Behind the Books

Welcome to the Dharakmeni Empire! (Writing Roundup, July 2020)

Important tomes in any adventurer’s library.

A few months ago, I had an idea. I wanted to create a freebie I could give away as a gift for subscribing to my newsletter group. But I also wanted it to include things that would appeal to both new and regular readers of my work, AND I wanted something that would provide an introduction to each of the series I write, across both the fantasy and crime fiction genres, to encourage people to dip their toes into each to see what they like.

This ended up morphing into the Back Story Sampler Collection.

The introductions to my World of Lasniniar epic fantasy series and Kira Brightwell crime fiction series were easy–I had introductory short stories that were already a perfect fit. And to provide something for existing readers, I added a bonus epilogue for each (that isn’t available anywhere else), as well as reading guides, and threw in some cool coupon codes for good measure.

But my Fatal Empire Quartet was a bit of a tricky one to figure out. I’ve only published the first volume in the fantasy series so far (Keeper of Secrets), but the others are coming out later this year, so I wanted to include some kind of representation of that world in the sampler (which will continue to grow as I sprawl out into new series).

Keeper of Secrets begins during Raziel’s childhood (the main character), so there really isn’t any room to fit in some kind of introductory short story for him. I could write one about his mother or foster-father (and I still might), but it would be difficult to pull off at this point without creating any spoilers for the forthcoming books in the series. Continue reading →

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Behind the Books | Striking Distance: A Kira Brightwell Short Story

[Original version of Striking Distance]

Whenever I start writing a new character or series, an origin story starts to grow in my mind as the character starts to flesh out, to explain aspects of their personality, skill set, reactions to particular situations, etc. When I decided to start writing this self-made, reluctant problem-solver for hire, Kira Brightwell, in her first novel, Split Decision, I knew I had a couple of big questions to answer.

Why would anyone think to hire Kira–a young woman with no formal training or police connections–to help with an abduction case? Why would Kira be motivated to take a lead role in that kind of situation?

Yes, by the start of Split Decision, Kira has spent three years training in MMA. So that makes her a badass, but hardly a crime expert.

…But what if she had a personal experience involving abduction? What if that event revealed skills and tenacity Kira never fully realized she had, and shaped her life going forward in ways she could never imagine? Continue reading →

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Behind the Books | Legends of Lasniniar: Possession

Sometimes it feels like somebody’s watching me…


Several years ago, I decided to challenge myself to write and release one new short fiction piece a month for an entire year from my World of Lasniniar epic fantasy series. Up until this point, I had only written two or three shorts in the series that took place between the novels. But now I was back to working a day job at the local bookstore. I figured a bunch of shorts would be more manageable as I got my job/writing balance worked out again, while still giving me a push to get things out.

This ended up being a huge growth period for me. Lasniniar is a large place, and even at the time when I started this project of shorter pieces, the existing books spanned thousands of years of history. I had a TON of potential characters and places/events to explore, without the obligation of making a novel out of it. Continue reading →

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Behind the Books: The God’s Eye

I wrote “The God’s Eye” in a notebook during my regular train commute to my corporate job with a book retail company in downtown Toronto. For the most part, I squeezed it in during the ride home, when I had a better chance of getting a seat, instead of standing and trying to keep my balance without bumping into anyone else crowded around me.

Other than some really early (and unpublished) work, “The God’s Eye” is the only piece I ever wrote by hand before transcribing it. Everything else I’ve done has been typed directly into some kind of device.

I didn’t do this out of any kind of romantic notion. It was just easier to slip a small notebook into my bag, instead of lugging around a laptop. (Even when I did get a seat on the train, I had to stay on my tiptoes to keep my knees from banging against the person sitting across from me.)

“The God’s Eye” came to me as an idea story—something that stood apart from anything else I was working on. For as long as I can remember, my husband (Mark) has told me to write short stories in addition to my novels. Up until around this point, I usually responded by telling him I wasn’t good at writing short stories (despite having won a local contest in my teenage years with a fantasy short). Besides, fantasy lends itself to sweeping, epic books, not measly short stories, right? (lol)

In a partial effort to prove him wrong, I wrote another fantasy short story called “The Unclean” and submitted it to a couple of larger writing contests (which is a whole other story). Anyway, after “The Unclean” placed third in the Writers’ Journal annual fiction contest, Mark seemed to have some ground to stand on.

So I thought maybe I would see whether that win was a fluke. Continue reading →

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It’s ALIVE! When Stories Take on a Life of Their Own

So this hasn’t always been the case, but over time, I have evolved into a ‘Discovery Writer’ (AKA: ‘Pantser,’ as in, ‘writing by the seat of your pants’ [as opposed to being a Planner]). I basically come up with a concept or jumping-off point, and find out where it leads (AKA: writing into the dark).

Sometimes, this method can be terrifying. (“Where the hell is this story going??”) But I have come to find it makes the writing process far more interesting (and fun!). It also means that a lot of times your stories or characters can end up taking a turn on you that you never saw coming.

I had this happen for all three of my most recent projects:

Legends of Lasniniar Goddess Almighty coverLegends of Lasniniar: Goddess Almighty

(Click here for product description and purchase links)

When I first came up with my list of ideas for what I wanted to do for each upcoming Legend of Lasnniar fantasy adventure over the six latest installments I had planned to write and publish in a row (this one is number four), I intended to write this story from an entirely opposite point of view.

But after writing Quicksilver, which details the first meeting of Iarion and Felara, I thought it would be much more interesting to get inside Felara’s head for Goddess Almighty. And since Felara is basically a sociopath, the story turned out a few shades darker than I had originally thought it would.

Tale of the Tape Kira Brightwell coverTale of the Tape: A Kira Brightwell Short Novel

(Click here for product description and pre-order links)

When I made my list of ideas for the upcoming run of Kira Brightwell crime fiction shorts I wanted to write and publish in a row (eight in total), I basically wrote ‘high school story’ in my notebook for this one. I also had a vague idea of Kira trying to find another student’s missing car, but that was pretty much it.

I thought this story was going to be pretty straightforward before I started. But as things moved along, other complications beyond the missing car came out of the woodwork, and really, the missing car was only the beginning.

Tale of the Tape evolved from a vague, short story idea into a short novel of over 25,000 words. (Crazy, right?)

It basically ended up being a much bigger story than I would have intentionally planned. And it was fun to have just Kira and Rob running around trying to solve things again, with Trevor in full douchebag form (much like in Under Wraps).

Legends of Lasniniar Prevailing Wind coverLegends of Lasniniar: Prevailing Wind

(Click here for product description and pre-order links)

After writing the tangling mystery that ended up being Tale of the Tape, I needed a change of pace. (Back when she was in high school, Kira didn’t have any MMA skills. While Tale of the Tape has quite a bit of action and suspense, there isn’t any actual fighting in it, and I was itching to kick some ass at this point.)

Prevailing Wind is a sideways story from the World of Lasniniar epic fantasy series that focuses on Arinwyn during the time of Storm Rider. (She doesn’t actually appear in Storm Rider, but this is one of her own adventures that occurs ‘off-page’ during that novel. She first appears in Legends of Lasniniar: Without Wings, which takes place during the time of Soul Seeker.)

This story is an evolution of Arinwyn’s character after we first meet her in Without Wings. Both her magic and her secret heritage are a continuing theme that she is forced to struggle with.

…And what better way to kick things off than with a badass battle against a dragon?

This one definitely ended up having more action than I originally had planned for an internal struggle story, but the fighting actually ended up informing that struggle, so it all worked out.


So basically all three of these stories ended up being quite a bit different than they probably would have been if I had started with a detailed plot outline in hand. Does that make them better? No way to tell, really. But it definitely made them more interesting and fun for me to write (which is what helps keep me humming along).

And I’m hoping that makes them more interesting and fun to read as well.


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Posted by Jacquelyn in Behind the Books, Publishing Updates, Writing Updates, 0 comments

The Top 5 Questions I Get Asked About Being a Writer

[Question Mark Illustration by Pixabay, via]

I’m pretty low-key about telling anyone I’m a writer. (Mainly because I feel like what a lot of people think being a writer entails is far more romanticized and exciting than the reality. I mean, it’s interesting to me, but there’s a reason why writing isn’t a spectator event. All the exciting/interesting stuff is going on where no one can see it.)

Inevitably when I do cop to being a writer, I tend to get the same round of questions (to which I provide awkward answers), so I figured I would throw them up here.

Now of course, there is no One True Way or Writing Police to keep everyone on the same path (which would be pretty boring). So this is just how I roll. Continue reading →

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How I fell ass-backward into writing

I’ll always have my backup career as an ice cream taster (aside from the whole lactose intolerance thing). [Photo by Brenda Smith.]

I never wanted to be a writer growing up.

I mean, I was always into reading. Like, really into reading. My parents are both big readers, and they did everything they could to encourage the same in me. There were bedtime stories (Noddy [affiliate link], complete with my dad’s off-key singing of the songs), library books (pretty sure my mom cleared out the then-paltry Young Adult section before starting to bring home adult fiction when I was in around fifth grade), book orders through my school classroom, and monthly visits to my local bookstore for the release of each new title in the Sweet Valley Twins [affiliate link] series. (Team Elizabeth 4 life! Lol.)

…And once I got into adult fantasy, I was unstoppable. Every summer, we would go to the cottage for a week, and I would go through at least one novel a day. I remember walking through the halls of my high school with a 700-page book under my arm and someone asking me what class I was reading it for. I got a blank stare when I explained I was just reading it for fun.

But yeah. I never thought about being a writer. Somehow, it was never on my radar. Continue reading →

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Adventures in Fiction Writing: When Sh*t Gets Too Real

A girl and her sharkosaurus.

When I started writing the Kira Brightwell series four years ago (Crap, has it really been that long??), I was excited to dip my toe into a new genre after writing only fantasy. I figured something like crime fiction would be a good fit for my strengths: action and quirky/snarky dialogue. The main difference from my fantasy projects is that it would take place in the ‘real world’. No problem, right?


See, one of the things I find the most liberating about writing fantasy is that the entire world comes out of my own head. Locations can be wherever/whatever I want or need them to be, and I can invent magical systems and creatures as I go along. Basically, there are no limitations. (That being said, it has become a bit of a challenge over the years to keep track of my ever-expanding Lasniniar series to make sure I’m sticking to my own canon, so I don’t end up getting stuck in a Lucy Lawless/Simpsons situation, lol.)

Originally, when I started planning the first Kira novel Split Decision, I was determined to use a real-world location. I was all over Google Maps, checking out Street View to see where locations within the story were in relation to each other and what they looked like, local crime rates, checking out colleges and universities, etc. (I’m sure Google gets very confused by my sketchy search history sometimes, which has included research for multiple ways to break into a car, how to break out of handcuffs, and footage of various MMA moves and holds, among other things.)

The whole real-world location thing was really starting to stress me out and stop me in my tracks. I had this crazy fear of someone calling me out on an inaccurate detail of what might possibly be their hometown. Then Mark saved me by suggesting I create a fictional town instead (La Valentia), framed within a real-world location (California). This hardly a new idea in fiction, and it really saved my ass. Suddenly, I felt like I had enough room to breathe again with an imaginary location that could be built to fit my needs and I would know better than anyone else.

…But then there was Kira. Continue reading →

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Halloween in Lasniniar? Plus, a Kira novel that wasn’t meant to happen…

Halloween in Lasniniar

A few years ago, I took on the challenge to write a Lasniniar Christmas-themed story. You know, just because. The reason I say it was a challenge is because there isn’t any Christmas (or organized religion) in Lasniniar, but hey, what do you know? They celebrate the winter solstice. (Convenient, right?) Anyway, I had so much fun with A Solstice Tale, I ended up writing another two Solstice-themed adventures featuring Iarion and Barlo (which always seem to turn into mystery misadventures for some reason).

This year, I wanted to try something different. I love Christmas (as much as someone who has worked 15+ years in retail is capable of doing so), and there might possibly be more Solstice adventures in the future, but I wanted a new challenge.

So what about Halloween? Continue reading →

Posted by Jacquelyn in Behind the Books, Writing Updates, 2 comments