ARC Review – Food for Thought, by Ariana Ferrante

Food For Thought by Ariana Ferrante

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A spectacular rendition of a classic tale we only thought we knew. Ferrante’s Food for Thought weaves a riveting narrative of love and loyalty, grief and hunger, and adds new dimension to the goddesses and gods of Ancient Greece. This is a retelling you won’t want to put down!

This little novelette is an excellent dose of Greek mythology, infused with a touch of horror, romance, and a delicious taste of righteous spite. Food for thought is a courageous and thought-provoking narrative showcasing the power women have when they combine their forces rather than tear each other down.

I highly recommend this story for lovers of Greek mythology, especially if you are looking for a quick read to satisfy an itch. I don’t often see horror and romance fused together but Ferrante pulls it off masterfully. This is a genre that, now that I have a taste, I would LOVE to read more of.

Food for Thought is available for purchase at every major retailer.

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Indie Review | Dragon Speaker, by Elana A. Mugdan

Dragon Speaker by Elana A. Mugdan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Magic, power, and purpose are bestowed upon everyone in Elentria from birth, except for Karia. Born without magic, she isn’t even worthy of having a name in her village. But the dragon goddess Shivnath has other plans for Karia Nameless…

I listened to the audiobook of this and oh my goodness! What a thrilling and captivating read!

This is a YA fantasy novel about a girl without magic in a world where everyone has magic. Through a jaw-dropping/heart-stopping (literally) incident with the dragon goddess Shivnath, she’s forced to leave her hometown and shenanigans ensue.

This story has so much to offer! Dragons, humor, found family, some romantic tension, morally gray villains, morally dark villains, magic, a quest, magical creatures, just… everything, seriously. The pacing was perfect to world build, develop the characters, and keep me engaged from start to finish.

I adored this story. All three of the main characters had very unique voices. I loved Thorion. I even liked reading about the evil characters; they had personalities that were humorous and believable. And I 100% want more Bog Spectre.

The audiobook was also extremely well done. I tend to shy away from author read audiobooks simply because authors are usually not trained in voice acting like professional audiobook narrators are, and I find I usually enjoy reading the physical book more in those cases. However, Elana Mugdan blew this performance out of the Elentrian sky. Each character had a unique voice in both words and sound, and though I didn’t have a physical copy of the book to compare, I’m very glad I chose to experience this novel as an audiobook. It was top notch.

I absolutely hope the author has intentions for creating audiobooks for the rest of the series because I definitely want to continue this saga and hear my favorite characters speak to me whilst doing so.

If you’re looking for an amazing dragon book to read–maybe Fourth Wing didn’t do it for you, or maybe it did and you want more dragons–PICK THIS ONE UP! You will not be sorry!

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ARC Review | Tales of Thread, by Hegeleen Kissel

Tales of Thread is a visceral collection of inspired tales whose gravity and emotional depth would meet the approval of the most renowned ancient playwrights.

Tales of Thread is a visceral collection of inspired tales whose gravity and emotional depth would meet the approval of the most renowned ancient playwrights.

Hegeleen Kissel has created a collection of short stories and poems that are a mix of mythology retellings and brand-new stories pulled from the rich history of ancient Greece. This collection could very well be inspired by the Muses themselves. Her master of prose captures the raw human emotion in every character in these stories, and her knowledge of the ancient Greek world and culture resonates in every scene.

Her style of writing, in particular, drew me in. Most of the stories are written in first person, and the way she has chosen to combine monologue, dialogue, and exposition made me feel like everything was actually happening to me, like I was really the character. Which made the horrific choices some of them make all the more gut-wrenching and visceral.

Let me be clear, this is not a collection for the faint of heart. There are very adult themes and graphic descriptions in some of these stories that are brutal in their beautiful execution. I’m just amazed, honestly.

It’s rare that I read a short story collection where I love every single story, but I will enthusiastically add Tales of Thread to that small list. There are three stories in particular that invoked such strong emotional reactions from me: “The Boy”, “Tales of Thread”, and “XXIV”. I am a mother, and oh. These stories hit me hard. All in unique ways.

A fourth story I want to mention is “The World Beneath”, which I found to be extremely unique and interesting; a refreshing twist on the myth of the Minotaur that depicted a progression of insanity so natural that it had me overanalyzing every thought I had for the next 24 hours.

The book is also visually appealing. Each chapter has a beautiful graphic on its chapter title page. It is clear that Kissel has put an enormous amount of effort into this collection and presentation, and it is gorgeous. My only hope is that she will offer this as a physical book because I will buy it so quickly to display proudly on my shelves and re-read on those days when I need my heart ripped out of my chest and fed back to me to remind me I’m still alive.

When I say I read this in one sit down, I mean I couldn’t read this fast enough. I’m no stranger to the mythical tales and plays of ancient Greece. They’re tragic, they’re heartbreaking, they make you want to scream, they make you want to cry, sometimes laugh, and Tales of Thread captures all of that and transports you to the scene of the crime. If you love ancient Greek mythology, you must read this book and add it your collection.

Tales of Thread will be available to purchase on 14 August, so mark your calendars!

Happy Writing!


How to self-publish a book…

…in 1000 steps.

Just kidding.


Am I? I’m not sure. Let me rewind.

I decided to do a simple (relatively) step-by-step blog about what exactly I’ve done to create a book I’m proud of and that, as of right now, seems to be exceeding my wildest expectations from a reader standpoint (see Epic of Helinthia’s current rating on Goodreads). For anyone looking to self-publish a book, either you have always known this was the route you wanted to take, or you’ve tried to obtain an agent to solicit a traditional publishing avenue and been unsuccessful, I hope I can help you set realistic expectations about self-publishing through what I’ve done and the success that has followed as a result.

My book, Epic of Helinthia, is currently in the marketing/preorder stage, so if you choose to subscribe to my blog, and I hope you do, you can see firsthand in (almost) real-time how well my self-publishing choices have turned out for me so you can decide for yourself if these are worthy investments for your own self-publishing venture.

I will preface this first by saying that I spent 0 effort trying to land an agent to get a traditional publishing deal. The reason for this is I’ve lost faith in the traditional publishing system. I can’t tell you how many ARCs I’ve reviewed that are just subpar, not original, not well written, have typos, etc. In contrast, I’ve read a LOT of self-published books that were rejected by trad pub and are absolutely phenomenal! The main one being Kill Your Darlings, by L.E. Harper, which was rejected over 200 times and is one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read. (If you haven’t already, you should order Kill Your Darlings right now).

Seeing amazing books get trampled on by traditional publishing houses because they deal with challenging themes or because they’re not “trending” at the moment just makes me want to snub trad pub in solidarity with these brilliant authors and their amazing works of fiction. Whether or not this will prove to be a good move on my part, time will tell.

I have been working overtime to make sure my novel gets the best possible chance, however, and this success (or failure, who knows?) is what I’m going to share with you through this series of blog posts.

My hope is that this can serve as a blueprint for anyone who is trying to publish their own book. I know there are lots of blogs and youtube and tiktok videos on this topic already, but wouldn’t it be nice to just have it ALL in one blog? Here is a bulleted list of everything I have done so far, each of these I will cover in much more detail in the coming weeks:

Book creation:

  • Streamlined character and story arcs
  • Wrote the chapters
  • Submitted chapters to critique group
  • Incorporated feedback from critique group
  • Wrote more chapters – this included removing chapters that were bogging down the narrative based on critique group feedback and my own gut feelings as I reread my book – if YOU don’t want to reread your chapter for some reason, then that’s a good sign it needs to be overhauled or scrapped.
  • Participated in Nanowrimo to finish a very rough 1st draft of the rest of the story
  • Revised chapters one by one and submitted to my critique group for feedback
  • Incorporated more feedback

2nd Completed draft:

  • Created a list of outstanding concerns I had about the manuscript
  • Submitted to beta readers – I chose people I didn’t know first because I wanted honest feedback. Family members and friends are often nervous about telling you things they don’t like about your book, and stranger are a more reliable comparison to your readers
  • Incorporated feedback from beta readers – 5 total – There was one from my critique group who read it from the beginning again, and 4 that I found on social media – this step was critical.
  • Read-aloud of my story and corrected anything that was still confusing or disjointed
  • First copy-edit
  • Created a book blurb and short description

Pre-publication steps:

  • I purchased a 10 ISBN bundle from Bowker
  • Assigned ISBNs in Bowker. I also purchased a barcode for the paperback and hardcover versions–though I’m no longer sure if this was a necessary step
  • Created a copyright page. I also looked at how books similar to mine were formatted and worded and made sure the quality was matched
  • I registered my manuscript with the US copyright office
  • I applied for an LCCN number – this allows librarians to be able to search for and catalogue my book easier

Cover Design:

  • Don’t skimp on your cover!!! Your cover is your primary marketing tool! If the cover doesn’t look good, readers will not click on your book to learn more and therefore they will not buy it. This also means that ARC readers are less likely to consider reading it as well.
  • Researched the covers of other books that I envisioned my book appearing on the shelf next to in a bonafide bookstore. After I had done this, I went on the hunt for a cover artist
  • Found a cover artist on Fiverr
  • I combed through fiverr looking for portfolios that matched the style of the book covers similar to what I was going for, and then reached out to Sadie and let me know my thoughts. I even did a very rough mockup of what I thought might look good in MS Paint and sent that to her, and found other book covers with color schemes I liked and also sent those to her.
  • Sadie came through with such a beautiful cover, I could not be more thrilled. She produced several options from my rough MS paint sketch and the color schemes I wanted and then we tweaked the design here and there
  • Don’t skimp on this step. It is SO IMPORTANT
  • I decided to go with IngramSpark POD services and they have a cover template that you need to download and supply to your cover artist so it will fit your book exactly

Book Formatting:

  • I formatted my book myself in MS Word. Professional book formatters are worth every single penny they charge for their work, I can attest. However, I was working on a limited budget, so I decided to try it myself.
  • I formatted my manuscript to CMOS standards, which is no headers or page numbers on front matter, specific verso and recto pages, and no headers on chapter title pages. This was a challenge to do in Word, and if you’re interested in learning how to do it, I’ll try to create a blog on it soon
  • Once you do this, supply the total page count to your cover designer with an updated template from Ingram (if you’re using them) to adjust the cover specs if necessary

eBook formatting:

  • I made the mistake of formatting the physical book first, so all the work I did on the headers and footers had to be removed for the ebook, which was a pain. Also, all the drop caps I added to the chapter pages also had to be removed because the epub software I used moved them around on the page when it converted. So I recommend formatting the ebook first and then format the paperback. Some of the same steps are necessary for the ebook, but there are extra steps for the paperback
  • I used calibre, which is a free software that has a bit of a learning curve to it, but it produces a decent epub with minimal effort
  • Main things to note for the epub is that all chapter titles have to have a style heading assigned to them in word, it cannot be normal text just manipulated to look like a chapter heading. Otherwise, the table of contents will not generate in calibre
  • This is also something I learned after the fact and had to go back and reformat all the chapter headings – not hard, just a pain

Copyedit (again)

  • At this point, I decided to do another copy edit of my book, and I’m glad I did, not only did I discover several italicized lines that had lost their italics during my formatting process somehow, but I also discovered some errors I introduced here and there and some that I had missed
  • Disclaimer: I am a professional editor by trade. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get a professional editor to edit your work. It makes a big difference in reader satisfaction and understandability. Grammar check is NOT enough. If you need more convincing, read my article I wrote for Huntsville Independent Press about editing.
  • I also discovered that a couple lines were different (somehow) between the physcial book and the ebook.
  • To remedy this, I used the compare versions option in MS Word and compared both documents, and then made the corrections to ensure they were both exactly the same.
  • Yes, this required a lot of scrolling, but it’s a very important step.


  • IngramSpark is its own beast
  • Firstly, I purchased an ebook/physical book bundle and a separate physical book because I wanted three versions. Buying a book bundle was a mistake.
  • I discovered that IngramSpark doesn’t accept epubs formatted by calibre and it threw a thousand errors when I uploaded it that I couldn’t even begin to figure out. So I consulted with my friend who also used IngramSpark and she told me Ingram’s ebook service is a mess and I should use Draft2Digital instead.
  • That was one of the best decisions I’ve made for this book yet
  • Draft2Digital accepted my epub without issues and the distribution is really amazing
  • The problem is that now IngramSpark would not let me publish just the physical book without the ebook since I’d bundled it, so I had to delete both titles and start with a physical book again. This resulted in an error that the ISBN for my physical book was not available. Wait 24 hours, Ingram’s databases will sync up and the error will go away
  • With the physical book, I discovered that Ingram doesn’t accept MS Word documents that have been saved as pdf. I don’t know why (except they’re discriminatory against authors on a budget), but I learned through a youtuber that if you print to pdf the error goes away and the manuscript is accepted.
  • Unfortunately, the built-in print to pdf, Microsoft print to pdf, only prints a letter size (8.5×11) document. It SAYS 6×9, but it doesn’t print a 6×9.
  • I downloaded Bullzip print to pdf instead, which there is also a learning curve to, and I’ll cover that in a later blog post
  • Tip: be sure to add your editor and cover designer in Ingram’s collaborator menu – they’re part of your success and recognizing them for it helps their business and rapport
  • Ordered a physical proof copy
  • Made MORE copyedits because looking at a screen is different than reading an actual book
  • Also, I had to change the paper type which meant a cover resize, so keep in touch with your cover artist just in case you need to tweak the cover in any way


  • I scouted some marketing options on Reedsy and engaged with a couple people. Ultimately, I chose not to go this route and instead I did/am doing all of these things:
  • Became an IBPA member
  • Learned to use Canva and create social media images
  • Submitted for a Clarion foreword review
  • Signed up to use StoryOrigin to disseminate ARCs
  • Uploaded book to Goodreads
  • Created a Goodreads Author page and that was its own fiasco
  • Created an Amazon author page
  • Created an author instagram account
  • Entered the Booklife Fiction Contest
  • Signed up for Booksirens ARCs
  • Purchased the IndieReader Review and Edelweiss plus DRC combo
  • Signed up for the Victory Editing Netgalley Coop
  • I can’t stress the significance of good COVER design in this stage
  • Voracious Readers Only giveaway and Evergreen program
  • Blogs 🙂
  • youtube (sort of)
  • Book tour (TBD because this is in the planning stages)
  • Signed up to attend ALA conference and put my book on IBPA’s bookshelf
  • Twitter outreach
  • Engagement with readers

As of the writing of THIS article, I have not utilized a mailing list for any of my marketing, which is something that is frequently pushed as a critical marketing tool, especially for self-published authors. I will discuss this a bit more in a later blog post about why I haven’t used one. I may decide to try it, but as of right now, I haven’t.

Okay. That’s just about everything I’ve done so far. When I try more things I will post another list. If you are curious about any of the items in my list and want to know when I post the more in-depth article, please subscribe to my blog to get alerts on when those articles are published. I’m running on burn out hardcore at the moment because between all of this and normal stuff, like day job and family and laundry, I am exhausted. So, I’m not even going to promise a regular blogging schedule at this point, but I have so much information that is vying to get out, so I will be publishing it eventually, hopefully soon.

Thank you for reading and happy writing!


ARC Review | El Flamingo, by Nick Davies

El Flamingo by Nick Davies

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Sometimes, even in Mexico, an extra sombrero is too much to ask…”

That one line should tell you just about everything you need to know to decide that this book is a must read.

El Flamingo follows the story of a failed Hollywood actor named Lou Galloway to a beach bar in Mexico to drown his sorrows. There, he strikes up a conversation with another sad man, as one does, and is thrust into the Oscar-winning acting performance of a lifetime. Lou Galloway is unknowingly mistaken for an assassin, and being the actor he is, he rises to the challenge, and shenanigans ensue.

This Desperado meets James Bond meets The Big Lebowski is a funny, clever, action packed, romantic thrill ride that sucks you in from the very first line until the very last.

This book is brimming with witty monologue, dialogue, tension-filled action scenes, and rich Hispanic culture that honestly made me want to try salsa lessons again. It’s fast-paced, never dull, with a slight whodunit vibe, and one of my favorite parts is that the main character and the main supporting character, Maria-Carla, are both middle-aged adults. As a middle-aged adult myself, it’s so wonderful to read a book about older people that dares to do something fun and exciting with them, and El Flamingo delivers.

Lou Galloway is very relatable; a dreamer with high aspirations and no chances to shine. Like many of us, the ‘one role’ to make his career has poofed away, and he’s left with no idea what to do next. In the same vein, Maria-Carla is also a very relatable character for many; a strong woman stuck in a marriage she despises and biding her time until the right moment she can break free for good.

There are so many layers to these characters, and a short review cannot even begin to scratch the surface. I could not put this book down, and the only reason I did was because it was way past my bedtime. I finished this book in three sit downs. Every page had a laugh, every scene carried impeccable tension and intrigue, and I absolutely LOVED the Spanish dialogue woven in.

Nick Davies is an amazing writer; his style connects you immediately to the characters and immerses you into the setting with very little exposition; I was never bored. I will be adding Nick Davies to my Authors-to-Watch list for sure. I can’t wait to see what he publishes next.

El Flamingo publishes March 15 by YBK publishers, and you’re going to want to read this one!

I was given a free ARC for an honest review.


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ARC Review | From Heartbreak to Hopeful – by Shelby Catalano

A journey of healing and its grief, frustration, anger, sadness, and acceptance, and all of the emotions and trauma in between. From Heartbreak to Hopeful is a powerful collection of poems that reaches into the soul of humanity’s most difficult challenge: overcoming heartbreak.

I was given a copy of this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

From Heartbreak to Hopeful‘s 51 poems explore Shelby’s climb out of the depths of heartbreak, delving into the lingering trauma of her experiences and the painful process of healing.

As someone who has experienced heartbreak and trauma from a manipulative relationship like Shelby’s, I connected with her story, identified with her self-doubt, her anger, at times desperation, oppressive hopelessness, and loss of confidence in herself and life in general.

Shelby’s journey continues through to hope: recovery, acceptance, closure, and the freedom that comes from learning to love oneself again.

For anyone who is going through heartbreak now, this is a beautiful collection to inspire hope for the future and share the collective energy of healing and self-love between survivors. For those of us who have gone through it before, it’s a gentle reminder of what we overcame and how we are better and stronger for our experiences.

What is so unique about From Heartbreak to Hopeful is that the poems are arranged in such a way that they can be read in order from back to front as well, showcasing just how feelings of love can spiral into heartbreak. Reading it this way was surprisingly insightful in pinpointing the behaviors and warning signs of a relationship turning sour; a vivid reminder of how subtle toxicity can be in a relationship and how it can worm its way into the seemingly happiest of places. It was creative and eye-opening, and I give major props to Shelby for arranging her poems so carefully to be read both ways.

In addition to the poems and arrangement, she has also included several of her own illustrations throughout which are absolutely beautiful and enhance the emotional connection to the poems.

This is an awesome and powerful poetry collection to add to your library; a beautiful reminder that while heartbreak reaches deep, it isn’t permanent.

You can purchase From Heartbreak to Hopeful on Amazon through this link.

Happy Writing!

Petey says hello!

Adding Art to Your Book

Most authors plan to have an elaborate cover for their book.  We’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but…. we all judge books by their covers, so making sure we have a good one for our own is at the top of our pre-publishing checklist.

What about art throughout the book though?

Children’s books, comics, graphic novels, etc will always have lots of art, but for all other categories of books, the art content varies and is usually optional.

Artwork in the book can add to the reader’s experience, or it can take away from it if done poorly.  Choosing to include art really depends on the experience you want the reader to have, just know that whichever you decide it will have a huge impact.

For Isle of Elandia, I’m mulling around the idea of breaking it down into episodes instead of one huge novel.  One of the things I’m considering is adding artwork to each episode.  To test it out, I commissioned UnknownArtist20 from Deviantart to create a character art of Farwen and her horse Inan.  She also recorded a speedpaint which you can view on her youtube channel here.

I’m in love with this image she created, and I’m excited to commission her again for more character drawings in the future.


Review – The King’s Own, by W. Marshall

A colleague recommended the The King’s Own to me because his friend is the author, so I bought it and gave it a shot.  The first critique I have is that there is no synopsis on the back cover, which makes it look a little amateur and provides a potential reader no clue as to what they will encounter inside.  The front cover, while it’s not plain, doesn’t offer many more clues either except that it takes place in an age of swordplay.  That said, this book has quite a few good reviews on, 27 to be exact, which is no small feat for a self-published author.  This is a prime example of not judging a book by it’s cover.

The short review is this:

A mysterious story with multiple layers of intrigue, filled with unexpected twists and turns and a shocking twist ending.

Long version:

The King’s Own is the story of a man who goes from village farm boy to an elite assassin/guard of the king, and eventually to king himself.  The story begins with the murder of the king and the main character going on the run as the primary suspect, and then continues on, switching back and forth between backstory and present.  The author has done a really great job accomplishing a smooth flow and his ability to keep it interesting is impeccable, and he does it without confusing the hell of the reader.  The transitions from backstory to present and vice versa were seamless, and I was constantly intrigued to learn about the world and unfold the mystery surrounding the king’s death, which is far more intricate than you would ever expect.

This story is the closest thing to the third person objective that I’ve read.  We follow the main character, but we don’t really know what he knows or is thinking like more familiar third person stories.  Instead, we’re just watching, gathering clues, and trying to figure out what is actually going on.  Every scene is written so that we learn more about the character and his motives alongside the overarching plot of whodunit.  I’ve never read a book like this before, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well the author executes this.

Along with the main character, we also get to know his mentor and his sidekick who also have interesting backstories and unique parts to play in the book as well, culminating in a very shocking twist at the very end with his mentor which I didn’t see coming, and I was very happy in my surprise, and totally stunned.

There were a few grammatical errors that I saw, nothing really major that took away from the story or my enjoyment.

One major criticism I have is actually the first four pages of the book.  It begins with a fight scene which is meant to pull me in but it is way over-choreographed and confusing to follow, and it drags on far too long.  The scene is virtually impossible to visualize and I totally gave up doing it three paragraphs in.  Had I not committed to reading the whole thing to write a review I probably would have put the book down on page 2.  That said, once you get through those first four pages it picks up tremendous speed, so push through it, you won’t be sorry.

The other major critique I have for this book is the sex scenes.  They’re not written poorly, there are just a lot of them, and the majority of them do not do anything to move the plot along.  Every female (almost) that the main encounters in the book literally throws herself at him, and it just slows down the story, there’s no real reason for having the scene in there except just to have a sex scene, and I found it more bothersome than exciting.

Another minor thing that I took issue with is one scene where they’re swimming through a moat to break into a castle at midnight, but somehow the main character sees a comrade get snagged, and goes back to free him.  I find it very unrealistic that he’d be able to see anything underwater in the daytime in a mucky moat, nevermind at midnight, but maybe I’m being too nitpicky on that point.

Overall though, I really did enjoy it, I finished it within a couple of days and was blown away at the twist ending.  Every new scene revealed something important about the character and the death of the king.  For swordplay lovers and mystery fans, I highly recommend this book.  I think this author is very talented and I’ll be watching for more novels in the future.

His book is available on amazon through this link here.


Soul Searching for Character Development

One thing I’ve learned over the past several weeks is that life is full of surprises, excitements, and disappointments.  Sometimes life seems dull, but others it’s like an emotional roller coaster.  Those moments, the tough ones, the emotional ones, are an invaluable source of inspiration for your novel, in particular: character development.

I’m now several drafts into my novel, and looking back over my previous drafts I can see the stages my thought process went through, beginning with action scenes and quick dialogue to get to the next action sequence and move the story along.  Stage 2 added a little more thought provoking dialogue, a little more backstory to help the reader understand why these action scenes were taking place and to give a little more substance to the wider story arc.  Stage 3 was about tying up loose ends, embellishing certain scenes, smoothing out some rough edges and cutting out some redundancy.  In these 3 stages though, the most fundamental aspect of a reader’s experience was missing or sorely lacking: character development.  Sure, my characters did and said things and the reader usually knew why, but the feelings described were hollow or non-existent.  They didn’t feel real.  The human bond of emotional connection was missing between the reader and the character.

Character development truly makes or breaks a novel, and it can be tricky trying to figure out how to do it successfully.  Loss, grief, fear, anxiety, love, desire, hatred, thrill:  Real emotions which derive from real experiences and real relationships are paramount to character development.  But MJ Pankey, you say, my character did experience loss, his best friend was just badly wounded in front of him!  But as you read that scene, do you feel like your best friend was just badly wounded in front of you?  Tap into your inner psychologist, and tell me what that really feels like.

The emotional struggles make us who we are as individuals.  How we process those emotions, work through them, and overcome them is how we can connect with one another as human beings, and it’s also how we can connect and invest in fictional characters, even if their experiences aren’t real.

Every character who is important to a novel needs this internal struggle.  While my heroine can’t necessarily experience being offered an amazing job and then it falling through a week later in exactly the same way (being a fantasy novel kind of messes that up), I can still incorporate the familiar feelings of excitement and hope for the future, and then the following disappointment when it does not go according to plan.  I know what that feels like, and I can give that to my character.

Describing the internal conflict as actions happen and as scenes unfold is what character development means.  How does this character become better by these experiences, by these scenes, how does this event impact them now to have such a marked influence on a future thought or action?  And the best way to figure that out and get it on paper is to dig deep into your own experiences and describe how you feel/felt/would feel in a similar circumstance, and how did it change your expectations/circumstances/behaviors/beliefs moving forward?

To recap, a story is more than just events, places, things, and actions, it’s about people; real experiences, real emotions, and the kindred connection that a reader has with the character.  To create character development in your novel, you need to do some serious soul searching from your own life experiences.  When was a time you felt embarrassed?  Describe it, give it to your character.  When was a time you felt betrayed by someone?  Describe it, give it to your character.  You get the idea.

So if your novel is lacking some depth, look deep.  Dig up the emotional moments and give your characters a small piece of yourself.  Show your readers the raw humanity we all share between us as a species, and bring your characters to life.

Happy writing!


Treading the line between Inspiration and Plagiarism

Every writer is inspired by another’s creativity, it’s just inevitable, yet everyone wants to have an original thought or idea, and no one wants to plagiarize, unless they are specifically writing fanfiction, but even that, as E.L. James has proven with her Fifty Shades series, originally a Twilight fanfiction, can be considered original enough with the proper tweaks.

For the record, the formal definition of plagiarism according to google dictionary is as follows:

“the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own”

That’s pretty vague and the line separating inspiration and plagiarism is fuzzy at best.  Obviously everyone has their own ideas and concerns about the line, and I can’t tell you how many times I have read a book and thought that it reminded me of another book, or that certain descriptions or names sounded really familiar to others in similar genres, as I’m sure you have too.  Is that plagiarism?

Well, I’m going to go through a few tips I use when I draw inspiration from other authors, and how I ensure that I don’t cross that line into plagiarism or some other muddled sibling.  And I’ll do it with an example.

One of the main sources of frustration I’ve personally encountered with my novel Isle of Elandia is writing battle scenes.  So, I decided to listen to an audiobook of the Iliad since it is one entire battle and one of the greatest books ever.

The Iliad is written so that the characters have unique personalities, the battle is expertly choreographed and visual, and it’s very heavy on the gore and details, I can fully immerse myself in the battle for Troy and that’s what I want in my own book!  So how can I do that without plagiarizing?

Firstly, it’s important to recognize the differences between my novel and the Iliad, and every author needs to understand the same when they are drawing inspiration from another author.  For my own part, I don’t really want to drag out the battle scene, especially after several authors in my critique group say they skip battles that drag on and on, even when reading their favorite authors or series.  Obviously this point alone will make it a challenge to plagiarize, since a book length battle such as the Iliad is already far different than a mere chapter.

That’s honestly the biggest tip, recognize the differences between your novel and your favorite author’s.

Rather than copy battle verbiage or incorporate similar specifics, which would be very out of place in my novel in addition to plagiarism, zeroing in on methods the author used to draw in the reader and further the plot is an effective way to draw inspiration.  For example, at one point in the Iliad, the Trojans focus their attack on one part of the wall guarding the Greeks’ ships, which not only added strategy into the battle but also furthered the plot, since once the wall came down it introduced a whole new plethora of emotions, battles, and hero clashes, and it focused the heroes on an attainable goal for a short period.

The inspiration that can be drawn here in my own battle scene is to focus my heroes on a goal within the overall battle, such as sinking a particular warship, destroying a battering ram before it breaks down the gate, or some other strategic sabotage that will introduce areas where I can expand character development, further along my unique plot, and keep my readers’ interest.  My one battle scene is a scene, not a book, and because of this fact, adding extra details, gore, and lengthy descriptions of individual fights –while that drew me into the Iliad and made me feel like I was on the battlefield– it just will not work for my story because the purpose of my book is not to glorify war, and neither is my battle scene.  My battle scene’s goal is just to destroy this warship.

Sidebar:  I think too often authors try to describe too much in scenes, and some of it is more fluff than plot thickening and is due in part to trying to replicate another author’s ideas to accomplish the same affect and achieve the same success.  However, due to the fundamental differences between the two novels, it doesn’t have the same affect on your novel, and it’s borderline plagiarism and will lose your reader.  So again, recognize the differences, capitalize on them, and expand them in your novel.

So to summarize, plagiarism and inspiration can sometimes seem like a fine line.  But the first step to defining that line is to recognize the differences between your novel and the one you are drawing inspiration from.  Once you do, capitalize on those differences throughout your book.  Analyze the methods your favorite author used to keep your interest rather than replicating exactly how they did it.  Avoid sharing specifics in common, and avoid adding in extra details that don’t further along your plot.  Just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you, and most likely it won’t.

If you find that there aren’t that many differences to capitalize on or that they are so minor (like only names or colors) that they can be overlooked, then it may be time to re-evaluate your novel.

Best of luck writing!

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