How to Start Your Own Book Group


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

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

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

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

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

  • You first meeting: planning and setting things up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Discussion:

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

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

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

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


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


Interview with Author Erica Dakin - The Theft and Sorcery Trilogy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Name Your Fantasy Characters Like the Best of Them


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


What You Can Expect From Popular Reading Apps


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


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

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

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

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

 IMG_3397 IMG_3398

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

Would I recommend it?

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


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

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

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

Note: Audible Content cannot be purchased in-app



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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?

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

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

IMG_3393   IMG_3394


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

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

Would I recommend it?

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

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

iBooks (For iPhone users only)

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

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

The in-app reading looked like this:

IMG_3410  IMG_3408

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

Would I recommend it?

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

Nook App

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3421 IMG_3422 IMG_3423

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

Would I recommend it?

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

Kindle App

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?

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


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


How to Write Fantasy Like Neil Gaiman


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

Neil Gaiman's 8 rules for writing fiction:

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

From this article in The Guardian

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

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

From this interview in TimeOut

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

How does one get published?

How do you do it? You do it.

You write.

You finish what you write.

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

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

Believe in yourself. Keep writing.

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

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

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

One word after another.

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

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

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

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

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


Quick Tips for Reviewing a Book


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decide your spoiler policy

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

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

Turning your notes into a thoughtful review

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

Review your own review

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

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

Be prepared to defend your ideas

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

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

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

Thank you and happy reading!


Creative Fantasy Writing Prompts Online


In one of my earlier blog posts, My Top 10 Tricks for Writing Inspiration, I mentioned that a good way to quickly become inspired is to look at writing prompts online. I linked my Pinterest account where I already have a collection of inspiring writing prompts (which you can find here), but in reality, there are so many more quality Fantasy writing prompts out there online. That's why I wanted to make this post showcasing some of the better ones to make it easier for you. (Just like I did with my recent post: Need a Laugh? Here’s a List of Some Good Jokes) Plus, this long list will help ensure that you won't run out of new prompts once you've gone through all of the ones one website has to offer: (I put my favorite one first!)

Fantasy Writing Prompts - The Grimmoire

25 Fantasy Writing Prompts - Justin McLachlan

Free Creative Writing Prompts: Fantasy - Build Creative Writing

Creative Writing Prompts for Sci-Fi & Fantasy Lovers - Writing Forward

Science Fiction Story Ideas - Write Pop

And just in case that's not enough for you, here are some Fantasy Prompt Generators:

Seventh Sanctum Generator

Genre, Plot, & Story Prompt Generators - Spring Hole

Create a blurb for a fantasy - Plot Generator

Whether you're struggling from writer's block or just looking for something fun to pass the time, writing prompts can be a terrific resource. I hope you found this list helpful!


How to Read MORE Now


Whether you’re new to reading or if you’re already a book worm and are just looking to increase your literary intake, you need to ask yourself some questions: What is preventing me from reading more?

First, I'd like to dispel some myths that you probably believe:

Myth #1: “I don’t have time to read.”

This is false and is no excuse for lack of reading. My ultimate piece of advice for this struggle is:

MAKE the time to read! Don’t just expect it to happen because you it want to- schedule time to read and make a commitment to yourself to make it happen. You can even set rewards for yourself, like seeing that movie you wanted to see, or buying that new expensive book instead of waiting for the library, etc. Positive reinforcement if a great way to form habits.

-If you're struggling to find the time to read, I recommend that you try to read before bed (and after waking up in the morning once you get the hang of it). I used to stay up way too late into the night on my computer, making me tired and groggy the next morning, which is no way to live. So finally I had enough and decided that I would cut myself off from the computer and not use it past 10:00 at night. But after 10:00, I would lay awake in bed, my mind still racing from the internet, and the bright screen still stimulating my eyes, a while after I’d stopped looking at it. It took me far too long to finally fall asleep, and it felt like my plan would never work. The next night, I got off the computer at 10:00 and got into bed. I still didn’t feel tired at all, so I picked up the book that had been sitting near my night stand for months and decided to give it a try.

I ended up loving the story, and in no time, the bed was warmed up, my body was relaxed, and I was starting to feel sleepy. I had just read myself to sleep, and the best part was that all I had to do was lay down and turn off the light, I didn’t have to get up and get ready for bed because I already had. It was clear that this was the best way for me to read.

Then the next morning, I saw my book on my night stand and was interested in what happened next in the story. To my surprise, it works both ways! You can read to relax yourself at night, and read to wake up your brain in the morning. Reading woke me up quickly and more effectively than an just my alarm clock jolting me awake. The book actually got rid of the sleepiness and cleared the fog in my brain.

And that’s my reading success story. If I have the time to read, then so do you!


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Myth #2: “There’s nothing that I want to read.”

First of all, yes there is.

There are plenty of websites out there to help you with this problem. GoodReads is an excellent example.

-Also, when you're out hunting for a new book in the bookstore or library, read not only the synopsis of the book, but also start reading the book as well. Sometimes, a book sounds good from the summary, but once you start reading you might find that the author's writing isn't to your liking, or maybe it just isn't what you're looking for after all.

-If you find a promising book online, on GoodReads for example, and you don't have a kindle, I've heard that you can download the kindle app on your iPad and you can download the first chapter for free on to the app to see if you like it.

  • Book Stacks:

A "Book Stack"is what I like to call the stack of books that most readers have of the books that they want to read- usually in order. I have one myself, and in fact, I highly suggest that every reader who does not have a book stack should make one.

Some people who are trying to read more might already have a stack of books that they want to read. In most cases, I bet that the stack is just sitting in the corner or on a shelf of a book case, being ignored.

-First of all, go through your stack and make sure you WANT to read every single book that is there- it's going to be hard to motivate yourself with books you don’t want to read. If the book doesn’t make you excited or spark your interest in some way, then don’t read it. You don't have to cross it off your list forever, just until you get into the habit of reading regularly again. It won’t be hard to find a better book you actually WILL want to read to kick off your reading frenzy.

-After you’ve found a good amount of books that you’re just dying to read, PUT THAT STACK WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT! If it’s tucked away and out of sight, bring it out and put it someplace you can’t ignore- or next to the place you’ll be doing the majority of your reading- like next to your bed, so it’s the first thing you see when you get up and within convenient reach.

With a book stack of interesting books, you’ll want to finish your current book way more when you see your stack of enticing books just waiting to be read by you. You’ll be more motivated to read AND finish your books faster this way.

-Now that you have a book stack, don’t let that pile shrink! As soon as you take one from the top, find another to place at the bottom. And on that note: don’t be afraid to move the books up and down the pecking order! This will help ensure that you are motivated to read the next book, and can help you weed out ones you thought you were excited about but actually aren’t anymore.

  • Other tips:

-Always carry a book with you everywhere. Don't leave the house with out a book- make room in your purse or bag, or bring it in the car with out so if you have to make an unplanned stop you'll have it easily accessible.

-Read things besides books- such as the newspaper, articles online or in a magazine, and take the time to read the text on menus and pamphlets. This will help you get used to reading regularly- and it's important to read more than just books. The internet has made our attention spans shorter, so it will be good to challenge yourself to read long articles you might be intimidated by, or go out of your way to watch foreign films so you'll have to read the subtitles.

-Set goals for yourself: depending on your reading speed, figure out the amount of time it might take you to finish a book if you read ___ amount every day. Also consider how big the book is and the amount of time you want to devote to reading it. Plan to finish it this week, or try to read at least one book a month, and then set your goal. Then, you can adjust your future goals accordingly. You can use positive reinforcement here as well.

-Think about WHY you want to read more. Just having a reason alone can motivate you to read far more than you have otherwise.

-Lastly, consider the fact that maybe you’re having trouble reading because you’re too busy giving your attention to other things, like your phone and your computer. Shut the screen you're reading this on and pick up a book instead!


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Thank you for reading~

Need a Laugh? Here's a List of Some Good Jokes:


Sometimes good jokes are hard to find on the internet, especially ones that aren’t childish and unfunny (I’m looking at you, knock-knock jokes). That’s why I’ve compiled this list of websites that actually have some decent jokes. I even looked for a few specific genres like Fantasy Jokes and Reading Jokes: Reading Humor / Book Lover Jokes:

Pinterest is a great resource for this one. Here are some of my favorite boards from my search:

Reading Humor - By: Henery Press

Library Humor - By: Bullitt County Public Library

Bookish Problems by Someecards - By: Beth Cheesebrough

Clever / Intellectual Jokes:

When you're too old for 'Why did the chicken cross the road?' (and far too smart of course)

Top 50 Most Intellectual Jokes - Fantasy

21 Jokes So Clever That You Probably Won’t Get Them… Definitely Won’t Get Them - Very Viral

Most of these jokes get repeated on other websites, so here are some newer and less common ones:

Newest Jokes - Reader's Digest

Fantasy / Sci-Fi Jokes:

These jokes were harder to come by, but are still my favorite:

Image Credit:

Best Fantasy Jokes - Reddit

SF & Fantasy Jokes - Fantasy & Science Fiction

David's Fantasy Jokes - David Burrows on Blogspot

I wanted to include whole websites instead of picking and choosing which jokes I found funny because I know everyone's sense of humor is different and it would be better for you to scroll through them on your own.

I hope this list could get a few laughs from you!

Cover Conundrum Query - Win a Prize!


Hey all, We've been struggling over here at Free Flying Press to determine what the cover of the ebook version of Ella Bandita and the Wanderer should be and we'd love input from our followers! We have some lovely images by the talented fantasy artist BANE and it's making it hard to choose! The blue cover is our original, it's on the luscious velvety paperback we've got for sale right now at Amazon.  But up against that, we have Challenge, our (haha) green challenger. It's provocative and gorgeous, and as there may be some confusion if this dark fantasy is for adults or teens, we know this cover will lead our readers to the right conclusion.

Here's the synopsis of the book. Let us know which cover you're drawn to! We'll give you a free ebook of your choice for entering an opinion as a prize.


They were fated to collide, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer. This complex fable about a predatory seductress and an adventurer frozen in grief explores the darkness of the human heart and the allure of erotic obsession over love. The story begins when an outcast young woman tries to kill herself. Yet a sorcerer intervenes with a last chance to change her destiny. But she must be his lover and give him her heart to transform into the immortal Ella Bandita. All his life, the Wanderer hears stories about Ella Bandita, the ruthless thief of hearts. But he never believes she lives and doesn't recognize her when they meet. Driven by lust, he follows Ella Bandita into a battle of wills that threatens to destroy him. The Wanderer wants nothing more than to avenge himself on a woman he loathes, the vagabond seductress who stole his heart.



Keeping a journal is a specifically helpful art. They can help you grow, heal, and thrive. Journaling can help in the moment, when you want to flesh out and understand certain ideas or the way a moment unfolded. It's a place to explore action and reaction in a distanced fashion. And the best thing about keeping a journal is that you can revisit your old self, your old experiences. Sometimes, doing this can give you more insight about yourself, your life, your loves, etc. Your journal can continually give you things: new perspectives, new hope, new understandings. Let's take a step back in time and look at a journal entry from November 2005.
Healing has been on my mind a lot. We're heading into winter, the time of reflection and personal growth. In this account, Lili Rose, a healer by nature, said a very important thing:
"I choose to be happy," she said.  "It is all a choice, so why choose suffering?" 
The decision to be happy is not always an easy one to make. But we can do the work to pull ourselves out of suffering and move forward with positivity, openness, and kindness. I'd love to hear of your similar (or different) experiences with this idea, or journaling, or whatever you'd like to offer in the comments section.
Your friends will know you better
in the first minute you meet
your acquaintances will in
a thousand years...
"Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah"
by Richard Bach
Well, I've just had an experience like the one described above.  At the moment, I'm in Ketchikan for a few hours before the ferry carries me to B-ham.  The ferry is always an experience, especially the three to four day milk run between Juneau and Bellingham.  And of course, I'm sleeping on a lawn chair in the solarium with a toaster oven heater hanging six feet above me to stay warm. 
I met Lili Rose due to a reluctance she had to break a promise to her husband - we bacame hitching buddies on the Sitka stop.  Visiting from Santa Cruz, her cousin was on a diving trip, and she decided to do a four day roundtrip ferry ride from Ketchikan to Skagway and we crossed paths on the Skagway-Ketchikan run.
"I have a gift for healing," she said as we strolled around the church in Sitka.  "I'm known as the Rock Lady because I do so well with stones."
Like many people from California, she was very open in sharing her story, and at first I wrote her off as a New Ager.  She even looked the part of a mystic.  Petite, with long reddish brown hair, and large green eyes, Lili Rose has a vivid presence.
And then she told me she was only 74 pounds a few months ago, and that she had died and been brought back three times in the last year. 
Having four disks in her neck fused together, complications with her medication affecting her health, she had run the gamut of a modern-day medical nightmare.  She had a food tube forcing nutrients directly to her heart at one point before she figured out that it was the pain killers she was taking for her neck were affecting her system, and got a medical license for marijuana to stop so she could take in enough calories to not starve to death.  She gets high, so she feels okay enough to eat, and if she's not in too much pain, the food stays down.  Since she had stopped taking the painkillers, she had gained forty pounds and was healthy enough to take this trip to see her cousin and twin soul. 
"I choose to be happy," she said.  "It is all a choice, so why choose suffering?" 
A healer in pain all the time, a giver who can't receive, Lili Rose gave me a stone she had carried for almost twenty years.  A clear piece of quartz with copper filaments  threading through it like angel hairs, she described it as "rutile quartz."  She had it with her when she was holding people's hands as they passed from this life, or brought new life into the world.  She swore by it.
"This stone is very powerful," she said.  "It'll send your messages
directly to God."
Since the stone was important to her, the agreement at first was that I could carry it until I came to see her in Santa Cruz, and then we would trade out for a stone with gold filaments.  But by the next morning, she said that it was my birthday gift. 
"My dear, what is the point of giving a gift if one does not also treasure it oneself?"
This classic quote by Colette - the French writer, not our beloved slinger of hash and singer of songs - was the last sentence in a short story by Truman Capote.  I was so impressed by it I recorded it in my journal years ago and thus, have never forgotten it.  So the significance of this gesture by a woman I had known for three hours was not lost on me.
But the best gift from Lili Rose to me was the missing piece in the puzzle of forgiveness.  Without going into the details of the conversation that led to this - anybody who's done any living at all has been stumped on this issue at least once in their lives - we were treating ourselves to a less-than-mediocre dinner served in the swanky ferry dining room when Lili Rose dropped this pearl of wisdom on my plate.
"When you truly forgive, you give up your right to retribution."
Now that's some profound shit, but she went on.
"When you wait for an apology, an acknowledgement, or a punishment to forgive, you are still giving up your energy to a situation, which is what somebody wants who does things that hurt us.  When you give up that right to retribution, no matter how justified, you take back your power."
Something tells me this leg of the trip is going to turn into some mystical avenues.
If I ever lose that rock she gave me, shoot me.


Get Ready to LAUNCH!


With the start of September I'm ready to announce the release of the final ebook in the Ella Bandita and the Wanderer story. For my loyal readers, I'm offering it FREE today and tomorrow only!  

Despite growing up with the Bard's warnings to always follow his heart, the Wanderer loses to Ella Bandita, who curses him to the unfamiliar life of the Wolf. Tormented by memories of his life as a man, the Wolf is overcome with grief and unspeakable loneliness. One day, the Wolf takes solace from the music of a fiddle well played. And thus, the Wolf finds some kind of salvation in the friendship of the Shepherd who spares his life. But the Shepherd has stories and a secret of his own. Together, the Shepherd and the Wolf form an unusual friendship. Each of them will be tested as their journey brings them back to the Sorcerer's Caverns, where the nameless daughter of the Patron sold her heart for a change of destiny and a chance at love.

There, they will meet again, Ella Bandita and the Wanderer.

The Heart of the Lone Wolf Book by Montgomery Mahaffey of Free Flying Press

Vote in the Fantasy Worlds Contest~!!

Inkitt, an amazing platform for authors to share stories and connect with other authors and reviewers, is hosting a Fantasy Worlds contest. hitherandthither

It's free to enter and runs until August 10. I've entered an excerpt from my Dark Fantasy novel Ella Bandita and the Wanderer and I'd love your opinion! Come read my story, write your own, and vote!


Summary: The Wanderer should have known better. Growing up with the Bard's fireside stories about the predatory seductress Ella Bandita has done nothing to prepare him for meeting her.