7 Books to Put on Your Reading List in 2017

“Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.” That’s how author David L. Ulin put it, and I quite agree. In our culture, distractions hold a tyrannical reign, and unless we learn to resist them, they will devour our time.


There’s something special about reading—something you can’t achieve by watching a movie or listening to an audiobook. Reading a magic all its own. It draws your mind to focus; challenges your imagination to spin into gear. If you aren’t making time to read, you’re missing a lot of extraordinary benefits.

How Guidelines Can Actually Help You Write a Better Novel

Have you ever just tried to sit down and write? Sometimes it works. You’re inspired, and you’re ready to rock and roll. Other times? Not so much. Even in the cases when you are inspired, it’s usually difficult to write for long (at least for me). Usually, and almost inevitably, inspiration runs out. You get stuck.

guidelines graphic

Some people are great at writing without a plan. I, however, am not one of those people. I don’t even write my blog posts without a plan. Even people who prefer to write and just let the story take the lead will eventually find themselves stuck or confused. There are just so many rabbit trails to go down; so today I want to talk a little about how having guidelines for your story can actually make it better.

Book Review: The Rithmatist


Joel has always wanted to be a Rithmatist, but the chance has passed him by; however, when Rithmatists begin to disappear, he may be the only one who can save them.

 Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Gearpunk/Mystery

Rating: 5/5

Ages: Best for ages 13 and up

Summary: [from Goodreads] More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

This review is spoiler free.

High Concept Ideas (And Why You Need One)

As writers, we are often asked where our ideas come from. How do we come up with our plots, characters, and worlds? The answer is that we all do it differently. And it’s not always easy. Sometimes ideas pop out of hats and multiply like crazy (hence the term “plot bunny”), while other seasons see nary a fluffy tail. Regardless of where the ideas come from, there’s one important standard that all the best ideas live up to: The High Concept.


Lately, I’ve been struggling to come up with good ideas for a novel. I’ve tried several, and none have worked out for me. It’s been depressing. It’s discouraged me and made me question my calling. It took several months before I finally realized something. Most of my ideas were failing because I hadn’t come up with a high concept.

Book Review: The Song of the Wren-Falcon


All Orienne wants is to be free from war, no matter the cost—but what if the price is the one thing she can’t give?

 Author: Mary Ruth Pursselley

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5

Ages: Best for ages 13 and up

Summary: [from Goodreads] Orienne Seritan is a loyal Adelfian who wants nothing more than peace for her country and a life free from the darkness and violence of war. But when the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy entangles her life and the fates of those she loves with the destiny of an embittered traitor, she finds herself being dragged even deeper into the darkness.

Enemies are pouring over her nation’s borders. People she loves are dying. The cryptic prophecy offers no clues as to who will be left standing at its end…nor does it disclose the magnitude of the role that Orienne is destined to play.

5 Ways to Knock Video Game Action Out of Your Novel

In my last post, I talked about how a video game feel can kill the intensity in your action scenes. I told you what to watch out for, and how to tell when you’re sliding into video game syndrome, but in one of the comments I received, I was asked how to avoid it in the first place. It was a great question, and today, I want to share with you some answers.


I’m going to be honest with you; in the past, I’ve really struggled with writing action scenes. Oh, I know what makes them good and all, but the execution can be (and is) a lot harder than it seems. Writing action has been the bane of my existence. However, over the last few years, I’ve learned some valuable things about crafting believable, solid action scenes; and while I still have to work on employing these tips daily, I hope they will help you as well.

Book Review: Code Name Verity


In the midst of the Nazi Regime, two young women cling to their friendship as the war seeks to rip them apart; and in doing so, they realize, that, while friendship is fragile, it is also the strongest of bonds.

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Genre: Historical Thriller

Rating: 5/5

Ages: Recommended ages 15 and up due to content and violence

Summary: During WWII, an Allied special agent is captured by the Gestapo and forced to tell them everything she knows—thus betraying her best friend, a British civilian pilot, who is stranded with her in German-occupied France.


Proceed at Own Risk