Sunday, March 12, 2023

Baby dragons, March word battle, & writer wisdom on marketing


Baby Dragons

Who doesn't love magical animals? I use them a great deal in my books & stories. Rory, the baby pukis dragon, is one of the stars in The Bastard Sorceress. I find animal characters to be relatable and fun. With dragons, unicorns, perytons, gryphons, and animal famliars of all kinds, I will never run out of story ideas. Rory (pictured above thanks to my publisher, Tom Gondolfi of TANSTAAFL Press) has his very own promo ad where he tells his side of the story. You can buy The Bastard Sorceress on Amazon @

March Word Battle 

How many words am I writing a day? The word battle can make you crazy. War Poet is flowing. The novel is entering the danger phase for my characters. I mean, there have been challenges. It would be dull without threats to my precious characters. New kingdoms to explore. The Siabur, Fallon Gansis, is closing in on our heroine, Rose Greenleaf. Why does he want her rhapsode' magic? The Goblin War is taking a toll in the eastern realms. A mad king wars on his people. A captive prince needs rescue. Rose and Culain face their hidden emotions as Meg Sparrow faces her painful past. Lots of trauma and action. Lots of magic & secrets. Let's see how I survive March.

Marketing for Small Press & Indie Writers

This is a touchy subject for some. It is for me, but I need to share what I have learned over the years being with a small press. We don't have it so easy, do we? Who can find us in the massive well of Amazon book section as we drown among the other unseen novelists? Who knows us? How can we spread the word? There are many online book marketing companies. Many. Are they worth it? Many are not. Maybe some are, I just haven't found one. I have paid a little and more than a litte for a marketing campaign. Their websites have dozens of testimonials on how great they are. I have never seen any sales upswing, not even a decent example of a promo. It's like some of them just download a picture of the cover and link, but do little else. Many just take your money and run, so beware. They do not even design a good promo image. They do not add your reviews to the promo ads. Beware. If it sounds to good to be true, it is.  I have taken to learning how to do my own. They are not perefect, but better than what I paid for with these marketing geniuses that fib as they take your money. Learn to do your own promos. Canva is great and I use the free version. 

My dragon is calling me back to work and word counts. Enjoy the day and read more fantasy!


Verna McKinnon



Wednesday, February 8, 2023

War Poet, February Goals, Sanity, & Goblin Rant


War Poet: progress & why motivation is not the key to finishing your book

I am deep into writing the sequel to The Bardess of Rhulon, which is offically titled, War Poet. Motivation may spark your creaive journey, but you cannot rely on motivation to finish. One thing I have learned over the years is two things keep you going: Discipline & Focus.

Discipline &focus is how you finish. It is easy to make excuses or try to find that initial motivation feeling again. Discipline is what matters. Focus keeps you working. This is how you finish chapters, draft outlines, do chartacter bios, edit, do grammar and spell checks. It does not matter if you are writing a novel or short story. You need both to finish. How many writers get started and flounder at three chapters in? It is easy to submit to failure, but you must be stronger to go on and finish. It's okay if it is not perfect. You can polish and rewrite. Just write! Discipline and focus are key for your goals.

I am a writer who always knows how my story ends. I know the fate of characters, who wins, who loves, and who fights. I know how every tale I ever created ends, even if it is a series and that end is three novels in the future. Do some minor things change along the way? Sure! But that often happens for a reason because you have figured out what happens your novel. So develop the skills to keep going. Writing is brutal and frustrating, but it is also rewarding. 

February Goals

I have vowed to focus on finishing War Poet. When? Not sure, but am on a roll. Since it is a big project, I think that will be my main goal for February. I am only human. My publisher, Tom Gondolfi of TANSTAAFL Press, is also eager for my finished novel.


My sanity is sketchy at the moment. I blame my February goal for finishing War Poet. When will it be completed for my publisher? I cannot answer. Really Tom, I cannot give a date yet. 

Goblin Rant

I am often both amused and annoyed by the opinions of other writers on certain topics. In one social media feed, we were discussing the pros and cons of being with a small press or self-publishing, or published by a large publishing house. One writer told me it is best to stay small because you cannot get dumped the way a large publisher can drop your book if your sales are down. This person has also never to my knowedlge been anything but self-published. Nothing wrong with that. But, I was told I am better off where I am and money and exposure are not important. Really? I have been with small presses from the beginning. I have had two small publishers fold on me. And money? I may not be making money now, but I intend to. People who say they do not care about some level of success are just full of bull%$#@. I am driven to make my mark as an author. Just ask my publisher Tom about my quest to be Mistress of Epic Fantasy. Also, big publishers can send books to reviewers and magazines of note. Big publishers have the clout to send books to other authors in their house for author endorsements. Your book is seen on well-known websites. This blessing happened to a colleague of mine. Her book is getting a ton of push on a huge scale, and I am happy for her. It is not easy for small presses to get reviewed by major outlets and magazines. There are a lot of great works being published through small presses, but we are not getting the attention we deserve. We are great! And I want my novels to be seen. How else will people read my work? So I have my moments when the goblin inside my head has a big screaming rant. I do not apologize. 

What are your writing goals? Whatever they are, do not be afraid to pursue them. Fight for your dreams. Done for now. Need tea and chocolate. So until next time, read more fantasy (and explore small publisher offerings from TANSTAAFL Press.)


Verna McKinnon 👸 Mistress of Epic Fantasy



Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Welcome 2023! Bastard Sorceress, Writing goals, projects & more news!


Welcome to 2023 my friends! My time has been busy with writing and new publishing projects, so I have not blogged in a while. Okay, in over a year. Life is crazy. We all know this. I do promise to blog more often. Let's catch up!

First, my newest novel, The Bastard Sorceress, is getting wonderful reviews. Mandy Eve Barnett, a wonderful writer and reviewer, posted a wonderful review on Goodreads. Thank you, Mandy! 

Personally, I would like to see a goal of at least twenty-five reviews on for my novels on Amazon. This would allow my book to be included in newsletters or be suggested on the website. The algorithms are brutal. I think a dark wizard created those rules. As an author with a small publisher, it is harder for us. So, let's give the small presses support. Many wonderful novels are published by small publishers.  if you like a novel, review it. It helps more than you know. You can also check out the first chapter of Bastard Sorceress at TANSTAAFL Press. The Bastard Sorceress » TANSTAAFL Press

My novel, The Bardess of Rhulon, will have a sequel. The novel is currently titled, War Poet, in my Rogue Bardess series. As I continue Rose Greenleaf's story, old friends and dangerous enemies will return. There will be magic and new mysteries. Some great new characters will appear as Rose walks the bard path with the goblin wars shadowing the land, and a dark fey shadowing her. Also, post a review! Writers love you for that. You can also read the first chapter to The Bardess of Rhulon at TANSTAAFL press.  The Bardess of Rhulon » TANSTAAFL Press

More to come later. Until then, read more fantasy!!!


Verna McKinnon

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Halloween Season, Writing & Scary Good Publishing News!



What a crazy year this has been. I always take comfort in October. Autumn is my favorite time of the year. I embrace the change. I love seeing the leaves change into bright colors and crisp as they fall from trees , the brisk air, the coming of all things pumpkin spice, caramels & apples, hot tea, sweaters, Halloween, and fun movie nights on the weekend. What's not to love? For me, fall is a time for renewal and industrious action. Cleaning out the closets, journaling, and setting goals. Beginnings are not just for the New Year. My fresh start is for my writing as well. My fantasy novel, The Bardess of Rhulon, has a new publisher...Tanstaafl Press! 

    The Bardess of Rhulon now published by Tanstaafl Press! 

Tanstaafl Press has picked up The Bardess of Rhulon for publication. Tanstaafl Press is awesome. My book is now available in both paperback and Kindle editions at both The Bardess of Rhulon » TANSTAAFL Press and at Amazon. Go to Tanstaffl Press to read the first chapter of Bardess of Rhulon for free.  Bardess of Rhulon has a beautiful new cover! This is the first of Bardess novels in my series called The Rogue Bardess. More news on my series is forthcoming. My heroine, Rose Greenleaf, will be a busy girl learning to control her magical skill the glam rhapsodé. I must show off my new cover, because I love it. The artist is Kristin Bryant. Thank you, Kristin. And thanks to my new publisher and editor, Tom Gondolfi. 

Writing for Sanity

Writing is often the only thing keeping me from going nuts. Not the good yummy walnut kind either. Crazy nuts. The world has been a dumpster fire. Staying calm in this Covid world is tough. There is no normal yet. So what do I do, as I go to work masked and pray my vaccine holds out? I take joy in what makes me happy. I write. Drink coffee. Count my blessings. And plan writing more books. My second Bardess book has already begun (My Bardess, Rose Greenelaf, is going to endure a lot of strife and chaos). My newest novel, The Bastard Sorceress, is nearing completion. There are other changes coming too. Another publisher (whom I hope to name in next newsletter) will be picking up my Familiar's Tale series. Another book coming in my Familiar's Tale series (Fires of Rapiveshta). That one is finished. Just awaiting the rescue of my new publisher. This will complete the trilogy.

Enjoy my novels? Please leave a review on Amazon/Goodreads. Believe it or not, it can go a long way to help a writer out!

Thanks for reading & believe in dragons! 

This is also a sample of my newsletter, so if you would like to subscrbe, just go to my website @

Stay well & feisty.

Verna McKinnon

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Conan Paradox


Hello fantasy and science fiction lovers! Today is a dive into the subject of Conan the Barbarian, by Robert E. Howard. I add the author's name because Conan has been the subject of many comics and other fantasy novels where others have written him, along with films and television. Many wonderful writers have written some Conan novels. I must emphasize this is about the true Robert E. Howard stories. I love the original Conan tales writtten by Robert E. Howard. Nothing against those other writers. It is simply because Robert E. Howard was the best. His sword and sandals hero is better in thos estories than how he has been portrayed in films and television. 

Don't get me wrong. I would LOVE to see some decent adaptations of Howard's Conan in a televised setting. Film is problematic because it always cheats with "revenge fantasy" theme which is so tiresome and was never part of the Conan world which Howard created. Conan's parents were never killed when he was a boy. He was never a slave (though a temporary prisoner of battle at times). This weakened the Arnold Conan film and even Jason Momoa's Conan (I prefer Jason. Go ahead and hate me.) Do not get me starte doin the old television series. It is not good.

The truth is, I prefer most of my science fiction and fantasy in a series/television where you can dive into characterization, storytelling, enrich the world. This is why The Witcher and  The Mandalorian are fantastic. Most science fiction and fantasy on film is framed with tight desperation, The must fight end of world monster/demon, save a princess, or stop someone from blowing up galaxy. It is fast paced and urgent. This format works in things like The Terminator. The original film is still a favorite. It has it place. But Conan deserves better. Robert E. Howard deserves better. These are stories which create a new world. Not a fast ninety minute blood fest. 

The original Conan tales, which begin with a fifteen year old Conan escaping from a prisoner of war camp, and builds to his fifties where he has become a king, are too wondrous not to bring to screen. With the streaming options now, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, for example, they could create fabulous adventures that show the true warrior Conan was. Not the depressed blood-soaked dour fighter seeking revenge. I still remember a scene in one of the stories where Conan visits his parents, who were getting older, and after a time he left to return to his advenurous life because he got bored. This warrior faced down gods, kings, and demons. He traveled the world. He could learn languages easily and was clever in war and battles. This is the warrior I want to see. I recently heard rumors Conan has been picked up for a series. Part of me is glad...part of me is sad because I fear I will be dissapointed. 

Bring me the  true Conan Howard wrote in the 1930s. Not another Arnold clone. Please note I do not hate Arnold. He was just never Conan to me.  Conan was strong yes, but even Frazetta tlaked about how his image of Conan (which graced many a paperback cover) were more of a symbolic metaphor, not how the character really would have looked.

Okay, I have had my rant. Stay well and feisty. Read some Conan the Barbarian! The real stuff-not just the comics. 

Verna McKinnon

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Pandemic Writer: Coffee and Isolation


The Pandemic Writer

My world is strange. In some ways I am quite happy to work remotely from home. Yes, most of us authors have regular day jobs. It is bliss not to deal with traffic commutes to and from work, to not dress up, put on mascara which smudges by noon. It is disturbing when you turn on the news and the grief and chaos exploding from Covid, job losses and economics woes, politics, people being idiots (by not wearing masks/refusing to believe in deadly virus).

You feel like you are among the mad!

On one hand, I have had more free time to write. On the other, I have not written much as I would have liked. Let's be honest. The world is scary. My first six months of working from home involved lots of chocolate and a pot of coffee a day as I stressed over potential job furloughs (I have been lucky so far), empty toilet paper shelves in store, and working out to exercise DVDs keep a sane routine. I like workout videos because there is no virus threat and I can look stupid without witnesses as I dance around the apartment. 

Discipline is the hardest thing for a writer to hone. When faced with editing or writing a chapter, we make an excuse and clean the house or reorganize the wriitng desk. Let's face it....most days my vacuum cleaner just feels like a neglected housewife. I must buck up. Write! finish those books! Edit! Have a piece of work I can harrass agents and publishers with. If I intend to be the next Princess Royal of Heroic Fantasy, I need to work for it.

I am hoping 2021 will be better. I am alreayd a crazy writer. The rest of the world needs to reboot. We all have stress. But I would like a return to normal stress and not feeling like an extra in a post-apocalyptic plague movie with B actors . I am working. I am writing.Maybe that is all we can hope for. Let's hope for more vaccinations (am still waiting) and an end to this wretched virus.

So let's reboot ourselves in this insane pandemis world and conquer a few goals. What do you think? What are your plans for 2021? 

Stay well & feisty,

Verna McKinnon


Monday, January 11, 2021

Writing Resolutions, Stress, COVID CURSING!!!


Good Riddence 2020! 

How many of us make the traditional New Year's resolutions? Be it for writing or getting healthy, whatever, we all do it. But the question I pose is perhaps we should look at this from a fresher perspective.
Whether we call them resolutions or goals, I believe the best way to achieve this is to form a routine around those goals. 
If we want to write more, set a routine for your creative goals. Start slow at first, and then build on it. The more you follow your routine, the more progress you will make. And progress leadds to bigger and better things.

COVID Salvation

As we all endure isolation and COVID stress, here are a couple things which have made life less crappy.



These two shows restored my faith in science fiction & fantasy on television. Yes, I am a big lover of TV and Film. These two made the year less wretched.

All for now. Stay safe and wear a mask...and run away from those without one. 

All for now.


Verna McKinnon