How to Keep Motivation High While Working Alone

The writer's life is a lonely one.

Especially as a self-published author, you are your own boss, responsible for your own deadlines and schedule.

When you've got a new idea for a book, it's easy to get fired up and spend hours on end writing your heart out. But I've often found that many authors experience a slump in the middle of writing a novel. When all that brand new excitement has drained out into thousands of black marks on a page.

When difficulty sets in.

When you really have to start figuring out plot devices and how to reconcile issues, or even realizing that the tense is wrong for what you're about to undertake.

Or maybe life rears its complicated hydra-heads and you cut back on your writer hours in favor of focusing on your family, your work, or anything else.

For whatever reason, if you've found motivation and passion for writing isn't at the level you'd like it to be, here are a few ways to keep your motivation revving, even when you're feeling overwhelmed.

How to Keep Motivation High While Working Alone

Work Out Your Passion Muscles

Stephen King famously said that waiting around for your muse to show up isn't the job a writer. The job a writer is to write. If you show up every day, on time, and get down to work, you're doing the writer's job. But let's be honest, not every day is going to be filled with the same level of motivation and excitement. The key here is to not fall into a slump where you've been so unmotivated for so long that writing begins to feel like a drag.

Fact: your mood is made up largely by your physiology.

Imagine this: you're sitting at your desk, slumped down in your chair, neck forming double, triple chins where there weren't any before. Your fingers smack the keyboard sloppily. How are you feeling about your writing? How can you possibly feel anything but unmotivated, tired, and bored?

Now imagine this: you're sitting at your desk, feet planted solidly on the floor, your back erect and your chin jutting out as if you're a Royal espousing a new decree. Your fingers hit each key with confidence and vigor. How are you feeling about your writing? Even if your head is saying, "this sucks, I suck" you won't be stuck there for long. You can't be.

Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy has revealed that the way you carry your posture actually affects the amount of hormones in your body. You're not simply tricking your body to be more motivated, alert, and powerful when you adopt a particular body posture, you're changing your physical and mental landscape.

So the next time you're feeling lackluster about writing, try changing your posture to one that's brimming with power, energy, and excitement.

Practice this daily. As often as you can. Someone once said if you think you can go around your day feeling 80% unmotivated and disinterested, it's ridiculous to expect you can turn on passion and drive for the 20% when you really need it.

Bring passion and excitement into everything you do and it will spill naturally over to those more difficult tasks, like writing.

Enlist a Buddy

If you're finding writing alone is a lonely pursuit, and you'd rather not be stuck at home alone or in a noisy café anonymously plugging away at the keyboard, enlist a writing buddy or join a writers group. You may thinking of this as a non-option because working with a friend or in a group would mean you're too distracted, but if you establish a few ground rules at the beginning, like using the first 5-10 minutes to chat and catch up, and then 20-30 of uninterrupted writing time, you've successfully navigated that problem.

Writing buddies or groups can help you hold yourself accountable. You don't even need a physical buddy to do this. You can have a writer friend that you've met online hold you accountable by requiring you to send them x pages or chapters by a specific deadline.

Having someone else holding you accountable helps you not slack off, and can be a productive way to reinvigorate your motivation if you find it slipping.

Use Novelty

If your motivation is really flagging, change something! Your passion for writing has always been there, you know that. So when you're feeling unmotivated to write, just think: it's not me. Your environment can go a long way in affecting your motivation. Maybe you've been writing in your home office for the past few months and the routine environment is hacking away at your excitement.

To fix this, try switching things up, like working from a coffee shop, college library, or hotel lobby. I used to have a few specific places I could rotate through so that novelty stayed fresh and I wouldn't fall into boredom simply because I was too used to the locations I was writing from.

Novelty can work in other ways too. If you always write in the morning, try switching to writing at night. If you write on the computer, try switching to a notebook for a little while. These hacks can boost creativity and inspire you when you find yourself flagging.

Track Accomplishments

There's no better way to keep your motivation high than to acknowledge you're doing good work and making progress. After all, one you've written the book your ultimate goal is over. That moment of true completion is so brief, so your motivation better not be coming from the idea of having a book finished or you're doomed. 99% of your time is spent on writing, so your achievements are coming not by finishing the book, but by making progress.

Log your accomplishments at the end of each day and you'll be inspired to continue every day. After a while, those achievements are going to add up: 30 pages, 50 pages, 100 give yourself a boost of happiness by celebrating certain milestones you set for yourself.

Stay inspired. Stay writing.

Please share any other motivation tips you've used in the comments below!

How to Simplify the Writing Life

Remember when all you needed was a feather quill and a roll of parchment and you could be a world-renowned writer?

Now the writing life is a negotiation between your job, your six hungry kids, all of your day to day distractions (I’m talking about you, facebook) and worst of all, writing is no longer the “just sit at your desk and write” practice it used to be.

Our computers are equipped with a millions of distractions; our desks cluttered with the business of our lives; our minds focused on so many other things, like whether or not we fed the cat.

If you’re lucky enough to persevere and find a way beyond all this to an actual written work, you know you’ve got to slug through the world of marketing and promotion.

It’s overwhelming.

It’s time consuming.

It sucks.

So I’ve put together 3 tips (yeah, just 3, because if you had 100 this would all just go into the pile of “oh my gosh it’s too much I can’t handle it” and you won’t get anything out of simplifying the writerly life.

Tip #1: Distraction-free writing

Do you know how often you’re distracted? I mean really, truly. How many minutes a day (or hours) do you spend on instagram, facebook, snapchat, and the like? How many articles do you read about writing once the anxiety of facing the blank page kicks in? How many times do you get up to go to the bathroom/wash the dishes/make food/pet the cat when you should be in the middle of a writing session?

Writing is HARD. Thus, it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes you’ll get into a flow and the time will fly by. But sometimes you’ll hit a tough spot and unconsciously reach for your phone, to check a fact/the weather/your likes.

Distraction free writing means that NOTHING is taking your energy and focus away from your writing time.

Even if that’s just 15 minutes. Even if that’s 4 hours.

No open tabs. No phone. Fill your water bottle and have a snack handy and sit down and don’t get back up.

Here’s a rundown of how to make truly distraction-free writing happen:

To make distraction free writing UBER easy, utilize a distraction free app.

Not 6 of them. Just 1.

Enter: Focus Writer


  • TXT, basic RTF, and basic ODT file support

  • Timers and alarms

  • Daily goals

  • Fully customizable themes

  • Typewriter sound effects (optional)

  • Auto-save (optional)

  • Live statistics (optional)

  • Spell-checking (optional)

  • Multi-document support

  • Sessions

  • Portable mode (optional)

  • Translated into over 20 languages

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 6.23.12 PM.png


...and put it somewhere away from you, like in a kitchen drawer or another room. Don’t just put it on silent. The fact that it’s still alive and lurking somewhere darkly without you can still pull irresistibly on your consciousness.

Make sure everyone in the house knows not to disturb you.

You may still pet the cat.

Tip #2: Set goals

Setting goals will help you achieve them. Kind of a no-brainer; you can’t hit what you don’t aim at. So whether that’s a word count you’d like to make, or a set period of time in front of your word processor, define a clear, achievable goal before you start, and don’t stop until you make it.

Tip #3: Distill marketing and promos to one category

The most daunting task of all as a writer comes after writing the book.

If you’re self-publishing, marketing and promotion falls on your shoulders.

With the self-publishing industry gaining a lot of popularity over traditional printing, bloggers and websites dedicated to helping you market your book have been vying for attention for Google’s top results page.

It’s hard to market yourself. Especially if you don’t already have a background in marketing. So aren’t you supposed to slog through hundreds of articles reading the results of a hundred real people who did a ton of things to break through to the best seller lists?

Realistically? No. It’s a clear path to overwhelm, yet again.

So what do you do?

PICK ONE thing and stick to it until it either works, or you’re absolutely sure it’s a sh*t strategy.

Fragmenting your focus while you try and boost Amazon sales through keywords, instagramming hashtags, signing up for promos, and paying for facebook ads is a lot.

It means your focus doesn’t go to any one thing so you can do that one thing really well and then move onto another thing.

So to start, find the one person who gives you a strategy you agree with and do ONE thing from that strategy until you’ve locked it in tight. Then move onto another strategy.

When I first started marketing Ella Bandita and the Wanderer, I used Nick Stephenson’s strategy for building an email list. Once I got it dialed in, I found about 700 people had subscribed to my email list.

Then I knew it was time to move onto another area of focus: paid promotions.

A lot of the promotions I made bombed. So I scaled back to free promotions, hoping to understand the best ways to use these before either a) considering promos a failure for me, or b) conquering them and moving onto another strategy.

Work strategy by strategy until you start to see results!

I hope this was helpful and you’re ready to take a step towards simplifying your writer life!

Character Spot Light: Ella Bandita

Ella Bandita isn't your typical fantasy protagonist. She's ugly. She seeks out bad men to destroy them. She's contemptuous and confident. And she's got hidden vulnerability that flashes only every so often.

Ella Bandita is a badass anti-hero who struggles with her own feelings of grief, loss, and identity as she hunts down her prey.

Here's a chance to find out why Ella Bandita lures men into traps to steal their hearts, and what makes her vulnerable despite having lost her own heart a long time ago.

Introducing: Ella Bandita, Thief of Hearts

“Your face is so ugly, it’s beautiful.”   

“Your face is so ugly, it’s beautiful.”

At first, Ella Bandita didn't have a name. Until she reached her 20th year no one called her by any name. She was tolerated by the Patron's servants, but shunned by her father, the Patron, and the rest of the village community.

Brief glimpses into her past suggest a sad upbringing, but not without bouts of freedom riding through the fields, and the hint of a child hood love.

Unable to go on with a life lacking in love and decency, the girl decides to end it all and prepares to throw herself into an icy river, dangerous with rocks and a wild current.

But a hand stays her demise...

From the novel:

“There’s a better way.”

His voice rang clear, even over the thrashing water. The girl froze, and her fear exploded
into terror. She could feel him right behind her, standing at her right shoulder. Turning her head, she saw that the Sorcerer of the Caverns looked just like the Cook had always described him. His hair and beard were the color of dust, hanging in matted ropes to his waist. Lines were etched into the papery skin of his face and his frame was shrunken from the unnatural passage of time. The blood drained from her face and her head grew light. The girl opened her mouth, but no words came out. She should have known better than to come here. Pieces of legend about the Sorcerer came to mind. He’d been born an ordinary man until he sold his soul for the powers of magic. Then he preyed on virgin girls so he would never die.

The girl is given a choice...continue her life of sorrow, or earn knowledge of the dark arts of seduction. 

Thus, the woman who will become Ella Bandita's education begins.

From the author:

I once heard an editor say: "Don't tell me your story is about love and redemption because all stories are about love and redemption." She was right and mine is no different. But isn't it marvelous how many different stories can come from one theme? My particular take on this theme involves a predatory seductress who is mad, bad, and dangerous to know - and the people who helped shape her, and an adventurer frozen in grief who won't go away because he can't bring himself to go home.

Ella Bandita's world opens up when she meets the Wanderer, a man, like herself, who is full of grief.

Something in her awakens. Having steadily worked through her goal of annihilating vile and contemptuous men in villages around the world, she's paused for a moment upon meeting the wanderer.

character sketch dark fantasy novel

From the novel:

From the abyss between sleep and consciousness, he heard the humming growl. He was confused by the sound until the heavy cloth collapsed, and he woke up with the burden of his tent upon him. Flailing through the canvas, the Wanderer pushed his head and shoulders through the flap into a whirlwind of dazzling colors.
“Hey!” he shouted. “What are you doing?”
His heart pounded and the Wanderer was suddenly dizzy. He squeezed his eyes shut until the feeling passed.
“How strange. I was about to ask you the same thing.”
The Wanderer recognized her voice. The girl he followed into No Man’s Land had finally come awake, and she was now standing over him with one hand wrapped around her necklace. He swallowed hard. She had the coldest blue eyes he’d ever seen. She opened her palm and dropped a crystal in the folds of her shirt. Her glare seared into him.
“So what are you doing here?” she asked.
The Wanderer felt foolish on his knees with his tent collapsed around him. The girl’s presence was unnerving. Even though she was angry, she made his flesh come alive as soon as he saw her.
“Making myself at home,” he said, stepping out of the heap. “Same as you.”
He noticed that she was dressed like him, in a loose shirt and pants, but she also wore a holster, a small pouch slung around the belt at her left hip, and a pistol and dagger held in sheaths on her right. The Wanderer glanced at her face and saw the corners of her mouth twitching. She might be an adventurer, but not of his kind.

Ella Banita's quest takes a different kind of turn after meeting the Wanderer, as if he woke in her something that had long been dormant. A care for the state of her heart.

To read the rest of the novel and get to know Ella Bandita in depth, get the full novel here.

Top 5 Websites for Indie Authors

I thought it important to put together a list of websites for indie authors, meaning, websites that will help independent authors rise to success with their hard-wrought novels and stories by educating the independent author about how to write, publish, market, make sales, and build a fan base for their work.

There are a few explosive success stories you can read about all over the internet...where one independently published author hit the best seller lists and grew an empire seemingly overnight.

What you don't get to read about are those authors who spent years trying different tactics, waiting for a "big break" that more likely came as a slow upward trend until it steadied out into something less resembling an empire and more of a steady, committed relationship.

As an independent author you aren't beholden to any agent or publisher. You are a direct line to your readers, and must put your readers at the forefront


First on our list is the author marketing course brought to you by best-selling author Nick Stephenson. Stephenson has his marketing formula down pat. His course guides authors to build their own, personal fan base, so that your readers are never in the hands of an unstable platform, like Amazon or Facebook.

By focusing on gathering an email list, you have people to pitch to whenever you have a novel to sell or another book to promote.

First and foremost, indie authors are fan-reliant, meaning you need to grow an audience. Stephenson shows you how to do that organically, and then capitalizes on this organic growth to drive sales.

Imagine a reader picks up your first book for free in exchange for their email address. When your second book releases (or if you'd like to offer it for a promo discount) you've got someone familiar with your work to try and sell to. It's a lot easier to keep a customer than convert a new one, so this strategy is overwhelmingly successful.

Stephenson shows you exactly how to set up these freebie incentives either on your own website or through a sales platform like Amazon, and then guides you through the email correspondence that will keep your readers hooked.

Further, he shows you how to isolate niche keywords in Amazon so your book climbs up the sales ranks and premiers on more likely to be seen recommended book pages.

And if you're ready to start advertising, he's got the facebook marketing strategy for you.

His insights are invaluable to an independent author. If you're confused about marketing your books and how to start grooming your empire, this is a must-have course.

The Creative Penn


No wonder Joanna Penn and Nick Stephenson are buds. They're both hugely successful fiction authors with a massive following for their non-fiction writing and advice for authors.

Joanna Penn has a huge resource built up for independent authors interested in writing, publishing, marketing, and selling their book. She holds a place on the most prestigious Top Websites for Authors lists. Probably because of her willingness to walk authors through the step-by-step process of writing, publishing, selling, and promoting a book.

She has books, blogs, podcasts, and courses all designed to help independent authors maximize their potential.

The Creative Penn is where I first started when I was learning about the independent author marketing process, and even 3 years into it I find a wealth of information at my fingertips when I visit her website.

With interviews from notable indie publishing specialists, such as Steven Spatz from BookBaby, to inspiring posts like this tip-filled gem, she's a goldmine of information and strategy planning for the independent author.



If the first stage of building your independent author empire is gathering up relevant knowledge and tools from people like Nick Stephenson and Joanna Penn, the second stage is building your fan base and foundation for attracting more and more readers.

That's where book websites where readers can leave reviews, engage with the author, and participate in giveaways come in.

There are plenty of new platforms popping up all the time, but one of the oldest and biggest is Goodreads.

Goodreads allow you to join very active groups, and I recommend singing up for reader groups as well as writer groups to really diversify your reach. Many groups are geared toward helping independent authors introduce their works to other authors, get feedback and reviews, and offer tips and suggestions for promotions.

Another really useful way to use a platform like Goodreads is to host giveaways. Giveaways help you draw attention to your book and get it on a lot of "to read" lists, which helps with visibility. Especially if you're in pre-sale mode, giveaways can add a lot of juice to your promotions, and they're free to use! You just need to ship a book to the winner.

Sales Platforms

If you're an indie author you've GOT to be on a sales platform. The most mainstream (and often, lucrative) option is Amazon, but you have to deal with a lot of red tape and corporateness that can feel icky for an indie author.

However, Amazon is a powerful tool in getting your book into readers' hands, especially if you offer ebook versions of a print novel.

Other sales platforms are available, such as Barnes and Noble, Nook, Kobo, etc. If you want to go really indie fringe you can try publishing on sites like Etsy and BigCartel, but these can be a little harder to market with.

*Bonus: if you sign up for Nick Stephenson's 10K readers course, he'll walk you through how to optimize your Amazon pages for more sales. I found his strategies very helpful!



If you're all set with building your author foundation and finding fans for your work, the next step is to promote the heck out of your books.

There are SO many sites offering book promotions. Bookbub is just one. They tend to be very powerful for those whom they accept; but the selection process can be a little tough. My advice is to keep submitting after you've been rejected. It may take months to get accepted, but is well worth it.

Also note that you do have to put some money into these types of promotions, but the return is usually very great. Do your work and research before you commit to any kind of promotion and make sure that the results seem real and replicable for you.

Bonus: Your Website

Of course you should also be putting in a lot of attention to your own website. Make sure it's optimized, introduces the reader to your work in a clear, uncluttered manner, and offers a free incentive to sign up for your email list (a free first book is a great place to start).



Dark Fantasy Romance Writing Prompts from Ella Bandita and the Wanderer

Alright ladies & gents! It's time for another round of dark fantasy romance writing prompts to inspire your own stories and get your writer juices flowing!

The dark fantasy romance writing prompts are proving to be the most popular blog posts we do here over at Free Flying Press, so today I want to come at you with something a little different.

Taking snips and clips from the book, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer, we've crafted writing prompts that are sure to spark your imagination in any direction. You can write backstory based on the prompt or imagine the scene unfolding from the prompt.

Because these are from the novel Ella Bandita and the Wanderer, they each already have a backstory and future scene, but it would be so cool to hear what you come up with! Please share your writing in the comments below!

Dark Fantasy Romance Writing Prompts from Ella Bandita and the Wanderer


dark fantasy romance writing prompts from Ella Bandita and the Wanderer
dark fantasy romance writing prompts from Ella Bandita and the Wanderer
dark fantasy romance writing prompts from Ella Bandita and the Wanderer
dark fantasy romance writing prompts from Ella Bandita and the Wanderer

Enjoy your writing! As always, let us know what work you've done in the comments below!

Best Fantasy Book Art (Roundup)

Every year as I go through and evaluate our yearly stats, one Pinterest board reigns supreme.

Fantasy Art is a hot topic. Why? Because some of the most talented artists gravitate toward the genre, where they can play with magic, mythical creatures, and tell a story with a single painting.

I've been quite obsessed with the fantasy art genre since I was young, and so I thought what better way to end the year with a round up of some of the best fantasy art out there.

*Note to authors: the art on your book cover is extremely important. Many of the top fantasy artists create work that would look so lovely illustrating your novel or gracing its cover. Spend time hunting around and send out some queries to your favorite artists -- you might be surprised with how they respond!

Top Fantasy Art of 2017

Eiich Matsuba is an artist living in Tokyo, Japan. His works are gritty, fantastical, and gorgeous. Almost like a rougher version of Hayao Miyazaki. Though he works in dark colors, there remains something light about each work.

FireFly Galaxy

FireFly Galaxy

Nameless Driftage

Nameless Driftage


Tomislav Jagnjic from Belgrade, Serbia, has an incredible style reminiscent of watercolor though he favors digital art. What's most notable about his work is his composition choices, for example, angled lines shot through with light and shadow create landscapes that are both majestic and mythical.

Brainstorm Challenge

Brainstorm Challenge

Wolf Rider Speed Paint

Wolf Rider Speed Paint


Quentin Mabille of Paris, France jumps effortless from realism to illustration in works that could easily grace the tv screen for a new magical series. Even his simplest works include meticulous detail that adds to the overall pleasure of looking at his work.

Old Valley

Old Valley

Skull Cave

Skull Cave

BANE from St Paul Minnesota is one of my all time favorite artists, and, incidentally, the artist who rendered Ella Bandita and created all of the covers for my novelettes. His work is powerful -- he managed to capture Ella Bandita's ugliness when other artists would make her too beautiful, and still imbued her with a sexiness and allure that helps her ensnare her victims.


Aditya Ikranegara is an Indonesian artist with an extraordinary style. He's one of those rare artists who are able to convey more through a lack of detail -- a sort of blurring of the works that creates raw emotion out of the sidelines.

Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix



Ruiheng Liu from Wuhan, China is the last stop on the art list. He doesn't have a big spread of work on the internet, yet the one piece I discovered is one of my favorites. He's created a magician with a backstory that you can feel from the art itself.




a collaborative erotic writing game

Are you ready to play?

The rules:

1) use one of the following prompts to begin your erotic tale. You can write as much or as little as you like.

2) send what you've written to

3) We'll post your [attributed or anonymous] below the appropriate prompt.

4) Anyone can continue writing where you left off! Just browse the stories, write some more, and we'll keep adding!

It's collaborative erotica and it's a blast to play!

We can't wait to read & share what you've come up with!

The Prompts:


The continuation....

Author: Nonbinary Me

...he knew what I really wanted and I could see it in his eyes! I took flogger out and I could see he was excited. Lay down I tell him, NOW! Roll over! I start softly running the flogger up and down his bare back, then one flog on his firm ass, two flogs.... I know he was loving every minute of it .....


Send your contribution, short or long (size doesn't matter here) to or using the form below!


Black Friday Sale, Buds!

Hey you!

Jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon here to offer you an incredible deal.

This week, get your copy of Ella Bandita and the Wanderer from Big Cartel (and say screw you to Amazon)!

Support indie authors and small business when you get your copy of the unconventional sexy dark fantasy novel Ella Bandita for $4 off!  (That makes this luscious paperback only $10!)

Montgomery Mahaffey's epic fable is a fascinating read. - Jill Blake
Refreshing dark heroine with a unique story. -- Paige M.

The Blurb:

Ella Bandita's life nearly came to an end in the depths of an icy river. Before she threw herself in the roiling waters, a strange voice called out.

"There's a better way."

Now, Ella Bandita is far from dead. Having studied the art of seduction under the Sorcerer of the Caverns who saved her that day, she must now make a life for herself as Ella Bandita, thriving on fresh hearts for survival. The immortal seductress moves from village to village, seducing and stealing the hearts of only the most licentious and undeserving men. It's a lonely life, filled with grief and rage.

Until the day she meets a Wanderer in the woods, who engages her in deadly game of cat and mouse, fueled by his unruly desire for this strange young woman. His refusal to quit her makes Ella Bandita act, and the Wanderer finds himself transformed into a Wolf, forced to live life searching for the one thing that can make him a man again. Hunting down the immortal seductress becomes necessary for survival. At the old Sorcerer's Caverns, they will meet again, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer.

In a dark tale of romance, lust, and desire, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer is driven by intrigue and explores the darkness of the human heart and the allure of erotic obsession over love.


How to Use NaNoWriMo to Write a Novel You Can Actually Publish

NaNoWriMo was established in 1999 to help writers get the damn words out. One of our biggest hurdles as writers is to simply write. So a bunch of people got together and said, you know what? This November is going to be the month where we get all those words out. One month, 50,000 words.

The thing is, if you participate in NaNoWriMo and you manage to eke out 20-50k words, what then? What do you do in December? January? How do you turn those words into a draft you can actually tolerate to read?

Because when you’re writing for NaNoWriMo, quality doesn’t matter. Just the word count. And on one hand that’s a valuable practice for a writer….I mean, you should be paying attention to quality, but at a certain point it becomes more important to get words out so you can test your ideas, your characters, plot...make sure all of that’s working reasonably well before you start fine-tuning the language.

Plus, NaNoWriMo helps you get in the habit of writing every day. Which is a practice that is essential to being a writer. Writing isn’t something you do when you’re inspired. It’s the job you show up to day after day, getting your work done.

So that’s the great part about NaNoWriMo. But here’s the clincher. A lot of writers find that once they’ve finished their 50k words, they have a novel. Without revising. Without letting those words sit in a cold dark drawer for months and months collecting dust, to be brushed off at some future date when your brain is clear from the wash of excitement and sweat and can actually be a little more objective when going through for an edit.

NaNoWriMo is valuable for helping you to develop your work ethic. NaNoWriMo is helpful for testing out your ideas and pushing through the hard moments of plot failure, character tweaks, and communication issues. It’s a caffeine fueled binge for your craft.

But you need to remember that you’re practicing a craft. A cabinet maker doesn’t just slap some wood together in the shape of a cabinet and call it good. There are all of the other elements involved: the glue and clamps and perfectly fitted joints, hours of sanding and finishing and sanding and finishing again. There are the finishing touches, the carefully picked out brackets and handles. No aspect of the work gets ignored.

Which means that NaNoWriMo is your time to get the words out, and the following months are used to hone the other parts of the craft: learning how to let it sit, revision, accepting critique, and editing.

These other aspects are instrumental in growing your abilities as a writer, and if you’re planning on shipping your manuscript off to an agent once you’re done, you’d better be sure you’ve followed through on these other steps.

NaNoWriMo Calendar to Get You a Bonafide Novel by June

December: READ other books

Reading is paramount for your success as a writer. It’s Stephen King, one of the highest grossing authors and a man who produces an insane amount of national best-selling books, who famously said, “If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all else. Write a lot and read a lot.”

If you’ve been grinding down to write your entire novel in the month of November, take December to catch up on your reading. Go as crazy as you did for NaNoWriMo. Set a goal, say, 10 books, and tear through them this month.

Reading other books will help inform your own writing. You’ll get ideas for how to revise your own novel. When you’re reading a well-regarded novel, you’re actually learning about writing from a master. So use this as a means to make your own writing better.

This month is also a time to let your manuscript sit in a dark drawer, away from prying eyes. You don’t get to read it. You don’t get to show it to other people...not yet. Distance yourself from your work (and from the rigor of the work) and let it simmer until you come back to it next month, in January, when you can read it over with perspective and a fresh set of eyes.

January: Revision

Your first phase of revision is your own. You still haven’t introduced your manuscript to other readers. Keep this round for yourself. Your head should be full of other people’s novels, so when you turn to your own you may better be able to hear rough patches or finicky plot twists.

February: Readers

NOW you get to show your work to some people whose opinion you respect. Ask them to read your novel and give you notes -- not edits; you’re not into the nitty gritty fine-tuning yet; you don’t care if you’ve misplaced a comma or if you have a tense out of place here or there. Just get broad notes on characterization, plot, language, dialogue, scenes, sense, etc.

Collect all your feedback and consider it. Many writers I’ve come across have a hard time taking in their reader’s feedback, feeling like their work is too precious, or the reader just doesn’t “get” the work, or any number of reasons.

But the truth is, as a writer, you’re not writing for yourself, you’re writing for them, for your readers. So if your readers are struggling with something, take a step back and pull your ego out of it and change the damn thing.

You’re supposed to pick writers whose opinions you trust, so there’s no reason why you should back out of that trust once you get their feedback.

March: Revision

Round 2 of revisions! Now that you have reader feedback it’s time to make those changes. Run through and fix what your readers have asked of you (as long as you agree, and you’ve taken your ego out of it!) and then run through it one more time reading your entire manuscript out loud.

Reading aloud lets you actually hear how things are sounding outside of your head, instead of locking you inside your own brain where things generally sound better and make more sense.

April: READ!

You’re almost done! So put your manuscript down and let it sit again in that dark drawer that’s becoming more comfortable and friendly by now. Read more books and learn more so that when the time next month for critique and final edits, you have more knowledge and more writers in your head to help you error correct.

May: Edits and Critique

This is your final round of edits, so instead of finding readers among your friend group, send this round off to people who are actual writers or editors. If you don’t know someone who is a professional writer or editor, hire somebody. You’ve just spent MONTHS working on a novel that you want to actually be able to publish? Spend some cash to get it professionally edited! If you believe in your work you’re making a worthy investment. If you don’t believe in your work, that dark drawer will be happy to hold onto your manuscript until you’re ready to grow a pair and make it good.

Make your final edits per your editor’s notes, give it a final read through, and accept that it’s not going to be or do everything you wanted. I remember Zadie Smith saying something like, “the best time to revise a novel is several months after it’s published.” You’re never going to catch everything; you’re not going to be 100% satisfied.

And hey, you’re still probably not done. Next month you’re going to send it off to agents and publishing houses and you’re going to get rejection letter after rejection letter. It’s likely going to take several months for an agent to want to pick up your work. Stick to it; learn from rejection. If you’re lucky enough to get feedback, incorporate that into your revisions and keep on sending.

If you're going the route of independent publishing, you can be sure that your work is ready for the public at this stage.

Following these steps may not seem as romantic as churning out 50k words for NaNoWriMo but they’re going to give you a manuscript you can be proud of, knowing you actually put in the work.

Portland's Unique Storytelling Event: Tea and Tales

Let's be honest, book readings can be awfully boring.

When I was younger I would go often, tempted by the allure of free wine and the hope that if I went to enough readings, I would hit upon one that totally blew me away.

Statistically, you have to sit through a lot of mind-numbingly boring readings to get to that one pot of gold.

That's why I got so excited when Portland author Montgomery Mahaffey dreamed up a different kind of way for hearing that's cozy, comfortable, engaging, and down right good -- every time.

It's Tea and Tales.

Entering the DreamSpace, you're immediately struck by its warmth. A white shaggy carpet coats the floor, the walls shine with pearlescence. From a table you choose your favorite tea mug and sift through the different high-end varieties of tea to find one that suits your mood. Then you hunker down on a large fluffy pillow and chat with fellow story-goers as you wait for the telling to begin. 


Now, you know how stale words read off a page can be, I'm sure. It's a whole 'nother thing to hear a story performed. The tale comes alive. You're enraptured.

For one hour Montgomery Mahaffey weaves tales from the old traditions -- fables from Ancient Greece, Rome, Ireland, etc. Then she'll usually end with an original story, one out of her novel Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. It's fantasy and it's dark, alluring, sexy, different.

These stories really do keep you coming back for more.

If you love a good story, and want a different kind of "night out," come by Flander's house when we're holding another Tea and Tales. The themes are always different. Sometimes there are guest storytellers or musicians rolling through. Sometimes you get a chance to tell a story.

Portland locals, join us for a night of Tea and Tales!

Birthing Ella Bandita Freebie & Sneak Peek


She wasn't always called Ella Bandita, Thief of Hearts. For a time she wasn't called anything at all.

Daughter of an illustrious Patron, Ella has been shunned since birth by him and all the villagers. Determined to change her fate, she intends to plunge into the depths of a icy river to end it all.

But at the bank of the river she's startled by a sharp voice.

"There's another way..."

The dark Sorcerer of the Caverns stands at the bank, offering a promise. He can end her ostracism and turn her into a powerful immortal -- for a fair price.

The young woman must submit to the Sorcerer's command. When the two become spellbound in a dangerous game of seduction and magic, the young woman discovers she holds more power than she realized.

Read the Delicious Teaser for Birthing Ella Bandita

free birthing ella bandita.png

Birthing Ella Bandita

Chapter 1

Silence made her numb. But she didn’t mind. The numbness guarded her against the turn of backs on her approach and the heavy air of rooms gone quiet wherever she went. Nothing could touch her until one early spring morning when that unseen cloak was stripped away.
     That day started like any other. She bore her grooming with the usual stoicism. The disapproval of her maid was apparent in the vicious pull of gathers, the servant punishing her mistress for her refusal to wear a corset. The girl turned her head and caught a glimpse of the maid’s prim mouth, lips clamped tight. The graying servant glanced up and scowled, then kept her gaze on task until the laces were knotted at the small of her back.
The girl waited for the click of the door before reaching around and undoing the ties that bound her. Like she did every morning, she twisted until she’d regained freedom of motion. She closed her eyes and savored the flow of breath filling her up and making her head swim. As her fingers finished a loose bow at the back of her waist, she sighed, her lids fluttering. Then she caught the image before her. She froze for an instant, and spun around to find who could be in the room with her. But she was alone. The girl turned back to the mirror and stared.
“How did this happen?”
Even the sound of her voice was startling. Her tone had gotten deeper and her throat was scratchy from disuse. But her attention was still captive to her reflection. The oval looking glass stood tall, and she kept it in the furthest corner of the room so she would never see herself. The last time she saw herself in the mirror, she had been all arms and legs, plagued with the awkwardness of girls who were not yet women and no longer children. She came closer, almost wondering if the silhouette was a phantom, and stopped a few paces away. Her palms roamed down her hips. The smooth fabric was cool against her fingers, her gown the shade of gunmetal, her hair a coil of gold at her neck. The girl followed the gesture in the mirror proving the image she saw was herself. She was pleased her figure was trim, not voluptuous. Yet her body curved in the shape of a woman.
“When did I grow up?”
She realized her birthday had passed a few days before. She was now twenty. The age when she could come into society and attend the Carnival masquerades and seasonal balls, like the one where her father had met her mother. The girl made another move toward her mirror and stepped into the ray of sun streaming through the eastern windows. The light glared on her blunt features and wide mouth and reminded her how ugly she was. She had the face of a savage.
She turned her back, but the pain had already started. Inside her breast, the clawing squeeze came on suddenly, leaving the girl confused and even incredulous. It had been so long since she’d felt anything. Perhaps her heart had come back to life. The girl brought her hand to her neck and pressed her fingers into her throat. But there was nothing. She grew dizzy, making her way back to her bed and dropping into the creamy sea of quilts. She waited for the sensation to fade away, for the numbness to wrap itself around her as it always did. Instead, the clawing descended and writhed in the apex of her belly.
Then the girl saw herself on one of her father’s stallions, pushing the animal to run until she could disappear. She sat up, craving the sensation that would make this go away. She pushed off the bed, taking a pair of peasant breeches from the armoire and donned them under her skirts and petticoats.
As the girl rushed down the corridor and down the stairs, she was vaguely aware of the aroma of warm bread and coffee, the portrait of her mother glowing in the eternal flame of lamps that were never extinguished. She felt the attendants in the dining parlor staring at her back when she hurried for the front door. Outside, the air was chilly from the lingering memory of winter, yet the fragrance of early bloom refreshed her.
But the girl had no mind for anything but the stables. She ran down paths and weaved through masses of lilies. The stable doors were open, and her gaze was fixed on the lean, young stallion with its head over the stall. The cinnamon coat gleamed and strands of honey mane shined from a recent brushing. This stallion was fast, perfect for what she needed. She waved the stable boys back to their chores and readied the horse herself. The clawing had relented by the time she swung her leg over its powerful back, but she ached everywhere. The girl warmed up the stallion, cantering him along the peach trees and preparing him to run.
When she turned her mount towards the western fields, she saw her father. The Patron was with his best farmers and the darkness of the Ancient Grove loomed behind them. The men must have been taking a respite from their labor because they stood with their backs straight. The sounds of cheery talk peppered with lusty chuckles echoed across the expanse. The girl listened to them and remembered her birthday had been forgotten. Even she had forgotten. She thought of riding towards the group, but hesitated. Her heart was dead, yet she could still hurt. The girl set off towards them and the men fell silent on her approach.
She almost lost her courage, almost rode past them. She flushed uncomfortably warm when she stopped before the group. But seven years had passed. How much longer could this endure? Ignoring his farmers, she focused on her father. The Patron faced the manor on the highest hill. The line of his rugged features was even more handsome in profile. The girl had to force herself to remain, staring at the Patron until he finally turned to her. When the girl met her father’s light brown eyes, she saw the same emptiness she had her entire life and the pain clawed through her again. In that moment, she knew nothing would ever change. There’d be no Carnivals, no balls, no masquerades. She was an outcast and that was all she would ever be.
    The farmers began to shuffle the ground, averting their eyes from their Patron and his daughter. Their silence echoed across the fields, but the girl thought she might break apart from the mute scream trapped inside. Tears stung the back of her eyes, but she refused to cry. She kicked her mount and left her father and his devoted tenants behind. The girl was desperate to lose herself in the run, shouting at the stallion to go faster, faster, faster. She couldn’t make herself disappear, but she lost herself in perpetual motion.
    She didn’t recognize where she was when the stallion slowed down. The grasses were long, and they grazed along her feet while her mount cut a swathe through them. She came to the edge of a forest where the freshly sprouted leaves reflected the morning light softly and the song of birds could be heard from the trees. She turned the horse around and almost laughed out loud when she saw the river and the Ancient Grove far southeast of her. The girl hadn’t been to this place in years: the northwest border of the Abandoned Valley where life returned once inside the trees.
Even with the clawing inside her, the girl burst into laughter from the onslaught of euphoria flooding through her. Such beautiful memories she had of this place, they made a bittersweet ecstasy, as palpable as the days when she came here with the Horse Trainer who had come as a Vagabond. She could still see his face, the warmth in his golden brown eyes and smile. The girl remembered the wild gray colt the Trainer always rode, and wondered if the animal still ran in the Abandoned Valley. As she recalled the day the colt escaped her father’s stables she started to weep. The bliss that caught her unawares became a torment. She would never have that kind of joy again.
She spurred the horse to go, and her vision blurred from the hot tears streaming down her cheeks. Her mount stopped suddenly, startling the girl when she found herself staring up at the dark trees of the Ancient Grove before her. She heard the roar of the river beneath her and realized the stallion would stop where the current was most dangerous.
The girl closed her eyes. She knew this was the last place she should be. The Ancient Grove and Abandoned Valley had been forbidden for centuries. Only trouble came from being anywhere near here and she knew that more than anybody. But the thought of going home almost made her laugh again, and the image of her father’s manor as her home was, somehow, absurd. Instead of guiding the horse downriver where the current eased up, the girl remained where she was, listening for anything beyond the rushing water. But she heard no birds singing, no rustle of animals in the trees. Here, the silence was soothing to the girl, coming as it did from an absence of life. Again, there was that squeeze inside her breast and the girl hoped for the resurrection of her heart. She pressed her fingers into her neck where she felt nothing.
“Enough,” a soft voice murmured from her belly. “No more.”
The resolution echoed through the girl as she opened her eyes to the river. Long sheaths of water sliced into each other, the snowmelt pushing the current to violence. The girl imagined herself falling in, her relief more frightening than the thought of drowning. She would never have to go numb again, for that would certainly make the pain stop. The girl closed her eyes again and breathed in deep. The water smelled so fresh.
She dismounted and slapped the stallion’s rump until he left without her. Then she turned back to the river, becoming lighter as she came to the edge where water met earth. She cried out when she stepped in. The cold stabbed her feet and ankles. The impulse to get out made her angry and she resisted, biting her lower lip until her feet lost all feeling. Then she took a longer stride into the river, the hairs rising on her flesh when she nearly lost her balance. The current tugged at her calves, whirling her skirts and petticoats around her knees. An icy shiver ran up her spine and set her limbs to shaking. The rushing made a dull keening sound, and the girl wondered if the water yearned for her. One more step and the river would take her. But the girl found she couldn’t move and cursed herself for being afraid.
Then he spoke. His breath teased along her right ear, just before she heard him murmur. His was the deepest baritone she had ever known.
“There’s a better way.”
His voice rang clear, even over the thrashing water. The girl froze, and her fear exploded into terror. She could feel him right behind her, standing at her right shoulder. Turning her head, she saw that the Sorcerer of the Caverns looked just like the Cook had always described him. His hair and beard were the color of dust, hanging in matted ropes to his waist. Lines were etched into the papery skin of his face and his frame was shrunken from the unnatural passage of time. The blood drained from her face and her head grew light. The girl opened her mouth, but no words came out. She should have known better than to come here. Pieces of legend about the Sorcerer came to mind. He’d been born an ordinary man until he sold his soul for the powers of magic. Then he preyed on virgin girls so he would never die.
“That way,” the Cook always concluded at the story’s end. “He keeps two steps ahead of the Devil and two leagues out of Hell.”
The Ancient Grove and Abandoned Valley had been forbidden ever since he came here. Even her father was powerless against him, just like the Patrons were before him.
His eyes terrified her the most. When the Sorcerer beckoned, the girl screamed. She pulled away and fell. The freeze knocked the wind out of her when she hit. Then the river buried her. She flailed in the churning depths, the water choking her when she tried to draw breath. The last image in her mind before all went black was the Sorcerer of the Caverns, and those colorless eyes that could endure the unblinking stare of the dead.


At least it was over. The girl found comfort in that. But she could still feel the crash of water against her back and smell the river. But now, the odor was dank and her clammy gown hugged her body. The girl shivered and tried to ignore her senses. She ached for the black soothe of death. But velvet pulled her to waking. She recognized the plush dryness teasing her fingertips, and stroked the pillow. The girl sighed, and finally admitted she was alive.
“Your face is so ugly, it’s beautiful.”
She stiffened when she heard that voice. The baritone rang even deeper and those words echoed around her. Then she remembered the last moment before she fell into the river and opened her eyes. The Sorcerer sat on a massive chair, a throne carved from gold and cushioned with blood red velvet. He was watching her with a shadow of a smile on his face.
The girl shuddered and looked away, but all she saw was stone and fire. The walls were black and gleaming from the light of torches. Her flesh prickled and her stomach was in knots when she realized the Sorcerer had her. She must be in the Caverns.
She pulled herself up. She rested on a sofa made of gold and velvet pillows the color of blood. The sofa matched the Sorcerer’s throne. The girl closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe slowly, trying to quell the panic rising inside her. There had to be a way out. The Sorcerer couldn’t force her to stay. She knew that from the stories she had heard. She opened her eyes and searched among the walls for hidden corridors, darker spaces that would take her back to the world outside. When her gaze brushed over the Sorcerer, one finger pointed over her head. The girl followed his lead and gasped when she saw what rose above her.
She was at the bottom of a tunnel carved deep in the earth. The descent of black stone glistened from the fire torches spiraling with the staircase falling down into the Caverns. But it was the colors that riveted her attention. Thousands of crystals were embedded in the tunnel walls, and the light from the torches bounced off the facets and set their essence free. The colors made the most of their captive freedom. The crystal essence swirled in an orgy of coupling and rebirth, a vivid provocation dancing and whirling in the empty space. Every shade of the spectrum came together and apart, transforming into other hues, and the progeny bounced off the walls before rising to disappear in the bright blue afternoon sky. The girl stared into the cyclone of color. Her terror on waking lifted and was gone.
“Go on, Miss,” the Sorcerer said. “Go on up the stairs until you find one you like. You can take it as a gift.”
Without looking at him, she drifted from the sofa to climb the staircase. She’d never felt so light in her life. Her feet almost hovered above the steps. She caressed the wall with the hand trailing behind her, scarcely touching the cool stone, fingertips gliding over the mounds of crystals. Then her fingers clung. At first, she struggled to go on. She was halfway up the spiral, her gaze fixed on the circle of blue above her. She would be free if she could get to where the sky was infinite. She pulled harder and the stone surrendered. The girl stared into her hand at a crystal shaped like a star with eight tiers stretching around her palm. Then she waved it before the nearest torch and exploded a whirlwind of color. The maelstrom took her breath away, surrounding her with a disconnected rainbow.
“Excellent choice! Nobody has ever taken a stargaze before.”
The girl started when she heard the voice. She couldn’t remember where she was. Looking down, she saw a kindly old man smiling at her from the bottom of the steps.
“You must be hungry,” he called. “Why don’t you come down, get something to eat?”
The girl blinked slowly, tempted to let her eyes rest from the heaviness of her lids. She must be immersed in a beautiful dream. She heard a faint voice inside imploring her to beware and to keep going up the stairs. But she hadn’t the desire to obey. She rubbed her hand over her belly. She was more than hungry; she was empty. And the old man seemed so gentle.
“I would love something to eat,” she answered. “Thank you.”
Her host snapped his fingers. Of course this was a dream. It was impossible that shadows could pour from the walls, carrying heavy golden platters and piling them on the round table. The wood was dark and the girl suspected the table was carved from the trees in the Ancient Grove. She floated down the spiral like a specter while a feast fit for a banquet of kings was readied just for her. Her nostrils fluttered from the aromas rising to meet her: savory, pungent, bitter, sweet, and spice, hints of the flavors to come. The girl took her seat, eyes wide, looking upon the mountain of platters towering over her. Closest to her were the desserts: fragile cake layers held together with ribbons of silken frosting, steam rising from soufflés, while berries of blue, black and red bulged from the delicate confection of mousse, making a perfect marriage of sweet and tart. This wasn’t a supper, but a festival of the senses.
“Go on,” the old man said. “You can have as much as you want.”
The girl weaved in her seat, almost intoxicated at the realm of choices before her. She hesitated before reaching for a crab culled from its shell, a modest pile of roasted peppers and squash, a small bunch of grapes, and a creamy slice of the mildest cheese. Then the girl tasted of the banquet and awakened her hunger.
Once she swallowed the first bite, her blood was suffused with endless craving. She dropped her fork and knife and ate the crab from her hands and licked her fingers when it was gone. The succulence of the naked flesh started a gnawing that made her ravenous. She snarled, sweeping her plate and utensils off the table and threw herself into the feast. All thought disappeared as the girl became animal. The meats of land and sea were the richest she ever tasted. The cheeses were bitter, mild, and pungent, some creamy, others hard. The fruits were plump, bursting with juice; the vegetables held the smoke of the fire over which they had roasted. The more she ate, the more her hunger grew. The gnawing opened an abyss that could never be satisfied. The girl shred meat from bone with her thick teeth, suckled soufflé from her fingers. She relished the textures while flavors exploded in her mouth and moaned in an agony of pleasure. Hours passed and she devoured the tower until it became the rubble of leftover bits.
The girl collapsed when she was done, falling into the cushions. Her gown was covered in stains and her face was smeared with juices from meat and fruit. She breathed heavily, and placed her hands on her belly, the haze of madness drifting away. She glanced at her host and realized she must have been under some kind of spell. The illusion of a kind old man disappeared and she recognized the Sorcerer. But the girl wasn’t at all afraid when she looked into the colorless eyes gazing at her with that shadowy smile.
“So how did a wench with such a lusty appetite come to the point of throwing herself into the river?”
“If you’re such a mighty Sorcerer, then you should already know the answer to that question.”
“I can see the feasting has made you rather bold,” he chuckled. “Really. You could be fascinating.”
“What do you want?”
“I already have what I want, Girl. Question is…what do you want?”
The girl chortled, the bark cut short from an upsurge of bile burning the back of her throat. The pain of eating too much came upon her in that moment. She curled into a ball and wondered if she would burst from gluttony until her silent memories swept in. The image of empty faces and condemning eyes seared through and emptied her again. But the ache remained in her belly and the Sorcerer looming over her made her uneasy. Yet she also remembered this was the first conversation she’d had in almost seven years.
“What do you think?” she muttered, sitting up. “I want to not be so alone. I want people to care. What else could I possibly want?”
The Sorcerer raised his brows and the hairless arches deepened the grooves in his forehead.
“Come on, Girl. Don’t be so paltry in what you wish for. You can do better than that.”
The heat rushed to her cheeks, but she said nothing. The Sorcerer rested his chin on interlaced fists and waited. That squeeze clenched inside her breast. But this time she wasn’t so foolish to hope her heart beat again. Staring into the colorless eyes of the Sorcerer, who gazed back at her with a bland expression, the girl couldn’t move.
“I want anybody I choose to fall in love with me,” she finally said. “Can you really make that happen?”
    The Sorcerer of the Caverns smiled, his teeth the longest she’d ever seen, the dark yellow gleaming against his matted dusty beard. He nodded.
     “And what do you want of me?”
“I want to lay with you,” he said. “And I want you to give me your heart.”
The girl froze. Although her heart had been dead for years, she clasped her hands over her breast to protect what rested underneath. The thought of giving it to the Sorcerer made her stomach churn. She shook her head before she spoke.
“Not so hasty, Girl. I think you may like what I have in mind for you.”
“I said no.”
She stood and looked up the staircase spiraling out of the Caverns. Then the snap of fingers made her flinch, and the sound bounced off the stone and reverberated up the tunnel. A boulder slid across the top and the girl watched the nighttime stars disappear. She couldn’t quite believe this was happening to her, but she still wasn’t afraid. A calm descended on the girl as she watched the Gateway to the world above close off to her. She looked at the Sorcerer. His robes cascaded around his throne; his hair and beard were dull against the opulence of gold and velvet.
“I’ve heard stories about you all my life,” she said. “But never once did I hear that you could force me to stay. Not even once.”
“That’s true,” he replied. “However, I can insist that you listen to what I have to say before you refuse me.”
The Sorcerer waved his hand to the sofa. The girl saw the table was clear, the ruins of the banquet gone as if the feast had never happened. Instead, a bronze triad of candles stood in the center of the table beside the crystal she pulled from the tunnel walls.
“Have a seat,” he continued. “You may find my offer enticing.”
She sat down. Her back was straight as a rod, her hands in a tight clasp, her limbs rigid, a silent prayer repeating through her that she had to get out of the Caverns. For a moment, she panicked at the thought that the Sorcerer might read her mind. But he gave no indication he could as he took the crystal stargaze and held it to the candles. Its essence came free, and the colors whirled around them. The girl grew light-headed, but dropped her lids. She refused to look up until she’d made herself blind to everything but the Sorcerer. Then she opened her eyes and focused only on him until the essence was brought home to the crystal and the colors fell.
“You have a strong command over yourself,” he said. “That’s very good.”
“Just tell me what you want and be done with it.”
He set the crystal down and pushed it across the table, its tiers spinning before her.
“If you lay with me just once, I will bless this stargaze with the power to steal the heart of any man you desire. But…”
The Sorcerer paused.
“If you lay with me many times, I will teach you the arts of seduction.”
The Sorcerer slowed his speech to the lulling cadence of persuasion. The girl listened. She couldn’t stop her limbs from softening nor could she hold the tight grip of hands.
“To master the secrets, you must surpass the ancient knowledge. If you can do this and pleasure me more than any woman ever has, I will give you a dust you can use for protection.”
“What does such a dust do?”
“Blow a pinch when faced with an enemy,” he said. “Say the first thing that comes to your mind and thus, your enemy is changed.”
“So far, this sounds…” the girl trailed off. “Why not just make this your offer?”
The right side of the Sorcerer’s brow crinkled deeper. She scowled, hesitating before she continued.
“My heart’s been dead for years anyway. Why would you want it?”
“All or nothing.”
The girl tensed. She thought an agitated serpent might have invaded her belly. The longer she looked into the Sorcerer’s eyes, the tighter the coil around her innards became.
“No,” she said. “I won’t do it. Just let me go.”
“I’m not done yet,” he retorted. “If you give me your dead heart, I will make you immortal.”
The girl opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t come.
“You could die,” he continued. “Bullet, blade, rope, fire, or water would kill you. But you can never fall sick, so plagues and poison will have no effect on you.”
The Sorcerer uncurled his long fingers and held his palms open in readiness to receive.
“Just think of it,” he murmured. “You’re only twenty years old. You will never grow old. You’ll remain a maiden alive forever in the bloom of youth. The world would belong to you.”
The Sorcerer’s temptation was as powerful as legend told. A chaos of fascination and disgust rioted inside the girl. She stared at the thin papery flesh and the thought of touching him made her recoil. Then she remembered the silence, the backs turning on her, and the eyes averting whenever she turned to face the accusing glares. The possibility that she would never have to suffer that ever again made her tremble, the tingling along her flesh more than she could stand.
And there was the promise of endless youth. Although the girl lacked the vanity that often plagued the beautiful, she had a physical prowess most women never knew. The thought of never having her strength and agility diminished was almost irresistible. But she couldn’t forget the stories she’d heard all her life about the Sorcerer. This offer couldn’t be so simple. There must be something he wasn’t telling.
“What is your hidden price?”
“I’m offering you a chance to change your destiny. Are you really going to ask me foolish questions?”
“I want to know what your hidden price is.”
“I suppose you’d lose your soul if you should ever die,” he snorted. “But that would be no benefit to me.”
Up until this moment, the Sorcerer’s demeanor had been mild, even cordial. His sudden belligerence was unsettling. The warning of danger was a scream tearing through the girl, impossible to ignore. She shook her head and stood, looking up the tunnel to the boulder blocking the way out.
“Girl, do you really think you will ever get a better chance than this?”
“I listened to you, as you insisted. You have my answer. So are you going to let me go or not?”
The girl marveled at how resolute she sounded. Where had this strength come from, she wondered. She held her breath, relieved when she heard a long sigh and looked back at him.
“Ah well, I suppose I must.”
The Sorcerer picked up the crystal and pressed it into her hand.
“Take this and go home to your father. If you decide to keep living the life you’ve always known or not…”
The Sorcerer trailed off and looked at her pointedly. The girl flinched at the hint. She had completely forgotten that she wanted to die. It seemed an eternity had passed since she stood at the edge of the river, trying to muster the courage to jump.
“…then consider this crystal stargaze a keepsake of an extraordinary day in your life.”
The Sorcerer finished and snapped his fingers. The Gateway out of the Caverns opened to the girl. Her limbs quivered when she looked up and saw dawn reflected in the clouds. Had she really been here since the previous morning? She almost wept at being given another chance, but she’d only taken two steps towards freedom before she was arrested by the grip of his bony fingers.
“I’ll give you three days to accept,” the Sorcerer hissed. “After three days, you will never see me again and you will never find these Caverns.”
He released her.


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Enticing Blurbs to Tantalize Your Reading Buds:

To Conquer Heaven:
by Felix Long

Jeremy Wang, an astrophysicist completing his PhD at Cambridge, discovers a clue to the secret location of an ancient tomb; the final resting place of Qin Shi Huang, the bloody-thirsty tyrant who in 220BC forged the empire of China from the total destruction of six ancient kingdoms.

Terrified of the fate awaiting him in the afterlife, Qin Shi Huang combined the emerging science of alchemy with the deepest secrets of Taoist lore to create the Elixir of Life.

The Emperor drank too deep and fell into torpor. And so he waits in his hidden tomb; the apex of an entire civilization’s art, science, and magic.

Fans of 80s action adventure cinema ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ and the Indiana Jones series will love To Conquer Heaven.

A Darker Shade of Sorcery: by William Collins

Evan Umbra is the newest Venator to enter Veneseron, the school for demon hunters, only demons are the ones hunting him.

A Venator is a wizard, a spy and a demon hunter rolled into one. They’re taught how to wield their sorcery and enchanted weaponry by orcs, elfpires and aliens alike. Their missions range from battling monsters and saving countless lives in the multiple worlds, to wrangling killer unicorns and calming down drunken yetis. Being a Venator is perilous and every new mission could be their last.

Whilst learning how to manipulate the elements, summon magical creatures and shoot Spellzookas, Evan encounters a dangerous rival and meets a girl who makes him feel nauseous; but in a good way. He makes the first friends he’s ever had in the carefree Jed and the reckless Brooke. Whilst Jed gets on the wrong side of a rival Venator, Brooke finds herself falling for the enigmatic demon hunter who brought her to Veneseron, not knowing he isn't quite human. But it soon becomes apparent that Evan is more than just a Venator. Everyone wants to kill or capture him, from demons to Dark-Venators and even people he’s supposed to be able to trust.

Evan reckons he probably won’t survive his first year at Veneseron.

Warning, this novel contains goblin soap-operas, elvish boybands and banshee bananas, read at your own risk!

Chase: By Elle Harte

The man you want is chasing you but everything about him ticks off all the wrong boxes.

Blayne Worthington thinks every man will end up like her ex and doesn't want a relationship.
Chase Cooper wants Blayne and even though he has a history of running away from relationships, he doesn't want that anymore, because Blayne is the perfect woman for him.
Will they keep running from their destiny or will they finally be able to trust each other long enough to let love heal them?

Exchanged: by Daniel Silva and Vanessa Mozes

Aubriel has always admired the esteemed paladin Elston, but when it comes time for him to choose between her and the treasure she unwittingly leads him to, he chooses the treasure. Elston’s betrayal puts Aubriel in the path of a powerful fey lord—Callannon Thray—whose invasion of her dreams assures Aubriel that he has plans for her. But she refuses to be used again. Unable to return home with the possibility of facing Elston there, Aubriel follows Lord Callannon Thray to a realm of great magic and even greater danger.

When Callannon arrives to defend his treasure, he’s surprised to find a beautiful elven woman already defending it for him. Aubriel is everything he’s wanted but failed to find in a fey woman—kind, honest, trustworthy—but there’s one problem: she’s mortal. When she agrees to go with him to the fey realm, Callannon has no choice but to hide her mortality to protect her from those who would use her against him. The captain of the king’s guard is one such person, and she won’t rest until she sees Callannon stripped of everything he has.

Among enemies and in the midst of political turmoil, Callannon and Aubriel must hide the truth of her mortality or risk Callannon’s ruin and Aubriel’s freedom.

The Bard Speaks: by Montgomery Mahaffey

Ella Bandita is a deadly seductress. Her peculiar tastes are for the hearts of men. She preys on those men who's concerns are only for themselves: the Gambler, the Rogue, the Charmer.

These are men who are greedy, womanizing, and proud. Yet when Ella Bandita claims her victims, she fires up rage in the people of the villages she plunders for licentious men. When Ella Bandita claims the Charmer, the women grow jealous and full of rage. They hire a Bounty Hunter to stop her thieving their men.

Ella Bandita is now an outlaw.

No wonder she's the Bard's favorite Villainess.

By the fireside the Bard weaves tales for the children of the village about Ella Bandita's conquests. How she makes one great man fall after another. He urges the children of the village to hold onto their greatest power. To always listen to their hearts.

Even with the Bard's warning, no one is safe. Ella Bandita is still an Outlaw somewhere. With such unstoppable power, will there come a man who can stand up to the infamous Thief of Hearts?

How to Make a Best-Selling Book Cover

What goes into making a book cover really stand out?

Among the best selling bookshelves of today’s book stores, it’s hard to determine what exactly pushes books to the top lists -- other than incredible reviews, marketing, and authors with hot names. But what if a book is stripped away of the other stuff -- what if you’re an indie author trying to make a name for yourself with limited marketing collateral and no big push from a publishing company?

They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, yet that’s the very first impression your book gives off. What else is going to compel a person to pick up your book from the shelf and turn it over to read the blurb?

The book cover.

First impressions are everything in sales. If you’re going to convince a reader in 2.5 seconds whether or not to flip through your book on the shelf, you need to have a stand-out book cover.

There are different reasons people choose a certain book cover over others:


Some great book covers evoke a particular mood. Horror is a genre that does this quite well. Promoting feelings of fear by using dark or high contrast images, scratchy text, and the combination of red and black are at the top of the bag of tricks for compelling horror covers.

horror book cover examples from the blog post: how to make a best selling book cover

Matching your book’s mood to what the cover evokes is one way to grab your reader’s attention and show them the contents of the book before they even read what’s inside.

Many romance novels’ covers look exactly the same: some big muscular man with no shirt on and the wind blowing through his hair, often clutching a fair maid in his arms.

Do you know how many romance book covers Fabio graced? Hint: it's A LOT.

Do you know how many romance book covers Fabio graced? Hint: it's A LOT.

Why are they so often the same? Because it’s a style that works. It tells the reader what the book is (especially if we’re talking about generic paperback romance novels) and what to expect -- that it’s going to be similar to the other books the reader has read and loved.

How you can capture Mood in your novel cover

Create a Pinterest MoodBoard

Pinterest is a treasure trove for image inspiration. You can search for and collect images that reflect a certain mood, theme, or that revolve around a particular image, like a crystal ball or wolf.

From a Pinterest MoodBoard showing dark images perfect for your novel cover inspiration

You can follow my fantasy inspiration board here for some incredible pictures of sexy dark fantasy (hint: it’s my most popular board on Pinterest!)


Get inspired by other authors writing in your genre. Find covers that you’re drawn to and save them (either in a folder on your computer, or by using Pinterest).

Pull Key Themes

Bear down on your novel and pull out key themes from it. These can be general themes, like grief, forbidden love, vengeance, etc. Or they can be more nuanced, like reflections of a particular culture, musings about the end of humanity, or imaginations of the future.

Use these themes to direct your image search and your cover art.

Ask yourself, what is essential to convey?

From the moment your potential reader picks up your book, what do you want them to know about it?


If images aren’t really your thing, the design and branding of your book cover can do a lot to convey the story to a potential reader.

Typography is an art unto itself. Similar to images, you can establish mood with typography. By themselves (and with a good eye for color to enhance this) fonts can set the tone for how your work is received.

Ruta Jamenis' designs for  His Dark Materials  on  Behance .

Ruta Jamenis' designs for His Dark Materials on Behance.


If you don’t want to divulge your book’s secrets on the cover, you can use curiosity to pique your potential reader’s interest.

This is usually done by choosing a title that teases a reader into wondering what it means or how the story will unfold.

Like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects and Gone Girl, Paula Braxton’s The Witch’s Daughter, and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, titles can intrigue a reader and need minimal cover design to get the point across: you want to read this book.

how to make a best selling book cover



The last in the bag of tricks for how to get your book cover noticed is to use novelty. If you want to stand out, do something different!

There are endless books on the shelf that look the same. If you look at sci fi covers from the 1970s they all start to blend in with one another.

1970s Sci fi book covers all look the same

If you want to stand out, take a look at the styles of contemporary covers that are prevalent in your genre and notice what you can do to stand out.

For example, looking at these Sci Fi covers from the ‘70s I can see that a stark cover with no illustration and just bold text would really stand out. Or something that includes only a single element, like this one from Sylvan Neuvel’s Waking Gods.

To get your perfect book cover, don’t be afraid to try new things and constantly tweak the cover you’re working with.

For Ella Bandita and the Wanderer and its attendant novelettes I was lucky enough to work with an extremely talented artist BANE, who knew just what I wanted to convey.

We started with a concept for the cover for the novelette Challenge:



The Wanderer is faceless in both of these because we hadn’t figured out what he looked like.  But the ferocity of Ella Bandita’s 3/4 profile was so much more powerful as just a portrait. And oh Lawdy!  That pose! Too cool.

Just because I liked it didn’t mean we didn’t go through several iterations on the final cover.

Here’s what BANE delivered next:


Here, she’s in a huntress pose. But what is she hunting for? She looks very sexy, but the problem is she also looks a little too gorgeous. The point of the character is her animal magnetism. Here she looks like a supermodel. Or Michelle Pfeiffer in her prime.

I also don’t care for it that the characters are not interacting with each other. What does Ella Bandita have to look so fierce about?  Needless to say, I’m so glad I stopped BANE before he kept going!

We worked on character sketches next to catch the Wanderer's face:

And here’s the final version- surprisingly different from the rest:


This section of the book is about the Wanderer’s seduction of the Seductress herself, Ella Bandita. I wanted to highlight their interaction and show the reader the nature of the novelette -- you’re sure to find a sex scene or two in this one.

I pulled a scene from the book that highlights an unusual moment shared between the two characters. If you’ve read any of the Ella Bandita and the Wanderer novelettes, you know Ella Bandita is a badass femme fatale who seduces the worst men and claims their hearts.

But when she meets the Wanderer, it’s not seduction on her mind. It’s how to get rid of this annoying upstart. How does someone seduce the ultimate seductress and melt down her ice cold guard?

You’ll have to read Challenge to find out!

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 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 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 (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.”

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8 Romance Fantasy Writing Prompts to Help Spark Your Imagination

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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!

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World Building Tips for Fantasy Writers

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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!

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