Reading and Writing Ranting Advent Calendar!

Oops, I forgot to post these. The past couple of months have been super busy with more hours and responsibilities at work, a new writing project that I got to 38K for NaNoWriMo, and planning a Christmas camp at work. Luckily, I have some long weekends to relax and spend time with my family over the holidays.

Anyway, onto the calendar. I managed to post them on Instagram every day, so you can check out the Instagram story highlight or my feed as I add more, or scroll down. Unfortunately, the videos don’t work unless you click and go to my Instagram, but the mini book review and writing tip are in the caption.

Killing Characters!

Someone has to die in fantasy fiction, right? But why?

Two main reasons for me are…

1 – To have an effect on another character. 

It could be an inciting incident near the beginning of the book. 

It also works to weaken the character just as they’re close to their goals. 

Or, it could send the character spiralling, and another character is forced to step up and prove themselves.

2 – To remind readers of the stakes.

There are so many god-like characters with seemingly unlimited powers these days. They’re immortal, invicible, and this means they can’t die, so there are no stakes.

Killing off a significant character early on makes it clear that they do have weaknesses, and readers feel that threat better.

Sure, some are resurrected or found in the underworld, which is a whole different story.

I don’t mind when it’s an instant resurrection or when the MC goes on a quest to the underworld to get their loved one. But I hate when a deceased character suddenly pops up out of nowhere. 

I’m currently pondering a character’s death myself. It’s a complicated one in that I could use their POV in this limbo that they’re stuck in, or I could have another character sense them so it’s obvious to readers that they’re not fully dead.

I’ve discussed it with others, and I’m still undecided. But I will make it clear right after the supposed death that the character it not entirely dead. That way, I don’t annoy readers with a random resurrection. 

Image by Lothar Dieterich from Pixabay 

Book Review. The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen. 4.5 Stars

Warning: Some reviews contain spoilers. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I got serious Pirates of the Caribbean vibes in most of this book, but a completely different story. It’s low fantasy in that it’s a completely imaginary world, but there’s no magic. 

I loved how Lara started off in this book. She has a plan to take down a kingdom in order to save her own. She goes from the dry desert to a stormy group of islands to marry a King she’s never met. 

I also live how we get Aren’s POV too and see how he needs the alliance with Lara to bring trade to his people. Mostly, I love how we instantly see that he’s not what she was expecting and we just have to watch while she works that out.

The details of how Lara adjusts to the weather really brings the world to life. And her slow realization is nicely done. She’s been lied to all her life, and her only purpose is ruining Aren’s kingdom. 

It’s also fun that he learns that she’s a spy and Falls for her anyway, makes the betrayal that much sweeter. 

Art by theclever.crow

Things I liked…

  • Lara and Aren were fun to read as they slowly fall for each other.
  • The love scenes were nicely written. A perfect balance of emotion and explicitly.
  • The world was fantastic with the bridge and islands and swashbuckling theme.
  • Lara was likable despite being pretty cold from the start. She has her reasons.

What I didn’t like…

  • I’m being super picky with this, but some small technical things in the writing bugged me. But not really enough to bring down my rating. 
  • Despite really enjoying the book, it didn’t 100% captivate me, but that’s a personal thing that I can’t really explain, hence the 4.5 stars and not a full 5. 

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes low fantasy and romance with kingdom politics and trained assassins.

Book Review. Rhapsodic, The Bargainer #1 by Laura Thalassa, 5 Stars

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

You can never tell if you’re going to devour a book or if the book is going to devour you. For me, this book falls into the latter. It just hooked me from page 1 and made me love everything about it all the way through. 

What I liked…

EVERYTHING! But I’ll be specific.

  • I love the unusual relationship between Callie and Des. It’s a friends to lovers and enemies to lovers combo. They were once friends, but for… reasons, they didn’t see each other for 7 years, and Callie is pissed when Des drops himself back into her life. Love the complexity.
  • I love the magic. It’s fun but uncomplicated. 
  • Wings 🥰❤😊 I can’t tell you how much I love fictional characters with wings. I’ve written many.
  • The Bargainer is… not dark haired and dark eyed like so many morally grey characters. But he’s got his lovely darkness to him.
  • I love how Callie sees a unique side to this supposedly dark character from the beginning. I like a rumoured bad character proving himself, but this take is refreshing. She gets to know him as a friend at first rather than being forced into a situation with him. That comes later, but since Des is also the infamous Bargainer, Callie owes him for past favours. So she got herself into the situation by choice.
  • I absolutely love the flashbacks to when she first met him, so we get a full picture without boring info dumps. So nicely done, Laura.
  • The love scenes are my kind of style. Not unnecessarily explicit but not too delicate and vague either. A wonderful balance of emotional and physical.
  • Sirens. Like winged characters, love sirens and love reading and writing about them. 
  • This is a mostly character-driven plot, but it has bigger things going on which make it an all-round great plot and story. 
Meet Des and Callie. Such a lovely and unique couple. Find the image here.

What I didn’t like…

  • I was conflicted over how Des behaved with Callie sometimes when she was 16. I can adapt my brain to fantasy worlds, and he mostly kept some distance between them and stuck to friendly stuff, but it didn’t sit right that an ancient fae king was hanging out with a teenager. We find out more later, but still… super inappropriate.
  • I’m being completely picky here, but the writing had some technical issues that go against the grain for me. Lots of filtering, incorrect use of lay/lie, and too many begin/began to… It let the book down in my opinion. But like I said, I was being picky with this.

Despite the occasional wording issue, I adored this book from start to finish. It doesn’t happen very often that I fall in love with a book or series, so when it happens, I can’t help but rave bout it.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy world meets real world and characters who have fun magic.

All Alone!

Characters might spend time alone, either before or after significant events. Preparing and processing is important for character motivation and consequential actions. It can also keep throughs out of busy scenes where it might distract from the moment.

Here are a few things I like when reading or writing characters on their own. 

  • Keep it short. Long paragraphs of time alone with their thoughts can be boring.
  • Tie it into something active, like exploring or going through old trinkets that prompt memories for the character to think about. 
  • Practicing something potentially useful is another way to make it active and have the character pause once in a while to remind themselves why they’re doing it. 
  • Make it lead up to something like a significant event that the MC is preparing for. What are they’re hopes and fears for the outcome
  • Or have the MC processing something afterwards. How do they feel about it and what are they going to do next? 
  • Maybe have them talk to a pet or inanimate object or someone they lost in an imaginary conversation. 

So there you have it. Ways for an MC to be alone without boring readers with nothing but thoughts. 

Book Review. A Touch of Ruin by Scarlett St. Clair. 2 Stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

What I liked…

  • Persephone’s inner conflict and how it manifested in her magic. I like how she struggles to control it when she’s angry or upset.
  • I like how she stands up to her mother. She couldn’t before, because she didn’t know what she was missing out on. Being in the real world and making friends with humans and fellow gods clearly made her realise what real freedom is. 
  • I like the writing. It’s emotional and engaging.
I’m not sure if this image is fan art for this series or a random Hades and Persephone image, but it’s fitting. Also, I just freaking love it. Find it here.

What I didn’t like…

  • There was too much conflict between Hades and Persephone for my liking. Some conflict is good and makes the story interesting, but they were constantly arguing and making up and it was usually Persephone overreacting.
  • Punishing her with sex? Sorry, but that doesn’t sit right with me. I can adapt my personal opinions to overlook a lot in fantasy when males get overly dominant, but this is too much.
  • Her reaction to the backlash after writing another article on a god was even more unrealistic than in the 1st book. Why didn’t she see that coming?
  • And why is it that after millennia of the gods being this way, Persephone not only convinces Hades to become a better person, but Apollo as well? She’s got that unrealistic specialness that feels forced to make the story work. But it just annoys me.
  • Trying to save her friend’s life when she could see her in the Underworld still didn’t make enough sense for her to go to all that trouble. And yeah, it was kind of disrespectful to Hades after he’d explained why he couldn’t do anything and that she shouldn’t either. She felt very selfish and bratty over this. 
  • Basically, she overreacts at every little thing, which took away from the things I though she had a right to react to. Her reaction to Hades having past lovers was overdone. I can get on board with some inner annoyance and jealousy about that, but not using it against Hades. He’s thousands of years old, so yeah, she wasn’t his first. 

Unfortunately, after a great book 1, book 2 let me down. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue with this series or not. I’ve since started reading another series, so we’ll see if I feel like reading A Touch of Malice after my current book.

Random Update!

Don’t forget to check out my Reading Ranting for thoughts on reading and book reviews. Feel free to ask about my Writing Ranting Discord group @lovefantasy#0367. Follow me on Instagram and TikTok.

Writing is going really well. I rewrote the intro the Out of Ashes, which is now with a couple of writing friends for fresh eyes. I’m happy with the new opening. It’s a little more dramatic on an emotional perspective, but not too heavy on story points. 

We’ll see what my writerly people say, then I’ll revise it based on their suggestions, and try agents again. So far, no luck. One said they would take a look at my full manuscript in January, but they’re not taking on new clients this year. That was encouraging that they showed interest.

I’m not taking it to heart because a writer never knows what a potential agent might be looking for. You miss the mark by a fraction, and they won’t consider you. I’ve read enough people moaning about not getting an agent to know that it’s a long shot and might take a good while. 

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to self-publish any time soon unless I edit myself (BIG FAT NO NO ON THAT) and smile very sweetly at a couple of graphic designers I know to do a super cheap cover and help me format the book. I wouldn’t feel right asking for that if I couldn’t pay upfront, even if they did offer me friends and family discount. But if I won the lottery, then I’d love to commission a cover and formatting from them as a fully-paying client.

I’ve gone TikTok mad 🤪. It started off as an extension of my Instagram with writing-related reels. It spiralled from there and became a blue-haired steampunk girl cosplay. This is actually super fun for my writing since I have a blue-haired steampunk character. She started off as a secondary character, but as I wrote more of the book, I saw openings for more characterization.  

Here are some recent favourites from my Instagram and TikTok. As you can see, they are quite different, but both are meaningful to me as a writer and avid reader.

The link to this TikTok video looks questionable depending on what app you’re looking at it, but it’s a safe link.

But mostly, it’s fun and has prompted me to put myself out there more. After a rough few years with low self-esteem and serious self-doubt, it’s about time I picked myself up. I used to do all kinds of creative things,and I was good at them, but finding the confidence and brain power to do them has been hard in recent years. 

I’m also doing fun videos on Instagram in relation to reading and writing, which I freaking love doing. I bought a ring light, some cheap props, and new makeup, but apart from that, I don’t need anything. I use TikTok or Instagram’s built-in video editing software or PowerDirector’s free version for more precise editing. I’ve yet to explore Snapchat’s video capabilities, but it’s on my list of things to learn more about in order to make my videos more interesting. And as of October, I’ll be minimising content on this site and posting links to my Instagram and Facebook.

On the personal front, I’ve painted my spare room and closet, died the lower half of my hair turquoise, and am just having a lovely summer break. I still have two weeks off, plus a mini trip planned, just a couple of nights away, but I’m looking forward to the change of scenery.

Featured image from a recent TikTok and Instagram. Yup, that’s me, and I love this video despite struggling with self image for years.

Book Review. A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair. 3.5 Stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I love all things mythological, so this was a fun book to read. However, I found that for everything I liked in general, there was a huge exception that put me on the fence with this book. I would have given it 2.5 stars based on that, but it had a certain… “je ne sai quoi,” to it, so it got an extra star for that. 

What I liked…

  • I love how the mythological gods were brought to life in the modern world very much how the myths depicted. 
  • I liked how Scarlett played on Persephone’s sexual inexperience without making her sound naive or like she has no idea what to do. It was a great balance in that respect.
  • I like how Persephone was conflicted over Hades based on her mother’s warnings and the stories of impossible bargains. 
  • I like the god of the underworld trying to maintain his reputation as the bad guy until Persephone comes along and makes him want to look like the good guy. 

Image here… Hades-and-Persephone-by-Procastle

What I didn’t like… which were exceptions to what I did like…

  • The contract??? It was too unclear for my liking, and I couldn work out how a card game lead to Persephone being tied to a contract with Hades. I mean, they agreed to terms of the card game, but then suddenly, it becomes a whole contract. Maybe it was me.
  • Persephone felt too naive when it came to everyday things. I get why some things were confusing to her because she’d been kept away from people until a few years ago. But it’s been a few years. Sure she’s figured things out by this point.
  • Her surprise over the backlash of her article seemed unrealistic. She’s a journalist who’s probably seen it happen to other writers. Again, might just be me.
  • The prose was a little… ho hum for my liking. It felt like a newer writer’s prose rather than a bestselling author’s. 
  • The love scenes fell short for me. All the actions were there along with some thoughts, but they felt rushed and lacked the physical sensations to complete and well-rounded emotional moment.

Like I said, I generally liked a lot about this book, but some of the issues made it less enjoyable than it could have been. Still, I read it and have just finished book 2, so it was worth the read.

Book Review. A Court of Silver Flames. 5 Stars

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I liked…

So much, so these are just the top ones…

  • Nesta’s PTSD. The fire, the darkness, the fear, the flashbacks, the alcoholism. All incredibly well done on my opinion.
  • The fact that her first real friend that doesn’t judge her is a house.
  • Cassian 😍😍😍 He’s not as possessive as Rhys, which I found a little much in previous books. But Cassian still has his moments that feel more like realistic bursts of testosterone that’s more swoon-worthy.
  • Cassian and Nesta are one steaming hot couple. 🔥
  • Wings. I love wings. 😍
  • The stairs and what they represent to Nesta. 
  • I loved getting Nesta’s full perspective on the past as well as recent events. If I’d read this book first I’d think the others were complete jerks for what they do to Nesta at the beginning of the book.
  • I like how she feels like she’s a piece of shit because others have made her feel that way.
Find this and more images at  Society6 by Dominique Wesson 

What I didn’t like…

  • I didn’t like how Cassian could cut the ribbon. I would have loved for him to almost do it, but not properly so the women could have a real win.

That’s it for the dislike list.

A Court of Frost a d Starlight paved the way for more perspectives in this series. The first three definitely suited Feyre with the odd hop to Rhys, but I’m glad it’s branched out. I think we needed a new protagonist to spice things up in the series.

If you like bigger picture plot movement, this isn’t going to be your thing. There is a bigger plot going on, and things get interesting all around but ACoSF is more character-driven, which I personally love when done right. This doesn’t disappoint.

Writing a Series!

Writing a series can boggle a writer’s mind before you get things figured out. If you plan to write multiple standalones with overlapping characters and world-building, then you have more freedom with plots. But if you plan for your series to be one massive story with shorter installments in each book, then you need to think carefully about how to start.

Here’s a quick list of things to consider. See below the list for more thoughts.

  • Plan ahead in plot and world-building.
  • Don’t reveal too much.
  • Don’t hide too much.
  • Multiple POVs can keep things fresh.

Trust me, I’ve drafted a pentalogy, and book 5 was the deciding factor in things that I needed to play on as soon as book 1. I strongly recommend you plan the whole thing, even if book 2 and onwards is more of a rough synopsis or scribbles of world-building that only make sense to you. It helps you see where you want the series to end so you can get the journey right.

Consider carefully what elements you play on in book 1. You don’t want to reveal everything and repeat yourself in the rest of the series. At the same time, you need to hint at things you’ll need for later. Ideas that come out of nowhere can annoy readers depending on how you’ve played the possibilities prior to the reveal. This also helps with keeping things fresh in each book. 

One idea, and hear me out, is to switch protagonist in each book, or at least alternate. My Starlighters saga alternates female protags with their respective love interests as the 2nd MC. I still give the others a POV so readers don’t get disappointed if they fall in love with my 1st protagonist and her love interest, but they take a back seat in book 2 and 4 to give a fresh perspective on the ongoing story. 

I also have alternating minor POV for a couple of short scenes to give a fuller perspective throughout the whole series. You’d be surprised how much a POV switch can spice things up. 

There are so many things to consider when writing a series, but if I’ve learned anything while outlining and drafting multiple series, is that you have to account for future possibilities. 
Image by fotografierende from Pixabay