Happy Holidays Team Red readers. I hope you enjoy this holiday stocking stuffer–a short story from Red’s point of view (PoV)


Can you hear me now?

Copyright © December 2021 by T. Hammond

Editor: Tara Shaner, Shaner Media Creations


All rights reserved by the author. No part of this story may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, taping, or other information storage or retrieval system without the express written consent of the author.


This story contains no adult situations, themes, or explicit sexual content.



This Team Red stocking stuffer is a work of fiction—a narrating dog should be your first clue.



It’s been a perfect spring for German shepherds with plenty of sunny weather, although Tony sure complains a lot about the forty-degree temperatures in the morning. Light weight.

I’m Red, or Top Dog when I’m on assignment. My nose is super-sensitive so I smell stuff that humans can’t, which makes me valuable to the local police department when they review case evidence. My nose also comes in handy when Teresa is searching for Ken’s cookie stash. My people miss out on lots of interesting scents.

Since humans chat freely around (and to) animals, I can get up close and personal to learn things they’d rather be kept secret. Sometimes the words people use don’t match what their body is saying. Teresa is special because she’s the only one who can hear my thoughts and she helps me sort out what’s happening. Together we are a good team.


** Morning after breakfast but before lunch, Monday—April, I think **


I step out onto the deck and scan my yard.


Nah, just kidding. It’s supposed to be funny to say, but I’m not sure why. Ken and Teresa say it about Janey all the time. Bas tells me it’s a joke, a cliché. No matter how much he tries to explain why it’s funny, I’m still as confused as the first time I heard them laugh about it in the kitchen. I mean, first, we were inside the house, so there are no squirrels—I’d know because I check boundaries as soon as I wake up in the morning. Are they implying I didn’t do my job? Second, what’s so funny about squirrels? Yeah, they have those fat bodies with skinny legs, and they make obnoxious noises, but they’re no worse than cats. Actually, nothing is worse than cats.

Teresa and I sat through a sign language video this morning. We already know a lot of it, but Gil says the redundancy helps to reinforce the lessons. He learned ASL when he was a kid ‘cuz his dad is deaf. I learned to read the most important signs first: chicken, steak, bacon, and marshmallow.

I’m on my own for the rest of the morning. Peanut is being feisty, so Teresa wants to lie down close to the bathroom in case she spews her breakfast. She’s been doing that a lot lately, but Doc says it’s nothing to be alarmed about because her pregnancy is progressing nicely. I could have told him that—the nose knows.

Teresa complains that’s easy for Doc to say when he’s not a slave to the throne. I’m pretty sure a throne is the toilet, but no one has explained why it’s a throne when you’re barfing into it but not when sitting on it. But then some of the guys call it “hitting the head,” which is even more confusing. No one ever hits it, and it looks nothing like a head. Doesn’t smell like one either.

Yeah, people don’t make sense a lot of times.

Q, short for Quinn Sparks, is PreClan’s new hardware tech. David and Bas hired her for her specialization in micro-miniature electronics. She’s on loan to Team Red ‘cuz (according to Dex) Teresa’s sleeping with the boss. Q has been experimenting with itsy-bitsy wireless earbuds so I can receive instructions from Team Red members and Mustangs when we’re in the field. Gil says an earpiece, a way to communicate over distances, would have made the Tahoe avalanche rescue easier and safer for everyone. Sign language is fine and dandy, but I’m eager to have something more subtle and accurate when we’re not face-to-face.

Her first prototype lasted less than five minutes. Hey, don’t blame me! When a dog’s gotta scratch an ear, sometimes you lose a device to the ecstasy of the moment. Not unlike launching for low-flying drones. I lost the second one somewhere in the woods playing hide-and-seek with Tank and Wes. Okay, I admit, the glue irritated my ear so I may have been a tad rough when I scratched my head against that blue spruce. Q thinks I had an adverse reaction to something in the adhesive, so the third prototype used a natural gum-type cement. That one almost immediately slipped down my ear canal and it took a few great headshakes to dislodge it.

The latest model, number eight, is doing okay for two days now. The reception isn’t ideal—Teresa says the noise I’m hearing is “tinny”—but Q has explained it’s a cheap earpiece. For now, she’s focusing on the fit. Finding a shape and material that isn’t easily dislodged. After Q sorts that out we’ll work on improving the receiver quality.

I lift my head to breathe in the outdoor scents: pine, squirrel, deer, moose, raccoon, gun metal, some of the Wild Horse security guys, water…ah, there it is—Tank and Wes. I sprint through the trees, past the Wild Horse compound toward the newer property PreClan purchased to enlarge our territory. There aren’t many security cameras mounted in this area, so those two are gonna be in trouble when David finds out Wes is wandering in a restricted area. I’m allowed out here ‘cuz it’s part of my perimeter. Everyone understands German shepherds are compelled to secure the boundaries around our people.

Scratchy static crackles in my ear telling me I’ve reached the limit of the earbud’s range. It tickles. I paw the side of my head but resist the urge to dig out the irritation because I’m a good boy.

I can still communicate with Teresa if I need to. I stop briefly to investigate a pile of leaves with an interesting smell. With a couple nudges, I uncover the remains of a mangled, decomposing chipmunk. By the looks of it, and the surrounding odors, the cat has been hunting in my woods again. Teresa likes chipmunks, so I’ll skip this disclosure on my lunchtime perimeter report. I’m tempted to track the intruder, but with Wes wandering in areas he shouldn’t be, he’s my priority.

I’m entering the west sector, as the Mustangs refer to it, following a combination of sneaker tracks and puppy urine along the Little Spokane River embankment. Wes approached the steep drop-off too closely a couple times, probably so he could check the water level. Temperatures are still too cold for snow melt, so I can see the rocky, shallow bottom in most places. In another month or so, as the weather warms and the river rises, people will float by in kayaks, canoes, and inflatables.

I continue tracking, avoiding the distractions of marmot and skunk trails. Teresa has cautioned us about skunks. I hope Tank heeds her warning.

“Hey, Red.” Double D’s voice is a staticky broken-up noise in my left ear. “Where…you…buddy? Can’t…the…—amaras.”

Time to chat with the boss. “Teresa, Double D’s trying to hail me, but I’m out of earpiece range in the west sector following Wes and Tank’s scents. I’m planning to bring them back into the secured area.”

Teresa’s upstairs, so it may take her a few minutes to inform Double D of my status.

I lift my head and swivel my ears in the general direction of my quarry. I hear them up ahead. Wes is having a rambling conversation with my brother, Tank, who’s tromping through the brush like a buffalo. Stealthy, he’s not. I don’t need my nose anymore, so I increase my gait and soon spot the duo up ahead. I bark to catch their attention.

Wes stops abruptly and looks my way with a broad smile. “Late start? Teresa not with you? Puking, no doubt. Peanut better be worth it or she’ll end up an only child. Dad says men are wimps when it comes to being sick, and it’s a good thing men don’t have babies because humans would have died out long ago.”

“Red, can you hear me now? Bas boosted the antenna power to increase range.” Double D’s voice comes through loudly with a jarring, tinny echo.

“Teresa, I can hear Double D. I found Wes and Tank. They’re fine, but they’ve wandered a long way from—Oopsie!” I glance over toward the puppy just in time to see his hindquarters disappear over the edge.

“Okay bud, you just freaked Teresa out. What’s going on?” Double D’s tone has a hint of panic, a phenomenon I’ve noticed with increasing regularity since Teresa and Bas announced her pregnancy. No one wants to upset the mama-to-be.

“I can go lights on, Teresa, but sit down first so you don’t get dizzy.”

Wes finally notices Tank is gone and, following the pup’s pitiful whine, steps toward the river to look down. I force my body between him and the steep edge, pushing him away from potential disaster.

“Tank slipped over the embankment. He doesn’t sound hurt, but he’s scared.” Keeping an ear flicked in Wesley’s direction to make sure he stays put, I glance over the side. “It’s steep, but not too far to the water.”

“She’s ready for lights on, bud.” Double D is back to his usual, calm self.

I flip the mental switch connecting me to Teresa, sharing my sight with her.

Smelling worried, Wes has shuffled forward again, so I herd him back, bumping my body against his legs until he is safely away. I growl a warning at him.

Wes glares and crosses his arms with all the pre-teen belligerence he can muster. He knows he’s in the wrong.

If only dogs could roll their eyes. I settle for huffing at him.

I approach the riverbank again, swiveling my head toward Wes to let him know I’m watching.

“Teresa, Tank’s within reach, but the security team should bring a rope in case he slides further before they get here.” I scan the river below as far as I can see in both directions to give Teresa a visual of where we are. Another side-glance at Wes assures me he’s standing where I left him.

Hours later—okay, maybe only five minutes but that feels like forever in dog-time—two quad motors announce the arrival of reinforcements. I lift my snout and test the air. Spook and Grizzz.

They halt by the embankment and look over to see what they’re up against.

Wes interprets their presence as permission to approach closer. I bump him back and give another warning growl, this time with teeth showing.

“I’m telling Dad you snarled at me,” Wes complains.

Grizzz snickers. “Before or after you tell him you ventured into a restricted area?”

“And lost Tank down the side of a cliff?” Spook adds.

Wes frowns, folding his arms in sullen silence. Again. My nose says his initial fear has become embarrassment.

Grizzz unhooks her bullwhip from her belt. She’s really accurate with it and has driven off more than one coyote with a snap to their butts. I don’t think she actually connects with it, but the cracking sound is startling. Not unlike a gunshot. If only I had thumbs, I could use it for cats. Teresa would let me if I told her about the chipmunk. Maybe.

Spook grasps the handle and braces his legs while leaning back against the quad as Grizzz wraps the thin tail around her wrist and repels down to Tank.

I hear her soothing tone as she scoops up the pup.

When she calls that she’s got him, Spook starts pulling them, hand over hand up the ridge. I run forward to help by pulling on the whip too. The leather is soft in my teeth, so I can get a good grip. Shepherds are good at pulling games.

Once Tank is on firm ground, I check him over and report his healthy condition to Teresa. “He’s fine, Beautiful. We’ll head back now.”

The pup is excited to be rescued and twirls in circles.

I look down at the river. “Tank picked the perfect place to fall. It’s a short drop and easy to get—”

Now I’m over the edge, a casualty of Tank’s enthusiastic spinning. Unlike my smaller, younger brother, I slide all the way down and land with a splash in the river. I can stand easily so I give myself a vigorous, full-body shake.

There’s a gurgling in my ear—on the upside, the tinny sound is gone.

“I’m fine, Teresa, but you might want to tell Q the earbuds ought to be waterproof. I didn’t lose this one, but it’s dead.

“Grizzz is shaking her head. She says she’s going to get the rope to haul my ‘furry butt’ out because I’m too heavy to carry, and I fell further than Tank. I’ll be home in a bit. Lights out.”

I wonder how long my next receiver will last?




 One of my favorite Blog posts from May 2014. If I could pick the most important  piece of advice. A quality editor! Not someone who charges you $100-300 and all they do is a spell check and minor punctuation, but a developmental editor who will suggest areas to improve, point out your flaws so you can learn to write cleaner, and hacks out all the extra wordiness. Editors are your friends, maybe not friends you like all the time, but someone who wants to help you be a better writer.


So may things to do AFTER the novel is written. For the non-authors that follow my blog, here is my typical process before Release Day (If you’re not interested *gasp!* scroll down for rafflecopter and free books info):

1. DETAILS: Mmmm, do I want New Times Roman, Arial, or Courier font? Most uploads will only support those three (we won’t talk about the hassle of embedding other fonts- I don’t want this to turn into a rant). Do I have an idea for the cover? This can take as little as a few days if you see the perfect stock art/photo picture (My Color Blind picture was so popular, I counted no less than SIX other authors that used the same one). My cover for Blind Faith was so frustrating, I finally resorted to asking a friend to pose so I could get the pose I wanted).

2. STYLE: In my case, I have a list of possible titles (as I use the word BLIND in my adult series, and RED in the PG-rated version). Usually, by the end of the current book, I have a theme for the next, so I can pull a name off my list. Book 5 will be called Blind-Sided. I have no intentions of writing a sixth book… but I started off thinking the Team Red series would be a trilogy, and we all see how that plan imploded.
** IF you’re curious… these are names my readers and betas have come up with for possible titles: Blind Luck, Blind Obedience, Running Blind, Blind Devotion, Blind Hope, Blind Dedication, Blind Corner, Blind Action, Love is Blind, Blind Date, BlindFold, Blind Ambition. Most I probably wouldn’t use (if you know the main character, Teresa, you’d know how ridiculous Blind Obedience would be for a title *snort*), but I never know what ideas will pop up, so I keep adding to the list. Feel free to comment if you have others to add.

3. OUTLINE: Some writers need a solid outline before they start– not me! There are normally two types of writers: Plotters, and pantsers. Plotter is self explanatory (but, if you haven’t had your coffee yet, plotter is someone who plots the whole book. Maybe has a nice outline their characters follow). I’m a pantser, a writer that writes by the seat of their pants… errr, off the cuff? Okay, we’ll simply say it; I write the story as I go. Sure, I try to do an outline. For Book 4, there was an intricate sequence I needed to follow, so I thought it would be helpful. It helped so I didn’t forget key points, but the characters completely ignored the script and ad-libbed. Book 1, Blind Seduction, was a perfect example- up until chapter 19, Bastian was supposed to get the girl. I was half way thru the chapter and realized that wasn’t going to happen. Book 3, supposedly the final book of the Team Red series, was supposed to be Bas getting a girl (he was going to win Gil’s love interest, Ashe). If you follow the series, you know that didn’t happen. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE.

4. WRITE. My goal is usually 75,000 words, which is approx 225 pages (Blind Rage turned into 80k+, and approx 260 pgs). In my case, I count everything, including dedication, bio, author notes, etc. Mainly because these things may change from book to book, and they all must be edited– if my editor counts it and charges me for it, by golly, I’m including it in the word count! My goal is 2000+ words per day. I am not a typist. I have arthritis, and am considered medically disabled and I don’t have full use of the left hand, and joints in the right hand begin to swell with overuse. I also have problems sitting in the same position, so I need to move around. On a bad day, I may only do 500 words, and spend the afternoon editing or reading passages. On a good day, I’ve been known to look up and see it’s 3am and I’ve written over 5000 words. By then, I’ll probably keep going, unless my hands are trashed, because I have to get up around 6:30 to take Molly to the dog park– might as well keep going, right? If you intend to make writing a career, treat it like a job. Set hours aside to dedicate to your craft. If you have writer’s block, work on edits, or read about writing/grammar, etc to make your words flow better.

5. CONSISTENCY: I keep a second document open as I write, called my Blind Notes. Every time I open a thread for a sub-plot, or confusing action, I note things in this file. In my Blind notes, I have things I can cut and paste to keep my book consistent — examples:
a) Teresa has an audible bedside clock, the notes remind me how the clock verbally tells her the date and time;
b) there is a clock on her mantle, it chimes in the morning hours, and has a ‘gong’ noise in the pm hours;
c) if Teresa is in a car with friends and guards, I keep track of which pair of guards have accompanied her, so I can keep track of who would be adding to dialog (in Book 4, there are 6 guards in the Team Red detail)
d) an open thread readers emailed, commented and IM’d me about from Blind Faith– what’s going on with Miami? I had a note carried over from book 3 to address in book 4.
e) I track the fonts used for Red’s mental speech, hand/sign language, and date stamps- so I can use each they same way through all the books.
f) love interests, even flirting, is documented in case I want to carry on with a pairing.
g) There are currently over 70 people named throughout the Team Red series (even if its a doctor who was named once, I track it so I don’t accidentally use a name too closely related, or I can refer back to it again). I have a spreadsheet with the full names of all the characters, even those not introduced by name (for example, in Blind Rage, I mention there are six men brought in for PreClan’s security detail, but a few of them are not referred to by name in book 4). The spreadsheet has ages, occupations, physical descriptions, characteristics, and even a “x” to tell me which books they featured in. Animals are a big part of the series, so pets are included for tracking purposes.
The Blind notes also have small snippets of dialog that I didn’t use in prior books– possibly edited out (Drat, Tara and her red pen!), or the book isn’t ready for it yet. The notes contain information regarding Mustangs, military slang, and other useful tidbits I can draw from, as they relate to the continuing story lines.

5. EDITOR: I have written a book in three weeks; that will probably never happen again. In most cases, adding up self-editing, re-reading, and changes, my Team Red books are 6-8 weeks in the writing before I even consider handing it over to an editor. At the beginning of each novel, I have a good idea how long the book will take, and I schedule my two appointments with my editor, Tara, of Shaner Media Creations. She can be booked out as far as two months, so I want to get my book reserved so she can perform red-ink magic when the book is ready. I am getting better at self-editing, but I read the manuscript so often, I often skip right over the errors. Word of advice to newbies: when researching your editor:
a. know what it is they will do for you. ASK for details. If they charge $150 you will probably get spell check (you do know, you can do that yourself, right?), and punctuation (again, you can do that yourself by performing a line-by-line read-thru of your manuscript). For $250-300 you will probably also get some decent grammar nazi to review the novel. I pay premium cost for Shaner Media Creations WordSmith edit. Tara is worth every dollar, and I feel I get full value. Tara can be contacted through Facebook.
b. ask the editor for examples of books they’ve edited, then go to Amazon and READ the Closer Look to see the quality of their work. After 1-2 chapters, you will know if they are qualified.
c. read thru the reviews of the books your prospective editor has done. Reviewers can be brutal, if the book is badly edited, the reviews will consistently mention the poor quality.
c. find out when your editor can schedule you in. If they can do it right away, it’s clear they had a cancellation, or they don’t have clients. This is not a bad thing, but I suggest you ask them to edit a couple pages for free so you can see the quality of their work. A new editor should be willing to do this to prove their value, and to try and gain clients– after all, you will be a huge success, and they would be the first person you look to for future work, right?

6. EDITING: Depending on the editor’s personal life (i.e. does he, or she, have a day job?), a book of 75k words will take 4-8 days to edit– well, unless you’re really, really sloppy. Then, count on a few weeks and them asking for more money. Here’s the truth of the matter- the editor is there to polish your book, but as a writer, you should also have some pride in the work you’ve handed them to review. If this is what you want to do as a full-time career, you need to put effort into it, as you would any job in which you plan to excel. Has it been awhile since you’ve had creative writing classes? Might I recommend a good expository writing class? Re-learn those basics. Get some books, from the library, if you’re poor like me, and read up on grammar. There are books on how to develop a plot, and build suspense, cripes, there are probably books on writing sex scenes, too. You should be handing your editor a well developed manuscript, not depending on them to find all your mistakes. Have some pride in what you do. Treat this like a job. My editor usually has my book back in 4-5 days. Tara makes corrections in red to indicate “Must change this” areas, such as missed/incorrect punctuation, past/present tense corrections (Yup, this is one of my downfalls *sigh*), grammar changes, etc. A good editor will notate their changes for you to approve. Also take this as a learning opportunity to improve the next book(s). My first time mistakes?
a. That. This word can often be dropped completely or switched with who, which, or the.
b. Just. This word can often be dropped or switched with often, only, normally, or simply.
c. Its. For clarification, re-read sentence to see if you should name the object. For example, “I wondered about its current status,” may read better as “I wondered about the book’s current status.” It won’t always work, or isn’t always needed, but sometimes, I find it clarifies my paragraph.
d. Said. Gets boring, there are other words that can replace this word and add to the drama, humor, or suspense of the ongoing dialog.
e. Consistency (the reason for the Blind notes).

7. REVIEW: Once I get the edited manuscript back, review and accept the changes or re-word problem areas. After I have fixed the whole thing (Usually 3-4 days for me) I do a line-by-line read through to double check. It’s easy when making changes to accidentally delete a word you DID need. My editor, as part of her service, does a second edit, we call it a verify edit. She reads the complete book out loud to herself (and her dog, or husband- subject matter not appropriate for her youngin’) to catch any additional errors. Once she gets it back to me with final changes (Yep, no matter how good you are, or how many times you review it- you will always find something additional to fix). I do MY line-by-line final review. If there is something unclear, or I question a change (not too often, she shoots me down or quotes grammar nazi rules of proper grammar at me *another, heavier, sigh*), we handle those via email or IM.

8. FINISHED… or Not. Now the book is completed, and for me, the un-fun stuff begins. I load my books to KDP (Amazon’s Kindle platform), Createspace (Amazon’s paperback platform), Barnes and Noble (Nook), and recently, Smashwords. You know how when you go to the grocery store, and all the debit/credit machines are different? Yep! You’ve got a head-up to the publishing world. As examples: B&N wants ‘section breaks’ and ignores ‘page breaks’ – a direct opposite of Smashwords which doesn’t want ‘section breaks.” Createspace (CS) wants gutters and margins, and page numbers. Can’t use page numbers in Smashwords, and you can’t use the Table of Contents with linked Chapters. Smashwords has their own preferred format. So, the bottom line? After each book is written, it must be formatted differently for each platform — you can see the potential for more fun, when the book comes out and readers start emailing with the additional errors they caught that need fixing. Sigh… off I go to my 4 documents to make changes (in the case of CS, I need to make sure those changes don’t mess with my chapter length). And each book is uploaded separately.

9. MARKETING: I hate this part. I’m a writer, damn it. I’m ready to start the next book… instead, I need to create swag (short for swaggar– bookmarks, postcards, and other marketing nick nacks), to help advertise and promote my new masterpiece. Daily, on my facebook, and weekly on my Goodreads and this blog, I now want to generate interest with blurbs, bribes, err.. I mean complimentary ARCs (advance reader copies) , contests (usually flash giveaways, or rafflecopters- which mean time spent contacting other writers to get some of their swag or ebook commitments for my prizes), and contacting bloggers for cover reveals, release day blitzes, interviews, and reviews. There are people you can hire to do these things, but after the first two books, I found many of them were doing what I already was doing anyway. They may know a few more bloggers willing to do a tour, but I still have to spend time compiling blurbs, links, bio, and other info.

10. RELEASE: Finally. Now I can get to the next book. After I address the rafflecopter and flash giveaway prize envelopes and email the free ebooks, and contact the participating authors as to winners for their stuff.

So, its a process. I will never enjoy the marketing aspects. I find promotions are frustrating. One day, I hope to find a great, reasonably-priced tour company to handle all that for me (I’ve tried a few, and while they do a good job, for the most part, I have often had the impression there were so many tours going on, they didn’t care about my book). Most tours companies will not have an interest or opportunity to read your book, especially if you are an unknown Indie writer, such as myself. How can they promote something they have no passion for?

Now you have an idea of what steps go into the writing process. Its a great job, but if you want to be taken seriously, you need to put time, effort, and monetary investment into your craft. In my case, I spend about $1500-2000 per book, in postage, free paperbacks, swag, and editing. It can be done for cheaper, but that’s what I average.

Another blog post brought over from one of my other Blogs– it has been edited from the original to reflect my current thoughts. If you haven’t seen Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds.com site, check it out- he’s irreverent, witty, and a snappy wit. Oh, and he uses bad language, so be prepared.


Chuck’s terribleminds.com blog issued a 1000 word challenge: “Why do you write?”

When I read the Jul 24 2015 Terribleminds newsletter, my haughty, immediate answer was, “I write for myself, of course.” Then, I dismounted my high horse and had second thoughts. Somewhere around book four, the Team Red series ceased to be about me, and became all about not disappointing the fans of the series. Granted, I’m no million dollar seller (Book 1, Blind Seduction, which is free, has been uploaded about 25000 times. Respectable for an Indie writer, but nothing spectacular.) But, my fans are awesome— and vocal—sending emails, leaving encouraging chat messages, and commenting on Facebook posts. The messages are usually the same: when is the next book coming out?

My problem is self-inflicted. As a new writer, and a fairly new indie (I started 3/2013), I tried to keep up with my competition who put out three or four books a year. I decided three at 75k words each was do-able for me, and I scheduled dates with my editor. By the time book four rolled around, I was dreading the next book—in fact, I was stressed and ill, so the book 5 turned into a novella so I could meet my self-imposed deadlines.

There you have it folks—the point where I’d ceased writing for me, and became all about the edit deadlines. By the end of book six, the last scheduled in the series, I was D.O.N.E.

I don’t read Paranormal Romance as a rule, so I have no idea why the Team Red characters graced me with their story. I loved writing about Teresa, Red (especially Red), Bas, David… well, all the players actually. I feel lucky to have created a cast of likeable people who tell a wonderful tale. But, other stories started tumbling around in my brainbox. I was ready to try something new.

Enter Posse. A story revolving around eight main characters; multiple PoVs (point of view) was a great challenge and I was ready. I wanted to mix historical events into an Urban Fantasy. I wanted to try my hand at world building, and drawing characters with more background, layers, and complexity. I scheduled my Urban Fantasy epic tale with my Editor (who was booked out a year in advance—yeah, she’s that awesome) and guesstimated 100-120k pages for the book. I was only a month into planning when I realized I had a trilogy on my hands. Posse kept expanding and the characters were telling me more and more of their background stories. I’d created a monster, and decided almost immediately to tell the complete story. Now, I had a few more books to schedule. Posse became Posse: Legends. And two more evolved, Posse: The Dragon Gods, and Posse: The Fall of Atlantis.

Fans were mildly encouraging about the new trilogy, but most of my email was asking for another Team Red book—there are a lot of requests for book seven mixed in with book reviews and Facebook posts. I’d already decided to do an offshoot series of the Mustangs, starting with fan favorite, Frost, but the book seven requests kept rolling in. Luckily, I’d pre-scheduled a couple of the Wild Horse books with the editor-goddess, so I could appease the masses. Possibly.

I was cursed. I’d created a set of enduring characters, and the fans didn’t want to let them go. To defer to their wishes, I conceded to add novellas to the offshoot series, tentatively called the Wild Horse series. Fans could keep up with the Team Red characters, but I’d be free to write other things. Or could I?

The more Posse came alive on paper (metaphorically speaking, of course), the more it grew. My 85-90k guesstimate had the growth properties of bacteria. It seemed the more I wrote, the more background information each character revealed. When I had the plot clear and I was steering in one direction, a character would throw in a new twist (which was really awesome, as the eight threads of the story were making more and more sense and the complexity was satisfying).

Sigh. I’ve discovered, with more complexity, comes greater responsibility to world build. My 85k target wanted to inch up to the 100k region again. I ruthlessly held it back, ever conscious of the self-imposed edit deadlines and pre-arranged word counts. I finally had to snap off the first 25k words of Legends into a novella- Posse: The Duoviri which tells Lexa and Etienne’s backstory and why the Duoviri was created.

But, I wasn’t writing for me anymore. I was not writing the story I wanted to tell. I was strangling the life and energy from a story which has been speaking to me for over a year—all to get it into the hands of fans who are asking for book seven of a different series.

Two hugely significant and life changing things happened this last week. My editor announced her retirement. I’m losing my collaborator—and that’s truly how I feel about her. And Chuck Wendig asked me “Why do you write?”

A couple days ago, I cancelled the Posse series with my editor. I’ve paid for book covers, an online book tour, and my publicity person… but I decided that telling the story I want to tell, is more important than publishing three books per year. I’ll continue to write, but I don’t know if I’ll publish it. Can’t say I care at this point. I need to do Posse right, which means no compromise on word count or deadlines.

Now, I can answer Chuck’s question the way I did last year—I write for the love of writing. I write because the characters in my head are real and have a story they need me to but on paper.

I write because I can’t not write.


Note: As an update, after I lost some writing time to provide hospice care to my mom, who passed away 11/2016, I picked up the loose threads of Legends and now have a release date: Oct 26 2017. To quote Sinatra, I did it my way. My Team Red readers may not feel the connection to this series they feel to Red and the Team Red crew, but this series makes my heart happy).

As I set up blog articles – I am transferring some of my favorite posts from my other blog platforms (written by me over the past few years).


If you ask for beta or reader feedback– supress the ego and listen! If you ask a question, be prepared for honest answers.


Editors must have a rough time of it—working with authors who feel pushing the grammar boundaries is an expression of unique, personal technique, rather than lack of writing knowledge. I know I’ve beta read for a few writers who tried to excuse their run-on sentences and poor grammar and punctuation as “it’s just my style.” Nope, it was poorly-written tripe (I’d like to think I was more diplomatic with my feedback). Sometimes, the author isn’t looking for honest criticism; they’re looking for “yes” people to confirm their baby is beautiful.

Friends, I’m here to tell you, all babies are not beauties. Some are damned ugly—unfortunately, I’ve beta read a few of them. As a reader it’s hard to tell an author—especially one hoping for confirmation of their brilliance, not real feedback—their work needs more work. I can only image how difficult life must be for an editor, who puts hours into polishing a manuscript, to find out the author has an inflated sense of their own importance and has no intention of making changes.

Finding an editor you trust AND will listen to when (s)he tells you “you MUST change [something]”, is important. I’m still pouting about my (overruled) preference for single quotes, which I’d like to think are a matter of technique, but my editor reined me in with a firm hand *sigh*. When the editor refuses to compromise, then I know the change isn’t a suggested tweak, it’s a downright flaunting of the Law of Words (also known as CMoS or “The Elements of Style,” my editor’s two bible’s of word usage).

In order to break the rules, you need to know the rules, and your editor should be your combination angel-on-the-shoulder, voice-of-reason, and ruler-wielding-nun. As writers, we have a right to argue our point, but we also need to listen to the feedback we are paying someone (our trusted editor), or trusting someone (proof readers) to give us. I love the fragmented sentence– it’s consistent and appropriate with my dialog-driven writing style—this is how people talk, after all. But, in order to break this rule, I needed to understand what I was doing and why. As importantly, when to bend to the Editor’s Will when my personal style becomes lazy writing.

While the linked article isn’t as specific as I’d like, I want to remind my fellow writers, your editor should be your trusted collaborator. What’s more, if you can’t listen to their suggestions, you don’t either have the right editor (they don’t know what they’re doing? or, they’re not doing what you need from them?) or you need to take a look at yourself– have you let your ego and a mistaken ideal of not “losing your writer’s voice” blind you to some stellar advice?

Don’t be so sensitive when the editor tells you “you should [make a change or deletion]”. Instead, step back and look for a compromise- the editor is not your enemy, they are a trusted ally trying to help shape your book to its best possible presentation. You don’t want to lose your unique voice, but you also don’t want to foolishly produce a piece of garbage because you’re too stubborn to back down and listen to a professional.


This blog post was inspired by an article I read today. Thanks to Writer’s Circle for the idea.