / You got something / Left to say”.

And I can hardly bloody wait to hear it.

All my love,


Five Way to Fix #TheFlash

I didn’t want to love The Flash. Even after seeing Grant Gustin’s infectious performance on two episodes of mothership Arrow, I greeted the many promos for the show’s debut with a shrug or an eye roll. But I tuned in anyway, and that first season was something no superhero show had been since I was a kid watching OG Wonder Woman Lynda Carter swing her golden lasso: fun. A ridiculous amount of fun, in fact. Season 1 The Flash eschewed all the grimdark portentousness of the DC universe, instead imbuing a science-positive coming of age story with a lightning-fast touch. The writers packed all the thrills and excitement of the show into one simple line: “Run, Barry, run!”

Season 2 had some stumbles, but stayed the course, delivering a solid show with a great villain in Zoom, not to mention the epic crossovers with Arrow. But the season finale saw Barry make a huge mistake in initiating Flashpoint, a move that seemed motivated more by the writers’ manipulations than the character’s personality. Season 3 has had moments that returned to form–the Arrowverse crossover, episodes like “The Present” and “Dead or Alive”–but continues to suffer from some potentially fatal flaws, alienating the audience with inconsistent character motivations, some very retro morals, and angst for the sake of angst.

If it weren’t for the strength of the cast, led by outstanding turns by Gustin, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, and Carlos Valdes, I would have turned out long ago. But I just can’t quit the characters I’ve loved for three seasons. The show still has so much potential and, as we’ve seen with Arrow this year, the writers can still turn things around.

And I’ve got five (humble) suggestions for how to drag this show out of the Speed Force and back to Earth 1…

No more keeping secrets, period. I get it. Secret identities are a superhero show’s bread and butter. But The Flash has washed-rinsed-repeated this particular trope too many times to count. A character learns something that will upset someone else/the group. He/she hides this for several episodes, until the truth is finally forced out. Everyone gets angry. The team splinters. Bad things happen. They come together to learn the valuable lesson that they are stronger as a team when they are honest with each other.

But the lesson never sticks. It’s gotten so absurd that almost every week someone is keeping something vital and life-shattering from someone else, leading the show to go through the same emotional beats over and over again. Imagine the drama that could be wrought from them being upfront and honest with each other. The truth can be terrifying. Loving someone but deeply disagreeing with them can be heart-wrenching. Actually earning one another’s trust and having it stick, having them act as a team and still lose–that’s real drama. Regardless, there are so many other ways to create drama and conflict between the characters. Writers, it’s time to dig another well (but no more Wells’s, please).

Retire the speedster villains. First it was Reverse Flash. Then Zoom. Now Savitar. I think we’ve exhausted the speedster rogues’ gallery. (Alas, I know that’s not really true. But comic books are not TV shows, and you need to change it up, stat.) Doctor Alchemy had a different skill set, but he’s done now. Maybe part of the reason the plots keep recycling is that the villains are too similar and how the heroes defeat them is starting to have a same-y quality. For season 4, please challenge the team in a new way.

Give the supporting characters stronger storylines. Nobody ever does their job on this show, unless, like Cisco and Caitlin, their job is “support The Flash”. We haven’t seen Joe genuinely investigate anything as a detective since season 1. Iris got one episode where she did some investigative reporting this season, but it was coupled with her going against Barry and Joe’s wishes. Julian and Barry have both ceased to be crime scene techs altogether, and I don’t even think Wally has a job. Why does every story have to involve the whole Flash team and take place in Star Labs? Why not give Joe a spotlight episode based on an actual crime? Have Caitlin called somewhere to use her doctoring talents? Have an old friend approach Cisco to design him something amazing and have it go horribly wrong? You have one of the strongest ensembles on TV. Give them more to do.

Stop fridging and stereotyping the female characters. It’s getting kind of gross, to be honest, the way Iris has almost entirely given up her life–and might literally sacrifice it–since she and Barry got together. The writers have never really known how to use her and, while the WestAllen romance has increased her screen time, it’s given rise to such 1950s-esque moments as Joe chiding Barry for not asking his permission before he proposed to Iris, and then Iris chiding Barry for the exact same thing! Because God forbid Iris decide for herself who she wants to marry, or put her job before her relationship, or push back against the helicopter parenting/boyfriending of the two main men in her life. Not to mention the fact that the entire season hinges on Barry’s vision of her being killed, which we have to see over and over, as the various men figure out how to save her. Wouldn’t it be great if, in the end, Iris saves herself.

I’m equally baffled by the Caitlin storyline this year. I don’t think we ever got an explanation why her getting powers means she automatically has to fight this inner evil twin that constantly threatens to overtake her life. Way to promote the idea that women + power = evil, writers. Earth 1 Caitlin has never been evil–why would getting powers make her so? Why is Killer Frost written like a second identity/possessing demon? I understand wanting her to struggle to come to terms with her powers; I don’t understand why that struggle has to be against an ‘evil’ persona, or why she has to restrain herself when Wally is getting training for his new powers (women + power = danger!), or why it’s always a man who manages to bring her back to herself. “I’m scared of this thing inside of me” can be an effective plot, but there’s too much gender-loaded baggage here.

It would also be nice if, you know, the two women on the show were friends. Take a page from Riverdale, The Flash.

Barry needs to stop being such a dick. In the hands of a lesser actor, a lot of people would have tapped out on Barry by now. Grant Gustin is a jewel, and they need to pay him all the money for how he salvages their mediocre, repetitive storylines and selfish version of Barry. The show falls over itself to underline what a great leader Barry is without providing a shred of evidence to prove it. Every time Barry is challenged in the slightest way by someone on the team, he pulls ranks and acts out like a cranky toddler. Every time he’s tried to teach Wally or Jesse or someone about their powers and they make a mistake, he flips out on them and tries to fix everything himself. He regularly goes into “bullying jock” mode when threatened. He is a horrible teacher. He keeps essential, life-threatening secrets from his team. He makes decisions based on personal griefs, which screws things up catastrophically for everyone else, then sulks about it when someone points it out. These are not the actions of a capable leader. They are the reactions of a guy still maturing into adulthood. Which would be fine, if the narrative acknowledged that Barry is still on his journey to adulthood. Yet time and again, we’re told how great Barry is, quite a lot of evidence to the contrary. I mean, the guy proposed to his girlfriend just to change the future! Classic dick move. The only place we really get to see this wise and capable Barry is in the crossovers, when he’s dealing with Oliver/Green Arrow or Supergirl. I wish that Barry was the star of The Flash. Now he’s a guy I would follow anywhere.

Everything I’ve said here come from a place of love. I don’t want to tune out. I want The Flash to be awesome again. I know this is the family show in the Arrowverse, but that doesn’t mean it has to be repetitive, inconsistent, or flirt with sexism. And while we’re at it, how about some serious LGBTQ representation? There are currently three straight couples on the show. And the POCs often get shoved into their own marginalized subplots, away from the main action.

I criticize because I love, The Flash. Because we need a hero with Barry Allen’s spirit and optimism in these troubled times. He’s a speedster, after all–nothing wrong with keeping him on his toes.