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Thor: Love & Thunder-Some thoughts

For those of you who follow my blog, or my social media, you know I dig the MCU. They raised my eyebrow with Iron Man and sealed the deal with Avengers. In all the movies that followed, have they all been winners? No. Not by a long shot. But their track record is pretty good in my book. With top-tier gems like The Winter Soldier, Civil War, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarock, Infinity War, and Endgame, they are entitled to have a few duds. (I’m looking at you Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.)

Of the (up until now) trilogies, Thor’s movies had been the weakest entry. Until Ragnarok. That completely changed how I felt about Thor. The once bland, boring, 2-dimensional beefcake character now had depth, humor, and heart. They’d finally figured out Thor. Or so I thought.

I was so ready to be entertained!

My daughter (whom I’ve proudly introduced the MCU to) and I went to see Thor: Love & Thunder on opening night. Each of us was pumped to see the Thor from Ragnarok once again. And then, before our eyes, Thor turned back into the bland, boring, 2-dimensional, even bigger beefcake who was forcing out dialogue that was trying really hard to be funny but just wasn’t. Thor was working so hard for laughs that he lost his heart. His humility. He felt more like a caricature rather than the fleshed-out character we’d seen change and evolve over the movies. He’d gone backward in development.

Now maybe that is some bigger arc for him. That he’s attempting to use humor to hide his hurt, which we saw a tiny glimpse of but it was quickly rushed over in favor of a weird battle with bird aliens?

(Spoilers Ahead) But the biggest issue with this movie for me was the warring tones. On one side, you have this colorful, humorous (or attempting to be), song and dance vibe, and then on the other, you have a dark character of Gorr the God Butcher played brilliantly by Christain Bale, a terminal breast cancer diagnosis of Jane, and a forced rekindling of a romance that never had any chemistry from the start. The two tones did NOT play well together so it felt like you were watching two different movies. As a result, the stakes never felt real. The ‘sacrifices’ didn’t feel earned. I was being told a story instead of feeling the story.

That said, was it as bad as Multiverse of Madness? No, that was just awful in my opinion. Love & Thunder I’ll watch again. But it will hold the same weight as the first Thor. Which ain’t saying much.

If you want to hear more about my thoughts on why tone matters so much in writing, check out the podcast I did with writer, Tina Moss, on our podcast Bound By Books.


Until next time friends,

Danielle/Dani Bannister author and still lover of MCU despite some not-so-great recent entries.

writing

What say you? Character Poll Question

About a month ago, I asked my Newsletter subscribers a question. Who did they see as the main hottie in the Where You Left Me series. I’d confessed to them, that I had two men in mind as I wrote it: Sebastian Stan (because YUM) and Shawn Mendes (because curls rule.) I was curious, however, between the two, who did they, as readers, did they think matched the character better.

Blue suits, black shirts…Honestly, I wouldn’t be mad with either answer

While the results are in for the Newsletter and will be revealed in a few days to my subscribers, I’m curious who YOU would have chosen.

If you chose neither, I’d love to know who you pictured. And honestly, this poll has no losers because I’m all for equal muse opportunities and will happily use the ‘loser’ in an upcoming project for my inspiration. *wink, wink, nudge, nudge

Until next time,

Danielle/Danielle Bannister, author and searcher of inspiration

writing

Keeping Track Of All The Details

It should come to no one’s surprise that there is more to writing a story then putting words down on paper. There are a lot of details that we have to hold onto and some details slip right through our fingers. So, how do I hold all of the moving parts in my head?

Easy. I don’t. I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night, let alone what color I gave a character’s eyes when I wrote them last month. Hell, sometimes even a character’s NAME escapse me. (After 18 books that feels moderately forgivable.) So, how do I keep track of all the details?

I’m old school

I use “book bibles” filled with worksheets I’ve made/researched over the years to hold all of the details together (and still, I forget stuff.) It holds stuff like:

Character details I consider
  • Theme (What’s the lesson you want your MC to learn in this book?)
  • Hero’s problem/want/need (What problem does the MC have at the start of the book. What do they want that they THINK will make them happy. What is it that they actually NEED to reach the theme/lesson?
  • Character Profiles Basic stuff like job, family, age, looks, quirks, flaws, horiscope sign, etc. I’ll use images from Google and paste in a person who matches close enough that I can refer back to when describing the characters
  • The Outline A beat by beat play down of what the story arc will be.
  • Time and Space More Google images or terrible hand drawn sketches of locations and printable calanders for the month(s)/year the story takes place in. Time is something I have a hard time holding onto in the details, even WITH a print out.
  • A Family Tree It’s hard enough to remember a MC let alone the sibling or parent details of them!
Most of this outlining stuff comes from Save The Cat Writes A Novel. A GREAT tool if you’re trying to understand outlining. Highly reccomend. I just turned her ideas into worksheets.

If the book is a trilogy or a series, I’ll have a few other addtional bits in there as well. Such as;

  • Series Details Is this going to be a serial series (must read the books in order) or a regular series (books are lined by characters/locations but each book can be read on its own.)
  • Branding/Vision Basics How many books will there be? What titles will you use? What tropes are you lifting up? What is the genre and heat level for the series?
  • One Page Outline If writing a series, before I begin the first book, I’ll do a one page mile-high look at what the crux of each book will focus on so that I have an idea of where it’s going.
Varing worksheets I use for thinking about branding and vision for a series

Even WITH all of this, I still forget stuff. Hey, it happens. But at least this helps me hold on to most of it. And at the end of the day, that’s the best I can ask for.

If you want to hear more about this, author Marianne Morea and I dive a little deeper into the topic on our Bound By Books Podcast. You can watch that below.

ADD LINK

We’re on YouTube and wherever you listen to podcasts!

Until next time, keep those pencils sharp!

Danielle/Dani Bannister author and keeper of all the details

writing

Why Bother? A Constant Writer Battle

I’ve been at this indie/small press author gig since 2011. In that time, I’ve written 18 titles. Some of them actually made a profit. Most have not. Why? Well, let’s break down the cost a minute.

It takes about $500 (roughly) for me to produce a novel (novella’s slightly less) to produce. While there is no cost to upload your books on distribution sites (Amazon, Apple, Barns & Noble, etc.) there is a cost to produce them. Unless you are with a press, then these costs are absorbed by them, but publishers come with a lower royalty rate for you as the author. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll assume this is an indie project.

Editing: It costs me about .0065 cents per word. The longer the book, the bigger the cost. So my Where You Left Me novella series is approximately 32,000 words, or about $208 bucks. A typical novel for me is approximately 65,000 words or $425 bucks. in an ideal world, I’d also prefer to hire a second proof-editor to do one final pass-through. They typically charge a little less, like maybe, .004 cents a word, but that’s an additional hundred or two. Often, I can’t afford that final proof. Which is frustrating. I don’t want typos in my books any more than you want to see them. Trust me.

Cover Design: This varies wildly by designer, but most will have a pre-made selection for less, where you can pick from certain designs but with the ONLY change being the title/name/back blurb. If you want images swapped out or other alterations, you’re now looking at a custom design, and your designer needs to be compensated for that. For the Where You Left Me series, I found a pre-made. For $69 bucks (*snicker) But that’s $69 for each cover in that series because she’s making some slight tweaks to each pre-made.

Marketing: You could drop some serious money here. Either with ads, NL promo swaps, and swag, it all adds up to your final budget before a book goes live.

Once it’s out there in the world, there is about a 90-day window in which to make your return on investment. Sure, your book will still sell after that day, but, on average, your book will sell the most in that 90-day window. After 90 days have passed you add up your profit and subtract your expenses.

In the red, then you need to look at where you’re spending money and where you can cut back. For me, that means marketing has to be gutted. Which is ironic because without marketing, how does your book get seen? Excellent question and if you know the answer, let me know. One of the horrific catch-22s. Some, choose to cut back on editing and only pay for a proof round, which will leave their manuscript with more issues than they would probably like. Or, they’ll take a chance and try to design a cover of their own. Another gamble.

It’s a personal choice every author has to take when looking at their ROI (return on investment.) For me though, cover and edits have to stay. I know my limitations and graphic design and grammar ain’t my strongest attributes. (Yes, I used ‘ain’t’ on purpose.)

Even with those cutbacks, my last book, Where You Left Me, Vol. 2 has not earned me back an ROI, as of yet, as you can see below. It still has 2 months to earn back but usually, sales drop off after the first month so it will be an interesting one to watch.

Yes, it’s depressing.

To add insult to injury, as of this writing, there are only 4 reviews for Vol. 2 on Amazon. Thems the breaks, kid. So, Danielle, why bother writing this series if isn’t earning back your ROI? An author’s dilemma.

I’m continuing to write the series no one is currently reading, not just because of author ego (because there is absolutely some of that) but mostly because I assumed this lack of sales from the start. I’m writing under a new pen name and writing my first ever series in a world that wants to binge content. Readers don’t typically enjoy starting a series that isn’t finished. So, right at the start, series are a hard sell until they are complete.

I’m writing this series with the full knowledge that I likely won’t see an ROI until all five books are out. In fact, I’m not even really marketing these hard anywhere until all five books have at least a pre-order link up. I’m not running ads, I’m not doing NL swaps, and I’m not even buying/making swag (gasp!) right now. That will come once there is a clear funnel for all five books. Until then, I’m writing the content that I’m hoping readers will want to binge read once the series is complete. I’m playing the long game. If I write it they will come. (double entendre intended. It is a spicy romance after all.)

If you haven’t jumped aboard this ride, and want to before all five books are out, I won’t object. You can even start the story for free.

WHERE YOU MET ME (Bonus free prequel chapter)
https://daniellebannister.wordpress.com/free-story/

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 1
https://books2read.com/WYLMV1

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 2
https://books2read.com/WYLMV2

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 3 (Pre-order)
https://books2read.com/WYLMVl3

Until next time, I’m going to keep on writing.

Dani/Danielle Bannister, author and long game player.

writing

The readers authors use before launch

Before a manuscript goes live on platforms, there are typically a lot of pairs of eyes that are on it before it sees the light of day. My books are no different. And each project is unique. Some need more eyeballs on it than others.

For example, the dark romantic suspense I’m writing under Danielle Bannister that City Owl Press has already called ‘dibs’ on just by reading the synopsis, I finished the first draft of it a few weeks ago. And it was making me twitch. In not a good way. Something was off about it. Besides being woefully thin at only 45,000 words, there was also something bigger missing, but I couldn’t figure out what. But it was bugging me.

That’s when I would lean on a Critique Partner. For me, that’s an author who writes in the same or similar genre. They will read the shitty first draft (knowing that what is on the page is placeholders at best) and hopefully, help you figure out the sticking points you, as the author, are too close to see. For me, I had my dear friend and author Julie Cassar take a look at the steaming pile of poo. She helped me figure out what wasn’t quite working and offered up ways to fix it. That feedback will allow me to go back in during the second draft and make much-needed repairs. Not all books need this, but when they need it, they really need it.

Sometimes, a project needs a super-fan/Alpha reader feedback. A project you feel has potential, but you want to know, from your ideal reader if the draft you are working on has the potential to be great. This is an unedited first or second draft. Their job in this stage is to tell you if you’re on the right track for them as a reader. These are readers an author trusts to give them constructive criticism as a reader, (not necessarily grammatical stuff, but does the MC work for you, is the plot engaging, that sort of thing.)

Beta readers are generally used (for me) when a manuscript has gone through personal edits and BEFORE it has gone to an editor. I don’t always use beta readers, but if I do, it’s trusted readers that won’t pirate the book or just give feedback like ‘it was great!’ While that is awesome to hear, I also want to make the project the best that it can be. I WANT to hear what took you out of the story, so I can fix it. Sometimes, there isn’t time for this round of readers depending on your release schedule.

ARC Readers are those beautiful beings who volunteer to read your edited manuscript for free, in exchange for an honest review the day/week of the book’s release. They could give it five stars, they could give it 1. Ouch. Or, they could take the book and never leave a review. That happens a lot, actually. It’s a gamble authors have to take, however, because review count speaks volumes to the platform algorithm. If a new release suddenly has a bunch of new reviews the first week of its release, you can bet your bottom dollar that the platform will make sure your book is seen by more people. If you get a small handful… well, yeah. Down to the bottom you sink.

ARC readers get to read the book ahead of everyone else, and good ARC readers will let the author know if they spot a typo or formatting issue. There’s not much that can be done at this point if they point out a large plot hole or character issue. The window is just too small to make major changes in a manuscript. Tiny tweaks only at an ARC reader stage. (If you want to be an ARC reader for me, keep your eyes open. I’ll be posting a form for Vol. 3 soon.)

If you want to learn more about readers an author uses, I go into more depth on this Bound by Books Podcast with co-host Marianne Morea below.

Until next time, friends!

Danielle/Dani Bannister, author and searcher of readers

Life, writing

Work/Life Balance-Pt. 2

With a full three months at my new remote gig at athenahealth (I work in an app coding medical articles. Me. A coder. Who would have thunk it?) I have a better grasp of what my job entails and where my writing fits in this new reality.

Let me just say, it’s a good thing I’m single because there is literally NO time for those shenanigans. At least not with this current release schedule. Perhaps doing a rapid-release series while starting a new job was not the best plan? To be fair, I got the job after the first book was already out.

So with a full 3 months of this new balancing act, what has changed, and what has stayed the same?

The Same

  • I still do my yoga every day. 10 min to stretch out all the things. Especially my hands and back. I’m still not very bendy, but at least I can still get down off the floor. I call that a win.
  • I still use a goals/gratitude journal in the morning and at night.
  • I still have a writing a power hour M-F (7:00-8:00 AM) in which I write/edit whatever manuscript needs the most attention.
  • I still use the weekend to prep the content for the following week: 2 blog posts, a newsletter, TikTok videos, etc.
  • I still use Sunday to write my suspense (while the series Where You Left Me Vol. 1-5 takes over M-F.)
“Make the plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go rails… Throw away the plan” -Captain Cold

The Change

  • I don’t stress as much about the housework getting done right away. It really IS okay if the floors don’t get vacuumed until Sunday. The laundry CAN sit another day. It’s fine. I promise.
  • Reading more. Sounds strange, but prior to this work shift, there never seemed to be TIME to read. Now, I MAKE time. I need the escape from the screen and the daily stress of a 9-5. Since starting the day gig a few months, I’ve read four books. That’s more than I used to read in a year. Hmm. A boyfriend would come in handy as a soft pillow to lean against as I read, now that I think of it…
  • Taking breaks. Prior to the day job, I would sit for hours on the screen, typing away, doing this or that, and neglect my body (and eyes.) Now, I make a point step away. Stretch. Make a cup of tea. Take a walk. Brain breaks are good.
  • Naps have become a distant memory. I miss them. Naps used to be a daily thing for me. A quick 10 min power nap around 2pm. Having an autoimmune illness takes it out of you. Now, there simply isn’t time to take that power nap. Instead, I rely on Vitamin Water to help me power through. Weekend naps, however, still are very much a thing, thank you very much.

One thing I haven’t been able to even entertain yet is getting back into theater. I can’t even IMAGINE being in a show right now. There would be NO time to have dinner, and I’d have to stay up past 9:30! *gasp. As much as I ADORE acting, at this point, I don’t see how it’s possible. Maybe with time, I’ll get better at the balance and be able to get back on a stage. But for now, I’ll have to live vicariously through the characters I put on the page. You know, the flawed and frazzled heroine who is struggling to get her life in order and maybe find a guy to snuggle up with to read on.

Ah, fiction, you mirror, you.

Until next time!

Danielle/Dani Bannister, author and WIP balancing act

writing

The No-No List of Mama’s Books

Y’all, it’s summer break for my kids. They are out of school as of today for the summer which means I’ll need to be working on my steamy romance books mere feet away from them. Granted, my power hour of writing will be while they are most likely still teenagers, but still. It’s weird to write sexy scenes when you’re not sure they might enter the room.

Not that they have ANY interest in reading anything their mom writes, but I don’t think they actually know what mom writes. And I’d like to keep it that way, thank you very much. My children are NOT my target audience.

It’s getting harder to hide it though. The other day, my 18-year-old son picked up a copy of The First 100 Kisses and started to read it out loud to be funny. To say I jumped off the couch and ripped that book out of his hands faster than he thought I could move is an understatement. Mercifully, his eyes had landed on a non-sexy scene but that was close. I’d rather they not know what my characters get up to. I needed to come up with a rule. A No-No List, if you will.

The No-No List

The ones with Xs are a no-no read. They are never allowed to read those. The rest, they can read. When they are 35. But not before. This is also a handy visual for those who don’t care for too much bedroom stuff on the page. Avoid the Xs and you should be good.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a bedroom scene to write before I log in to work and before they get up wanting breakfast they’ve miraculously forgotten how to make themselves.

Dani/Danielle Bannister, author and keeper of spice secrets

writing

The Dreaded 2nd Draft: Fun Times.

For those of you who don’t know, I LOATHE writing the second draft of a manuscript. Give me the bliss and wonder of a first draft any day. In a first draft, my editor hat is off. I’m just spilling the words out of my brain and onto the page. Everything works. Everything is gold. Nothing will need to be fixed, I am a brilliant writer…

Then, after a few weeks of marinating on the back burner, I open that first draft and sniff the air. “What is that awful smell? Oh, yeah. It’s my shitty first draft.”

My current dark romantic suspense is currently on the docket for second draft work and I have to say, this one has me sighing heavily. There is sooooooooooo much to brain out on this one. The plot deals with some iky subjects and it’s making me think long and hard about character motivations, redemptive arcs, and, honestly if the whole thing needs to be trashed.

This first draft is short. Only 44k. It needs at least another 20K, which is doable. My first drafts tend to be mostly dialogue, so going back and adding things like pesky descriptions, necessary back story, etc. can easily flesh out the first draft into a novel-sized book. Adding words isn’t the problem with this one. The issue, for me, is the characters and their likability.

Neither one of these characters make smart choices. How do I write these characters who do dumb things, likable and relatable? Especially one character who you really shouldn’t like? It’s a tricky balance of character study in what readers will accept and what they will reject.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. Morally gray characters are complex. When done correctly, they leap off the page, making you love to hate them. Or, sympathize with them, hell, even fall in love with them. Done badly, and it leaves an awful taste in your mouth. A stink in the air.

Oh, it’s my writing.

I can smell that stench lingering in this first draft. That tells me I have some character work to do. Maybe now that I know how the story ends, I can write the emotional arcs of them better. Because, even with an outline, sometimes the story takes a turn. And with it, leaves a wake for you to go back and clean up.

Side note: Author, Tina Moss, and I talk about morally gray characters more in our Bound By Books Podcast in mid-July, so keep an eye out for that one.

Until next time, don’t mind the stench. I have some shit to shovel.

Danielle/Dani Bannister author and hater of second drafts

writing

Please, sir. I want some more.

Yes, I just had a release on May 10th, but when is the NEXT one? Great question. August 9th! Vol. 3 is finished and just waiting to go to the editor next month *gasp! Then I’ll set up ARCs and get that ready to rock but the pre-order is already up and running!

It’s a fun ride. 😉

WHERE YOU MET ME (Free prequel chapter)
https://daniellebannister.wordpress.com/free-story/

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 1
https://books2read.com/WYLMV1

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 2
https://books2read.com/WYLMV2

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 3 (Pre-order)
https://books2read.com/WYLMVl3

Vol. 4 and 5 will be out in early 2024 (I’m still writing those!) In November, I’ll be releasing a full-length novel I’ve held on the back burner for a while so that the series could get a running start. Then, in 2024, I’ll have an additional 2 releases coming your way. Four releases a year. That’s the plan. It may not seem like a lot compared to other authors, but the day job takes up a lot of time. Ha. I’m writing as fast as I can. Promise!

Speaking of, I need to get back at it. These words won’t write themselves. I know, I’ve asked.

Until next time.

Dani/Danielle Bannister author and release of all the things

writing

This time next week…

In one week, I’ll have my 18th book birthday. *sniff. They grow up so fast! On May 10, Where You Left Me, Vol. 2 will hit my distributors.

Prequel: WHERE YOU MET ME (free)
https://daniellebannister.wordpress.com/free-story/

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 1 (available now)
https://books2read.com/WYLMV1

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 2 (Pre-order)
https://books2read.com/WYLMV2

WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 3 (Pre-order)
https://books2read.com/WYLMVl3

For paperback collectors, I’ll be ordering paperbacks of it this week so if you need a signed copy, let me know here: https://forms.gle/CSA54pZcSxW8cMvYA

My “babies.”

By the end of next year, that bottom row will have filled out nicely (as long as I stay on my writing plan!) I’ve always wanted to be one of those writers with a large backlist. Now that I’m well on my way to having that, there is a downside. I’m officially out of room to display them in the current racks I have! That means a few of these beauties will need to be taken off those shelves and tucked onto the author copy shelf.

The first to be taken off will be my Short Shorts (I love ya, little collection, but no one else does.) The fantasy/paranormal will drop off next mostly because I’m not writing in those genres anymore. I’ll still stock some for signings and such, but they won’t hold the coveted display case honor anymore.

Eventually, my two cases will be split into Romantic Suspense under my Danielle Bannister name. And my Contemporary Romance under Dani Bannister will live in another. That will mean renaming a few titles currently published. A daunting hurdle I don’t have the bandwidth to tackle yet. For now, my backlist is a bit of a melting pot while I figure out the two genres I’m finally settling on. Only took me ten years to pick a lane, and even then, I had to pick two! What can I say? I’m a Libra. I need balance!

It’s safe to assume that next Tuesday, this blog space will be reserved for release day info. You’ve been warned! 😉

Until next time, friends, I hope you’re all doing FABULOUS!

Danielle/Dani Bannister, author and almost 18 book birthday girl