ICYMI: Author Life Month

If you follow me on social media, you probably kept up with a little Instagram game I played in February. Author Life Month started out by providing a list of all the daily themes -- participants were supposed to post a photo corresponding with each theme on the given day, making sure each post was tagged with #AuthorLifeMonth. It ended up being a lot of fun, and I would often plan what I was going to post several days ahead of time. Posting and sharing to Twitter and Facebook kinda became part of my morning routine and now my Instagram is going to go back to being horribly neglected.

Regardless of whether you've already seen all of these, I thought it would be fun to go back and recap everything and bring all of these photos together. Click each photo to see a larger version.

Day 1: my books

#scifi #thriller #spaceopera



Day 2: my author photo

FUN FACT: This is actually a selfie. I hate having my picture taken, but this might have ended up being even more awkward. I had the camera balancing precariously on a fence post in my yard and was running back and forth trying to get the angle and lighting right. Meanwhile the grass was full of red ants and I was just wearing flip flops. That was fun. I need an updated pic one of these days... #selfelevelover9000

Day 3: my last 5-star read

I finished Defiance by Lucas Bale a couple of weeks ago. It's the second installment in his post-apocalyptic-meets-space-opera #BeyondTheWall series, and I really enjoyed it. I'm most of the way through the third book now. My full review can be found on my blog.

#indiebooks #indiepub #scifi #spaceopera #postapocalyptic

(NOTE: I have since finished the third book and it was also awesome. Review can be found here)

Day 4: my WIP

This is a snippet from Fracture featuring Matia Moryi, the assassin we saw relentlessly pursuing her target in the sneak peek included in The Collection (read it here). I promised myself I wouldn't reveal her name for a while, but alas, I'm bad at keeping secrets. Her hot temper gets her into trouble way too often, but she's strong and fast and observant and can almost always work her way back out of a situation. The same can't be said for her opponents.

#amwriting #scifi #writersofinstagram

Day 5: comp covers

Thinking back to when I first started all of this and was playing with Dakiti's cover,  I knew I wanted to base it on the cover of Burn by @theodekker. I've always loved that cover design and thought it was perfect for capturing the mystery/sinisterness(?) I wanted to portray when introducing Ziva. Obviously mine didn't turn out the same, but it was certainly the inspiration.

#bookcovers #coverart #coverdesign

Day 6: fan art/edit

Let it be known that seeing my characters drawn by other people -- particularly when it's a surprise -- is one of my favorite things on the entire planet. These are just a few of my favorites. On the top left, we have a super awesome piece of Zinni (who never gets enough love from me) done by dA's ~SecondSynergy. On the top right, we have Ziva (with her hair down!!) done by the awesome @xephtastic. On the bottom left, also by SecondSynergy, we have Ziva and Janelle Novaire, aka her very own Haphezian character! That reminds me, I promised her a cameo for Janelle one of these days... And finally, we have a super awesome piece by @ashleykayley (this one was actually a cheap commission). I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the pose and I've continued using this rifle design for the past couple of years.

#fanart #characterart #characterdesign

Day 7: writing music

I confess to not usually listening to music while I'm actually writing -- the music doesn't typically come until the editing stage. Even though I mainly listen to instrumental things without the distraction of lyrics, I still end up spending too much time sitting there picturing things instead of writing them down. Regardless, much of my go-to music includes stuff like #TwoStepsFromHell and @audiomachine. And you can never go wrong with @hansfzimmer. I have my Hans Zimmer Pandora station that plays various movie/game scores and trailer music. Among these is the Oblivion soundtrack, which I finally broke down and bought because it's awesome.

#amwriting #writingmusic #inspiration

Day 8: awesome moment

Unfortunately none of my awesome moments in the writing/publishing process are really documented, so here's an awesome moment from one of the books. This scene in chapter 10 of Ronan is one of my all-time favorites. Ziva pays notorious mobster Tobias Niio a visit in hopes that he can help her track someone down.  They have kind of a tenuous relationship but they also share a mutual respect for one another that makes them unlikely allies. I love Tobias, and I love that readers love him too. We'll definitely be seeing more of him ;)

#scifi #Ronan #ZivaPayvanBook3

Day 9: challenge overcome

I can't remember exactly when it was, but at some point while I was working on Ronan, I went through a little bit of a slump where I was stuck in a certain wordcount range -- I want to say 137k -- for something like 5 days. In other words, I didn't make enough daily progress to even get me past a wordcount of 137,xxx. That's always frustrating, and I remember being mad at myself for not working hard enough. But progress is progress, no matter how small, and I continued to #JustDoIt every day until I'd made it out of that rut and through that scene and could power on. Seriously, people asked me how I was able to make such consistent progress, and while I might not have called it "consistent," the answer really is that simple. Just. Do. It. Even if it's like 20 words, that's more than you had before.

Note: this image does not portray the problem-time specifically, but it's applicable all the same. 

#writetip #amwriting

Day 10: non-author photo

Because what photo of me doesn't also have the dog in it these days? I like her dumb little face...except when she's trying to eat my phone while I'm trying to watch Jeopardy. For the record, the character Mae came before the dog Mae. And psshh, I did not name by dog after my character. What are you even talking about? *shifty eyes*

Curse Snapchat's horrible image quality.

#maybeshewasbornwithit #maybeitsMAEbelline

Day 11: a fave review

There are several reviews of my books that I really love, but this one for Ronan might take the cake. I wanted to evoke certain reactions to of the story, and I think this sums everything up perfectly. *maniacal cackle*

#bookreviews #characterdrivenscifi

Day 12: killed darlings

I'm probably breaking the rules, but I always save any darlings I kill. The majority of the ones I get rid of are often witty one-liners or other dialogue that took me forever to come up with so I don't want all of that brain power to go to waste. I have a notepad on my phone that's kind of a Darlings Graveyard where they all go and wait to be resurrected. Sometimes I'm able to find a new place for them in a new story where they fit better, but a lot of the ones I've saved have actually been in that graveyard for years. Honestly I forget about most of them until I do things like this that prompt me to go back and look...

#amwriting #killyourdarlings

Day 13: a fave book in genre

I've NEVER been good at answering "What's your favorite _______?" and I've especially never been good at it when it comes to books. My interest change so frequently, and of course I'm constantly discovering more things I like, whether we're dealing with books, TV shows, games, etc. so I never really feel like I can pick a definite favorite. I'm going to kind of generalize here and include some of the books in the overall #scifi genre that I've really enjoyed over the past couple of years. And whadda ya know, they're all indie published (or at least were originally). First up, we have the #AuroraRising (Rhapsody) series by @gsjennsen. From Starshine to Sidespace (and soon to be Dissonance *twiddles thumbs*) -- these books are GOOD. Then there's the #SpectrasArise series by @tammysalyerauthor. Badass ex-military heroine and a ragtag crew à la Firefly? Yes please. Then there's @hughhowey's Silo series (Wool, Shift, and Dust), which are a very thought-provoking #postapocalyptic #scifi with great characters and plot structure. Then of course there's #TheMartian -- SUCH a good book. I was really pleased with how the movie turned out, too. It's super cool that an indie-published book became a movie that's been nominated for multiple Oscars.

#books #bookrecs #indiebooks

Day 14: fave of your covers

I've always gotta stick with #Dakiti #ZivaPayvanBook1 as my favorite cover...because RED. It's the foundation. The original. The introduction. My first brainchild. Did I mention it's red? I've always felt like it really sets the tone for the book, and maybe even the whole series. It's striking and mysterious, and highlights the feature that always seems to capture people's attention: Ziva's eyes. Which are red. I do love the layout of the #Ronan cover but I just generally don't like the green as much. Wonder what it would look like in red?

#neverneoughred #bookcovers #coverdesign

Day 15: swag

Sadly, I don't have a ton of swag because up until fairly recently, I couldn't afford more than the basics. I've also never really been to an event big enough to warrant more than the basics. And most of the "swag" I buy is for myself anyway. I have book posters up on the walls in my house and in my office, and I carry business cards and bookmarks around wherever I go to hand out to anyone who wants them. But I did have all of this out on the table at the signing I did in September. And candy. There's always candy.

I also really hate the word "swag." And I want to re-do those black and white bookmarks with VistaPrint because the other company I used sucked majorly.

#bookswag #authorsofinstagram

Day 16: where you write

My writing space is a wreck. It's just the dining room table (I mean, who actually eats at their dining table?) because my former writing spot -- a basic recliner in the living room -- is not dog-proof enough and I can't get anything done with a 7-month-old canine climbing all over me (you can see the little nerd down in the bottom left corner if you look carefully). So the dining table it is. We of course have the empty Dr. Pepper bottle, a common sight on my house. We have the Wacom tablet and pen, and all the Nuka Cola and Sunset Sarsaparilla bottle cap templates I printed a week and a half ago and haven't done anything with. One of these days I need a dedicated computer table/desk, preferably one high enough to require a tall stool. Of course then the cats could still reach me, and they're as bad as the dog when they want attention...

#amwriting #sortof #authorsofinstagram

UPDATE: the bottle cap templates are still there.

Day 17: where you relax

Typically, I relax wherever the dog is not at any given moment because she is literally a child who requires near-constant supervision. I mentioned the recliner in my post yesterday, but it's boring to look at. So let's take it back to summertime when it's actually warm enough to be outside on the hammock! It's honestly not a super comfortable hammock, but the fresh air is always nice, assuming it's not boiling hot out. This shot is from a couple of years ago, probably some evening after a miserable stint on jury duty when all I wanted to do was come home and drink too much Dr. Pepper and read (looks like I was beta-reading...Vertigo? at the time). One of the cats was actually stretched out next to me, and one of our chickens would always flap up there and try to steal whatever snack I had. I do a lot of reading on that hammock -- did several of my self-beta-reads of Ronan out there -- and I actually try to write out there as least when it's not forest fire season and I therefore have ash raining down all over my keyboard because that has been a thing. That same summer, I started dabbling a little in Ronan before I published Nexus and I clearly remember trying to write what would become chapter 6 and having to pack up and go inside because my screen was getting so filthy. We joked about how we lived in Mordor that summer. Anyway...

#amwriting #authorsofinstagram 

Day 18: research

*FBI shows up at my house*


One of the benefits of having been a student for the majority of my writing career so far was that I had access to all of my college's online libraries and could therefore find scholarly articles on just about anything I wanted. I'm pretty sure I looked up more stuff about spec ops weapons/ammo and sniper psychology than actual stuff for class papers. *cries because I've graduated and don't have access to this stuff anymore and am restricted to using Google Scholar*

Although in anticipation of this issue, I saved a bunch of articles as PDFs and I keep them with the rest of my writing stuff for future consultation. When writing Ronan in particular, I did additional research on neuroscience concepts, symptoms of health problems such as heat stroke and anemia, and sand storms ;)

#amwriting #writingresearch #authorsofinstagram

Day 19: your critique partner(s)

As much as I'd love to tag all of my super awesome beta readers in this, I've had a slightly different group for all three books and would therefore have to try to fit way too many people into this post. So, if you've ever beta read for me, just know that you're awesome and I'd be lost without you.

There's one person in particular though who has been with me since the beginning. I met Tanni in the Books & Authors section of Yahoo!Answers. I used to spend a lot of time there -- it was like the 2010 version of the /r/writing or /r/books subreddits. We then found each other on deviantART, and at some point she posted a note wondering if anyone would be willing to read and give feedback on a story she'd written. I volunteered, and eventually I asked her if she'd be willing to read and give me feedback for my stories as well. So she read both Dakiti and Nexus in all of their pre-even-considered-for-publication glory (by which I mean terribleness) and has been a huge help ever since. Whenever I had family or friends read before, I'd get the same old "Omg your writing is amazing!" response and nobody would ever tell me what I could fix or improve on. Tanni has given me honest (sometimes brutally so) feedback and has kicked me into gear on numerous occasions, which is something I really needed. I usually submit chapters of whatever I'm working on to her as I finish them, and once the whole story is finished, she's been gracious enough to go through and read the whole thing again. So she gets to know all of my secrets before anyone else ;) She currently has a variety of WIPs going, ranging from fantasy to dystopian sci fi, and is considering self-publishing soon. Y'all should go follow her on Twitter (@ta_hernandez5) and check out

Day 20: fave chapter ending


I have several chapter endings that I like -- and most of them are from Ronan -- but a bunch of them contain spoilers. This one is from one of my favorite overall chapters, and it incorporates both the heat stroke and some of the sniper rifle research I posted on Day 18.

#Ronan #ZivaPayvanBook3





Poor Taran kinda gets mentally/emotionally abused throughout this book, but I can't resist exchanges like this.

#NoCountryForOldMenvibes #Ronan #ZivaPayvanBook3




Day 21: your muse

Many of you know her these days. Special Operations Lieutenant (and later Captain) Ziva Payvan has been living rent-free inside my head for about 10 years now. She has demanded that her story be told, and I've had no choice but to comply. I'm often torn between being afraid of her and wishing she was real (I mean what author hasn't wished they could meet their character(s) in person? [assuming you'd still have control over them so they couldn't kill you]). Her story has been a lot of fun to tell, and her physical appearance has been a huge asset when it comes to marketing -- if I saw a character with red eyes on a book cover, I'd definitely want to take a closer look (assuming it obviously had nothing to do with vampires...). She's striking and mysterious -- not classically pretty -- but despite her thick build and chronic case of #RestingBitchFace (let's face it -- she kinda is one), there's still a certain grace about her that occasionally bubbles to the surface (quite frankly it's probably a product of being trained for efficiency and precision and general deadliness, but that's beside the point). All of these attributes are found in not just her as a character but in her story as well.

Agh she's my baby and I love her. I also just used way more parentheses than I'd meant to.

#amwriting #characterinspiration #writinginspiration #writingmuse

Day 22: a dedication page

Back when I was getting ready to publish Dakiti, my sister dared me to dedicate it to her. So I did. It was kind of just a joke, but I didn't really have anyone in particular to dedicate it to.

She hasn't actually read any of my books...

#amwriting #authorsofinstagram #bookdedication


Day 23: bucket list item

As much as I complain about my day job cutting into my writing time, day job also = money = ability to apply for BookBub. I've got a nifty little system worked out in which I'll start rotating Dakiti and The Collection through the application process, alternating between the US market and the UK/Canada markets. So that's four possible submissions, theoretically spread out enough that if I were to get rejected for all four, it would be time to re-apply for the first one by the time I received the rejection for the last one. I shall persist until one book or the other is accepted, and then I'll likely keep trying for whatever book/market(s) didn't get accepted. So yeah. A BookBub promo is definitely on my bucket list.

UPDATE: I got too excited and submitted everything too fast and now I still have to wait another week before I can start over :P

Day 24: bucket list item done

For a while, I had wanted to upgrade from a simple Wordpress blog to a full-fledged author website, and I finally got around to doing that last month. I was always concerned about it just being one more place to worry about posting stuff online (because Lord knows half the social media profiles I have get horribly neglected), but it has ended up working really well because it kind of combines my entire online presence into one central hub. I can still have my blog feature, and I utilize a second blog feature for announcements so all of that can stay separate from the book reviews and random musics on the actual blog. As before, I have dedicated pages for all of my books, including the WIPs, as well as a page for series artwork. Putting the whole thing together -- choosing banners, arranging the material, incorporating the various widgets -- was a lot of fun, and Squarespace is a pretty simple engine to work with. I'm really pleased with how the whole thing turned out.

I'm also noticing a fairly obvious but totally unintentional pattern in the color schemes for these page banners... #red

Day 25: pimp a pub-sib

Someone once said something in a Dakiti review about how "Transcendence Publishing must be a very small press." Mmmm hmmm. It's my dining room (as seen on Day 16). I do ALL THE THINGS myself (which is both exhausting and totally awesome). As such, I have no "pub-sib" and am therefore taking this opportunity to highlight some of the other indie science fiction authors/editors I've read, gotten to know, or even just chatted with over the past couple of years. And this is just a FEW. I've met and read books by some really awesome people.

Day 26: a fave book outside of genre

This may sound really weird but for the longest time, my favorite book EVER was Monster by Frank Peretti (and honestly, it might still be). I like a lot of books and can never pick a real favorite (as mentioned on Day 13) but I've always loved this one. I'm a freak. I've probably read it 5 times, all spaced out far enough that I forget everything and it's therefore just as good every time. The subject matter isn't for everyone, but I'm a huge nerd and I love the suspense and I've always enjoyed Peretti's writing. You find yourself rooting for the characters and trying to solve the mystery along the way, and I love that about any book.

Dang now I wanna read it again but I have like 500 other books in my TBR pile...

#bookrecs #suspense

Day 27: your signature

Yes, what you see on the landing page of my site is indeed my actual signature. That's probably the best rendition you're ever going to find of it too, because I was actually being careful and trying to make it look nice for decorative purposes. Whenever I sign books and whatnot I go too fast and end up accidentally swapping the S and the C in Fisch (not even joking -- that happened once). 

Day 28: fave event outfit/accessory

Boots. Or, as I like to call my collection, assassin boots. I'm kind of a boot hoarder and have actually had to get rid of a couple of pairs on order to make room for new ones. I love my collection in particular because almost all of them can be worn with jeans and a hoodie OR with skinny dress pants and a blazer or something. I can make them work for just about any type of event. The bottom middle ones are reserved for more formal things because heels annoy me (although as far as heels go, those aren't actually that uncomfortable). And the rest of these have juuuuust enough of a heel that I'm roughly 6'0" when I wear them, so that's awesome. For the book signing I did last fall, I wore skinny jeans with a black tanktop and blazer and the middle right boots.

Of course I hate wearing boots in the summer but I've never done an even that wasn't in cold weather so I'd definitely have to figure something else out if it was warm...

Disclaimer: despite the name, none of these assassin boots contain knives, lockpicks, etc. Sometimes I tuck my phone into them if the pants I'm wearing don't have pockets...which is, like, all the time. *shakes fist at women's pants designers*

I *also* like to wear earrings from my super nerdy collection, almost all of which have been purchased from landofrapture on Etsy. Unfortunately I've become allergic to all of them and can't wear them for more than a few hours before my earlobes are on fire. But for events, sometimes it's worth it.

TL;DR -- I like assassin boots and nerdy earrings.

Day 29: free day!

I'd just like to take the time to say thanks, not only to the other Author Life Month particpants (this has been fun!) but to all of my readers and fellow authors. Thanks for your Tweets, emails, reviews, comments, Facebook messages, etc. Thanks for reading my books, loving my characters, and allowing me to mercilessly torment you. It's been a lot of fun to have people to share this journey with. I couldn't do it without all of you. Well...technically I could but there wouldn't be much point ♥♥♥

#amwriting #authorsofinstagram


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I'm now participating in Geek Life Month, though I probably won't be posting every single day, and I won't be pushing posts through to Facebook. You can still find them on Instagram and Twitter!