Best Holiday Gifts for Writers

We talk about what are the best holiday gifts for the writers in your life!

Giving meaningful gifts makes an impact on people. It shows you understand them and care about their interests. If you have a writer in your life you want to give a gift to, this post will help you out! Or if you are a writer, feel free to send this post to your friends and family as a “suggestion”.

For the Old-Fashioned Writer

For writers that enjoy that old-fashioned aesthetic, some of the best holiday gifts are ones that invoke that sense of nostalgia. The ones that tie the writer in with all the authors that came before. You don’t have to go antique shopping. Online shops and places like Etsy will have everything you need for that vintage look.

  • A typewriter
  • A quill and ink pot
  • An old journal for notetaking
  • Printed poems and passages from famous, or not-so famous, writers
  • A scarf that has a poem or book passage printed on it

For the Digital Age Writer

Some writers love technology and how it has improved writing efficiency and outreach. Whether they are published authors that prefer to type, or writers who like to post stories online, there are many options to get them the perfect gift.

  • A subscription to an online note-taking or worldbuilding software such as Evernote or Inkarnate
  • A new mouse or keyboard
  • A writer-themed mousepad
  • An e-reader
  • A voice-to-text system for the computer

For Those That Like Personalized Gifts

Taking the time to give a personalized product is very sweet. Writers love their work, their characters, and what they do. Shops like Etsy and Shutterfly offer personalized options for a variety of products.

  • A mug with their book or story cover art on it
  • Christmas ornaments that say the names of their characters
  • Notebooks with the cover labeled “Next Story Ideas”
  • Customized t-shirts for writers from shops like Etsy
  • A set of writing dice
  • Themed jewelry such as quill tip earrings

What are your picks for the best holiday gifts for writers? Share with us!

Storytelling, TTRPGs

Our Top Free Resources for Creators

We take a look at our favorite free resources for creators we use in our projects.

Whether you are a writer, an artist, a TTRPG player or game master, or anything else in the wonderful world of creativity, having a good set of resources is a must. We’re talking about tools you use, software you rely on, and a go-to’s to generate ideas. This is a list of our favorite resources.

For Naming Characters

Sometimes you think for a long time to come up with the perfect character name. Other times, you just need something fast. Our free resource go-to is a site called Baby Names. The reason why we like this so much is its Advanced Search option. Here you can search for names on a global scale by letters, by syllables, and even by their meaning. I particularly love to look up meanings to get ideas. For example, I may want a name that means “hope” or “light” and I’ll get a huge list based off of only that.

For World-Building

Whether you need a battle map for a TTRPG game, a city map for reference, or an entire world map, we are big fans of Inkarnate. We use it both in our games and for our book series. Having a map to reference is invaluable, and even Inkarnate’s free option has a huge array of possibilities. We recently reviewed Inkarnate and its features.

Map of the Oasis in Berenzia created by us on Inkarnate

For Note Keeping

We are in the middle of writing an eight-book epic fantasy series based off our TTRPG game. There is a lot to keep track of! What designs were in this god’s temples? Did that library have a name? Have these two crossed paths before? It can easily get overwhelming. Evernote has been a game-changer for us. It’s our top pick as a free resource for creators that need to keep track of details. While it has paid options, we have never needed anything that the free version doesn’t come with. You download it on your computer and can organize notes through tags and categories to make them more searchable.

For Designs & Mood Boards

I always love Pinterest when it comes to mood boards and ideas, however, if you want to customize things, we love to use Canva. The one drawback is that its free version is limited in options. We pay for it simply because we use it for so many things. But for a long time, we only used free and still enjoyed it. You can do graphic design, choose from photos, search gifs and videos, and much more! We’ve used it to design city symbols and banners, to create pantheon sigils, and for in-game digital handouts.

Symbol of Sunspire created by us on Canva

Do you have any free resources for creators that aren’t on this list? Share below!


How to Become a Writer: Overview

The first in a series on how to become a writer.

We get asked a lot by friends, family, and strangers on how we became writers.

“Did you go to school for that?”

“Do you make good money?”

We’ve had our hands in many types of writing. We are published authors, we’ve written many non-fiction pieces across digital and print publications, we’ve done creative writing for a video game, and we’ve written for TV and social media. I teach a course at a university on academic and research writing. I also volunteer as a mentor to aspiring writers through a non-profit website.

So, how do you become a writer?

This will be the first in a series of articles exploring this very question. Perhaps you are an aspiring writer reading this. Or maybe you are seasoned and looking to expand your knowledge of the field, or are just roaming the interwebs. This first post is an overview of what to expect coming up, as well as the types of writer you can be.

What topics will be covered in upcoming blogs?

  • What education or training you can pursue.
  • How to find your first job.
  • Information on writing careers including freelance, contract, and full-time.
  • What employers look for on a resume.
  • And more!

What Type of Writer Should I Be?

If you’re reading this, you are most likely interested in creative writing and being a book author. But we are involved in various types of writing, and you can be, too. This is not a comprehensive list, but here’s an overview of different types of writing you can specialize in.

  • Fiction Author – You publish books or short stories with fictional people and situations. You can either self-publish or traditional-publish. A great imagination, a good eye for editing, and time management are key.
  • Non-Fiction Author – You publish books such as biographies and memoirs for clients, academic pieces, self-help, special topic books, and more. Good research skills and having an open mind to learn are essential.
  • Narrative Designer – You write for the gaming industry including narrative stories, character creation, dialogue, and world building. You need to have a huge imagination, and the ability to collaborate as part of a large team.
  • Journalist / Content Writer – You cover everything from local news, global news, product reviews, lifestyle articles, and op-eds. This field is centered on meeting deadlines and adhering to each business’ unique style of writing.
  • Technical Writer – You apply your writing skills to professional documents. This might be training manuals, resumes for clients, grant applications, and more. Specialized knowledge of a certain industry will carry you far in this role.
  • Copywriter – You write marketing communications to get people to buy products and services. These might be social media posts, newsletters, slogans, and information on product landing pages. The ability to be creative and think outside the box will set you apart.
  • Script Writer – This is adjacent to being an author, but it is its own specialized niche. You write scripts for TV shows, podcasts, or movies. You must be a good editor and able to take a lot of feedback from others.

Stay on the lookout for future posts as we talk more about how to become a writer!


Why We Don’t Use AI to Write

With the spread of AI in the creative field, we give our thoughts on it and why we don’t use AI to write our stories. Or anything, for that matter.

It wasn’t long ago that I was on LinkedIn. On the front page I saw a post by another writer who loved using AI, specifically ChatGPT. He was fully championing it’s use for everyone’s writing. This perplexed me and I shared my thoughts that an AI’s writing will never be up to the caliber of a human’s writing.

“It does need editing, I’ll admit,” he said. “But it sure makes things faster, doesn’t it?”

I never responded, but it left me thinking. Dorian and I got into the writing business because we like to write. Because it was a hobby before it was a job. Because we can’t see ourselves doing anything else. We are creators in the heart and soul. Why would I want to minimize something I feel like I was born to do? Why would I want to cut out any part of that process?

don't use AI to write

Prior to being laid off last year, we both worked for a very large online game on the creative team. I launched the very first narrative arc for this game in a series of short stories. Everyone on the team took turns writing a short story a week. We remember finding the writing of one of our team members odd. Their stories were confusing, and the writing was hard to chew through. They briefly mentioned in one virtual meeting that they used a software to help them write. At the time, I didn’t realize they were talking about AI.

After being laid off, we looked for jobs. The writing field was polarizing when it came to AI. Some jobs wanted you to work with their AI to be faster. Others said they wanted “real writers” and anyone caught using AI would be terminated.

So where do we stand on all of this?

I can see the benefit of AI for people who do not know how to write. But even then, it requires editing to sound normal. For professional writers, I don’t see any reason one would need to rely on AI. And I couldn’t imagine tossing away any part of what I love to do most.

For fun, I decided to compare lines I have written in our books to the way AI would write them. Asking AI to offer me different ways to word my original work, here is what it produced.

  • My original writing: “That’s just madness,” Ruuda sighed. “Gods are terrible.”
  • AI’s suggestion: “It’s madness, plain and simple,” Ruuda sighed in frustration. “The whims of the gods are quite vexing.”
  • My original writing: Taliesin and Ruuda walked several feet ahead of her, side by side, often exchanging looks like a silent conversation.
  • AI’s suggestion: Taliesin and Ruuda, on the other hand, walked a few paces ahead of her, walking side by side. They frequently exchanged meaningful glances, conveying their thoughts through unspoken words, resembling a silent, wordless conversation.
  • My original writing: The field of tall grass, bronze in the harsh sunlight, slapped across Unolé’s skin as she ran. It tugged at her legs, threatening to trip her. But she pushed on. She had to. At least until she and her sister found somewhere to hide. All that mattered now was keeping the little girl at her side safe.
  • AI’s suggestion: The expansive expanse of sunlit bronze tall grass brushed against Unolé’s skin as she sprinted, its slender blades teasingly tugging at her legs, as if conspiring to make her stumble. Nevertheless, she persevered. She had no choice but to keep running, at least until she and her sister discovered a sanctuary where they could seek refuge. The paramount goal was ensuring the safety of the little girl who clung to her side.

Final Thoughts

No, we don’t use AI to write and never will. The quality is terrible and the phrasing laughable. It doesn’t have the ability to change tone in subtle ways depending on how a character is speaking. And honestly, the examples above were some of the “best” it produced. It had a hard time differentiating that we meant “gods” as in a pantheon, instead of “god” like a swear word.

But the most important reason is that we like to write. It’s fun. And I am still as puzzled today as I was the first time I read the LinkedIn post by a professional writer who wanted to use AI just to get his writing over with faster.


Creating Characters Using Myers-Briggs

We talk creating characters by using the 16 Myers-Briggs personalities.

We have discussed the Myers-Briggs personalities in the past. In our series of very popular blogs we did a survey of 500+ people regarding their personality type and playing habits with D&D. The results were pretty interesting! We’ve taken the test ourselves and agreed with the outcome. We’ve also taken the test in-character as characters from our Thread of Souls book series and found perfect alignment, as well! So that got us thinking about how writers and creators could use the personality types on Myers-Briggs to help them develop new characters.

When you visit the 16 personalities website, you’ll find an overview of each type. You’ll find the Inventor who has a thirst for knowledge, the Campaigner who is a free spirit, the Executive who excels in managing things, and more. By clicking on each personality type, you get an extremely comprehensive breakdown.

The Breakdown

When we click on the Logician, we get a highly detailed breakdown of this personality type. It starts with a page-long Introduction, which is very useful in getting a feel for this character. It also provides real-world examples of Logicians to put things into context, such as Albert Einstein, Kristin Stewart, and Lord Varys from Game of Thrones.

We have series of pages after that. The Strengths and Weaknesses page is great for developing a well-rounded character. We get pages on how they deal with Romance and Friendships, which is great for inter-character relations. There is one for how they would act as parents for characters that have children. Career Paths and Workplace Habits are excellent references for choosing a profession for them. And finally, Conclusion gives more thoughts for this character.

Using a Personality Profile to Create a Character

Let’s use the Executive one, and say we are going to create a character that would exist in our high fantasy Thread of Souls world.

Introduction: We learn that Executives are “model citizens” in a sense they uphold the law, follow rules, and focus on a democratic community. We will design a character that lives in Sunspire and is actively involved in the community. They take the laws of the city very seriously.

Strengths & Weakness: We flesh out our character with their strengths being highly organized, very patient, and extremely dedicated to the tasks they take on. For their weaknesses, we choose from the provided list that they are stubborn in their viewpoints, not comfortable with new and untested ideas, and never relax.

Romance & Friendships: Learning from the personality website, we put our character into a stable and long marriage, where they are committed, honest, and reliable, but not very romantic or spontaneous. For their friendships, our character has a very wide net of friendships and connections, however, there isn’t much diversity in people or viewpoints. We will have our character socialize in one part of Sunspire and not interact much with different people.

Parenthood: Reading that Executives tend to be strict parents, we think it will be fun to give them a rebellious adolescent child that challenges their way of thinking.

Careers & Workplace Habits: By reading we learn that Executives tend to stay with one employer for their entire career, and like a culture of hard work and discipline. Suggested careers are the military, law enforcement, hospitals, legal firms, and politics. We will put our character as a leader within Sunspire’s military establishment, the Solchens.

Conclusion: Going through the conclusion, we will add the last details to our character. Their story will revolve around having to learn to accept different views and unorthodox approaches in order to overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge. The solution will be brought to them by their rebellious adolescent, giving them an opportunity to heal a strained relationship.

We hope this helps you learn new ways to create characters and generate ideas for your stories!


Tarot Story Prompt

For this Tarot Story Prompt I brought old my old Curse of Strahd tarokka deck. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve used that one for anything. The artwork is so pretty on it, it’s inspiring all on its own!

For this layout, from top left to bottom right, we did: Our Protagonist, Our Antagonist, Our Quest, Our Complication.

Our Protagonist: We drew the Shepherd. Perhaps our hero lives a humble life caretaking a farm and animals. They may live outside of the city and have little care for a bustling lifestyle. They may feel very in touch with the cycle of nature.

Our Antagonist: We drew the Donjon. There is a lot of symbology here. Perhaps its a person who is imprisoning others. Perhaps it’s a system that takes away people’s freedom. Perhaps its nature itself that is entrapping people like the shepherd from leaving an area.

Our Quest: We drew the Monk. A monk character could be a quest giver on how to overcome the Donjon. Maybe it symbolizes that the quest revolves around the protagonist’s commitment to values and rituals and that is what drives them to stop the Donjon.

Our Complication: We drew the Paladin. Maybe the paladin is a character that presents the shepherd with a different choice, and they must decide what path to take. Perhaps the paladin represents a very structured religious order or ideology that upsets the shepherd’s quest.

It is also fun to do these tarot story prompts for inspiration! We hope you are able to get some ideas from this one!


How it Feels to Publish Your Book

Do you have a dream to publish your book? Perhaps you think about having a large following of readers, being famous, or getting good money. But none of that is important if you don’t love the process. The true reward of creating, is having a creation. The real payoff, the thing that matters the most, is holding your published book in your hands.

I’ve have written many things throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Books hundreds of pages long written in notebooks with pencil. Multiple award-winning fanfics. My dream, however, was to officially publish a book.

It felt significant to have the book fully written, edited, and finalized. The process of publishing the first time was overwhelming. It had to be formatted a certain way and data set up specifically in the KDP system. It took me days to figure it out with a great deal of stress (I am very practiced at it now!).

But when that book finally came in, and I could hold it in my hand, I was blown away. Dorian and I stared at it, flipped through it, and set it in a place of prominence. We had worked together to create something, and now we had brought a new story into the world!

How does it feel to publish your book? It feels like the achievement that it is. That all your years of hard work were worth it. Your story is now yours to read as you please. While having other readers and making money are good results, they pale in comparison to simply the act of creating. That is something that can never be taken away.


How to Write Fight Scenes

We discuss the three main strategies to use when you need to write a fight scene.

Adventure, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, horror . . . while all these genres are different, you can expect to find fight scenes in them. Scenes where characters are pitted against other characters, against creatures, or against monsters and fighting for their survival. It could involve weapons, magic, or hand-to-hand combat. Even genres such as drama or romance might have more action-oriented scenes involving escapes, chases, or trying to hide from danger.

As writers, our job is to convey the tension of these fight scenes to the readers. But that is often easier said than done. I am one of those writers that struggle with fight scenes. I take a very long time writing them, and they often go through way more revisions than any other aspect of my work.

In this post I’ll talk about the three main strategies I use to craft a good fight scene in hopes they will help you, as well!

Vary Your Sentence Lengths

When you write fight scenes in your book, readers must be drawn into the intensity of the moment. A good way to do this is to write short, focused sentences. For example:

“She lunged forward. She turned into a kick. Her foot slammed into his spine.”

These are great to keep up an action pace, but no one wants to read an entire fight scene written like that. A good rule is to keep a balance of your sentence lengths. Work in multiple short, action-focused sentences with longer, more descriptive ones. This will give your reader a time to pause and visualize the fight before drawing them back into the quick action. For example, a follow-up might be:

“The force of her kick knocked him from his feet. He was sent sliding across the dirt and the mud, staining his jeans.”

write fight scenes

Study Wrestling Fights

Remember that all good fights need to be character-driven. What the character wants should be clear. Someone who wants to escape won’t spend a lot of time going toe-to-toe with their opponents. And with each move your character makes, it’s an opportunity to show their personality.

I recommend studying the way wrestling fights are conducted, such as the ones on WWE or AEW. These fights are structured in such a way that they tell a story. Every character as their own unique move set and unique purpose to be in the fight.

There is also a good give-and-take in the way wrestling fights are staged. Especially for big paid live shows. They will work in shock and awe moments, there will be times when you think the hero character is being defeated only for them to mount a comeback. In short, they push the narrative forward. Watch these for inspiration on structuring your fight scenes.

write fight scenes

Use a Randomizer

When I write fight scenes, I will know my high points. But how do I connect them? How do I fill in this space to transition from one big moment to another?

Sometimes, I use what I refer to as my “randomizer”. I use a self-created spreadsheet filled with various fight moves or actions. These can include parry, trip, punch to the face, lose balance, overhead strike, etc. I will then roll either with a dice or with an online roller. The number it lands on is the next move in the fight. Of course, I must then translate it narratively. But that turns it into a fun challenge.

For example, let’s say I’m in the middle of my fight with two characters facing off. They are fighting on a roof. I roll and get a 5. I look at my spreadsheet. The 5 slot says “lose balance”. So I write:

“He swung wild and hard, aiming his sword for her throat. She quickly spun out of the way and his attack went wide. Losing his balance, he tumbled toward the edge of the roof.”

Now I roll again. I get a 13. The 13 slot says “parry“. I write:

“As he struggled to regain his footing, he made a quick strike at her. Hoping to land a blow as he passed. But she deftly parried, remaining unharmed.”

Are there any tricks you use when writing a fight? Let us know below!


Pricing Your Book on KDP

We talk strategies for pricing your book on KDP.

If you are a new or experienced author on Amazon’s KDP, you might wonder if you are pricing your book competitively. Will it make you enough money? Is it overpriced? Is it underpriced? It is attractive to consumers? And why is there a 35% or a 70% royalty option? Who doesn’t want to make more money? We’ll talk about each of these points below to help you price your book!

Is My Book Overpriced?

You spend a great deal of time and effort on your book. You know you should earn income appropriate to your efforts. However, are you pricing your book to high? Readers often consider price when choosing which book to purchase, and not everyone has the extra money to buy whatever they choose.

A good way to determine if your book is priced too high is to survey similar books in your genre. When you open your book’s sale page on Amazon, you can scroll down to see similar titles other people have bought. Look at the prices of these. Is yours the most expensive of the list? Visit your local bookstore and browse your genre, checking each price. If your book is always on the highest end, you may have overpriced it.

pricing your book

Is My Book Underpriced?

If you price your book extremely cheap, everyone will rush to buy it. After all, who doesn’t want a good deal? Well, this isn’t necessarily the case. Actually, you could be “shooting yourself in the foot”, as it were, by pricing your book too cheaply.

Consumers often attribute the quality of an item to its price. While everyone wants a good deal, if people think something is surprisingly cheap, too cheap, they may assume it is a low-quality item. Therefore, they may assume your book is not good and that is why it’s so cheap. When pricing your book, don’t make the cost so low that one questions how good it is. Also, your efforts deserve a good price. Don’t undersell yourself!

pricing your book

Who Wouldn’t Want a 70% Royalty?

When publishing an ebook specifically on KDP, it gives you the option to choose a royalty plan. You can choose between 35% or 70%. This seems confusing. Who wouldn’t want more money per book sale?

First thing to know is that not all books qualify for a 70% royalty. Your ebook cannot be priced higher than $9.99, or lower than $2.99, to qualify. You must also have this book enrolled in KDP Select. Enrolling in this free program allows your book to be part of Kindle Unlimited (subscribed readers can read your book for “free” and you get paid per page read), your book is allowed to be lent between readers for 14 days, and you can run discounts or free promotions of your book.

Be aware that even if you choose 70%, this may not apply to certain international markets. Honestly unless you are a worldwide-known author, there is no reason to not take advantage of the perks you get from choosing the 70% royalty plan. It gives you better outreach to potential readers.

We hope this has been educational! Happy publishing!


Where to Promote Your Book

We look at the pros and cons of places to promote your book.

Where to promote your book? That is a question on every indie author’s mind. You did all this work, but how do you get people to actually see what you’ve written? There are many marketers out there that claim to be able to make your “sales soar”, but many of them are only scams. Here is our list of where to promote your book, as well as what to look out for.

Social Media

This one is not the quick-success guarantee many people make it out to be. Unless you’re someone that likes to stir up a lot of drama, you’re likely not going to build a huge following online. Cultivating a social media presence to promote your book will be a long-term, daily effort. And books aren’t exactly the type of quick entertainment content that reads well on things like Instagram and the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Pros: Access to a large audience, able to post multiple times a day, able to capitalize on trending hashtags to get noticed, free

Cons: Slow to build followers, book marketing isn’t a “quick laugh”, posts can easily read like ads

Be aware of: You can pay for ad campaigns that let you reach a lot of people.

Be wary of: People pretending to be influencers that just want a quick sell promising they can get your book out to thousands of people.

Book Review & Reader Websites

There are many websites out there run by a single individual or group that will review books, post about their favorites, and allow you to promote your book on their site. Some of these are good, some not so much. It is a good way to get your book in front of people that are currently looking for something new to read. The problem is that a lot of these people tend to be “free book collectors” that are just waiting for a free sale period to stock up. They don’t always turn around on reviews and revenue for you.

Pros: Targeted audience, good visibility

Cons: Sometimes can cost money, no guarantee of any actual sale

Be aware of: Some websites offer packages to promote and review your book. On the right site, this can give you great outreach.

Be wary of: Just because a lot of people are signed up for their newsletter doesn’t mean they have good engagement.

Amazon Ads

Most indie authors choose to publish on Amazon’s KDP because of the ease of it (most of the time, haha). Amazon may market their advertising as an easy way to get sales, but it is a lot more complicated than that. If you go into it without knowing anything about their system, you can quickly get overwhelmed. Make sure you do some research first so you understand what you are filling out. I recommend reading this. While these ads can get your book many, many views, it’s not always a good ROI. Where you market it, what keywords you use, who you target, and when you run your ad can result in lots of sales, or no sales at all.

Pros: Marketed directly to people shopping for a book, easy click to buy the book

Cons: Not user friendly, costs lots of money for a good campaign

Be aware of: The more you invest in your ad, the more outreach you will get.

Be wary of: Books with few reviews, bad reviews, or uninteresting descriptions might not perform well and you will be out the money.