10 New Dark Fantasy Romance Prompts (to Inspire Your Writing)

The last time we posted dark fantasy romance prompts to help inspire your writing the post blew up! Because it was so popular, we're giving it another go, this time with all new dark fantasy romance writing prompts! These are all free to use for your writing projects. You may change them if you like, or simply use these prompts in your story or to give you a head start on your novel or whatever else you may need a little dark fantasy inspiration for!

If you do use one of these prompts, we'd love to hear about it, so shoot us an email at info@freeflyingpress.com with your story or teaser and let us know! Your story could be featured on our blog.

Without further ado:

Your 10 New Dark Fantasy Romance Prompts

(Designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!)

10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!
10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!
10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!
10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!
10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!
10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!
10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!
10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!
10 new dark fantasy romance writing prompts designed to ignite your imagination and get you writing!

Which Femme Fatale Are You?

Ever wonder which femme fatale you are?

Introducing Free Flying Press’s roundup of top femme fatales.

Read the descriptions below and find out which femme fatale matches your seductive/deadly style.

If you’re wondering what a femme fatale is, you’re in the right place. We’re showcasing the best femme fatale’s in fiction and history across the ages. If you want to suggest another powerful femme that should be added to this list, let us know in the comments!

A femme fatale is, quite literally, a deadly woman. Her character is shrouded in history, and her seductive abilities are off the charts. The femme fatale uses her feminine wiles to ensnare lovers, often choosing powerful men from whom they can gain something: power, money, influence, etc.

She may lead her lover into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations.

Thus, she ears her name. Ever wonder which femme fatale style matches your own?

Femme Fatales in your Favorite Fiction

(Say that 10 times fast.)

Faye Valentine

The ultra sexy (and often bumbling) bounty hunter of [Director’s] Cowboy Bepop, Faye Valentine uses her sexual charms to bring Outlaws to justice. Well, really, she’s just in it for the money. If you’re well-meaning, but don’t mind throwing your friends under the bus for a spot of change, you may be Faye’s real-world counterpart


Salomé’s story begins in the gospels of Matthew and Mark in the Bible…you could say she’s an UrFemme Fatale. She is Herod’s daughter — a seductive woman who ensnares John the Baptist with her feminine wiles. Ultimately, Salomé is the cause of John the Baptist’s death. You’ve seen the famous paintings of his head served up on a golden platter. When brought to Salomé, she amorously kisses the head. I

f your lust tends toward the macabre Salomé may be your femme fatale. Practice belly dancing so you can enrapture unwitting guests at your next dinner party. Just don’t cut off any heads.

Lady Macbeth

You’ve heard the saying: Behind every powerful man is an equally powerful lady. Lady Macbeth is the partner in crime to the murderous Macbeth of Shakespeare’s infamous play. Macbeth’s undoing is the murder he commits. Well, who do you think goaded him into doing it?

If you find yourself convincing friends to act according to some master plan you hold, it sounds like you could be Lady Macbeth. Lesson is though, don’t convince them of murder. For her guilt, Lady Macbeth throws herself off the ramparts of the castle, unable to live anymore with the burden of her suggestion.

Brigid O’Shaughnessy

On lists for top femme fatales, Dashiell Hammett’s Brigid O’Shaughnessy of The Maltese Falcon always features. And for good reason: she is one badass femme fatale. Brigid lies to everyone, men and women alike, to manipulate events to her desired outcome. She hires a private detective to help protect her, convinces another man to steal the famed jewel-encrusted statue the Maltese Falcon, and then murders him to keep all the profits. The detective she hired proves to be her undoing (it seems all femme fatales are doomed a tragic end). She professes her love to him, but once marked a liar, it’s hard to see otherwise, and she’s imprisoned.

If you will stop at nothing to get what you want, you’re probably Brigid O’Shaughnessy’s counterpart.

Jessica Rabbit

This is my personal favorite femme fatale of all time. Jessica Rabbit, the estranged wife of Roger Rabbit, is certainly one of Disney’s most provocative characters. She’s an ultra-seductive cartoon character who is suspected of framing her husband for murdering her alleged paramour and Toon-town owner. Her sex appeal has spurred many trends in movies and magazines (especially Playboy).

If you’re just too sexy for your own good, love to perform, and have little scruples, you could be a femme fatale like Jessica Rabbit.

Not all Femme Fatales are relegated to fiction:

Throughout history femme fatales have been stirring up trouble for powerful men. These real life women used their power to bring about serious changes in the world.


Coming into power at the age of eighteen has to put your cunning on edge. Not to mention Cleopatra’s family was trying to kill each other to gain power for, well, basically her entire life time. You’ve got to develop some thick skin there. While Cleopatra is most known for her dalliance with Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, she was also the lover of the other Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Cleopatra no doubt affected the trajectory of the entire Western world, and likely would have used her considerable influence to further shape history, had her life not ended with Marcus Aurelius in a mutual suicide.

In the end she chose to bring her own life to an end when faced with execution. Talk about never relinquishing power.

Cleoptra’s femme fataleness was borne of necessity. If you struggled through life and ended up using your wit and charm and power to bring about not only your survival, but also to achieve great status and power, your spirit femme fatale might be Cleopatra.

Mata Hari

Mata Hari was a dutch exotic dancer and most famously known for being one of the best spies of the 19th century. After leaving an abusive marriage to raise a daughter alone, Mata Hari developed considerable seduction skills as she courted different officers and put her skills to use during the first world war. She traded secrets, and maybe was responsible for the deaths of 20,000 allied soldiers...but there’s no doubt she’s one talented femme fatale.

If you’re reeling from a hurt and use your seductive powers out of necessity, Mata Hari could show you a thing or two. Just remember, as with most femme fatale’s Mata Hari’s story did not end well. She was eventually found out as a spy and executed. So try and keep your seductions neat and tidy, if you can!

Marilyn Monroe

It took a lot of work to become the iconic Marilyn Monroe. She was all too conscious of one thing: beauty is power, and she became the epitome of beauty in the 40s and 50s. She was married twice, had affairs with some of the most powerful men of the time: Frank Sinatra, Yves Montand, and some of the Kennedy’s.

While Marilyn’s abilities were profound, there was a darker side. She was deeply unhappy. If you’re willing to admit you need others’ to validate you, and use sex as a power play to make yourself feel stronger...you could take a page from Marilyn’s book.

Angelina Jolie

Not only does she play femme fatales in nearly every movie she’s in, Angelina Jolie is pretty badass in real life. She seems to use her immense powers of beauty and seduction for good, however, so we’ll wait to see if any femme fatale-ish stories of corruption and coercion emerge. For now, she makes this list for her commitment to showcasing the power and beauty of women, and because we’re pretty sure she could take on any man in a fight and win.

If you’re genuinely willing to be yourself and put your power on display, even in the face of being seen as unpopular, you’re a femme fatale soul mate for Angelina Jolie.

Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj is another woman who knows her power and put its on display. This girl knows what she wants, knows what she’s worth, and goes after it with everything she’s got. No one tells her who she is, she tells herself who she is. When looking up who her lovers are, you’ll find articles about how she drove her boyfriends so wild they fought in the streets. She gets pretty much any man (or woman) she wants, when she wants em. Plus, in an industry where men tend to take home more money than women, Nicki pretty much holds her own.

If you’re relentless in your pursuits for greatness, and aren’t afraid to let your womanly charms help you get there, you’re on Nicki’s side!

Of course, this is an incomplete list. Help us fill it out further by adding your favorite femme fatale in the comments!


How to Make Your Novel Come Alive with Storytelling

Storytelling is in your blood.

We've been telling stories long before we ever had the written word, and for good reason.

Science has shown that we respond to stories in a way that seems more like magic than science. Our brain activates as if the story is happening to us.

When listening to a story, our brain also dumps dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins depending on what kind of a story is being told.

Stories make usfeel more connected to another person; they can relax us; they can inspire and motivate us; they can make us more focused, and stories can improve memory.

Now these phenomenon occur when we hear a story, see one unfold across a screen, or read one.

But the ancient art of storytelling has much more to offer than reading a novel does. It’s why audiobooks and podcasts have become so popular.

Storytelling evokes more of our senses. Listeners are influenced by the performance of a story through the pauses the author makes, the emphasis given to certain words, voices made to denote certain characters’ characteristics, etc.

You can bring your story to life by learning how to perform your work.

I’m not talking about reading your work, which, if you’ve ever been to a reading, can often be uninspired and downright boring.

This post will show you the value of storytelling and offer 4 tips for bringing your work alive through the art of storytelling.

So even if you’ve never performed anything before, I’m about to show you how.

How to make your novel come to life with storytelling

If you want to captivate your audience, turn your readers into raving fans, and bring your name and books to new heights, you should learn the art of storytelling.

In ancient times, storytellers were often regarded as important figures in a community, and that’s still true today.

Storytelling has value in business and advertising; it is one of the prized abilities of politicians and public speakers; it is the backbone for every television show or movie you binge watch obsessively.

What Storytelling can do for Novelists

If you only have one book written and you’d like to add another sales point to your marketing strategy, consider the art of storytelling as a way to help you create a compelling, wonderful audiobook you can market to your audience of old readers and new.

If you’re booking “readings” you’ll have more novelty if you market yourself as a storyteller who doesn’t simply read stale words off a page, but brings them to life in a performance.

If you want to build your audience through youtube or social media, consider performing bits of your story to captivate your social media audiences and make them beg for more with short teasers of your work.

Are you ready to put storytelling to work for you? Here’s how you can bring your stories to life through the tried and true practice of storytelling.

Get Inspired

It won’t do to just “decide” to start telling stories. You have to get a feel for them. Just like you wrote your first novel after reading tons of other people’s work, you should familiarize yourself with other storytellers so you can see the myriad forms and styles storytelling can take.

Watch youtube videos of famous (and not so famous) storytellers to learn what style you like.

You can also learn about what not to do from people who fail to captivate you with their stories.

You can also scour youtube for advice from storytellers on how to perform better stories, or how to create characters with your voices, etc.

Here are some absolutely incredible storytellers who will blow your mind and get you thinking about storytelling in a new way.

Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story

David JP Philips: The Magical Science of Storytelling


Annotate Your Work

The next step to becoming a master storyteller is to annotate your work. This not only familiarizes you with your own work, but acts more as a script than a story.

Note how you want your voice to sound, if the pace should be building or slowing, if you should pause and give your listeners space for anticipation or processing...this is largely up to you to see what works best.

Tips for annotating your work:

  • Pronunciation

  • Characterization

  • Gestures

  • Pauses

  • Tempo

  • Emphasis

  • Sound effects


Familiarize Not Memorize

Kindra Hall, a storytelling master and teacher suggests you don’t memorize your story. But wait! You ask. How will I be able to tell my story without reading if I don’t memorize it?!

Well the problem with memorization, Kindra warns, is that when you’re telling something exactly as you’ve memorized it, you’re simply telling the words, which can come across as stale and flat. Because you’re so wrapped up in what words to tell you’re less concerned about how to tell them.

And this creates a big problem too -- if you draw a blank.

So instead of memorization, use familiarization. (<< Tweet that.)

Become so familiar with your story you don’t need the text to tell it, but instead of simply repeating by rote memorization, you can become inspired, leave room for improvisation, and adjust the telling of your story depending on your audience’s mood.

To familiarize yourself with your story you must do the last thing on the list:


Practice Practice Practice

One of the most truthful adages of them all is: “practice makes perfect.”

Practice telling your story to yourself.

Practice telling your story to your mirror.

Practice telling your story to your seven cats.

Practice telling your story to every one of your friends.

Practice telling your story a complete stranger (if you can convince them to listen).

And when you’ve done all that, practice performing your stories to audiences again and again.

And this is how you become a master storyteller and captivate your audiences.

If you want to learn more about how to improve your skills as a self published author (or if you just plain love fantasy), sign up for our email list where we send freebies, host giveaways, and give you the best tips of the trade!



Top 6 Unusual Fantasy Reads (Perfect for Summer)

Summer's pretty much here, and with it comes the joy of sitting in the park, sinking into the sunshine and losing yourself in a great book.

Or perhaps your style is more waking up early for a lazy morning, where you pile the pillows behind your head and ease into reading page after page before you have to actually get up and go about your business.

Either way, I've got a list that's sure to please your summer reading palate.

Here are my top 6 books for summer, and they're all unusual fantasy reads. Why would I want to throw some unusual reads at you? Well, by now it's time to break the traditional mold and push your boundaries...after all, getting outside your usual "zone" is what helps you grow.

And since I've always believed that books have the power to teach us about how to be human (or elf, vampire, noble, and ogre, to name a few), these are some of those books that really offer a new way of thinking about those mundane things we take advantage of in life, be it structures, rules, or relationships.

I truly hope you enjoy!

If you have a book to recommend, or if you'd like to leave a review for one of these luscious summer reads, please drop a note in the comments!

Top 6 Unusual Fantasy Reads

Tamora Pierce for an Unsual Fantasy Summer Book List

1) Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Billed as YA this book is a delight for teens and adults alike. Pierce takes you into a world infused by magic, some of it sorcery, some of it "wild magic" which is borne of the earth. Daine is a young girl with a special gift, a wild dose of wild magic, which she must learn to control in order to protect the kingdom that's come under attack by violent gods. As she teams up with a motley crew, she learns about how to be herself as a girl growing into grief, love, and power.

This is quite a page turner. Expect to be finished in just a few hours!



The Blade Itself by Joe Ambercrombie for the Unusual Summer Fantasy Reads Book List

2) The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself is an usual dark fantasy book because the heroes aren't exactly gung-ho about being heroes. Chock full of humor, Abercrombie has written a book (several, actually -- you should check out his others...) that spins traditional fantasy on its head. A barbarian who hates to kill; a charismatic hero who's afraid of battle; a crippled torturer who would like nothing more than to have everyone around him dead; an angry, frustrated wizard...these are the darkly humorous characters that make up the cast of The Blade Itself. It's a relief to find characters that aren't modeled after tradition, and this book does not disappoint.

For a wildly fantastic (and funny) summer read, check out The Blade Itself!

The Axe and the Throne by M.D. Ireman for the Unusual Dark Fantasy Summer Reads Book List

3) The Axe and the Throne by M.D. Ireman

Do you ever read books solely for the sake of transporting you away from your "real" life so that you can inhabit, for however brief a time, another world? (If you say no, ho boy, you better read more (and better) books!) Not only is the setting entirely engrossing (I struggled HARD after I put the book down to leave the lush world Ireman created in favor of the one I found myself in after the last page was turned) the characters are equally compelling.

Chris over at BestEpicFantasy.com (y'all know Chris, don't you?!) bills it as the best fantasy of the century: "This book will offend, frustrate, sadden, and shock you, and then it will reward you. ...An absolute killer that everyone needs in their collection." Still want to hear more?

"The violence and brutality is vivid. The characters are skillfully developed and each one is flawed in some way that makes them more real and believable. The plot line develops slowly and unpredictability, which I appreciate. I have no idea what lays in store in future chapters. There were instances where I didn't want to continue reading for fear of what my be happening to favored characters...
I really enjoyed this book and can't wait for the next one to be published!"
-Amazon Reviewer, Craig Ramage

the lies of locke lamora in the top 10 dark fantasy reads for summer

4) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

I appreciate fantasy books that take a darker look at the human condition. Oh yeah, and focus on how to exploit the hell of out human weakness. Scott Lynch is a brilliant writer, and knows how to stroke mystery and suspense and weave a truly engrossing tale. The Lies of Locke Lamora follows a band of con artists from their lowly beginnings to making cons on entire empires.

If you like intricate and smart fantasies, you'll love this. With several twists to keep you guessing this book, though quite long, will keep you turning pages by the pool until you're red as a lobster.

kushiel's dart on the best summer reads for unusual fantasy

5) Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

The first book in an incredible series, Kushiel's Dart is about a girl sold into slavery and bought by a mysterious noble. She receives lessons in many arts, as well as history, politics, and above all, seduction. She is the perfect spy...until she unveils a secret that threatens her homeland. Now her role shifts and she must fight to protect her home using whatever tools at her disposal. Because she is desirable, intelligent, and cunning, her journey to her homeland is fraught with danger, subterfuge, and hard-won battles. This book has a bit of everything: sex, violence, sacrifice. It's one hell of a sexy read too -- perfect for summer.

Again, don't the length of this book fool you. It's so good you'll be finished and wanting more! Luckily, there are 2 more after this to keep you satisfied.


6) Ella Bandita and the Wanderer by Montgomery Mahaffey

Yes, I'm plugging Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. And why not? It's one great unusual fantasy that's perfect for beating off summer blues. Summer blues?! Yup. You know those days when the sun is shining so bright, the sun so hot, that you just want to curl up in an oversized chair by the a/c unit and get lost in a well woven tale? Them's the summer blues....those days when you'd rather not be sweating out your life-force through the pores in your skin. So grab a book, preferably this book, and say hello to the cool breeze of a whole new world. Ella Bandita and the Wanderer takes place in a land that feels historic yet thoroughly alien as it's infused with a slippery sort of magic. The kind that a Sorcerer uses to seduce a desperate young woman and bind her life to a dark and destructive power. The woman, once nameless and on the brink of suicide, is given a chance at a second life, one in which she no longer feels invisible but becomes the infamous legend -- Ella Bandita, Thief of Hearts. As she searches the world for the most licentious men to seduce and kill with her strange power, she becomes tied up in a non-fatal relationship with a Wanderer, struck by grief but ignited by desire for this unusual woman.

Definitely at the top of the list for a different fantasy read!


How to Use a Myth or Classic Tale to Write Your Novel

To rewrite a myth or classic and make it good, you should read A LOT of myths or classics. That way, you understand the form. If you read just one, or know only a little bit about the genre, you're not going to have an easy time writing one.

Stephen King famously said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Read More

8 Romance Fantasy Writing Prompts to Help Spark Your Imagination

8 Romance Fantasy Writing Prompts to Help Spark Your Imagination

Today I'm bringing you 8 romance fantasy writing prompts to help spark your imagination. You can use these to get ideas, write a story, or try a quick sketch. All of these prompts are original, so feel free to use them on your own site or for your writing. If you do post on your site, attribution would be nice, but not required!

Without further ado, here are the 8 romance fantasy writing prompts to help you break through writers block or cultivate the idea for your next story or novel!

Read More

World Building Tips for Fantasy Writers

World Building Tips for Fantasy Writers

Here's your quick-start guide to fantasy world-building, with questions to help you create a rich, believable fantasy world. You can use these questions as prompts to help you get writing, or you can use the questions as a template for each world-building writing session you enter into.

I've even included a bonus worksheet and checklist for you to use over and over as you make fantasy worlds come to life!

Read More

Why You Should Write a Strong Female Lead (and how to)

Let's be honest. We love strong female characters. In our books, movies, and tv: (think Katniss Everdeen, Daenerys Targaryen, Morgause, and Hermione Granger).

So we know we love to read about (and watch) strong female characters, but what makes them strong? How do you write a strong female lead, and why should you?

Strength doesn't necessarily mean physically strong...though with the likes of Katniss there's no doubting her physical prowess. Strong women know how to handle themselves (and they also know when they're uncertain).

Read More

Social Media for Authors who Hate Social Media

If you're an indie author who abhors social media, like me, there are ways you can boost your online presence without making your stomach churn. How can you use social media to your advantage even if you hate being on social media?

Let's be honest, social media takes up a lot of time. A lot of time you could be spending writing. Or going on adventures, y'know, for fodder to write about.

But in this overly-connected world, if you don't have a social media presence, you're basically dead in the water. No one will hear of you. You'll have no huge base of raving fans.

You either have to learn to love social media, or poke at it from a distance with a stick.

I like the former option, which keeps my time free for writing, and the agonizing time spent on social media low.

Here are a few of my most effective tips for managing a social media presence without having to put in much work.

 Choosing the lesser of the evils

or, how to find the right platform for you


If there's a platform that seems less vile than the others, by all means, use that platform as your sole social media. You don't need a twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest, and goodreads account. You can cut the fat and just do one of them really well. This way, you'll be spending less time, stress, and frustration spread across multiple platforms, and you can more easily learn how to be effective at your one social media outlet.


I learned that twitter, which is the worst of the worst in my mind, wasn't doing anything for my business. I would gain new followers, have some favorites and retweets each week, but none of that engagement was making any difference in my website views, or buys for my book.

Because twitter is the lowest converting social media platform (with a conversion rate of 0.5%) unless you LOVE twitter, or are a master at the 140 character sales pitch with a HUGE following, it's going to be the least effective way to spend your time on social media.


If you read a lot of books and like talking about it, goodreads is a platform that lets you engage with other readers and authors and promote your book in a non-salsey kind of way. You can host giveaways which gain you exposure, and you can enter review groups or find beta readers to help grow your amazon reviews. This isn't an incredible way to convert to sales, but it's awesome for boosting your online presence and gaining traction with amazon reviews.

You can also use goodreads to find authors who you can partner with in a webinar or email giveaway swap, so that you can expand both of your audience's together. More of a community than a sales tool, goodreads is perfect for you if you actually want to go deeper than other surface social media platforms, like twitter.


It's hard to make instagram work for authors, but if you're on it, and you enjoy taking photos, you can use it as your social media outlet instead of the rest. Posting inspirational photos that remind you of a scene or setting in your book can generate interest in your novels -- especially if you're a good photo taker. You can caption an image with a compelling quote from your book. You can arrange your books with a cup of coffee and some items from around your house that are within the aesthetic of your novel, and drive people to the sales link. Or you can promote a giveaway through an image (remember, it doesn't always have to be a photograph - you can make a jpeg advertisement and upload that as well).

Instagram is actually a more versatile platform than you might thing for selling books, and there are lots of reader feeds and author feeds for you to follow to get more inspiration.

Here are some of my favorite bookish instagram users:






This is the platform that I find has the highest conversion rates. Pinterest is an incredible visual marketing tool. I drive 80%+ of my web traffic from Pinterest. You have to have minimal design skills to use Pinterest so that you can create pins to link to your website, but this is easily done on Canva if you don't know a more designy program, like Photoshop.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 1.46.55 PM
Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 1.46.55 PM

If you want the secret weapon for how to make Pinterest grow your fan base and lead to sales, I highly recommend Melyssa Griffin's course Pinfinite Growth. It will show you how to reach and attract your ideal audience, maintain motivation (cause even if you enjoy this particular bout of social media, putting it to work for you can be hard!), and how to raise your monthly page views.

Pinterest lets you target people who actually want to see your work -- giving you a higher chance of converting viewers in to sales.

Since I'm a visual person, I love spending time searching for new books and ways to help indie authors succeed. So Pinterest is a fun way to do that and build up my statistics so that I'm a formidable Pinterest presence!


I have to admit, even though I despise being on facebook, I'm finding that it's a useful author platform to move from stage 1 indie author (who's just struggling to get the first book out) to a stage 2 indie author, who is focusing on cultivating a fan base.

Facebook allows you to connect with your readers. You can use facebook to host AMA's (ask me anything) where readers or authors can come to you and engage with you for an hour or so as you answer book or writing related questions.

You can host other kinds of events, like giveaways that stir up a comment and liking frenzy, or connect with another author to host a joint venture.

Facebook also offers ads that can be targeted to a particular readership, which leads to conversions. I'm just starting out with facebook, so I'm no master of it, but if you're interested in using this platform as your social media outlet, check out Nick Stephenson's free training for authors:


You'll learn a lot more than just how to use facebook, but, to be honest, this man has it down pat.

If there are other social media platforms you'd like discussed, or want to add a comment, chime in! I'd love to hear from you!

Want this post as a guide? Download the pdf!

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Not Sure How To Make Your Characters Come Alive?

Stand Out Books offers a great free investment for independent authors in the form of an email sign up. Once a week, they send out emails with the latest strategies to help you boost your sales and write better books.

Why we love them:

Stand Out Books offers insight into the mechanics of writing, publishing, and marketing indie books. They're humorous, yet their articles aren't filled with fluff. You'll get actionable advice that's easy to implement. Sign up for their email list and start improving your writing and make more sales today!

This week in my inbox came a nice little surprise with the subject line of: Not sure how to make your characters come alive?

Some people might thing they're beyond this...that they have no problem making their characters come alive. But feeling this way is limiting. We can all use a little more advice. Sometimes, I find it helpful to hear the basics over and over, from different sources, because each time I hear something again I get it a little more, or I find another perspective that I hadn't previously encountered.

Even if you feel like you're beyond this step in fiction writing, take a second to read through the article. You may discover something incredibly valuable that you'd otherwise miss.

not sure how to make your characters come alive? even if you feel like this advice is too beginner for you, you might be surprised by what you learn. from stand out books.

From Stand-Out Books:

Not Sure How To Make Your Characters Come Alive?

There’s a secret to writing strong characters. It’s not about perfect dialogue, vivid description, or stirring emotion. Those are all important, but the most essential ingredient in making a character feel alive is an author’s insight into human nature. Without that, you’ll gravitate to stock characters and melodrama. Why do people do what they do? Why are their motives so often hidden and seemingly the opposite of their actions? What’s going on in their minds, beneath the façade they present to the world? What makes one person noble and another self-serving? And what role do a person’s backstory and environment play in shaping these aspects of their personality?

Read the full article here.

If you have other advice you'd like to share, please leave it in the comments below!


How to Write a Book Review

Book reviews are not all created equally. As a reviewer, you can gain raving fans who hang on your every word...if you know what kind of details to give them, that is. Want to know how to write better book reviews and earn followers?

Take Notes

When you're reading, keep a pencil handy. If you hate marking up the pages of your book, or if you're on a kindle, use a separate notebook. I like to highlight quotes I found particularly delicious, and make a general outline of the character relationships and plot. This will help you when you move onto step 2, which is creating a brief summary.

Often we read a book and then want to talk about it -- but can't remember the details. By taking notes you'll make it so much easier to jump into writing your review so that it's compelling, clear, and spot-on.

Offer a concise summary - but leave out the important details.

The best way I've found to do this is write the review as if it were a long-form blurb on the back of the book. You want to leave tension and mystery so that the reader will want to pick up the book and read it herself.

Look at the backs of other books and get inspiration for what kinds of information you could include and what you should leave out.

It's especially helpful to find a book blurb for inspiration that's in the same genre as the book you're reviewing. Each genre has its own way of appealing to an audience. Ie. a mystery is going to sound different than fantasy or sci-fi.

Putting a summary first lets the reader decide if they're interested in the book depending on the book's own merit, which is why I suggest leaving your personal opinion for after the summary.

If you start off saying "I liked it," or "I found it really dull," you cloud the reader's ability to decide for themselves whether a) they trust your opinion or not, and b) if the book's summary suggests the same.

Once you've laid out the landscape of the book, the reader can then seek your opinion. After hearing about the plot, what you thought about will make a lot more sense than if it came before.


Include personal details by explaining how the book as a whole affected you.

Was it fast or slow? Was the writing on point? Readers want to hear how you felt when you read the book. Once you've established credibility by writing a solid summary, you can offer your own thoughts about the fluidity of the writing or the stilted dialogue.

Be sure to temper your opinions and back them up with the contents of the summary -- you don't want to undermine your credibility by slamming the author when the summary seemed like everything was pretty good.

Go deep.

For a stand out review, go deeper than just stating the plot and how you felt about the book. Give the reader some tantalizing information by answering the question, "What really stood out?"

Character development? Plot twists?

Make sure your language is up to snuff. Readers judge reviews based on how well they read, so please please edit your review and make sure your grammar and spelling are on point.

Wrap it up with a strong call to action.

End by telling the readers what you want them to do. Kirkus review has a rubric their critics like to use:

Buy It = this is a can't-miss, fabulous book; Borrow It = not perfect, but we think you'll enjoy it; Skip It = critical miss

Follow this recipe for a review and you'll build up a stockhouse of raving fans in no time!



The Divorce of Vice and Virtue


Montgomery Mahaffey is the founder of Left Hanging, a half-hour radio show on KTOO FM in Juneau Alaska. Featuring folktales and fables from around the world – Grimm brothers, Hans Christian Andersen, the Arabian Nights, Norse Myths, Celtic fables, etc – Mahaffey hosted from January 2007 until August 2009 when she moved to Portland, Oregon.

Left Hanging opened with Mahaffey’s version of the tale of Scheherazade using storytelling and suspense to seduce and dissuade the King – who was rendered psychotic from the infidelity of his first wife – from beheading her at night’s end. Like Scheherazade, Mahaffey left the audience hanging so people would tune in the following week to find out what happened next. Besides ancient tales that have been told for thousands of years, Mahaffey also shared her original work – like the fable version of Ella Bandita and The Divorce of Vice and Virtue – as well as contemporary fiction.

Although Mahaffey found this form of storytelling to be a different experience from a live audience, she found it very rewarding and welcomed another way to express her love of the old myths and fairy tales that influenced her writing.

You can listen to a clip from the show here:

[audio mp3="http://freeflyingpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/02-Track-02.mp3"][/audio]



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From 2005 - On the Book Tour in Alaska: Suckers for Cutsie Poo and Unexpected Good Dates


Before I get too carried away, let me just say one thing...next time in Anchorage, check out El Tango on Tudor behind the Holiday gas station.  If you've gone to Hooters you have definitely gone too far!  El Tango has a fantastic menu of latin cuisine - Columbia, Argentina, and Puerto Rico - a very friendly staff and a small dance floor.  It's only been there for a year, the location sucks, but if you like your ambience refreshing, then this is the place for you.  

Last night at Cook Inlet, I was one of a cluster fuck of writers.  Needless to say, we were overcrowded at one small table, so we got another one and two of us sat there.  I figured stake out the front door and get more attention, but everybody still herded around the schoolteacher at the other table, with a mountain of her "Recess at 20 Below," full of pictures of her students having FUN in her class and adorable narrative about school life in Delta Junction.  It was very cutsie poo.


Meanwhile, I misread a possible fan, Sheila, and told her the first chapter of Ella Bandita, complete with the dirty old sorcerer, the cold-blooded daddy, and the eaten heart.  Sheila then let me know that she was a fan of Walt Disney version of fairy tales and that she used to have a friend who would have been into my writing because she wrote a lot like me.


"But she's dead now," Sheila said.


So nice of her to tell me that.


Do I sound bitter?  Really, I'm not.


At this point in my road trip, I have had enough successes to not sweat the flops.  Besides, last night was a quality, if not a quantity, experience.  I ended up with a date.  A good one, too.  With the nice guy.


Go figure, that never happens to me.  I usually gravitate to the those-I-cannot-or-should-not-even-consider-wanting-to-have types.  This one has a steady job, no addictions ( at least, not obvious ones ), courtly manners, good body, and blue eyes that are awful purty to look into.


That's how I ended up at El Tango.  Besides the food and the Argentinian staff, they had a keyboard player whose keyboard created a symphony with every note, and the staff would get up there and sing.  Since they didn't have the tv screen enabling bad singers to massacre mediocre lyrics, it wasn't really karaoke, but it kind of felt that way.  Since the staff were the main singers, most of the songs were in spanish, so it was very cool.  It also helped that they could...oh, sing.  Hugo, the owner who was from Argentina, played kind of the lating version of a bluegrass washboard - a weegel ( I don't know how to spell it, and the closest he could come to describing it was a plant kind of like a zucchini, that's dried and then hollowed out - if you want to know what the hell I'm talking about, go there and you'll see), while the bartender had maracas.


I love latin folk, they really have the happy to live mentality down pat.  Hugo gave us free drinks, calling us amigos and that we are family.


"When you are in Anchorage, this is your home."  Hugo said.


Nothing is perfect, however...


Hugo is a sucker for Celine Dion, because his daughter, Lilly, belted out "I Will Always Love You," and he sat there looking emotional.


But other than that, it was awesome.


I was coming back on Tuesday, but my good date asked me out again, so...


I'm coming back to Juneau roughly sometime around before I head down to the lower forty eight by November 1st.  Does anybody have a housesitting gig or an extra room?  I rented my place out and I don't know about crashing on my own couch for almost two weeks.  It'll be good to see the Vagabond - my cat, that is.  And of course, all of you.

How to Start Your Own Book Group


Book Groups are a fun way to not only read much more, but also to get more out of the books you read. In a book group, you get to discuss the book with your friends, share your opinion and hear other ideas you hadn't considered before.

  • As you may have guessed, the first step to any functional book group is to have members. Optimally, I would suggest that you have at least three people. This is because only two people would be just you and your friend trading book recommendations, which is certainly pleasant and fun to do, but doesn't quite qualify as a book group.

Ask around your group of friends. It shouldn't be too hard to find members since most people wish that they read more. Make sure to tell them the benefits of joining your book club, like how it will be a great way for them to get more reading time in, and they don't have to go through the process of trying to decide what book to read because one will be chosen for them. Also, being in a book group give just the right amount of pressure to actually read and finish the book, while when you read on your own time, it can be hard to motivate yourself to read if you're busy. And then when it's their turn in your book group, they get to choose a book to share with everyone else, which is always fun.

  • Once you have your members, set up the meeting time and place.

I suggest that you contact all of your members individually and find out what days and times they are available. Write it all down, and then you should be able to come up with a day and time that works for everyone. If everyone is busy on different days and it's hard to pick a specific day, it’s okay to rotate days as long as you find a consistent schedule that you can all agree on. The location will also depend on everyone’s schedules, but some common spots are in a library, cafe, or in the homes of the members. If you're able to, you can host every meeting at your house, or rotate to have the meeting at the home of whoever offers or whose turn it is. Your members may offer suggestions of where to meet also, but in general try to find a spot that is easy for everyone to get to, and if possible close to everyone's home so now has to commute a long way to get to the meeting.

  • You first meeting: planning and setting things up

Now that you have everyone in one place, it's time to discuss some important questions about your book group:

-How much time will you have you have to read a book? Commonly, book groups will meet once a month just to give everyone enough time to finish the book, but you can adjust the length of time base on the length on the book or how busy everyone's lives are.

-Find out what types of books everyone likes to read, and what they don’t. If several people dislike scary horror stories, then maybe than genre can be ruled out. But even if everyone likes a different genre, you don’t have to struggle to find a common genre of interest. Part of the fun of a book group is reading a book you’ve never considered before.

-Consider ways to make the book group fun, by making it a pot luc or going out to dinner before the book group and ten reconvening at someone's home after. I know of one book group that decided that whoever got to choose that month's book would bring snacks for everyone. This seemed fair and worked for them, but you can also rotate snacks and other duties.

-The last step is to exchange contact information with everyone. Make sure you have at least one way to contact each member- I recommend getting their main phone number and email dress just so you can contact them about changes in the meeting time or place, and so people can get in touch if they can't make it to a meeting.

  • Now it's time for you and your book group to start reading!

It's customary for whomever starts the book group to choose the first book. All you need to do is give each member the book's title and the authors name. Even if you choose your favorite book that you've read over and over, it might still be a good idea for you to re-read it along with everyone else.

-While you read, annotate and take notes as you read so you can keep track of all your thoughts and have then ready when its time to discuss. If you own the book, you can write your notes in the margins, or dog-ear the pages. If it’s a library copy or not yours, then you can use sticky notes and/or write your notes on a separate piece of paper (which can double as a book mark!)

-Even when your turn isn't coming up, you can still be on the look out for the next book you want the book group to read. I recommend having a list of potential books

-Just because someone has read your book of choice before doesn't mean you have to skip it! It does depend on how they feel about re-reading the book again, but usually most people don't mind a re-read, especially if other members of the group haven't read it yet. If you and/or another person has already read the book, challenge yourself to think of at least one question

  • Now that you've finished the book, it's time for your group's first real meeting

-In a single meeting, book groups typically discuss what everyone thought of the book, addressing any questions or concerns and having a fun discussion about it. If the book you read has a movie adaptation, and you and your friends have enough time, consider watching the movie during the meeting as well. Then at the end of the meeting, the next book will be announced, as well as the next meeting's time and place.

  • Discussion:

-Don’t be afraid of discussion- its okay if not everyone likes the book, often times the best discussions arise when people have different opinions. Just remember to be respectful and keep the discussion civil.

-You can also start a discussion by each of you rating the book (secretly so people won’t feel obligated to change their score) maybe a grading system of A+, or a 1/10 or simply a thumbs up/down.

-some books have questions for discussion in the back, but since most of them don’t, you can look up some questions and/or read reviews others have left online. While you read them, discuss with your friends whether or not you agree with that person's review, and potential biases they might have.

-After your turn is over and the group has met and discussed your book, then decide who's turn it will be to choose a book next. In the beginning, just go with whoever volunteers or has a book ready. Then, once everyone has had their turn, begin the cycle all over again.


Thank you for reading and good luck with your book group!


Interview with Author Erica Dakin - The Theft and Sorcery Trilogy


Erica Dakin has been writing for as long as she can remember. “I've always had characters in my head, and thought up stories for them. It's not something I consciously started doing, it was just something to pass the time." Although writing just started out as something for her to do for fun, she soon realized that her hobby might actually be something people want to read when her friend ended up really liking her very first story, A Shire Romance. This was her first effort as a writer, and the story is still near and dear to her heart. She still has it available for free on her blog- you can read it here.

However, fantasy has always been her favorite genre. She would write stories for her characters in her play-by-mail role-playing game, and her current trilogy even started from a Dungeons and Dragon's campaign.

“I've never been a fan of heavy, gloomy literature - I prefer stories of magic and heroism, of dragons, elves and the triumph of good over evil. Some of the earliest things I read as a teenager, aside from The Lord of the Rings, were books like The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams, and The Deathgate Cycle by Weiss and Hickman.”

Considering all this, she believes that it would be impossible for her to write anything but fantasy.

Speaking of Fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons, half-elves are often the main characters. The reason for this comes from her DnD background as well, although she admits that part of is has is because she likes pretty people “Because romance is as important in my books as the fantasy part, I want my protagonists to be good-looking. I could have chosen for them to simply be elves, but that's where my tabletop role playing background kicks in: elves are too fragile. In Dungeons and Dragons I always played half-elves, because they were prettier than humans, but sturdier than elves.”

In addition to that, she is also a big fan of the graphic novel series Elfquest, and she says that her half-elves have been heavily influenced by the author Wendy Pini's artwork.

When it comes to writing, she doesn’t have a standard writing process. For her, the key is to go with the flow, and not try to force anything. - In general, she can spend anywhere from zero to several hours writing at a time. She typically writes in the afternoon or evening, and isn’t much of a morning writer.

However, it all depends on how much the story itself prompts her to get it down on to paper. Even at her full-time job, she sometimes secretly has a word document up on her computer and will stealthy write some of her book in-between assignments. “I'd print it out without saving (no evidence!) and then work it out when I got home.” and then once she’s home, she barely has time to do anything else like cooking or cleaning to devote every spare moment to writing.

Nowadays, she’s slowed down her writing, but her favorite part about being a writer is the writing process itself.

“It's immensely satisfying when you've had a scene or a plot in your head for a long time to finally see it written down, even if that version has ended up quite different from how you had it in your head. It's also really great when your characters start leading their own lives and start dictating their actions to you. You know your characters are alive and working when you try to write down a scene and have to stop halfway through because one of your protagonists is shouting in your head that they'd never do something like that.”

Unfortunately, her least favorite part is everything else that comes along with that, especially the amount of effort it takes to try and get your story out there and make it stand out from everything else that’s being published. “So far I've not been very successful at it. It's also hard to see negative reviews, even if I understand their value and (if they're constructively written) I can take advice away from them. In the end it's someone bashing your baby, and you can't stop yourself from shouting 'but you don't understand!' while you're reading a bad review.”

But despite all that, she has this advice to give to aspiring authors:

First, understand the value of second, third and maybe even fourth drafts.  “The first draft of your story should never be the one you put out to publish. Sit down and manually rewrite your first draft rather than tinkering with it, because often even if you end up writing the same scene, you'll find a better way of wording it.

“Secondly, get good beta-readers and a good editor. They will point out the plot holes you missed, the spelling errors you never saw, and they'll tell you the bits that worked and didn't work for them. You don't always have to listen to them, but always get those other opinions.”

Lastly, she recommends that you take the time to really correct and polish your work if you decided to self-publish: “If you know your own spelling is mediocre, invest in a good proof-reader. Don't let your book be of a lesser standard than those from established publishers. Also, don't use words unless you know exactly what they mean. I once read a book where the author clearly really liked the word 'moue', and knew it had something to do with mouths, but never bothered checking exactly what it meant, so kept misusing it.

Of all her books, her third was the hardest to right. She suspects that this is because she had the least idea of what was going to happen in it, just the beginning, end, and a few events in the middle. She ended up making up most of it as she went along, which is what made it so difficult. Despite that, most people consider her third book to be the best.

One essential element she see reoccurring in her books is Dark-haired, dark-eyed men. “Can't live without them. You'll never see me have a male protagonist who's blond.”

As for the covers of her books, she says that she’ll be the first to admit that they don’t quite reflect the content. She was inspired by the Game of Thrones book covers, and was reading A Song of Ice and Fire when she was about to self-publish and admired the simple design of one main color and one main symbol. For her protagonists, she chose a dagger for her thief, a rose for her courtier and a set of flaming torches for her juggler.

An advantage of this to her was that she didn’t have to find an artist to draw the art for the cover because she has a very clear idea of what her characters look like, and wouldn’t have been happy with any artist’s rendition. The only disadvantage of this is that the book covers look more plain and don’t reflect that the story inside is just as much about romance as they are about fantasy.

All in all, her books are a success and are definitely worth a read! Here is her website where you can check out her books:


How to Name Your Fantasy Characters Like the Best of Them


We all know that characters are the life blood of any story, no matter what the genre. Here's a brief guide designed to help you find the best names for your fantasy novel's characters. Even if you have a concrete character design with a fully-fledged backstory, realistic strengths and weaknesses and you can write beautifully from their point of view, they are still going to fall short if they don’t have the right name. You know how important your characters are, and they need to be named accordingly.

Names can serve many purposes in your story. Your characters names can be used to set the theme, foreshadowing, or even irony. Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer for instance. In case you haven't seen it, it's a TV show about a teenage girl who slays vampires and deals with other forces of darkness and evil. Although “Buffy” seems like a silly name for such a dark theme, it really brings out the show’s ironic and joking element. Since it's actually a comedy show at heart, the name is very fitting. In popular teen novel Divergent, we are introduced to a character named Four. Although no initial explanation is given for this seemingly strange name, it’s later revealed that this is because this character only has 4 total fears in a society where bravery is praised and having only four fears is legendary.

Be sure to take your book’s setting and time period into consideration when naming your character. Be aware of when certain names where first used and gained popularity. If your novel is set in the 1700’s, a modern name like Tiffany of Jessica would be out of place. Do research into your setting and see what some believable names are for that era.

If your setting is purely fictional with no direct correlation to human civilization, you can get away with any kind of name that you want. After you’ve decided what kind of a society you want your fantasy setting to have, then you can begin to brainstorm some good names that might be given to its members. A good way to do this is to think about what is valued in this society. Is it religion? You can base many character names on the figures on your universe’s religion, just like many names in our society have biblical roots.

If your fantasy setting is based on water, like an ocean or river, then more aquatic themed names can work. If they have their own language, like an alien society, then their names can literally translate to things like “deep water” or “gentle current” or “skilled fisherman”. Depending on what sort of a feel you want your society, you can choose names that give off a certain feeling. Like if you wanted to have your society to give of an unsettling vibe, use more macabre names that variations of the words dusk, skull, shadow- even regular names that just sound creepy or are associated with that theme, like "Poe".

A less blunt way to do this is to look up synonyms for words like “shadow” or “black”, or even the translation of those words in other languages.

Once you’ve decided on a name, say it out loud. See how it sounds. Try different pronunciations. What are all the ways a reader could pronounce it in their mind? Consider a child seeing this name. would they have trouble with it?

Google search the name and see what comes up. If you’re writing a happy and uplifting story and your name search comes back with a serial killer, then maybe reconsider.

It’s important to have a name that fits your character. A hardened bounty hunter rouge would need a tough and sturdy name, or at least an alias to go by if they need to be taken seriously by your readers. An affectionate or childish name like “Timmy” may not be fitting. Of course there are exceptions like Davey Crockett or Billy the Kid, etc. Just keep your character's nature in mind, and how you want the audience to view him or her.

This isn’t to say that you can’t use an inaccurate name to describe a character. “Little John” from Robin for instance, was a larger character, making his name ironic, like mentioned above.


Fantasy writers have a lot more freedom when it comes to naming characters than other fiction writers. While some fiction is grounded in reality and meant to take place in our human society, past present or future, fantasy doesn’t have to follow this rule at all. In a fantasy novel, all of the characters can be named after a color in a certain society, or a race of aliens can have their own unique and complex naming system of your choosing. Fantasy writers also don’t have to be restricted by time period either. Even if your story does take place when the pyramids were being built on earth, if you’re writing about a different reality than you make up your own rules for how things work in your novel. Just one of the many perks of writing fantasy. Anything is possible.

While it’s true that you can get away with so much more, you still have to keep in mind how much readers are willing to believe or go along with. Everyone has their limits for suspending their disbelief, so in general just try to keep it coherent enough for people to follow along.

But since you since you have this freedom, why not have fun with it? Some readers might even expect you to use outside-of-the-box names. All in all, just do what feels right for your book.


What You Can Expect From Popular Reading Apps


While I love my physical books as much as I love my eBooks, there are times when I forget my book at home, or don’t expect to have the time to read, and in those cases, it’s nice to have a book or two available on my smart phone. Especially when I want to read a heavier book like War and Peace, I can download it on my phone and not carry a heavy book around. Lately, I’ve been curious about what sort of reading and book-related apps are out there, and today I found several I could download for free. While I was looking through them, I decided to record my findings and share them here so other people can determine which apps would be best for them without having to download them all through trial and error.


It is a free download, but then if you want a month-long free trail, you have to sign up for a renewing subscription of $8.99 a month for access. You can choose three eBooks to read and one audio book per month, so in a way, you’re paying $8.99 for four books, one of which you can only listen too. It’s not a bad deal if you’re serious about reading.

I’m sure that you could sign up for the free trail with renewing subscription and then just cancel on the last day before the free trail is up and read the three free books and listen to the one audio book in that time.

Some benefits are that you can download the books so you can read them offline, and that there’s also sheet music and documents available (although I’m not sure how that fits into the “three eBooks, one audio book” per month plan. Maybe they're included with access.

-On a separate note, the app has a nice color scheme and is clean and easy to navigate- blue and white palette. The book page has a clear rating system, page count, how long of an expected read, and a good summary.

 IMG_3397 IMG_3398

-I’m reading the preview to see what the in-app reading lay out is like. It took about a minute to download a 1200 page sample. Swipe right to left to turn pages, nice spacing, no awkwardly cut off words or spacing issues. This makes sense, since it’s expecting you to be doing all your reading in the app, so it’s well formatted.

Would I recommend it?

If you can afford to pay $8.99/mo for 3 eBooks and 1 audio book, and you like reading on your smartphone screen, then yes. It's a high quality app and looks like it delivers a high-quality experience.


Something you should now before you open the app is that if you don’t immediately connect your amazon account and press “Try App” in the top right corner of the screen, you’ll get 10 free audiobook excerpts, all best sellers. Here are the ones that came with my app, I imagine that they’re all the same, and you can see that they all average about 40 minutes or so. Even if you have an amazon account you can sign in with easily, I always recommend trying something new first, before you commit with your email address. This is a good way to see if audio books are for you or not if you’re uncertain, like I was.

-If you know you like audio books and aren’t interested in listening to any of those free excerpts, then go ahead and sign in straight away. The free excerpts won’t be available if you do though. Instead, you can browse the library for any book, and then you can listen to a sample of the book, an average of about 4 minutes (vs. a 40 minute excerpt)

-When browsing the audio books, I noticed that there were no prices on anything, and when I clicked on book I saw:

Note: Audible Content cannot be purchased in-app



So you can’t buy the audio books in the app, you have to go online to audible.com.

-so then I went to audible.com and go the real story:

So after the 30-day free trial, audible is 14.95 per month as it says in small print at the bottom.

So to use this app, you have to go online to audible.com and purchase the books there and refresh the app for them to show up. If you are a big fan of audiobooks and can afford 14.95/mo, then maybe this is a good deal for you. Since I am just a casual audiobook listener, I chose not to sign up.

I still used the app to listen to a few samples of random books, but otherwise, it’s useless to me. I might re-install it and listen to more of those free 40 minute excerpts though.

Would I recommend it?

If you’re a fan of audiobooks and can afford $14.95/mo, then yes, I do recommend it. Especially if you already have an Amazon account, that makes it just a bit easier.

-Also, if you’re curious about audio books and want to listen to sum, I recommend downloading the app and bypassing the sign in to get to the 10 free excerpts. These are the 1o excerpts that I got:

IMG_3393   IMG_3394


Just in case you’re not familiar, Goodreads has a website that functions in the same way as this app. Essentially, Goodreads is a website that helps you find what books to read next. You give them information about what kind of books you like (usually by rating books you’ve read), and it suggests books you might also like. You can also read other’s reviews of books your considering reading, and if your friends use Goodreads, you can also use it as a form of social media, sharing what books you’ve read or are interested reading, and your friends can share their book choices with you.

It’s a nice app, and I like it, but it’s the same as the online website I find.

Would I recommend it?

It all comes down to a preference of if you like using your phone or your computer more. If you love to read, then you definitely need to have an account and use either the computer or the app, if not both. It’s a great resource to have.

The only thing that could make it better for me would be to actually be able to read the ebooks in the app. But since you can’t access the books on the website version other, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense. It’s just a resource for planning and managing, not actually reading the books. Still, as I said before, I think it’s necessary for every reader to have an account.

iBooks (For iPhone users only)

If you have an iPhone, then you already have the iBooks app, whether you like it or not. It’s one of the pack of apps that comes pre-installed with your iPhone that can’t be deleted. Since I’ve been reluctant to try eBooks, I’ve ignored it along with a lot of other pre-set apps, but now I gave it a try.

The iBooks app is designed the same way the App store and iTunes Store are, so it’s a familiar and easy to navigate design. The design isn’t the only thing these apps have in common. The iBooks app is basically the iTunes store, but for books instead of music and movies. You can sample them, buy them, and then have them on your device. And it’s convenient because it all gets automatically charged to your Apple ID, which it automatically signs you in to, so you don’t have log in at all or enter any payment information.

The in-app reading looked like this:

IMG_3410  IMG_3408

I’m not a fan of the page turning animation, but that aA button on top has a lot of good options, one of them being the scroll feature. It’s better than the cramped page and page turn animation, but it makes me a little motion sick, especially if I would be reading on the bus or train. But I’m glad that there are so many options to make my reading experience more comfortable.

Would I recommend it?

If you have an iPhone, then you already have it, but still, the answer is “yes”. So far, it’s one of the best options for reading both eBooks AND audiobooks and then just buy then straight away with a pre-connected account. However, there aren’t as many free options as there are in the other apps mentioned.

Nook App

-This app is supposed to accompany a nook, but functions just fine if you don’t have one. You can explore the app first, instead of signing in straight away, and I like having that option.

The app has a “Discovery” section that updates daily containing quite a few samples of two-minute reads. You can edit what sort of things you want to see by genre. This is available without even signing in.

Since I have a nook, I did sign in after looking around and found that I had 4 free downloads. I’m not sure if everyone starts with those four, or if they were left over from my nook and got transferred over once I logged in. Either way, I downloaded one and it only took about 2 seconds, which is extremely fast for my Wi-Fi, and it seems to be the full book.

Like audible, you can’t purchase eBooks in the app, but you can download samples of anything. You purchase the eBooks on your nook or on Barnes and Noble.com, and then it’ll show up in the app. That way, if your nook runs out of charge or you forget to take it with you, you can still continue reading the story on your phone.

The only problem that I found with it is that the reader was very clunky and needed to be better formatted.

IMG_3421 IMG_3422 IMG_3423

Luckily, they also have the options to adjust the text, so it can be reasoned with and improved. I think this happens because the samples are meant to be read on a nook, not the smaller screen of a smart phone. But the problem is fixed easily enough.

Would I recommend it?

If you have a nook, I’d say, yes, get it. It’s a well-designed and aesthetically pleasing app. It also gives you a lot of free samples, but is otherwise unnecessary. You can organize your nook books on it, but you can also just use your nook just as well without it.

Kindle App

Like the nook, this app is made to accompany the kindle reader, so you have to sign in with an Amazon account first. But once you do, the app gives you unlimited access to every book available for one week. There isn’t even a pressure to sign up to pay.

Shortly after I signed it, I got an email saying that after the 7 days I’ll be eligible for a 30 day free trail, which I bet is when you have to sign up for an automatically-renewing subscription

-this app seems simpler, its mainly black color scheme. You can synch books with your kindle, but if you don’t have one like me, that section is blank. I downloaded a full story and again, even though I’m on crappy Wi-Fi, the book downloaded in seconds.

Would I recommend it?

Since simply downloading the app gives you a week of unlimited access, the answer is yes. All you have to do is open the app and sign in with your Amazon account. From there, it’s up to you if you want to continue using it. I can see how it would be useful with a kindle too.


I hope these little informal reviews help you with your e-reading, whether it be on a smart phone or tablet.


How to Write Fantasy Like Neil Gaiman


Who better to learn from than the very best? Neil Gaiman is a gold mine of information for other aspiring writers. Here is a collection of his best advice and tips.

Neil Gaiman's 8 rules for writing fiction:

  1. Write.
  2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
  3. Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
  4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you've never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
  5. Remember: when people tell you somethings wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
  6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
  7. Laugh at your own jokes.
  8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But its definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

From this article in The Guardian

Be conscious about your writing materials. Neil uses nearly every form of media for his writing for different reasons:

For screenplays, I work directly on screen – novels I write in longhand. For novels, I like the whole first and second draft feeling, and the act of making paper dirty, whereas, for screenplays, I value the immediacy of a computer...I try to change my superstitions with each project. Working in fountain pen is good because it slows me down just enough to keep my handwriting legible. Often I use two pens with different coloured ink, so I can tell visually how much I did each day.

From this interview in TimeOut

On his website, www.neilgaiman.com, he has an entire section of his FAQ devoted to advice to writers. In it, he writes a fair amount on how to get a book published. Here are just a few of his pointers from that dialogue:

How does one get published?

How do you do it? You do it.

You write.

You finish what you write.

Meet editors. Even if you haven't met any editors, send your stuff out.

Use The Web. Use it for anything you can - writers groups, feedback, networking, finding out how things work, getting published. It exists: take advantage of it.

Believe in yourself. Keep writing.

For the full, much more helpful version of this FAQ click here. Also in his FAQ he answers the question "How to write comics" and "How to handle revisions of work". Follow the same link for the answers to those questions.

Another helpful gem from the internet is this podcast featuring Neil Gaiman and his thoughts on writing. It's only 4 minutes, so give it a listen! The maker even included nice videos and graphics fro you to look at so it's not just audio:


Lastly, if you're having trouble writing your novel and are ready to give up, here's a peptalk he wrote for the blog National Novel Writing Month. His encouragement is really inspiring and helpful, and ends with the simple words:

One word after another.

That’s the only way that novels get written and, short of elves coming in the night and turning your jumbled notes into Chapter Nine, it’s the only way to do it.

So keep on keeping on. Write another word and then another.

Pretty soon you’ll be on the downward slide, and it’s not impossible that soon you’ll be at the end. Good luck…

Read the entire peptalk here on the National Novel Writing Month website.

As Neil would say, never stop writing and good luck!


Quick Tips for Reviewing a Book


Almost anyone can read a book, but not everyone can write a quality book review. Whether you're reviewing a book for business or for pleasure, here are a few handy tips for writing the best review that you can. Annotate and Take Notes

If you can, buy or obtain a copy of the book that you will be able write on. If you're only option is the library or a borrowed book, then take notes on a separate piece of paper. Either way, make sure that you write Down EVERYTHING that comes to your mind as you read- your reactions, your thoughts and questions, etc. Then write down the page number of whatever scene you are reacting to so you can go back to it later with ease. Don't worry about the quality of your notes or the spelling because you'll be able to edit them once you're done with the book.

Even if you think you can remember your thoughts after you read, why take the chance? Especially when you’ll need to go back and reference specific parts of the book, and not just remember your opinions.

As you read, try to pay attention to things like the pacing of the story, the originality of the ideas and how well they were executed, how professional the writing was, how accurate the writing was. Sometimes an author has a very clever idea but isn't able to execute it well.

Try to read the entire book within a short period of time.

The more time that passes in between readings, the more you'll forget of what you already read. If possible, schedule a day or two to just sit down and read the entire book. All of the details of the story will stay fresh in your mind, and you won't forget or miss anything referenced later in the book.

Don't rush yourself to finish, or else you might miss key information or important details. Read at your own comfortable pace, just don't take too many breaks from the book or be away from it for too long if you can help it.

Once you've finished the book, quickly write down your reaction of the entire story as a whole, now that you know the beginning, middle and end.

Decide your spoiler policy

At this point, you should decide (if you haven't already) what your spoiler policy will be. Whether you're just sharing your reaction, or reviewing the book for professional purposes, you need to think about how much of the story you want to give away to the audience. It’s more likely people will read your review if there’s no danger of spoilers, so if you think you can write a review without giving much away, then I encourage you to do it. However, there is nothing wrong with talking about spoilers and plot points, and even the ending, as long as you give a WARNING beforehand! Just keep in mind that some people plan on reading the book for themselves, and don't want to find out the ending before they've had a chance to read it and react to it on their own. It's true that there are some people like to know the ending beforehand, not everyone does, so just be courteous and play it on the safe side, tagging spoilers when necessary and giving people the option to stay in the dark if they choose.

Otherwise, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep your review spoiler free. However, if you are having trouble with censoring your review, but are still determined to keep it spoiler-free, then I recommend that you write your full review, spoilers and all, and then go back and edit out as many spoilers as you can, and try to speak more vaguely about any specifics you may have mentioned.

Turning your notes into a thoughtful review

The main reason I say that you should wait until you've finished the book to edit your notes is because you may realize that some of your notes may not be helpful or relevant once you know the final outcome. An example of this is when you're reading something like a mystery, and you believe the wrong person is the culprit and write your theories down, only to find that it actually turned out to be someone else. The things you wrote about your suspect aren't obsolete, they can be summarized in a helpful way. For example: “The book does a good job of keeping you guessing.”

Review your own review

Try your best to remain unbiased as you review the book. A good way to do this is to consistently evaluate your own opinions. If you think the author's jokes fell flat and weren't usually funny, then think about what kind of jokes you usually find funny. Instead of just saying that the jokes weren't funny, say that you have a different sense of humor than the author, and people who also dislike __ blank type of jokes also might not enjoy it.

Something that is really helpful is reading other peoples’ reviews of the book. See what others are saying, and why came to those conclusions about the book.

Be prepared to defend your ideas

If you criticize the book more than praise it (which is perfectly acceptable), then you may be contacted by avid fans of the book demanding to know why you gave such a negative review. But remember, there is nothing wrong with your opinion, even if they disagree with it. If necessary, you can deal with this by thoroughly explaining your reasons for criticism immediately after you give it. For example: Instead of just writing "I found Chapter ___ to be particularly lacking." Make sure you give a reason: “I found Chapter __ to be particularly lacking compared to the other chapters because unlike the others, chapter __ had no conflict, resolution, or even any new information that was necessary to the plot. I honestly feel that you could remove the entire chapter from the book and the story would not have changed."

Once you've stated your opinion, and given a reason to back it up, you can offer a suggestion about what the author could have done to fix it, or consider what the author's possible motives might have been. This step is optional, but if a possible solution to a problem comes to mind, feel free to share it.

One final thing to remember is that none of us are perfect. All writers have their weaknesses, but they also have their strengths as well.

Thank you and happy reading!