Book Reviews

You’ve heard it again and again: book reviews are super important.

But why?

Here’s a quick list for you!

  • Reviews help gain traction for the book, since most of the time if the book has more reviews, there’s a better chance for blogging communities to pick it up, for book clubs to get excited about it, and raise book clubs interest in it.
  • Reviews help the book get seen by more potential readers since some websites promote books with more reviews.
  • Reviews help other readers figure out if they’d like to buy the book by giving them an idea of what the book is about.
  • Authors love reviews as it helps them promote the book (for blog tours/online promotions, in marketing materials, on social media art, etc.).
  • Reviews help cement the viability of the author.

What kinds of reviews are the best?

  • Honest ones.
  • Constructive ones, what works and what doesn’t, both positive and negative.
  • Avoid spoilers (or add spoiler warnings).
  • Comment on the plot, characters, setting, writing style, etc.
  • Give thoughtful commentary.
  • Length doesn’t really matter; short or long, any review helps.

So it’s pretty clear that reviews are super important. Authors love them and publishers love them, and if you loved the work, leave a review! Sing their praises! It’ll make the author’s day.

Now, here’s where I center it on me for a little bit. (You saw this coming, didn’t you?) If you’ve read Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties or my two science fiction works, please leave a review on whatever platform you’d like!

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I’d really appreciate it. Happy Labor Day Weekend!
Warm regards,
Kellie

 

 

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Homeschooled = Miserable? Not For Me.

I was scrolling through Twitter on my afternoon break a month or so ago—as one does—and a tweet caught my eye. It asked folks to stop writing stories about “sheltered and miserable” homeschooled kids. I didn’t even know this trope existed in the literary world, let alone have other Twitter folk commenting on it and asking for the same thing. (And I admit, it’s probably because that would be more of a middle grade or maybe YA transition story so not really my world.) But as a former-homeschooled-kid, I really don’t like this portrayal. It’s been over a month now and perhaps it’s because school is starting up again, but the disappointment has stuck with me and I figured I’d give a counter-argument to the “miserable/sheltered” idea.

I was homeschooled from 1st through 8th grade; my mom and dad taught me. Dad taught history, Mom taught English, science, math, etc. I was taught at home, at the kitchen table, one-on-one, with notebooks and workbooks and flashcards and tests and papers and the whole shebang.

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And contrary to the “miserable” theme, it was great! My dad did a lovely job with teaching me history, even going so far as to record himself reading the history text and expanding on them when we went to visit Nana and he was busy at work. My mom spent hours teaching both my sister and I how to spell, write, do math, learn about science,—all kinds of core things that I’d be learning if I went to school down the street—and she did an amazing job! I did tests and quizzes and had to meet a certain standard to pass through the grades, just like kids in school. I was not miserable.

Now for the “sheltered” bit, I can see how folks might think that. A kid being taught at home isn’t really getting the experience of being out in the world or forging those connections with other kids, but my parents tried to alleviate that, too.

I’d start school after breakfast and usually get done before lunch. (Amazing, right?) That freed my afternoons for homework and a myriad of clubs and after-school activities. I went to drawing classes, 4-H, Girl Scouts, did horseback riding, and a couple of other things to keep myself busy and to keep me on good social terms with the rest of my peers. 

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Did I get as much one-on-one time with other kids like the ones in public school? No, of course not. But did I get enough socialization for a fulfilling and wonderful childhood? Hell yes. Did I make enough friends? Of course! (I’m STILL friends with some of my Girl Scout troop to this day!) I was probably sheltered on a few other things—bullying, for one, probably, though there were some…interesting characters in my old 4H group—but every kid goes through their schooling differently.

I do admit that transitioning out of homeschool into private school with the hallways and classrooms and lots of different teachers and so many other kids did shock me a bit. So if that’s a feature of the homeschool-to-public-school trope, then that’s true for me, too. (I got over it in about a week.)

Perhaps some homeschooled kids were miserable and sheltered (my heart goes out to those kids) but perhaps some of them were happy to be homeschooled…like me!

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My point? Each experience is different, each perspective is different, each kid is different. So here’s hoping there’s a few portrayals of happy homeschoolers out there in the literature world, too, because some of us had an amazing time. 

Happy Friday!
Warm regards,

Kellie

 

Say What? A Sunkissed Feathers Pronunciation Guide.

Fantasy and science fiction, in general, have some hard-to-pronounce words since the writers are usually making things up—names, villages, magics, techs, etc.—and while it’s tempting to have a character named Bob, that usually isn’t the case. (Or if there was a character named that, chances are that character’s name would be spelled Boyb or something.)

My novel – Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties – is no different. It’s high fantasy and has some interesting names tucked within its pages. Some of my readers wanted a pronunciation guide, so I’m creating one for some common words. I’ll begin with a few character, race, and species names:

  • Zora – Zor-ah
  • Dylori – Die-lore-ee
  • Arias – Ah-rye-us
  • Zarious – Zar-ee-us
  • Aluriah – Al-er-i-ah
  • Ponuriah – Pon-oo-ri-ah
  • Elu – E-loo
  • Nemora – Ne-more-ah
  • Divus – Deh-vus
  • Vagari – Vah-gar-ee
  • Vulnix – vul-nix
  • Neades – nee-dees

I hope that’s helpful to my readers out there. ❤ Let me know which words are hard to pronounce – or which ones you’d like to see my version of how to say them – in the comments and I’ll add them to my next list!

Happy Saturday, everyone!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Social Media Tips: For Readers

Social media can be a scary place, a dark ocean just waiting to swallow you whole. But it can also be a connection, a connection to your friends, your family. A connection to your local writing groups, extended writing community, and your fans. It’s scary, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some quick tips for the lovers of books.

If you’re just starting out and social media is a terrifying, churning sea:

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  • If you love a book, search for it on whatever social media site you want to use! Doing so will let you make instant connections through book chats, social media groups, and fellow lovers of the book you also love. You may also find some folks who have a differing opinion than you about said book, which can spark some interesting conversations.
  • If you don’t see anyone talking about this book that you love, start up a conversation! It can even be a simple as a short tweet about what you like or a longer blogpost examining the pros/cons of it that you share in your social media circles. Chances are, other folks like the book, too, and if they haven’t started talking about it, they will now.


If you’ve waded into the social media depths before and are more confident:

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  • Join in on a few hashtags for readers: #FridayReads is a popular one. #WeNeedDiverseBooks is a good conversation starter.
  • Create images with quotes from your favorite book or by your favorite author. Crafting these are fun and let your book-lover followers which books are near and dear to your heart.


If you wear a trident on your back and can swim in any social media waters, no matter how rough:

finnick

  • Try creating a social media hashtag game about your preferred genre. It’s a lot of work and takes some foresight and a bunch of planning, but it’s pretty fun. Not only will you gain a lot of interesting insights to your favorite genre, you’ll also be able to start many different conversations, too, depending on what kinds of questions you ask in the hashtag game itself. Plus, hashtag games are simply a fun way to meet new people and chat about how books are awesome.

No matter your comfort level, social media is about having fun and making connections, so dive deep and have a good time!

Happy Sunday!
Warm regards,
Kellie

EVEN MORE Writing Tips: Monday Night Madness

It’s Monday evening. I just submitted to two pieces – a science fiction short story and a true-story Alaskan-based poem – and I’m pretty happy with them so I’m looking forward to see if they enjoy the submissions, too. It’s already 11pm, and I should be in bed. I’m not, obviously, but I’m also too tired to work on my own writing…SO INSTEAD here are three more writing tips for my fellow creatives:

  1. Keep it simmering. It’s something Hank Green said on Twitter about his new novel that really stuck with me. He worked on the novel for years, but when he wasn’t “actively working on it” he kept it simmering in his mind anyway. Thinking about it in the shower and such. It’s a good idea for all writers, and one I really connected with. So, keep it simmering, everyone!
  2. Realize that you can’t write all the time and be okay with it. Know your limits. Know your boundaries. (For example, one of my limits is I refuse to work on revisions when I’m tired, so on Wednesday night, even though I planned on working on revisions, I was sleepy. I know I’m bound to make mistakes when I’m sleepy and get more annoyed at the manuscript when I’m sleepy, so I didn’t work on it.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t been able to write or brainstorm or edit or read in a while. Other priorities take precedence and that’s okay. If you’re really busy, though, try scheduling it in, an hour or so at a time, or less if necessary! Friday evening can be a reading time, Saturday morning can be a brainstorming session for your new story, etc.

What kinds of advice do you have for creative folks?

Happy Monday, everyone!
Warm regards,
Kellie

A Sprig of Rosemary

So, originally this blogpost was going to be about how I didn’t have any inspiration for my second fantasy novel. How the first one seemed to flow much easier than this one and how the plotpoints I created made sense. How I was so stuck on this second book that I was going to do something else for a while (even though I used that excuse before concerning this WIP). How I was just so freaking disappointed in myself for not figuring things out in my fantasy world, for letting my writing self down, for not being creative enough.

That was what my blogpost was going to be about.

And then something amazing happened. I opened up my documents, turned on some Lord of the Rings music, and just stared at the words for a little while. Stared at the my confused words like: “Plot?” and “What is her motivation??” and “Character arc???” All questions and no answers, the tiny red ellipses beaming like shameful reminders of my lack of my creativity. I just…stared. And wondered. And listened to the Lord of the Rings fantasy music swell and ebb. I thought about my main character and the world I had created and the magic I wanted to explore and the darker side of the realm. I thought about my first fantasy book still at the beta readers and wondered if they’d like it or if I’d have to scrap something I loved. I wondered about the ties from that book and into this one, how corrupted versions of the crafting abilities could become and how I wanted to showcase another version of that in this book. I just took some time, sitting in front of my WIP fantasy brainstorming documents and listening to LOTRs, really contemplating my manuscript and what I wanted this story to be about.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, an idea came into my mind. It’s not a fully fleshed out idea. It’s not the entire plot of my manuscript. It’s not “everything.”

It’s actually kind of a small idea, now that I think about it…a sprig of a larger branch of a larger plant. A sprig of rosemary, perhaps, that I can offer to my creative muse.

But it’s something. Something to build off of. Something to be excited about. And something that ties in my MCs motivations, the corrupted version of magic I wanted to explore, and an interesting plotpoint to weave throughout the story.

It’s something. And my advice to anyone else struggling to write, doubting their creative muse, doubting their writing?

Don’t force it. Whenever I would sit down to write, I’d think, Okay, Doherty, time to do this. Time to be creative. … … Go. Go, already. Creativity?? When nothing came, it would eventually spiral into, Okay…okay…okay…nothing. Bah! 

Don’t feel bad. So, because I wanted my creativity to spark so badly, I was disappointed when I didn’t think of anything. It doesn’t help to think that, but every writer doubts their craft.

Keep going. Allow yourself some time to think. Sit with your budding creation and wonder what could happen, what kinds of things you’d like to write about, whatever’s cool or interesting or intriguing. Think about your world and your characters. Sit with it for a while and see what happens.

(And, put on some music, too! But that step is optional.)

Here’s hoping you have a creative weekend!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Five More Writing Tips

Hello my fellow writing nerds!

Sooo, I recently realized that I haven’t posted on here in over a month. It’s been a trying month for me, but that’s no excuse! Maybe I should try to write a bunch of posts and then schedule them? Annnnnnyway, what better way to start this little blog back up again than some more Writing Tips I enjoy:

1.) This writing tip comes from Jack London and I may or may not have used it here before but it’s one of my favorites: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” (Spoiler: It’s true for life, too.)

2.) Set your work aside for a little bit before diving back into it again for another read through. Coming back to the work with a fresh eyes helps to catch the little things you may have missed if you went straight into editing mode. It might also help you get some new ideas for the work, too!

3.) Your characters don’t have to be likable (like villains), but they do have to be believable and compelling. Add in some faults to the character. Some good things, too, maybe. Definitely some motivation for why they’re doing this terrible thing.

4). The first draft, or second draft, or third draft doesn’t have to be perfect. Keep writing, put that story on paper, and then flesh it out and mold it into something beautiful later on.

5.) Sometimes characters have to walk through fire and come out better for it on the other side. (I’m paraphrasing a favorite quote of mine from Critical Role here, said by none other than Patrick Rothfuss.) But seriously, it’s true. Make your characters go through hard things and see what happens to them while they do and see how they fair on the other side. Did they crack under pressure? Did they embrace the flames? Did they get stronger or weaker once it was over? Did they learn anything? The truth is, we never really learn things unless we make mistakes and overcome them. Get better because of them. The characters have to go through a similar transformation. (Granted, the characters could crack, too, could feel weaker, could feel sad instead of empowered and that’s good, too, because some folks do crack under pressure or don’t learn the thing after one or two mistakes.) Put them through the fire and see what comes out the other side.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope everyone is having a lovely Labor Day weekend!
Warm regards,
Kellie

WritingLife: The Little Detail Of Food

Food. It’s something we need to survive. It can be a rustic fair or a fancy creation, but regardless we all need to eat. Food does more than that, though, it can bring a family around a dinner table or open the eyes of an outsider. It can hint at how wealthy an establishment is. It can also showcase what’s in season in that area and what’s valued in that culture. Food can do so much. So why does it sometimes get passed over in our writings? Why do these little details so often get overlooked?

For example, I’m a freelance editor and as such I have the lovely opportunity to work with some amazing writers. One such writer kept mentioning food but wasn’t specific to what the food actually was. I pointed it out, and they replied saying I was “too obsessed” with food. But really, those little details were actually important. The story was set in Japan and food is a huge part of their culture (of any culture, I’d wager) and vastly different than our own. (For example: In Japan it’s common to have cooked rice with a cracked egg overtop for breakfast.) Instead of saying “XX had breakfast” and move on, adding in that small detail would ground the reader in this setting and in this culture. It was an interesting back-and-forth, and eventually the writer understood where I was coming from and added those details in. I believe the setting is stronger because of that.

And I’m here to implore all writers to include this sensory activity in their stories. After all, food is important, regardless of race. (Unless…you have a race that doesn’t eat, but that opens up a whole new set of experiences!) Now, that’s not to say every page has to have some kind of food on it. Don’t overboard the reader with an onslaught of meals, as that would probably get boring. But don’t forget them either.

Like I said before, food can help build the setting and tone of your story. A meal in a post-apocalyptic world would be vastly different than a meal set on a spaceship or a meal in historic Japan. A sit-down meal surrounded by family sets a different tone than a quick meal on the run or a hearty meal in a pub.

Food can help solidify the reader in a character’s POV. Is the soup too spicy? Is the bread too soft or salty or filled with nuts they don’t like? Does the juice from that purply-green fruit drip down their chin? Burst over their tongue? Scorch their throat going down?

Food can also help shape your characters. Do they miss certain foods from back home? Do they like certain spices or sweets? Do they even know what meats or vegetables are in the soup they’re currently enjoying?

These things may seem tiny among the “bigger details” like the plotline and the character arcs and the overall setting, but these little descriptions ground the readers in your world and your character. These little descriptions make the place seem real.

What do you think? Add a comment below!

Hope you have a lovely 4th of July weekend!
Until next time!
Kellie

A Writer’s How-To: Memorable Settings

I find the easiest way to create a memorable setting is to make it unique. If your story is set in the mountains, give the mountains a cool name with some weird creatures living in it. If the story is set in space, make the spaceship feel like home and add some quirks to it. (After all, we all have that ONE FREAKING FLOORBOARD that creeks like some horror story bad guy is coming to kill you in the middle of the night.) If your story is a romance, make the setting cozy by adding in something that means the world to the main character or something that brings up some unfinished memories.

If you give the setting something specific, something unique to itself, some defining character, readers will remember it better. (It’s the same with making memorable characters!)

Three of my favorite settings are, in no particular order: Hogwarts, because of the ghosts and the moving staircase and trick doors; Serenity, because even though it fell apart ALL THE TIME it became a home and sanctuary to the crew; the Arenas in the first and second Hunger Games books, because it seriously messed with the tributes in unique and challenging ways.

Why do I like them most? They all offered something unexpected and added dimensions to the story, as well as pushed the story along. Doing so with your settings will help your readers remember them!

Readers: what are your favorite settings and why?
Writers: what are some ways you make your settings believable?

Happy Friday, and until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

If you want to write a book, here are five actual tips. (Don’t quit!)

Okay, my fellow writers, we all know that Beast article sucked. Maybe it was trying to be a tough-love kind of motivation. (Yes, it takes dedication.) Maybe it was trying to relate a truth about writing. (Yes, it can be hard.) Maybe the author was just having a terrible time as a writer and wanted to ostracize the community he desperately wanted to become a part of. (Side-eyes the article again.)

Regardless, the article was poorly written, the author comes across as a villain, AND the “tip” he gives (write everyday) while good for some people, simply can’t work for others. The author’s idea of “if you want to write a book, write everyday or quit” is a terrible mindset to have. To that end, here are five tips if you want to write a book:

1.) Read. Read so many books, inside your genre and out, whenever you can spare the time. Why? It’s important to see what’s been done in the literary world, it’s a way to build your repertoire of words (sounds weird, but seriously, reading helps you build your vocabulary), and it’s also a great space to gain inspiration.

2.) Read your work out loud. Yes, this also seems weird and maybe don’t do this in a coffee shop or other public place, but reading the scenes out loud will allow you to figure out the sticky spots, the weird transitions, the too-long sentences. It can help with pacing, too.

3.) Consider having a Post-it note on your computer (or somewhere you can dig it up easily) with an inspiring quote from your favorite author or from your favorite book. It’s something you can look at when times are rough, or when that one scene just isn’t working, or when you can’t think of how to make this one MC amazing. For me, I have this quote from Patrick Rothfuss when he guest starred on Critical Role as Ker saved on my desktop: “There are many things that move through fire and find themselves much better for it afterward.” 

4.) Try not to edit your first draft while you’re writing. It’s hard, I know. I also want to go back and fix things, but if you do that, you’ll literally never be done with the first draft. Give yourself permission to have that first draft be shit. Write whatever the hell you want. There’s always the second and third drafts to pull it into the shape you want it to be in.

5.) And finally, my last tip is a tip of the hat toward the Beast article. If you want to write a book, write. Simply write. You can write everyday. You can write once every week. You can write for a marathon weekend or a marathon month. But if you want to write a book, all you have to do is write. Write when it’s best for you.

BONUS TIP: And please, for the love of all the writing gods and goddesses and muses in this world and beyond, please don’t give up. Your story is worth telling.

I hope you have a lovely weekend.
Warm regards,
Kellie