Sunday, November 3, 2019


“Your next book is coming out in six weeks, right?”
“Aren’t you so glad to have it done?”
“Um…I’m still editing.”
“I thought you were done?”

Coming up on the release day for my second book, people who love me have been having different versions of this conversation with me. And it all boils down to this…people who haven’t taken a seed of an idea all the way to a hold-in-your-hands novel don’t understand the process. Hell, I don’t even understand the process entirely yet. Writing and publishing are moving targets. But ‘done’ is a word that starts an involuntary tic in my right eye.


In the interest of maybe helping readers who love books understand a bit better, here’s a sneak peak into the editing process for this upcoming release, Book Two in the Rise series, Curse of Ashes. Understanding, of course, this was different than any other book I’ve written (four currently) and will likely be different from any other book I ever write. Here's a little replay of the race to get to the prize, the finish line, publication.

Rough draft
This is the fun part, for me at least. Lots of writers find this part to be the most difficult, the dreaded blank page. For me, it’s the beginning where anything can happen. My first draft of Curse of Ashes was started in November of 2013. I wrote it as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) project. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I did that. For reference, the final manuscript of Curse ended just over 102,000. NaNo was challenging and fun. But the book stayed at 50k for a while. I poked around with it but didn’t return to the book seriously until NaNo in 2016, where I wrote another 50k in the story and actually had a completed draft. A rough draft. Like, the morning after mixing too much tequila and whiskey rough. Rough.

Development Editing
Editing is so many things. And this is where I think people start to struggle with the idea of done. Could someone have read the complete manuscript in December of 2016?  Yep. It wouldn’t have been good, though, by any stretch. It was the skeleton of a completed story.

When trying to wield something as weighty and oddly-shaped as a novel, things morph. Like when the flight attendant tells you to be careful when you open the overhead bin, because things could shift mid-flight. That happens from the beginning of writing a novel to the end, too. Especially in the Fantasy genre. We have a whole ‘nother issue. Magic, supernatural beings, and rituals that have to have rules that are consistent and make some kind of sense. 

Also, this is a series, which makes things that much harder. I’m not just thinking about this book, but how these characters and their choices might affect something two books from now, and also making sure it doesn’t contradict something that happened in the first book. It’s… a lot. And then there’s this book, making it a complete and enjoyable story. All kinds of stuff goes awry. A plot thread might not make it all the way through, or it might be frayed and ugly at the end. A character might unexplainedly disappear for chapters at a time (I’m talking to you, Valentina.)

That’s developmental editing. Some chapters get scrapped entirely from the rough draft as unnecessary or just…bad. It’s rearrange and sharpen. It’s refine and sculpt. It’s also completely subjective as to when it’s done. Because we’re human and imperfect and things can always be better.

Curse of Ashes has been in developmental editing ever since that first draft finished in late 2016. I sent the completed story to my agent in March of 2019, she sent me back her notes and away I went again. Another round of developmental edits. I’ve also drafted the third book in the series during that stretch of time, which influenced some of the events of the second book which required me to go back and make even more tweaks.

Final Edits / Copyediting
Now it’s done. It’s been through the rough stage, the development stage a few times. The story is done. You send it off to a copy editor to read. Then they give it back to you. Suddenly, the story is no longer done again. I sent off the manuscript for Curse to be copyedited on October 1st. Two sets of eyes additional sets of eyes looked at it, neither of whom had read the first book. Those two took very different approaches and I had to decide what needed to change. I had to revisit decisions I'd made about the first book, what grammatical and stylistic choices were made and be consistent with them. I got their copy edit notes back on October 10th knowing the final manuscript needed to be turned in November 1st (which, ah, actually, was not true. October 22nd ended up being the real date.)

Copyediting is the nitty-gritty, nit-picky stuff that marks a professional novel. Oxford commas consistently. Or not. Do you always capitalize ‘archangel?’ Copasetic or copacetic (either is correct.) Affect vs effect (depends on context.) Mr. Miagi is, in fact, Mr. Miyagi. 'Seem as how' is not a thing. But 'seeing as how' is. Stuff like that. Missed words that someone else who isn’t the author can magically find that authors just can’t see in their own works. Sentences the author thinks are fantastic but don’t make sense to anyone else. Maybe some last-minute development stuff or odd catches. ‘He was wearing a hoodie two pages ago…now he’s in a t-shirt.’ Stuff like that. The final, final polish.

Now it’s done. Again.

Off to be formatted.

Formatting or, the Last Chance
The copyedited manuscript goes off to be formatted. It’s done. I actually sent in the final copy edited manuscript on October 30th. I got it back formatted for publication the same day.

Then the formatted manuscript comes back as a file that looks pretty and recognizable as a book. And you really have to make sure it’s done.

One final read through, all the added stuff, front and back matter (Acknowledgements, dedications, About the Author, etc.) Making sure all of that is also done. That’s due back to the agency by November 6th.

Publication: AKA Done
There are a lot of dones to get through before you get to DONE. I’m still pretty new at this author thing, but there are few things sweeter than seeing your creative work as a completed thing for other people to enjoy. I’m so looking forward to sharing Curse with everyone.

November 22nd it’s truly done.

Preorder Curse of Ashes at your favorite retailer:

Barnes and Noble

Google Play

Friday, January 25, 2019

Pledge of Ashes is in the world

It's hard to articulate the feeling of being an author. After all, I've been a writer for so long. Years ago, at a writing conference, I was instructed on the difference between the two. A writer writes; but an author has published. At the time, it seemed almost, I don't know, petty? But now I have a different lens.

To have written a book is one thing. Writing has its challenges. Many of them, in fact. Understanding how to tell a story that grips, grammar, reader engagement, pacing, plot, and voice. The craft of the thing. Telling a good story is no small feat. It's a learning journey fraught with bumps, hills, and nasty road conditions along the way.

But publishing? It has teeth. Sharp ones designed for rending you in two. The things you learn about how to write a book have almost nothing at all to do with how to publish a book. And it doesn't matter if you go indie, have an agent, go traditional, or whatever. Each path has its own steep learning curve, if you're determined to do it well. And I am. To the best of my ability.

Pledge is published today. Honestly? I'm kind of terrified. I'm back to the beginning, in some ways, where I haltingly let my first (very kind) beta readers see what I've been up to. Waiting with bated breath to see what they thought. Depending on the minute, I was sure it was bestseller quality, then I would cringe at the first page. It's like that, but on a much, much broader scale. Everyone can now see Pledge. Anyone with $3.99 to spend on an ebook, that is.

Even though this story is fiction, it's been a part of me for what feels like forever.

So Pledge is out. I'm riding a pendulum that vacillates between unmitigated joy and nauseous anxiety.

I hope you love it.

Check out Pledge of Ashes at your favorite retailer.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Mana by C.C. Dowling

I just got to spend nearly a week with this lovely lady at RWA, the short-hand for the Romance Writer's Association annual crazy conference. It was amazing. So is C.C.

Mana is the second book in the Infinity Series, and if you haven't read the first book yet, Conduit is only $0.99!

Here's a summary of Mana:

Sometimes our past… isn’t the only thing that haunts us

There isn’t anything eighteen-year-old Conduit Liv Hartley loves more than death-defying stunts: dimensional porthole jumps off tall buildings, stealing other Conduit’s assignments, and ignoring a demon’s summons. Granted, she used to love something more, someone more. But that was before she took his soul to the Otherworld. Now, all she has to look forward to are the empty classes he’ll never fill, and a stalker angel intent on pestering her as she works.

When that same angel takes a teaching job at her school, she knows she won’t be able to stay away from him, just like she can’t stay away from the ghosts of her past and the people she’s hurt. Okay, so mainly, she’d like to stay away from Asher and Kane. It’s an impossible wish since Asher keeps reminding her she has a job to do.
They’re right. She has several jobs. Being a better daughter to her sick mother and a better friend to the ones she’s got are at the top of her list. Now, she has to deal with a new Conduit in town and a gift from her caseworker that feels more like a curse.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

Mana ~ Part One is the second book in the Infinity Series, and the first in a three-part serial. Yes, there will be cliffhangers. No, you don’t need to worry. The next serial will be out soon! )

Mana ~ Part Two is already on pre-order! You can claim your copy here:

More about C.C. Dowling

C.C. Dowling is an author who writes everything from gritty urban fantasy, to paranormal sci-fi.
C.C. shares her love of writing with her love of singing, music, and science. She spent the first half of her college life performing, and the second half in a lab.

C.C. currently lives in America's finest city, with her husband (the financial shaman), her two children (who love to play in the yard with the faeries), and her very real pet dragon (who guards
the perimeter of her house at night). 

When she’s not working or writing (which is still technically working), C.C. can be
found playing a round of disc golf, or desperately trying to figure out which pair of sandals are the most appropriate for the harsh Southern California winters.

You can find C.C. at her website (, on Twitter @CCDowling, Instagram @ccdowlingauthor, and on her official author Facebook group, Misfits & Mayhem. She'd love for all the misfits to join the mayhem.

Get the latest release news and FREE content by signing up for her newsletter!

Like her author page on Facebook, her Amazon Author Page, and make sure to like and follow her on Bookbub!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Indie Pubbing is awesome and terrifying

One of the things that has always appealed to me about independently publishing is control. Basically, how I get to maintain it. Yes, I know, I have some…issues. Anyway. When I first set out on my writing adventure seriously (circa 2011?) I was writing because it was damn fun and it made my heart happy. Consequently, my husband was also happy, because, turns out, when my heart is happy, he is also usually happy. I had been loitering around serious writing people just enough to know that traditional publishing, in my mind, was a pipe dream. It was too difficult to get in. It was like a titanium chastity belt on a super-heroically powered woman. You were not getting in, not unless she allowed you in. I didn’t have an MFA, I had no connections to speak of, etc. Getting an agent also sounded a bit preposterous. Something that happens to ‘others’ but not to ‘self.’

Well, I went to some conferences, worked on craft, went to some workshops, worked on craft, did some webinars, went to some more conferences, and worked on craft. That brings us to 2015. In 2015, I got. An. Agent. It still feels a bit weird to say, in the most awesome of ways. But I did.

There’s a temptation at each juncture of the journey for the road-weary writer to feel as if the destination has been reached. Getting an agent is certainly one. Getting positive, glowing feedback from an editor is another one. But if the goal is traditional publishing, crossing over the finish line of that race, I’ve learned, you have many more miles to go before you publish.

(Sidebar: I’d like to step back a moment, just hit pause on the old-style boombox and clarify something: if this sounds like an indictment of trad pubbing, it’s not. I’m not upset about traditional publishers, or the agents who initially turned me down, or the CP’s who didn’t get my stuff, or the editor who told me ‘sweet story, just cut 30k words’ and when I did, turned me down anyway. Seriously. Not. Mad. I’ve taken this thing of writing as a journey in the truest of interpretations. Every piece of what I’ve done, what I’ve walked through has, unequivocally, made me a better writer. It was an upgrade to my skin from unblemished to leathery to shiv-proof; it all made me better. /End Sidebar)

Do I want my book on a shelf in Barnes and Noble? Hell yeah, I do. Does indie pubbing make that possibility go away for me? Meh. Not really. If it does happen, it won’t be by default. It’ll be because I busted my butt to make it happen.

But I get to keep control. Control is mine. And we all know…

So, I’m going to be writing about what’s going on with me, as I prep to get this book baby out into the world. Lots of preparation to do! Lots of decisions to make. Writers have to love what they do, because in this time and space, it is not easy. Chuck said it best.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Special Something

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: The Danger of Undeserved Power
Check out more entries at

At Morris High, they were it. The ones to be. Christina wasn't sure how it happened, and she didn't precisely care. Other kids watched them to know what to wear, how to talk, where to be. She and her crew. They were the what, how, where. Why? Because.

After a while, Christina believed it was the way it should be.

When new girl, Tae, got introduced in third period Bio on a Wednesday in February, it was a point of interest, not concern.

Christina, being magnanimous, and appreciating the ambitious vintage Converse/ skirt combo Tae chose for her first day, welcomed the new comer after class. She was popular, but she wasn't a heathen.

"Hi, welcome to Morris. Mr. Novac is a dick, but he'll go easy on you, since you're the new kid."

Tae looked at her. "I don't need anyone to go easy on me."

They stared, and Tae pushed past, her Converse squeaking on the polished tile.

Christina gaped. Did Tae understand the gravity of what she'd done? Did she know she committed social suicide in less than a half a day? Becoming aware she stared after Tae in the middle of a bustling hallway, Christina looked around. Kids plowed along, giving her sideways glances.

She couldn't interpret those glances, not like normal. Like the school band, Christina felt out of tune enough to notice and for the whole melody to grate the ears. What were the glances trying to tell her? Were those looks giving her deference? Pity? Admiration? The faces flowed by, and they had no meaning. Worse, some of the kids didn't look at her at all. Christina put a hand to her stomach. 

"Hey, 'tina." Emma's voice chimed right behind her.

Christina whipped around.

Em's face scrunched in. "What's wrong?"

"The new girl's a bitch, and we hate her."

Without so much as a question, Em nodded.


Weeks passed, and the warfare escalated. Christina even felt a bit sorry for Tae. But then she remembered those glances in the hallway, how the kids had made her feel pitied, or worse, something to ignore. It was Tae's fault. Who comes into a high school mid senior year, and is bitchy day one? Who does that? Well, Tae, that's who. And this is what it gets you. 

Except... Tae wasn't participating. Infuriating beyond belief, Tae seemed immune to their daggered glances, their cutting comments about her body, little pranks Em found so amusing. It might be time to take it up a notch. The girls had been talking about it last night. Some of the ideas they’d come up with were really horrible. Horrible in a perfect kind of way.

Em and Abby’s shoulders brushed Christina's as they walked three-wide down the hallway. Each held a textbook to their chests, displaying the French manicures they decided were the look of the week. Girls passed by on either side, their nails hot pink with lime green tips, causing Em and Abby to smirk. That was so last week.

Christina searched the hallways for Tae. Distressingly, Christina noted it was getting easier to find her. Why? She had an increasingly large number of people around her at all times. Tae laughed a lot, and was loud. It was obnoxious.

Ah. There she was. 


WHAT was happening? Michael Polowski had his arms around Tae's shoulders. Christina seethed. Michael was asking her to prom any day. He was hers. She stopped. Naturally, her girls stopped with her, causing a bottleneck in the middle of the hall. Em glanced between the two enemies. 

Abby, never one to let a silence stand, called out, "What're you doing with that hoe bag, Mike?"

Christina couldn't've said it better. Tae's nails were black. Damn it! That was next week's color, now Christina was going to have to revise the schedule. She would not have kids thinking she was following Tae's Conversed footsteps.

Enraged, Christina walked up to the group. Her girls followed perfectly on either side of her. 

With Mike's arm still around her shoulders, Tae smiled. "That, like, a prey response? Make yourself bigger to scare away the predator?"

What the eff was the hoe bag talking about? And, wait, was Tae the predator in that analogy?

Christina stalked up to her, anger clouding all her thoughts. She'd never been in a fight before. The angry part of her was cheerleading, do it, do it, do it... wipe that smirk right off--

Christina came wide with a punch. Tae swatted it away, but Christina was already coming in, no thought to what she doing, only to hurt.

Then she was down on the ground, staring up at Tae, who had her Converse planting Christina to the ground. There was enough force on her chest to prevent her getting up, not enough to prevent her breathing. Stunned, she lay there.

Tae leaned down, her black nailed-hands draping over her bent knee, and her brown eyes inches from Christina's face. "Let's be clear." 

Everything had stopped. The hallway had taken on a hush. Everyone was watching this. Tears sprang to Christina's eyes. Where was Em? Abby?

Christina had hit her head on the way to the floor, she was sure of it. Her body was numb all over.

What was happening? Tae's eyes were changing, the pupils going oblong, the iris' slanting.

Christina tried to draw a deeper breath, to clear the illusion. The Converse prevented it.

Tae whispered, "All your power is borrowed, baby. I’m taking some back."

Abruptly, the weight pulled back from her chest, and Christina took a deep gulp of air. She struggled to her feet. Em and Abby stood there, stunned. Christina wiped the tears away and walked off. Around her, she had more attention than she'd ever gotten. More heads turned her way, more whispers. But there were other things, too. Snickers. Laughter.

Christina swallowed. Something had been taken from her. She didn’t have the name for what it was.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Oh God, how did this happen? I might be a morning person...

I've never been a morning person. My mom knew when I was a little kid, just don't speak to me. That's been changing over the past couple of years. The first inkling I had that I could possibly convert to the dark side (the happy, bright-eyed bunch of weirdos who truly enjoy getting up before the sun) was doing my first #Whole30 program. I won't even lie; it was strange. Without carb hangovers, needing daily antihistamines, and gluten-fog, I was waking up before my alarm. Not in a oh-my-God-why-can't-I-sleep kind of way, but in a hey-I'm-ready-to-start-my-day-let's-do-this way. I promise you, that had never in the history of me happened.

And, oddly, it was cool.

I've been working with business coach since May of 2017, and while I primarily decided to hire a coach for our dog training business, I also tacked on the curve ball of telling the coach, "Hey, I'm also going to publish three books next year, can you help me be accountable?" He was game.

Somewhere around September of 2017, my coach, Dave Garcia, and I had a conversation wherein I was lamenting my psychological issue surrounding setting aside time to write. Writing was extra. Writing did not food put on my table. So I felt guilty doing it, when I could be doing some productive. (So original, amiright?)

He asked how writing time made me feel. That was easy. It made me feel refreshed, accomplished...happy. He asked if writing, instead of viewing it as something superfluous, might be something more necessary. He had my attention. I'd never thought of it that way.

Then he asked me if maybe setting aside writing time, instead of viewing it as a burden might be considered a boon to other areas of my life. If, ultimately, giving myself the gift of writing time would make me a happier person, a more attentive wife, a more focused business owner.

Yes, to all the things. My husband would comment about how much happier I was when I'd had time to write. It was a very noticeable difference.

All of a sudden, an internal switch flipped and I decided that I had to make writing a priority. But when?

Along with coaching, I'd been doing a good amount of self-development reading. The Miracle Morning, The Power of Full Engagement, Extreme Ownership, among others. I think around the time I was having the 'can I really give myself permission to write' conversation, I was reading The Power of Full Engagement. In short, I had been telling myself to write at night. Close up the business shop at a reasonable hour, and give myself the evening. This just wasn't working, and I was getting frustrated with myself with my 'will power' problem. I had the time. I just wasn't using it.

Full Engagement is about recognizing that humans have natural ebbs and flows of energy and just because you set aside family time after a twelve hour work day, doesn't mean your family time is going to be good time. That's what was happening with setting aside writing time at night. I was already sapped. My energy was gone for the day, my mind was swirling with business. So what other options did I have? Getting up earlier....pfft. No way. That's straight up crae-crae. Immediate dismissal of the idea.

But then I considered it. Really considered it. I wanted to write. I needed more time to work on launching a second career as an author. And what I was doing wasn't working. Like, at all. So, what the hell, I'd try it. I'd get up early the next morning and try to write in the morning. If it didn't work, it was easy enough to reset the alarm.

Except, when my alarm went off at the disturbingly early time of 7:15 am the next morning (no judgement, I own a dog training business, we work later hours... and that's the story I'm sticking to) Anyway, the alarm went off and I was happy, excited. It felt almost illicit, this hour and a half block of time I'd carved out just to write. Hubby definitely wasn't up. Even the dogs were like...what the eff are you doing, I'm going back to bed. Also... my mind wasn't yet embroiled in all the business stuff, at any rate, the office wasn't even open. I left my phone on my bedside table, didn't even touch it to check notifications. It was just me and my story.

The morning time was productive. Beyond. That, and by giving myself a creative outlet, it didn't deplete my energy. It renewed it. I was managing my energy. The irony? After a day of work, I was way more likely to have more left over at the end of the day to continue writing. And if I didn't, well then, it was ok because I'd gotten a bunch accomplished in the morning. Gone was the guilt at not doing what needed to be done. In short, it was freaking awesome and probably ranks as one of the best decisions I made last year. My alarm is now set for 6:30 Monday through Friday, and I've honestly considered going to 6:00 am. This morning time is fast becoming something sacred to me.

It's January now. Start of a new year. I've been doing this morning routine consistently for a couple months. I completed a draft of the third book in my series at 105k words doing this morning routine. I've worked on some indie author stuff. I've written blog posts and started a short story. It's been the most productive few months of my writing life. And I did it all before 9:00 am.

Pretty soon I may have to admit the truth: I've converted.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Letter of Encouragement for #NaNoWriMo2017

Last year, 2016, I completed my second NaNoWriMo. But I almost didn’t. I almost couldn’t.

November is usually a magical month, fall is in full swing, with the colors in Michigan spectacular. We’re getting ready for a day of thanks, shared with friends and family. And Nano. What’s not to love about November?

Well, election day, as it turns out.

November 2016 ranks as one of the worst months of my life. My entire world view was threatened, as it was for millions of Americans. After the election, my desire for writing was gone. I balanced on the edge of depression. I didn’t want to leave the house. Tears would fill my eyes at random moments. I tried to understand what had gone so terribly wrong, how our country could be so hateful and misguided.

I still don’t understand it.

The days following the election were horrible and I did no writing. It was the last thing on my mind. I’d been going at a decent pace the first week of the month to finish Nano. Now, two weeks in, I felt hopelessly behind. I would never catch up. Best to call a time of death.

Then I got a message from my friend, my writing buddy, Nikki. We’d discussed being accountability buddies for Nano in October, but she was on the fence. Now, she was doing it. It breathed some life into my Nano and I decided to fully reanimate that corpse, Walking Dead-style and dammit, I was going to finish. And I did. November 28th, a few days to spare, despite having not written for 10 days in November, I pushed past the 50k line.

Today, a few days into Nano 2017 and a bit behind where I wanted to be, I know a couple things for sure.

One, without my friend Nikki I wouldn’t have finished Nano 2016, and this is how I feel about that:

Cherish those writing buddies.

Two, the finish line was all the sweeter for the adversity.