Monday, August 31, 2015

The Biography

I have one chapter left to finish the biography. ONE! I’m super excited about that. Writing this book has been interesting and challenging.

I’m no stranger to writing nonfiction, but a biography is a bit different from what I’ve done in the past. It requires the same amount of research, but the focus is slightly different. To be honest, it took me a little while to realize that when I first started writing. And until I realized that, the project was frustrating.

When I first started writing, I thought that the main story of the book would be the historical documents and that my grandfather-in-law’s (Dale’s) story would wrap around that. But the notion felt wrong and I was often stuck in my writing.

Finally, I decided that the main text should be Dale’s story and the historical information should be ancillary and back up his words. Once I figured that out, the writing flowed.

I’m lucky in that Dale is still alive so I can talk to him and ask questions. I have hours and hours of recordings I can go back to for source information. He has colleagues who were more than happy to be interviewed and tell me stories about him. It has been fascinating learning about his life.

But that is also the part that makes it challenging. In my other nonfiction, the words I put on the page were mine; they were my opinion about a topic that interested me. In a biography, my opinion doesn’t really matter much.

I could totally interject it if I wanted to; give a personal quip or account of what I think about something, but I think that gets away from what I’m trying to do. Don’t get me wrong, the words on the page are mine, but they reflect stories that were told to me. I’m sure my tone or voice comes through in the writing, but I’m not presenting an argument or opinion. I’m presenting someone else’s facts.

At the same time, I’m picking and choosing which facts are presented. Dale has been alive for 90 years, and in that time, he’s met a lot of people and had a lot of experiences. He’s made impacts on the world and people’s lives, and others have done the same for him. But not all of these things are worth reading about, and if I tried to talk about all of them, the book would be gigantic. So I have to decide which ones are most pertinent and should be on the page for the audience to read. I have to develop the themes and decide how the book will be laid out.

I’m going to be honest, it’s a bit nerve-wracking trying to figure this out. There are so many amazing and heartbreaking stories, and I’m sure they all are important in their own way, but it’s just not feasible to put them in book form. I feel like I might be doing a disservice by not including them all. Like I’m omitting parts of his life, but I try to choose the stories that represent Dale the best.

I have Dale’s recordings and what he tells me in person, and I sift through them to find the nuggets I think would be the most appealing. I know that not everyone will agree with the ones I picked. I’m sure they would argue that there were others stories that were more important, but—again—I can’t put them all on the page.  And since I’m the one working on the book, I have to do what I think is right.

When I’m finished with this book, there’s only one opinion that matters, and that’s Dale’s. If he appreciates and approves the book, then I’ve succeeded in my goal as an author. I’ve made my audience happy.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the chapters that is more finalized but not necessarily done done.

CHAPTER 2

When Dale was 10, he took a job at a local pig farm as the cook’s assistant. His duties required him to be up before everyone else so that he could make sure the table was set and everyone was fed. The cooks weren’t always the nicest people, and on more than one occasion, Dale stormed off from his job, intent on never returning. But more often than not, his father would march him back to the farm to continue his duties. He was told that he couldn’t quit until the end of the season, and his dad wasn’t going to let him quit every job he started.

The situation with the cooks often didn’t get better when he returned. Since they knew Dale was stuck, they often worked him that much harder. However, Dale learned valuable lessons. The experience instilled in him a work ethic and sense of duty, and it taught him how to take orders—a trait that came in handy when he joined the Army.

Dale was 16 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and like every other boy in the country, he wanted his chance to prove his patriotism and defend democracy against the tyranny that threatened to take over the world. His brother was already in the Navy, and Dale waited impatiently for his chance to enlist.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, by Japanese fighters marked America’s commitment to join WWII. Before this incident, they tried to maintain a neutral position, even though they supplied weapons, ships, planes, and ammunition to Britain to help them fight the Germans. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. committed to send soldiers over to fight the war.

Dale was more than willing to do his part, but enlisting in the Army was a bit problematic. For starters, Dale was in agriculture, and his services would be more beneficial at home. Not willing to take no as an answer, he left ranching and took a job as a welder. That accomplished the goal. On August 9, 1943, Dale enlisted in the Army. He was barely 18. Dale was eager to get where the action was and “be one of the boys.” One of his friends that he had gone to school with in McFadden also enlisted.

He left from Rawlins on an old bus to go to Denver. At that point, he was kind of scared—both of what he was getting into and because he wasn’t sure the bus would actually make it. Many of the other recruits were also feeling the anxiety. The vast majority of them had never left home. But that didn’t concern Dale. He had always been independent and worked away from home since he was 10. But there was still a concern of what lay ahead. Thankfully, the bus ride came with entertainment.

One of the fellow recruits was a bit of a jokester. On the way to Denver, as they passed through towns, he would holler out the windows at the girls. When they got to Denver, they were immediately lined up for a health inspection. The jokester stood in front of the doctor, who also happened to be a captain, and was told, “Skin her back and milk her down.”

To which he replied, “Doc, just smile at it, it’ll skin itself back.”

All the recruits thought the remark was funny, but no one dared laugh. It was obvious that the captain didn’t see the humor in his words. The funny man was court martialed after only being enlisted for 2 days. He was the example that the Army wasn’t going to tolerate any shenanigans, and the others fell in line. Dale certainly didn’t want to have to explain to his parents that he got in trouble, so he straightened up instantly and prepared to follow orders.

No doubt the soldier’s sarcastic reaction to the situation was driven by fear of the unknown. Dale certainly felt it. After passing the initial examination, they were fed, issued uniforms, and assigned to barracks. There was very little time for anything, and the new recruits were expected to change quickly into their new attire and prepare for drills. Dale had no idea what was going on, so his fear was renewed. He changed as quickly as he could, throwing his belongings onto his bed, including all the money he had. When he returned later, the money was gone. Someone made out really well that day going through the new recruits’ belongings. A few of the soldiers sat down on the bed and began to cry, but Dale let his anger lead the way. He asked to see the colonel, and he was taken into his office.

“What are you here for, soldier?” the colonel asked.

“Somebody stole my money,” Dale explained.

“They did?”

“Yes, they did.”

“How much did you have?”

Dale told him.

“You sit down right there and I’ll get you a pencil and paper and you give me those serial numbers and I’ll have that money back to you before the night.”

At this point, Dale was becoming more agitated, and he didn’t hide his contempt. “Come on!” he huffed. “What do you think you’re doing? Give me the number of your bills.”

The colonel also was getting irritated with where the conversation was headed. “Don’t get smart with me, soldier. You’re in the Army now, and I can’t do anything for you unless you can give me the serial numbers.”

Dale knew there was nothing more that could be done, so he walked out of the office angry. It was an encounter that would always stick with him and sour his perception of the Army.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Calendar of Events

September marks the beginning of a busy conference/workshop schedule for me. For the next few months, I will be out and about talking about horror movies and zombies. I can’t wait!

If anyone is interested, here is the list of places I will be:

September 8: Sweetwater County Library in Green River, Wyoming

September 25-26: Lit Conference in Casper, Wyoming

October 8-11: Long Beach Indie Film Festival

October 24: Mile Hi Con in Denver, Colorado

October 29: Washakie County Library in Worland, Wyoming

October 31: Albany County Library in Laramie, Wyoming

November 5-7: Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I’m really excited and nervous about all of these. I think they’re going to be soooooo much fun, but I have to get over my traveling fears to get there. *Deep breaths*

It’s going to be just fine. Anyone else going to any of these conferences?

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Latest Release

On July 28th, the third book in the Road to Salvation series came out. It was exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. But this is how I feel whenever one of my books comes out.

It’s so exciting to have the story done and ready for the world to read, but there’s a fear that the world will hate it. While that possibility always exists, I know from early reviews that at least a few people have enjoyed it, and that makes me incredibly happy.

With this release, there was also a sense of relief. It felt sooooo good to have this book done. The story had been rattling around in my brain for a while, and it made me happy to write it down. Now, I can move on to other things.

But at the same time, Katie is still present at the back of my brain. It’s possible her story isn’t quite finished yet. I’m not sure. And I don’t think she is sure, either. If anything, she’s biding her time, trying to figure out exactly what she wants to say. It may turn out to be nothing.

Until then, I’m going to move forward with new projects and new stories. Katie will let me know when she’s ready—if she ever is. Until then, enjoy the Road to Salvation series!

Book 1: The Appeal of Evil


Finally, in her senior year of high school, Katie is resolute in getting over her lifetime crush, Wes. It also helps that Josh, the new and incredibly attractive boy at school with his bad boy persona, gives Katie the attention that Wes never did.

It doesn’t take Katie long to fall for Josh. However, Wes, the boy she had pined over for years, now wants back in her life and for her to stay away from Josh. Even with Wes’ warnings, the choice seems clear to Katie – until she finds out that Josh is actually a demon from Hell.

Torn between loving the “good” guy or the “bad” guy, Katie struggles with the idea that even though Josh is a demon, he might genuinely care for her. Katie wants to invest her heart and soul in love, but she may end up losing both to Hell.

The Appeal of Evil makes you question whether the “bad” guy is truly so bad and if being born a demon truly makes one evil.


Book 2: Dealing with Devils


Dating a demon has its advantages, like helping deliver souls to Hell. Wait...what?

Katie’s world has been turned upside down. She's fallen for Josh—despite the fact that he’s a demon from Hell. Wes is finally out of her system and her life. Convinced she can change Josh, she sets out to make him a better person, only to find out things aren’t as simple as she’d originally thought. For one thing, Josh has Katie help him deliver souls to Hell, and she kind of likes it. And to top it off, other more powerful demons are battling for her soul, and revelations from the past could change the course of her life forever.


Book 3: Good Intentions


Katie has been through Hell—literally—and discovered that it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. In fact, she kind of enjoyed it. She got to be with Josh, found out about her past, and discovered who she wanted to be as a person. Katie didn’t care that her actions went against social norms. She was happy.

But things are changing—again. Wes has come back into her life, and that can only mean trouble. His presence threatens to unravel her new-found happiness. She can’t allow that. She won’t let him back in. Yet, Katie can’t push him away.

Thrown back into a state of confusion and uncertainty, Katie is once again forced to pick sides, and in the process, she may lose herself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I Have Been Spoiled

I’ve done something recently that I didn’t think I would do ever again: I sent out submissions.

Most of you may know that I’ve been working on my grandfather-in-law’s biography. Progress has been going really well, and I’m hoping to get a draft of most of the chapters done by the end of the month. Granted, that will depend on what life has in store for me, but the way things are going now, it shouldn’t be an issue.

To tell you the truth, I’m not exactly sure why I decided to submit the book to publishers. I certainly didn’t need to. Booktrope already expressed interest in the project, so I have a publisher. Still, something at the back of my mind told me I should see if anyone else was interested. So I sent out some queries.

I think that something at the back of my brain might have been a demon. For anyone who has ever submitted a book, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s a long, tedious process. Let me give you an idea of what’s involved.

Research. Tons and tons of research. I have to find the right publisher that puts out the kind of book I’m writing. There are many different nonfiction publishers out there, but not all of them are interested in biographies. And then some are only interested in certain kinds of biographies—of famous people, for example.

Once I figure out if the publisher publishes my kind of book, then I have to research their submission guidelines. How do I send my information to them? Email? Snail mail? Do they want a query or a full proposal? Who do I send it to? Most publishers have this information readily available, so it’s just a matter of reading and conforming to the instructions.

The query letter. Most publishers want to be approached with a query letter first. The only thing worse than writing a query letter is writing a synopsis. My query letter is a short description of the book and about me so the editor can gauge interest in the project. There are many resources out there that give advice on how to write a good query, so I won’t bore you with that here.

However, what’s important to note is that the query has to be fascinating enough and short enough that the editor will read the whole thing and want to know more about the book. It’s a hard thing to accomplish. I’m still trying to get my query right.

The proposal. With nonfiction, sometimes a query isn’t needed. Some (most) publishers want to see a proposal for the project.

The nice thing about nonfiction is that it doesn’t have to be finished before you can submit it to publishers, but I have to have an idea of what I’m going to do. Most proposals consist of many parts, including what the book is about, the competition for the book, a marketing plan, when it’s going to be finished, how long it’s going to be, and if it will have illustrations. If there are sample chapters, those can be included too. Depending on the publisher (if it’s a university press), I may also have to attach my CV or resume.

It’s a process putting a proposal together. Like the query letter, there are many great sites out there to help with the basic outline of a proposal, but I also have to check the publisher’s site to see if they have any specifics they’re looking for.

Once I have all of my ducks in a row, I’m finally ready to send my query/proposal. More often than not, most places will accept electronic submissions, which is awesome because then I don’t have to make a trip to the post office. Or kill trees.

The whole process is incredibly time consuming. It can take hours, days. And that depends on how many places I submit to.

Then comes the waiting.

Some places are amazingly fast and respond within hours or days. Others take weeks to months to never.

At this point, I’ve only submitted to 10 places, and I think that’s sufficient. As I said, I don’t really need a publisher, I just thought I would see if there was any other interest out there. And it’s not exactly working out for me. Out of the 10, only one requested the proposal (if I hadn’t already sent it). It was for a university press, so the editor took it to the committee, then they rejected it because the market it too competitive and they didn’t think it would do well. Which was fine.

And that’s the other thing I have to deal with: rejection. Sometimes I forget how hard it is. It’s totally expected, but it can still be tough to deal with.

I’ve been spoiled—and not just with Booktrope, my other publishers are fantastic too. There’s something to be said about having a publisher who is willing and wanting to publish my work. It’s so nice not to have to jump through the hoops.

I remember now why I don’t submit like I used to. I don’t have to. And that’s an amazing feeling. But, apparently, every so often I have to remind myself how good I have it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Long Weekend and Amazing Readers

It was a long weekend, and not because I got an extra day off. That would have been nice. No, instead I got a stomach bug and spent the vast majority of Saturday sleeping. That would have been really nice if my stomach also didn’t hurt.

Oh, well. A little pain reminds us how wonderful it is not to be in pain.

There was one bright spot over the weekend. One of my beta readers, who is an avid zombie fan, started reading The Road to Salvation series.

He was a little hesitant about it at first. Not that I blame him. It’s a young adult book and focuses on teen girl problems, but he decided to give it a try. He said it took a little bit for him to get into it, but then he really enjoyed the book. He was looking forward to reading Dealing with Devils.

Reading that totally made my day. It’s amazing breaking readers out of their normal routine. I’m also a reader, and I have specific books/genres I like to stick too, so I know what a huge leap this was. It’s always a gamble trying something new, and disappointment can abound, but I’m so happy this worked out.

Readers are some of the most amazing people in the world. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Thank you for your continued support and willingness to try a new author. YOU’RE THE BEST!

I’m hoping that with the sickness behind me that this is going to be an amazing week. As long as I keep my head up, it should be. I hope all of you have a fantastic week also!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Favorite Story

I recently filled out an interview that asked me what my favorite story was. It took me a little while to figure out which one to name because I like all my stories (to one degree or another), but I eventually answered Wucaii.


After five hundred years’ labor destroying worlds, half-dragon half-human Aelana returns to her home planet. She expects to be anonymous, but instead she is worshipped as a god. She finds the reincarnation of her centuries-dead first and only love and life begins anew. Little does she know, however, that a shrewd and formidable evil lays in wait, one with the power to undo everything she’s worked for. To maintain the balance of the universe, she must confront and destroy the menace before it annihilates her and everything she loves.

One of the downsides of continuously writing and publishing new books is that some of the old ones fall off the radar. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE writing and publishing new stories, but I often feel guilty about abandoning my previous ones.

Sadly, there just isn’t enough time in the day to give them the attention they deserve.

But I digress.

Wucaii is one of my favorite stories because my main character, Aelana, is a human-dragon hybrid. I had a lot of fun writing her story and creating her persona. She’s constantly struggling to find her place in the human world and the dragon world.

One of my favorite things to try to figure out when I’m writing is: what does it mean to be human? And Aelana was a great character to study that question because she’s not fully human and she’s not fully dragon. She’s stuck in the middle and trying to be both. She has moments of great strength, then times of human frailty. Her goal—like a lot of us in real life—is trying to figure out her place and purpose in the universe.

I started this story back when I was in high school—I think. It’s been a while, so I’m not exactly sure on the time frame. I know that when I was a graduate student in college, I workshopped the story in a class. I received my master’s in 2004, and this was published in 2013, so I had been working on it off and on for a while.

Workshopping that story was interesting. Originally, it was a straight fantasy story (I would classify it as urban fantasy now), and one of my fellow students didn’t like it because I used “ale” in the text. For some reason, this person was sick and tired of seeing “ale” in fantasy stories and held it against me. That made me laugh.

And, trust me, back with that early draft, the use of “ale” was the least of that story’s problems.

One of the other criticisms about the book was that it was going to have to end with a huge battle between the dragons and humans—which was true for that story. And for some reason, none of my readers thought I had the ability to write it, which really shook my confidence, so I put the book away for a few years and refused to look at it.

Once I regained some of my confidence, I figured out how to fix the story. After several years and several rewrites, I finally got it to a point where I was happy with it and found a publisher who was willing to release it to the world.

I really should find more time to promote the thing. I think others might enjoy it as much as I do.

Shall we celebrate my favorite story?  Anyone interested in free ecopies?  Let me know!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Facebook-free Weekend

Last week was a bit challenging for me. I won’t go into details, but by the end of the week, I decided I had to do something different. I decided that would be taking a break from Facebook for the weekend.

I have this really bad habit of when I’m bored, I’ll check Facebook. It’s become this obsessive almost automatic response. Without thinking about it, I’ll pick up my phone and click on the app.

Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. Facebook has been amazing in connecting me with some absolutely amazing people, and I love that I can see what they’re up to with the click of a button.

But there’s also a lot of negativity too. I don’t know if was the analytics or what, but every time I scrolled through my feed, it made me sad. And I needed to get away from that for a while.

Honestly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I thought about it several times through the weekend, wondering what people were up to or if I was missing something important. I even grabbed my phone a couple times, but I never clicked on the app. I didn’t get on on my computer, either.

It seems silly to me that I have to consciously tell myself to stay off Facebook. It’s just a place to hang out with friends. But it’s also so much more than that. It’s a time suck. Soon, I find myself on there for way longer than I expected, and things I was supposed to get done don’t get done. And, again, not everything is positive and uplifting.

I was also noticing the other day that I only see certain people in my feed. I’m well aware that this is because of Facebook’s analytics and my behaviors on the site, but I miss getting news from all of my friends.

I’m hoping this little experiment will help me limit the amount of time I actually spend on there. After this weekend, I may or may not avoid it completely again. But it was really nice to unplug. It was nice to not feel obligated to get on.

It was freeing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Things I Don’t Want to Deal With at 4:00 a.m.

The other night, I was woken out of a dead sleep by my cat’s meowing. It was about 3:45, and in my tired brain, I thought she was trapped in a room somewhere in the house. I got up and walked around, listening for where she might be, but had no luck finding her. This, of course, woke up the dogs. I went back to bed and tried to get back to sleep, but then heard her again.

At this point, I realized she was outside, so I went to the back door to let her in. As I said, the dogs were now up, so I let them out to take care of business. I figured I’d go back to bed for a while, then get them later.

I laid down for maybe 5 minutes before getting back up to get the dogs. I stood at the back door and called them, but they didn’t come. Using my flashlight, I realized they were enthralled with something, so I went to find out what.

Turns out it was a dead rodent.

I got Floki away from it and back in the house, then when I turned to get Siggy, she had carried the thing onto the deck. She was so proud of herself. She was trotting like she just won the grand prize. I wasn’t impressed. I told her to drop it, which she did because she’s a good girl, and then I took her inside.

I grabbed some gloves, the dust pan, and a ziplock bag to put the corpse in. I stepped onto the deck and stared at the creature. It had been raining, so the fur was wet and matted to its body—although part of that was probably also from being in both dogs’ mouths—its front legs were curled up, and its eyes were closed.

Nope, I thought. I’m not dealing with this now.

I went back inside, put my supplies on the counter, and went back to bed. Where I dreamed of rodents.

When I got up later, while the dogs were eating breakfast, I grabbed the shovel and took care of the poor creature. I have no doubt the cat is the suspect in the murder. This isn’t the first time we’ve found a dead rodent at the house, and Floki found another one later that morning.

I don’t blame her. She’s just doing what comes naturally, but there are just some things I can’t deal with that early in the morning.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Behind the Story: The Road to Salvation Series

The third book in the series, Good Intentions, was released last week. I thought it might be fun to give you a little background on where the idea for the books came from.

There is this notion that it is accepted and expected that women will fall for the “bad” boy. The belief is that with their unconditional love, patience, and devotion, a woman will make him an upstanding and contributing member of society.

I have no doubts that for some men this is true. All they’ve needed in their life was support and caring from a devoted partner. But for others, nothing will ever change them. And that can be incredibly dangerous for women.

I am reminded of the “Hot Convict” story. This man found his way into women’s hearts because of his mug shot. From there, he landed a modeling contract.

Now, I don’t know the guy personally. I don’t know if he can be reformed or is looking for a better life, which could possibly be provided by the vast amount of women fawning over him, but an article on February 5th explains that he was sentenced to 27 months for his crimes. So he’s really a “bad” boy in every sense of the word.

Pfft, you say. It was just a weapons charge. It wasn’t like he actually murdered someone. But what if he had? What if he had been arrested for raping and beating women? Would women still find him attractive? More than likely, yes. We’ve been conditioned to think that no matter how terrible an attractive man is, they are just waiting for the right woman to come along and fix them.

But not everyone can or wants to be changed, and it can be devastating for women if they don’t fulfill this societal role. It can make them feel like failures. It can keep them in abusive situations because they’ve been told their love will change everything.

Then, I started thinking about Twilight and how Bella fell in love with a “bad” boy and what happened to her in the process. From there, I started thinking: What happens if the “bad” boy is really bad? Like demon from Hell bad. How would a na├»ve, inexperienced girl handle it?

Teenagers have specific notions about how love should be, and they are often influenced by popular culture. I know my ideas were waaaaay back in the day. They are often romanticized. And for women, it is often cemented in the idea that men can be changed and that we need a man to have meaning in life. It feels like those were some of the ideals I strove for when I was young.

Things have changed slightly over time, and we see a lot more strong female characters in popular culture. Katniss is one that comes immediately to mind. Or Hermione. But with the strong ones comes the Bellas—teenage characters who shut completely down when their man leaves because they have no meaning without them.

I wanted to challenge these notions while writing the Road to Salvation series. I wanted to point out how flawed and dangerous this way of thinking could truly be.

Katie starts out as a very stereotypical teenage character. She is whiny, self-centered, and needy. And it’s supposed to be irritating. It’s supposed to seem ridiculous and over-the-top. She’s supposed to drive the reader crazy. She wants to love someone and be loved, and for the longest time, she thought she could have that with her childhood friend Wes. But eventually, she discovers that it won’t happen. So she moves on and finds Josh.

Like all stereotypical bad boys, Josh is incredibly hot and has moments of being charming. He knows what Katie wants and needs, which is attention. But he’s also incredibly controlling and puts her in dangerous situations. He saves her, but that only reinforces his control over her.

As the books progress, Josh gets more controlling and even verbally abusive. But he does it in such a subtle way that she doesn’t realize what’s going on. She convinces herself that he does it because he truly cares for her. She thinks that she can change him. And when she finds out that she’s part demon herself, she feels that she doesn’t deserve anyone better than Josh. But that’s also because Josh has convinced her of this through his actions. He’s made her feel important and needed, so why would she go anywhere else? She has purpose and meaning with Josh. And he accepts her for what she is—even with all her flaws.

This situation is dangerous for Katie. She allows herself to be put in increasingly dangerous situations. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to make Josh happy because she believes that he defines her and gives her meaning. She wants to keep him around because he makes her feel complete, but she loses her identity in the process.

Only when things go completely wrong and Josh betrays her does she realize how bad that situation was. But even then, she still thinks she can fix what happened. She thinks she can make Josh happy again by working harder at being bad.

When I envisioned the relationship between Katie and Josh, I thought of it as an abusive relationship. Josh knows exactly what to say and how to act to keep Katie around. He knows how to make her feel special and needed, at the same time manipulating her into doing what he wants. And he knows how to make her feel guilty and like a failure for not living up to his expectations. He’s broken her down. He’s made her completely dependent on him. He needs her weak and unsure so he can get what he wants.

This type of relationship dynamic happens on a daily basis. I chose to have a teen as my main character because of her inexperience with relationships and men, but it can happen to anyone. And a lot of it is because women are taught that their self-worth and meaning comes from their relationships and how well they maintain them, i.e., how well they take the bad out of the boy. But it often doesn’t work out well for the women.

Katie learns that some boys just want to be bad. Josh always had his own agenda in mind, and she was just a means to an end. But on the other end of the spectrum, Wes isn’t exactly the better choice either.

Within the context of the story, I purposely chose to have Heaven vs. Hell, good vs. evil, as the main conflict. It is a black and white battle that most people recognize easily. And readers chose their sides immediately: they were either Team Josh or Team Wes. And I encouraged their decisions. I wanted them to pick sides. It was rather sneaky of me to do that.

Having readers pick teams played right into the notions and expectations that Katie needed a man in her life to give her definition and meaning. If Wes couldn’t provide it, surely Josh could. And when Josh turned out to be totally evil and Wes came back, Katie could still be saved. But as I mentioned briefly above, Wes isn’t any better than Josh. Sure, he’s on the side of good, but he’s also emotionally unavailable. He’s been stringing Katie along for years, making her believe that they could have a normal relationship, but he’s incapable of being there for her.

Wes does good for the world. He rids the world of evil threats, and he loves Katie, and in his mind, he thinks that should be enough. He has absolutely no idea what it means to be there for her because he never has been. He is selfish and self-centered. He thinks that keeping her safe from herself is enough. But what Katie really needs is a partner, someone who sees all her flaws and accepts her for who she is. Wes starts to do this at the end of the series, but by then it might be too late.

Katie doesn’t exactly have a lot of choices in boys when it comes to relationships. She had Josh, who is abusive, and Wes, who is emotionally distant. And yet, these were who readers were rooting for her to be with. I laughed whenever I saw people pick a team, and I wondered: why is no one picking Team Katie?

This, of course, comes back to stereotypes and notions that Katie has to end up with a guy. It’s a convention that has been portrayed in stories since the dawn of time. And I wanted readers to believe that trope. I wanted them to think that was how the story was going to go. But what it all boils down to, and what it has always boiled down to, was that the only person who could save Katie was Katie. She might not have accomplished it in overly heroic style or without getting hurt along the way, but she accomplished it.

Life is tough, and we are constantly faced with difficult and challenging decisions. As Katie learned, she has to have faith in herself and learn that self-worth is drawn from within, not from those around her. It doesn’t matter that she possess both good and evil, we all do. In the end, she has to live with consequences of her decisions—whether good or bad or both—and no one else can define her.