Book Reviews, Deli Style

Book Reviews, Deli Style

Dawnrigger Publishing

If you dread seeing pleas for online reviews from your author-friends, you are not alone. Me? I get performance anxiety.  Composing a Real Book Review is hard mental work and time consuming.*

Ordering lunch is easy. So I came up with a system. Think of your review as a deli meal. Yes, folks, it’s time for “Build Your Own Book Review!”

Sandwich. Sides. Drink. Make a few choices, and it writes itself.

Bread: all reviews come with stars. Choose 1-5. Don’t worry about hurting feelings. Seriously. The raw number of reviews carries far more weight with the Almighty Search Algorithms than whether they’re positive or negative. That said, 5 stars is the white bread of the review world. Just saying.

Fillings. Pick one or more from as many categories as you want.

This book is

  • ______ well worth reading
  • ______ suspenseful  & fun
  • ______ a real thriller
  • ______ warm…

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Going Wide and Leaving Kindle Unlimited Behind


2017 has been the year of changes for me. It’s the year I decided to leave the company that was designing and editing my books and go my own way. The year I learned to format. The year I joined a book set for the first time. And the year I learned more than I ever thought I would about the book world. It’s the year I also realized that Kindle Unlimited is no longer for me. I’ve been a bit ambivalent about it for a while, but during this past year, it has become increasingly apparent that Kindle Unlimited is failing authors. The payment per page continues to fall, the influx of fake books (literally fake books that are a jumbled mess and ran through click farms to grab the largest slice of the Kindle Unlimited payment pie) that Amazon continues to fail to address, which shortchanges readers and…

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Stepping Out – Writing Across Genres


Some writers write in more than one genre, for example, a writer might dally in detective stories, romances, YA, and other types of fiction. Others, like me, seldom step outside our comfort zone. All my stories are set in the same world, with a science fiction feel. I don’t understand how writers can write stories across multiple genres. To help me understand, I asked some friends to share their thoughts on this topic.

Here’s what Diane Morrison told me: “You might not think that Western and sci-fi/fantasy blend well, but they really do. Both genres depend upon ancient mythological tropes of heroism; the Hero’s Journey, as it were; especially if you’re going to draw from spaghetti western movies, which I do. They were, in and of themselves, a blended genre; they exist because Italian directors wanted to make westernized samurai movies. To me, this only demonstrates how some themes, like courage, individualism, facing the unknown, the importance of family, the ethical conflicts of battle, and coming to terms with our mortality, are universal to the human experience. Is the Long Arm of the Law, the Sheriff of the mythical Old West, any different from the Knight Errant in Shining Armour? Not really; just the tools of the trade and the costuming differ, and even there we find parallels. It’s important to capture the feel, so sense of place is important. If you’re going to make a reader feel they’re in a Western, you have to spend a lot of time describing the smell of horses, the creak of old leather, and the beauty of enormous prairie sunsets. But in epic fantasy, the only real difference is you’re probably describing an epic trek over a vast mountain range instead. And in a western, your heroes fight with guns, not swords. For me, it was still important when I started my series to re-read a lot of classic Western novels and re-watch the old movies so that I could capture the language and the culture. and then I mess with it, because of course my heroes are from a post-apocalyptic future, and they might look and act a lot like people from the Old West, but their ancestors build satellites, so they’re not nearly as confused by the technology. S.A. Gibson would understand, I’m sure!”

I also asked Stephanie Barr. Here’s her response: “My characters determine the genre, ironically, not the other way around. I think up great characters (well, I think they’re great) and then figure out the best environment for them to show their stuff. Epic fantasy is the easiest to write because I make my own rules (but I have to abide by them), I can solve some things with magic I couldn’t solve otherwise, but there are always limitation with the magic and I run into things I wouldn’t run into as a result as well.”

Mixing fantasy and science fiction means I can take a limited subset of the magic, but I impose some limitations and augment it with addressing things in the real world. I like solving problems and that makes me find real scientific solutions many times, despite the occasional fantastic element.”

“Science fiction is cool, too. There’s a lot of flexibility there, especially for the further out fiction, but I get to use my particular know-how and have to stretch my brain to find solutions and believable scenarios to accomplish what I want. It’s the hardest to write but it can be quite appealing especially with quirky characters.”

Finally, I got Jesse Frankel’s take on the subject: “Writing in different genres takes time and a fair amount of research. I write YA Fantasy for the most part, but if the action takes place in, say, medieval England, as it did in Twisted, then research was in order. That meant checking on hairstyles, food, clothing, castles, patterns of speech, and more.”

“If you’re going to write in a genre not your own, then research is imperative, along with making your characters real. While the background and settings are important, they’re only the backdrop. The characters are what really drive the readers to identify with them. Make them real, do the proper research to lend depth, and you’ve got yourself a winner.”

Their responses inspires me to try writing a story in a new genre. I think I’ll try a detective story, maybe with a little romance in it.


Stephanie Barr: and

Diane Morrison:

J. S. Frankel:

S. A. Gibson:

A Writer’s Guide to Firearms: Introduction

Nicholas C. Rossis

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my author friend, William R. Bartlett, and we discussed the possibility of a guest post where he’d share his vast knowledge of firearms.Bill readily agreed and surprised me with a multi-part magnus opus that covers pretty much everything on the subject. This post contains part of his introduction to firearms. The next parts will be posted on a regular basis, as Bill prepares them. Enjoy and bookmark! 

A Writer’s Guide to Firearms by William R. Bartlett

Part 1: Introduction

Glock firearm | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book A Glock. Image: Wikipedia

When Nicholas first offered me an opportunity to send a guest blog regarding firearms, I didn’t hesitate. Sure! Be happy to. Then, I sat down and began to go over things. Firearms have been around in one form or another since the Middle Ages, nigh on to a thousand years, and reams have been written on the topic…

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Some More Archaic Insults

Nicholas C. Rossis

Friends, Meddler | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksSeeing how much you all enjoy archaic insults, here are some more, courtesy of

  • Gobermouch: an old Irish term for someone who meddles in other people’s business. That classic Friends scene would be quite something with goubermouch instead of meddler, wouldn’t it?
  • Gnashnab: Someone who complains all the time; a nitpicker.
  • Stamcrab: Someone who’s clumsy and heavy of foot. Also, a great band name.
  • Whiffle-whaffle: Someone who wastes a lot of your time.
  • Zooterkins: A 17th-century variant of ‘zounds.’ An expression of surprise or indignation. Not so much an insult as much as what you’d yell back after someone insults you:
    17th-century Person A: “You’re such a stamcrab!”
    17th-century Person B (gasping incredulously): “Zooterkins, Sir! Zooterskins!”
  • Sounderkite: The Victorians even made insults sound fun. In this case, calling you an idiot.
  • Bedswerver: No, not someone who swerves and cuts you…

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Check out Marked By Fate – book collection


Marked By Fate

Marked By Fate: Defined By Their Choices

With Augmented Reality: Read, Watch, Listen. The new ultimate reading experience!

Immerse yourself in twenty-six fantasy & science fiction worlds from New York Times, USA Today, International, Amazon bestselling and Award-Winning authors with state of the art Augmented Reality technology.

This action-packed coming-of-age box set is filled with wild teen warriors who encounter shadows, queens, witches, wizards, werewolves, and shifters. Sometimes these young adults partner with immortals, angels, vampires, demons, and gods. And with occasionally genetically engineered soldiers, cyborgs, and robots as they discover magical hidden fantasy worlds, encounter mind-blowing dystopian lands, space stations, and galaxies they could never have dreamed existed. These brave teens have been Marked by Fate to complete these deadly and dangerous quests filled with nonstop action and adventure!

Enjoy the added features of this special edition, which allow you to enjoy bonus content right from your reading device. See character artwork. Listen to your story’s soundtrack. Watch book trailers and bonus videos. Experience behind the scenes like never before, thanks to Augmented Reality technology. Immersive Fantasy™ brings fantasy worlds to life.

Available now! Buy your copy today from these fine stores:





Digitizing A 6-Feet-Tall Atlas

Nicholas C. Rossis

Are you looking for an impressive image to add to your blog? All you have to do is Google for it and it appears, as if by magic, on your screen—even if it’s an image taken from a centuries-old book. Spare a thought, however, for the poor people who have been tasked with putting it online in the first place.

Digitizing old books in their collections is a routine part of the work undertaken by archives and libraries. This both preserves the books and makes their content more accessible to the public. But what happens when you need to scan one that’s nearly six feet tall?

The Klencke Atlas | Azure Fire Publishing: encouraging youth-friendly Fantasy & Sci-Fi literacy through writing challenges The Klencke Atlas. Photo: THE BRITISH LIBRARY/PUBLIC DOMAIN.

The Klencke Atlas

At five feet, ten inches tall, and seven feet, seven inches wide when open, the Klencke Atlas is a massive collection of 41 maps. It was made as a gift to King Charles II by

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The Trusty Steed

The Trusty Steed

Richie Billing

Looking for more writing tips? This Craft We Call Writing: Volume One has over 150 pages of them, covering everything from dialogue, characterisation, prose and plotting, to world-building, writing fight scenes and viewpoint. And you can get it for free by filling out the form below!

There’s always a horse in a fantasy book. So I decided to do a bit of research on the trusty steeds that carry us fearlessly into battle, and this is what I found.


Make no assumptions

For some of us it’s fair to say we don’t see horses very often, driving past one standing in a field at 50mph on the odd occasion. We probably see horses more on TV than we do in reality. The main complaint I came across from readers when it came to horses is the author’s lack of understanding of them. So to fill the void of lack…

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Research, Experience, or Imagination to Create Fiction



I was wondering, this week, how different authors base their stories on aspects of their lives. Some authors have been known to find inspiration from their personal experiences. Melville and Hemingway wrote stories with some ties to things they had actually done. Other authors carry out extensive research to build the world they present for the reader. Margaret Mitchell with her Gone With the Wind stands as an example of that approach. Finally, many fiction authors create their stories out of whole cloth, from their imaginations. And, of course, all three approaches may be combined. Tolkien, developed the Hobbit, with the use a vivid imagination. But, Tolkien brought an extensive knowledge of mythology, and a fascination with languages to his creation.

I asked author friends about their approaches. Three authors gave me their responses. Stephanie Barr says, “When it comes to inspiration, I usually lead with my imagination. Something will spark it – a name, an image, a situation. My experience might shape it as it I’ll think of how to tackle it using things I’ve already experienced, science or personality-wise, but I’ll be looking for new angles or new ways of seeing it. Research is almost always done AFTER I have an idea of what I want to accomplish and I need to figure out how to get there in a believable way. But, almost always, it’s the most mundane conversation or simple concept that gets me started.”

Jason Nugent says, “When I generate ideas for stories, it’s usually from some sudden burst of inspiration. I find that funny because I went to school for history and hold two degrees in the subject, yet research is not my main source of idea generation.”

Stories will come to me at the strangest of times too. I have a short horror story appearing in the inaugural issue of Gallows Hill Magazine this month (October 2017) that came to me while sitting in church one Sunday morning. I’m sure my pastor wouldn’t want to know my mind was not on the sermon, but on what would happen if a hole to hell opened up in the middle of the stage and no one could close it. That’s the premise behind my story From the Depths, Risen. Often when I come up with an idea, I will do some research to strengthen the idea. Or, through research I might discover the idea isn’t strong enough and then I’ll tinker with it until it is. Ideas come and go, but if I let them simmer long enough, I can work out the details before I ever write a word.”

Here are comments from Jennefer Rogers, “Jenn’s recipe for ‘Story Inspiration’: Add any amount of ‘Research’, ‘Experience’, and ‘Imagination’ together, store in the murky depths of one’s subconscious for an undetermined period, shake gently or stir (depending on taste), and allow to ferment. Don’t be afraid to add fresh elements – if they don’t fit, they will be strained out. Lift the lid once in a while – poke it with your pen, or stylus. Offer up appropriate bonbons to your Muse and hey-presto, you have a place to start. As you can see, I fall into the category of using all three.”

1. Research: I read voraciously and file away articles that back up my conjecture, correct me, or spark a new direction for me to take. I have a Pinterest account that’s bursting at the seams with useful tidbits. All of the science in my work is based on current tech discoveries or concepts that are extrapolated from those. I took a couple of creative liberties in The Korpes Files, but that’s okay it is science fiction.”

2. Experience: I frequently borrow from life experience to describe elements in my writing where I want to convey a particular emotional atmosphere or realistic character response. While I’ve never been incarcerated or placed in a mental ward, I do understand what dealing with mental illness is like. As a single parent, I have applied some of those experiences to the story. Not to neglect physical atmosphere, when I was younger, I did a bit of Urban Exploring; all of those impressions are stored away as photos and memories and have cropped up in my work.”

3. Imagination: I’m an artist. My Muses are constantly whispering in my ear and what they suggest can range from sci-fi through fantasy, and into metaphysical areas. I even have one nagging at me to write an autobiography. They are the direct conduit to my subconscious and once engaged, they are impossible to ignore.”

I suspect most fiction writers combine the different strands in producing their work. We receive inspiration from an event in our lives, expand the story with our imagination, then perhaps fill in details with research. When working on stories in my Protected Books series I use all three approaches, with a heavy emphasize on research. Which approach do your favorite writers use?

Author Links:

J. I. Rogers: and

Jason Nugent: and

S. A. Gibson: and

Stephanie Barr: and


Choose Your Own Adventure

Nicholas C. Rossis

Journey under the sea | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books View on Amazon

In my search for reading material for the wee one, I came across a post by Sarah Laskow of Atlas Obscura on “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. These can feel like being lost in a maze and running through twists and turns only to find dead ends, switchbacks, and disappointment. In the books—for those not familiar with them—you read until you come to a decision point, which prompts you to flip to another page, backward or forward.

The early books in the series, which began in 1979, have dozens of endings, reached through branching storylines so complex that that trying to keep track of your path can seem hopeless—no matter how many fingers you stick into the book in order to find your way back to the key, fateful choice. You might end up back at an early fork again, surprised at how far you…

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